by: LIA TIMSON
You can’t blame Motorola, or any other phone manufacturer, for jumping on the Android bandwagon and launching a seemingly unlimited number of handsets to take advantage of Google’s free operating system.
So it was with some degree of marketing understanding that I took a Motorola Quench unit to review.
The Quench is not to be compared with that great Android phone, the HTC Desire, or the iPhone, of course.
It is sold as an entry-level 3G smartphone handset in Australia. At A$19 a month through Optus on a 24-month contract, it is priced to appeal to teenagers or as a second cheap handset for those addicted to multitasking.
Its promise is that it is an affordable “social phone” – one that aggregates its owner’s online social life or ‘happenings’ on one screen.
For this it uses Motoblur, the company’s way to serve all social posts, messages and pictures from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace plus email, in one stream.
That is all very well until you turn the phone on and realise that not even a single call can be made – apart from emergency calls – without you singing up and creating a Motoblur account first.
To make check out the phone, make calls, set up your contact book first or download a few apps or games, you must first enter Motorola’s walled garden.
It is ironic then that the phone should run on Android, the string-less operating system that was meant to set users free from dictatorial marketing ploys.
I like the idea of Android phones and the apparent freedom they offer, but being forced to join before going anywhere seems utterly contradictory.
Setting up your Motoblur account is ultimately problem-free. A Gmail address gets you in and starts off your social communication in a few seconds. You can then sign in to your other lives – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace – individually and soon enough your screen will be populated with posts.
An advantage of Motoblur is that it backs up your contacts and messages to the cloud, so you can bring it all back should your data get wiped out for any reason. You can even remotely wipe the data if the phone is lost or stolen – a service for which some phone manufacturers charge a monthly fee.
And because you’ll be permanently connected to Motorola via Motoblur, it can send software updates to the phone without you having to worry about it.
The handset itself is good value for what it costs. The hardware buttons feel slightly clumsy, but it has a 5 megapixel camera and a tactile rubber backing that betrays its cheap price.
The touch screen behaves adequately and the user interface is straight forward. The search button works both as a contact search and opens the browser on a Google search if on the home screen.
It doesn’t have a hardware button for the phone function, something I believe is crucial for a phone aimed at young people.
In an emergency, it is always easier to press a hard phone button than to wake the phone, unlock it and then have to touch the soft button on the screen to bring up the keypad.
Motorola says it has dual microphones and noise cancellation technology that enables clear calls – but I’m unsure this is perceptible to most users.
The Quench’s siblings are the Dext and the Backflip, also offering Motoblur.
Verdict: The phone is too restrictive for my liking, but if you’re 13, social networking rules your life and you don’t mind being in a walled garden, $0 on a A$19/month plan sounds good.