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Motorola Motosmart review: Motorola Motosmart

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If you have basic requirements and aren't expecting miracles, the Motosmart can suffice for simple stuff like lightweight web browsing and basic apps. For example, while the Facebook app feels pretty bloated, so long as you're not expecting hyper-responsiveness, it's perfectly usable.

The Google Play store definitely works the Motosmart's engines hard, but again, after a lag as you wait for images to populate, it works ok.

If you're browsing full-fat desktop versions of websites, the Motosmart slows down considerably. Switching to a mobile version of the site delivers improved speeds and pages can even seem pretty nippy to load. Just don't expect slick performance. Juddery scrolling and slightly fuzzy graphics are the best the Motosmart can offer.

Call quality is fine -- I had no trouble hearing or being heard on test calls. I also didn't encounter any dropped calls or other connectivity issues when using the phone.

The rear speaker can be pumped up to make a fair din but it sounds crackly and slightly distorted so it's a distinctly budget-sounding noise you'll hear.

Motorola Motosmart
It's not a slender phone but nor is it a hand stretcher.

Battery

Sad to say, battery life isn't a strong point of the Motosmart. If you have the screen brightness dialled to max, it's possible to exhaust a full charge in a few hours, so heavy users are in serious danger of running out of juice before the day is done. Even moderate use may be too much for the Motosmart. That's a poor show for a budget blower.

Dialling down the brightness will help lengthen life a little but it's a shame you have to worry about battery performance on a budget device, as one of the advantages a lot of cheaper phones have is you get decent battery life.

Motorola reckons the phone will survive for up to 6 hours as a telephone, or up to 500 hours on standby (if you're not using the device at all). The company doesn't specify how long it will last playing video or audio, which is quite telling. And the size of the cell -- 1,400mAh -- is slightly less capacious than the battery Sony has stuck in its tiny Tipo, which only has a 3.2-inch screen. Moto seems to have scrimped with the Motosmart's battery.

I seriously question whether the Motosmart would last anywhere near 500 hours on standby. I left it unused in a bag and after about a day it was completely dead.

I also found the phone could get quite hot when left on. It's my guess that Motorola's software and Android implementation aren't optimised to ensure power-efficient performance -- a particular focus for Huawei's excellent budget 'droid, the G300.

Android 2.3 and apps

The Motorola Motosmart is powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Now that Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is on the scene, it's two versions behind the latest edition of Google's operating system for phones.

That doesn't sound great, but the majority of budget 'droids are still Gingerbread flavoured. And the few Ice Cream Sandwich offerings at this price aren't typically worth your attention (such as the buggy Sony Xperia Tipo or the slightly more pricey but even more laggy HTC Desire C).

Having only Gingerbread at your command means you do miss out on certain apps and features such as Google's Chrome for Android browser or ICS's full device encryption. But arguably, here in Android's bargain basement, it's better to have a powerful Gingerbread blower than under-powered ICS.

In the Motosmart's case you're getting a slightly stale iteration of Android, powered by a medium-sized chip. Performance is definitely plodding (as detailed in the section above), but people with modest mobile needs shouldn't have too many gripes.

You do get access to the Google Play store, so you can load your phone with plenty of apps -- many free to download, from the ever-popular Angry Birds to Facebook, Twitter and Spotify. The BBC's iPlayer app is out of reach though. Attempt to download it and you'll be told the Motosmart isn't compatible.

Motorola Motosmart widgets
The more you use an app, the larger it becomes on the home screen.

Motorola has put its own spin on Android, with home screen widgets that display icons in a cluster and apps becoming larger the more frequently you use them. These may take your fancy, but if you're not too enamoured with what are rather ugly looking widgets, you can just ditch them.

Elsewhere you get the fairly standard Android fare including multiple home screens to swipe around and some ugly-looking squared-off icons. The lock screen has a few nifty Moto touches -- you can swipe in one of four directions to unlock the phone, fire up the camera, read your SMSes or use the phone's dialler. There's also a slider where you can toggle silent mode on or off.

Motorola Motosmart
Don't expect crisply detailed shots from the Motosmart's tiny little eye. But if you're after something impressionistic, you could be in luck.

Camera

On the Motosmart's rump you'll find a 3-megapixel camera sans flash. My expectations of this tiddler of a lens weren't high and, sure enough, results were pretty poor.

Shots often came off the camera with a highly blotchy look -- as if an 'impressionist painting' filter had been applied -- such as this snap below of purple flowers.

Motorola Motosmart camera
No, these blotchy flowers were not painted by Claude Monet, even if they look distinctly impressionistic (click image to enlarge).

Even when the subject I was snapping was in focus, images typically lacked crispness and had plenty of noise in shadier regions. With no flash, you can't add more light to improve results either.

Add to that a lag of around a second when you hit the shutter before the shot is taken. I've seen more slothful camera-phones, but it's laggy enough to mean you can miss out on the pose you were trying to capture.

Colours also look very wishy-washy.

Motorola Motosmart camera
The Motosmart is as bad at capturing certain shades of colours as it is at rendering crisp detail (click image to enlarge).

So, in short, if you're after a really basic camera to get snaps of your Facebook buddies' daytime antics, the Motosmart's lens can suffice but don't expect amazing photographic feats -- unless you're actively trying to achieve an impressionistic look.

The Motosmart can capture video at up to 30 frames per second. Again, footage has a distinctly blotchy look, but as basic YouTube fodder, it just about passes muster.

Conclusion

The Motorola Motosmart has an alluring price tag but plodding performance, a weak battery and an unlovely screen ensure it never shines. As a simple smart phone for basic apps and lightweight web browsing, it can suffice. But there are some excellent Android alternatives in the £100 to £150 price range -- such as the Huawei Ascend G300 or Sony's Xperia U -- which easily outshine the middling Motosmart. So even though it's cheap, this budget blower is unlikely to be anyone's first choice.

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