Motorola Flipout review: Fair and square
Unboxing the Flipout
The Motorola Flipout comes in a box that’s seemingly too big for the phone itself. But the good news is that it’s well stuffed. You get a compact charger that uses the long microUSB cable. There’s also a one-piece headset with foam tips and a tiny alligator clip to attach to your clothing.
There’s a 2GB microSD card pre-installed too and, of course, a couple of manuals. Our test unit came with some extra exchangeable covers but we fear they won’t be part of the standard package.
Motorola Flipout 360-degree spin
The Motorola Flipout is tinier than it appears in photos. It’s a small square measuring just 67x67 mm. The 17mm of thickness though have a negative impact on portability. There’s a pivoting point in the lower right corner, around which the screen and keyboard half rotate.
When you open it up, a five row QWERTY keyboard is revealed – more than any slider of this size could’ve fit. The hinge is solid, allowing still a smooth and effortless folding motion.
Opening the phone is spring assisted, so it requires only a light push, but it’s balanced so it doesn’t open accidentally. Three small nubs at the bottom left corner provide extra grip to make opening even easier – but you’ll still have to spend some time getting used to opening the Flipout without it feeling awkward or risking it slipping off your grip.
The Flipout weighs a hefty 120 grams – more than you would have guessed judging by its size. Still, the solid feel is not entirely unpleasant.
Design and construction
The form factor of the Motorola Flipout is not nearly as unusual as the Backflip, but it’s still a very clever design. The phone is tiny, yet it has room for a 5-row QWERTY keyboard – with decently-sized buttons too.
A sliding mechanism would have probably taken up too much space – the pivot joint takes only the bottom right corner of the Flipout. Despite being the only joint between the two halves, it feels sturdy and you can use the phone without fearing you’ll snap it in two.
The thing about sliders, or in this case “flipouts”, is that they can accommodate a big screen and a roomy keyboard. And we’re talking a 2.8” screen and a nice keyboard in a square just 67mm on a side.
The screen however is the one major disappointment with the Flipout – it’s a 2.8” TFT unit capable of displaying up to 256K colors. The low resolution aside, the screen is quite bright but the image quality is poor.
For one, the contrast is overdone, which makes color gradients look bad and the overall color rendering is poor. The sunlight legibility is awful as are the viewing angles.
On a positive note, the capacitive touchscreen is very responsive.
Below the display there are three capacitive controls (Menu, Home and Back), which are equally sensitive so the transition to and from the touchscreen is seamless. The touch buttons have solid backlighting and nice haptic feedback. They also serve as a notification light.
The earpiece is centrally placed above the display with a proximity sensor and ambient light sensor nearby.
The Flipout top side (when the phone is closed) holds the volume rocker.
On the right, you’ve got the Power/Lock key and the 3.5mm audio jack.
On the left there are no controls at all, while the microUSB port is at the bottom. The connectivity port is exposed – there’s a green LED enclosing the actual connector, which emits light when you plug the charging or data cable. It also blinks to alert when the battery charge drops below 15%.
Of course, those directions change when you open the phone – the volume rocker goes on the left, the Power/Lock key and the audio jack go on top and the microUSB port ends up on the right.
Pivoting the phone open reveals the keyboard. It has five rows plus a D-pad – the D-pad is in the lower left corner and not particularly comfortable to use, but the rest of the keyboard is great.
The keys are big enough with a solid click. There isn’t any space between the keys, but a raised border in the middle and small nubs on the F and J keys will help touch typing. Even the top row has enough room to be comfortably used and the backlight is strong enough and even.
Considering the diminutive size of the Flipout, we think Motorola did a great job with the keyboard.
The back of the phone is made of matte plastic, which is very good at concealing fingerprints – this holds for all the colors we tested. The back of the top half is made of metal with a circular brushed metal finish, which looks good with any of the available covers.
The back side (of the bottom half) holds the loudspeaker and the 3MP camera lens with self-portrait mirror. Under the battery cover, there’s the microSD card slot. The other thing at the back of the screen looks like a loudspeaker but it’s not. Placed exactly opposite the earpiece, it’s perhaps part of the CrystalTalk PLUS noise-cancellation gadgetry.
The battery has a respectable capacity of 1170mAh with quoted standby of 365 hours and 6 hours of talk time.
The build quality of the Motorola Flipout is great – all the plastic is nice to the touch, there’s nothing creaking or wobbling (even the swivel). However, talking is a bit of a problem - to talk you’ll need to open the phone (as the mic pinhole is in the lower half) and the Flipout is not very comfortable to hold that way.
The main problem is that it is too wide – 67mm is wider than most phones. Still, when you close it, the Flipout becomes very pocketable and the keyboard is comfortable to use – the Motorola Flipout is one of the best compact communicators out there.