Motorola MOTOFONE F3 review: Budget wonder

Jan Horalík, 25 March 2007. Read the original review at
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Display surprising and disappointing at the same time

Motofone’s display is totally innovative. No such one has ever been seen in a mobile phone till today. It employs a completely new technology called „electric ink“, also named EPD in short. Thanks to this technology the display is extremely energy-saving. It only needs energy when visualization needs to be modified. That is why it will continue to show information even if you extract the battery without having switched off the phone in advance.

Display images remain even after the extraction of the battery

The EPD technology provides high contrast black & white image, clearly legible even under direct and strong sunlight. Of course, it also bears its drawbacks; for example, light areas on the display feature quite visible black dots and look as if they were dust-covered. Besides, visible information is characterized by evident contours, which only disappear if the display is switched to negative in stand-by mode.

Stand-by mode with a digital clock

However, our critics do take aim at Motofone’s backlighting, which is not only too weak, but in addition it does not permit any user-modification. In result, display legibility is far better during the day than in twilight or in full darkness.

Let’s now have a look at symbols on the display. It requires a particular explanation as Motofone's display is no typical one: it is not graphic and thus features no specific pixel number. It only consists of fixed icons and two lines of 6 characters in the top. Characters are created by the use of segments, similar to numerals on a digital watch. At the same time the bottom line of the display only manages numbers; letters have their own reserved area: in the top.

The keypad and display backlighting is very weak

Seeing that character creation is limited to the use of particular segments, in the beginning you will probably have image legibility problems. For example, „S“ and „5“ are easy to confuse; there is no difference between „H“ and „#“. The main and worst problem, however, is somewhere else: to our great disappointment, Motofone's display is not able to visualize certain very basic characters, like dot at the end of a sentence, percentage, brackets, slash, exclamation mark etc.

The only characters that can be typed in a SMS along with letters and numbers are hyphen, comma inside a sentence, quotation mark, @-sign, and hash. Any character different from these gets automatically visualized as a hyphen. Can you imagine how ambiguous a text message lacking such characters can sound? Font size cannot be modified, either. When a message is typed on Motofone's display, applied letters look like capital ones. However, if you read a message sent from Motofone on the display of another mobile device, you see lower case letters.

To sum up, our initial excitement about the technology applied in Motofone's display gradually faded away. Its confusing images are a serious drawback.

The signal strength and the battery indicators are constantly visible. They are separated by a Motorola logo situated above the display. The logo protects the speaker.

User interface and control through voice help

At the beginning you may find Motofone's controls rather confusing, but eventually you will understand that your impression paradoxically results from its abnormal simplicity. Avoid trying to find advanced navigation techniques consistent with today’s modern mobile market. Motofone has no matrix menu or context keys. Its functions are intentionally limited to the very essential minimum. In other words, if you are an absolute beginner and you hold a cellular phone for the first time in your life, you should not meet any difficulties controlling the Motofone.

When you switch on the phone and set up the current time and date (you should do so after each extraction of the battery), the phone goes into stand-by mode. The operator name will run across the display. Here you will see a bright clock on black background together with visible icons corresponding to the locked keypad, missed calls and received messages. All mentioned details are fixedly displayed and each new event is immediately announced.

The characters on the display are quite large

The main menu is accessed through a press on the horizontal way of the navigation key. It is composed of 6 icons located in the bottom of the display. If you do not manage to recognize what functions icons are related to, refer to voice help. According to its voice assistance, Motofone menu consists of: send/read a message, call register, ringtone modification, alarm settings and time settings. And that’s it. Selected options are confirmed through a press on the arrow-marked context key or on the up way of the navigation key. Motofone's menu and control options may cost you some practice and patience, but generally they are really simple.

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The icons of Motofone’s main menu

Voice help (deactivated from the volume settings) tells you how to write a SMS, enter a phone number as well as how to set up alarm time or deactivate it respectively. It will not only be appreciated by people with sight handicap but also by any common user, which makes it one of Motofone's most competitive assets.

It should be possible to set up certain functions through special number codes quoted in Motofone's manual. The latter is said to have only two pages, but we cannot confirm this fact. The phone arrived at our office only accompanied by a charger; besides, our search for the manual on the Internet gave no results.

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