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Motorola Motosmart review: Motorola Motosmart

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The Good Cheap; Quite striking design; MicroSD card slot.

The Bad Plodding performance; Stale version of Android; Ugly Motorola software; Low-res screen; Weak battery; Poor camera.

The Bottom Line The Motorola Motosmart has an alluring price tag but juddery performance, a weak battery and an unlovely screen means it never shines. There are excellent, highly capable Android alternatives around this price so make sure you check out the competition before saddling yourself with what is, at best, a very middle-of-the-road performer.

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5.5 Overall

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The budget end of Androidland is a crowded place these days but that hasn't stopped Motorola lining up another cheap Android Gingerbread-flavoured blower for your consideration.

Don't have a fortune to spend on a phone? Never fear. The Motosmart costs around £90 on pay as you go from Carphone Warehouse and £100 from T-Mobile, or it can be bagged from around £120 SIM free.

T-Mobile is also offering it free on two-year contracts costing £7 per month. But is the Motosmart the pick of the budget bunch?

Should I buy the Motorola Motosmart?

The Motosmart is not the worst budget smart phone I've seen -- and at £90 to £100 on pay as you go, it's cheap. But its low-res screen, plodding performance and weak battery aren't going to win it legions of adoring fans.

For £100, you can now bag a 'droid with a 1GHz chip and a clear and colourful 4-inch screen -- Huawei's excellent Ascend G300 -- which easily outshines the Motosmart's middle-of-the-road hardware. So this is the sort of device you'll only consider buying because viable pay as you go alternatives on your network are thin on the ground.

Motorola Motosmart back
It's not the slimmest of mobiles but it won't weigh down your pockets.

If you can't get your hands on the superior G300, the Motosmart could be worth a look, but you should also consider other cheap yet capable 'droids such as the pretty nippy T-Mobile Vivacity. If you can afford a little more cash up front, £150 spent on Sony's Xperia U puts a powerful dual-core package in your palm, which far outshines the middling Motosmart.

Design and build

Say what you like about Motorola's sense of design, you can't accuse it of churning out generic slabs. Most Moto handsets have a few design quirks that set them apart from all the iClones -- and the Motosmart is no different.

First up, there's a shiny silver bevel at the edge of the touchscreen, which flashes as you tilt the phone. It's different, certainly, but it can get distracting after a while.

Next, there's some slanted plastic on half of the phone's chin. It makes the handset look a tad wonky but it's literally a (slight) twist on the standard slab form.

Finally, turn the phone over and there's a big silver grille on the back, sitting below Moto's spangly, Batman-esque logo. The silver-on-black theme continues with the front speaker, power key and volume rocker.

Motorola Motosmart
The silver grille breaks up the expanse of black on the back.

The Motosmart isn't the thinnest smart phone I've ever wrapped my digits around, measuring 11.2mm thick, but nor is it super-chunky. It doesn't feel uncomfortably heavy either, so you shouldn't worry about being weighed down when it's tucked in your pocket.

Build quality feels rigid, no doubt helped by the Motosmart's backplate being made of metal (rather than plastic). The entire rear has also been coated with a soft-touch, slightly rubberised material, making the phone easier to grip.

There are two external ports on the device: a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge of the phone, next to the power key, and a micro-USB port on the left-hand edge. There's also a volume rocker on the right edge. Inside, next to the removable 1,400mAh battery, you get a microSD card slot to expand the 165MB of on-board storage.

On the front, the Motosmart has four touch-control keys: a menu key, home, back and search. I found these keys responsive to my taps -- although the menu key seems pretty under-used, rarely summoning up anything.

Motorola Motosmart
The Motosmart's plastic chin has a subtle twist.


The Motosmart's display is a 3.5-inch affair, giving it roughly the same size panel as the iPhone 4S. The two are not comparable, however, because the Motosmart's resolution is much, much lower.

Its resolution is just 320x480 pixels, which gives a pretty sickly pixel-per-inch count of 165 (compare that to the retina-slicing 330ppi of the iPhone 4S and you get the picture -- or rather miss out on half of it).

This lowly res means everything you look at on the phone will appear hazy and lack crispness -- so this blower isn't ideal for showing off your photos or watching glorious HD video. Everything looks impoverished.

Smaller text on websites appears blurry until you zoom in so web browsing can feel a chore on the Motosmart, with lots of tapping to zoom in and back out again. Add to that, the viewing angle isn't amazing, with content on screen shimmering or polarising entirely as you tilt the phone.

Motorola Motosmart
On this low-res pane even the glorious CNET UK home page looks lacklustre. Expect to zoom in and out a lot.

The Motosmart's touchscreen isn't hyper-responsive either -- slide your finger over its surface and it'll be a few millimetres before your touch registers. I also found taps frequently failing to register entirely -- requiring a second, more forceful push, which invariably made the pane flex into the surface of the display.

Power and performance

As its low price tag indicates, there's not a lot of high-tech hardware occupying the Motosmart's insides. It's powered by an 800MHz processor, which in this day and age is rather weedy. Considering you can get a 1GHz chip and a 4-inch screen for £100 in Androidland, it's not even amazing value for money.

Moving through the Motosmart's menus isn't the smoothest experience, with plenty of annoying judder and lag hindering progress. This appears to be just the tip of the iceberg though. Benchmark tests I ran turned in a truly slovenly performance -- not so much scraping the barrel as knocking its bottom out to plunge to new performance depths.

Motorola Motosmart
Under this black and silver bonnet lurks a middle-of-the-road 800MHz chip. Prepare for plod.

For instance, in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, which probes browser performance, the Motosmart proved itself to be more Motoslow -- scoring a snail-paced 14,133.2ms when I ran the test (lower is better in this test as it's a measure of time).

I also ran Vellamo's browser benchmark and once again the Motosmart displayed itself as a bottom feeder -- managing a mere 241, and beating only one device in the rankings.

In tests of the phone's CPU and graphics, it also failed to impress -- coming bottom of Antutu's test with a score of just 2,212, and also bottoming out of Quadrant's benchmark, with only 874 to its name.

If you were hoping to play high-octane 3D games stutter-free on the Motosmart, think again. It ran GL Benchmark's Egypt Classic test at a less-than-impressive 28 frames per second.

Despite delivering such a poor set of benchmarks, the Motosmart actually isn't the worst Android foot-dragger I've come across. There can be very noticeable lags and slowdowns which, if you're used to a really slick phone, will be annoying. But if you're bagging your first smart phone, you may not mind all the judder.

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