Unfolding the phone reveals the neat rear – the actual back of this two-faced handset. The back of the keyboard is the battery cover, which is a breeze to open and fit back in place thanks to the nice release knob. Under the thin metal cover are the battery and SIM compartment, along with the microSD slot.
The memory card slot is hot-swappable but getting there involves an extra step: you need to unfold the keyboard to release the cover and handle the card.
The back of the screen has one of the BACKFLIP’s key features – the BACKTRACK touchpad. It’s a centrally placed touch panel that does a job of a trackball. You can use it to both scroll and select. Short sweeps without lifting the finger will let you jump selectable items.
Wide side-to-side sweeps will scroll lists, images or homescreen panes. Wait for this – a double tap confirms. It’s like a notebook trackpad (without multitouch gestures though). And yes, we know it’s not essential in a full-touch phone but we still like the BACKTRACK.
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 noise-cancellation equipment.
The loudspeaker is under the battery cover, similar to the Motorola MILESTONE solution. The thing is there’s no actual loudspeaker grill on the BACKFLIP. The battery cover is suitably etched though at the end that falls on the speaker.
There’s a certain issue with the way the phone folds. The screen folds over the rear cover and the speaker gets notably muffled. On the other hand, the loudspeaker location is perfect for placing the half-open phone on a desk to watch videos or listen to music.
Now let’s talk about the keyboard. Spacious four rows of large and brilliantly backlit keys is quite the way to start. It’s a flatbed single-sheet keyboard with no actual gaps between keys. This makes sense: a keyboard that’s always exposed is thus more protected against dust and humidity. As a result though, keys have a rather inadequate stroke and tactility, but their size certainly makes up for that.
There are handy shortcuts to messaging and the web browser. A dedicated search button is also there, as well as a Home and a Contextual Menu key.
We really hope the rubbery material and the character inscriptions on it will be sturdy enough to withstand the daily wear and tear in the long run. After all the BACKFLIP will spend quite some time lying on its back (the keyboard).
The other thing to find on the BACKFLIP’s keyboard is the 5 megapixel lens and the LED flash. The specific form factor has forced this solution but we think it works. For one, the BACKFLIP does not need a secondary video-call camera at all. It will appear strange to onlookers that you’re taking a picture with the keyboard but no big deal. It’s quite handy too for self-portraits and video chatting.
The build quality of the Motorola BACKFLIP is excellent and the unusual form factor works quite well. Both rear plates – of the keyboard and the display – are metal and enhance the solid feel. The plastic used on the front and sides looks quite durable too.
The Motorola BACKFLIP is the right size and weight to work comfortably with. The full keyboard is remarkably spacious – the outward fold has let it use all the available space. The low key stroke may be an issue for some but the size of the buttons is more than comfortable. The screen can be tilted in various positions and that’s another pint in favor of the BACKFLIP.