The E398 is powered by a slim lithium-ion battery that takes about 4 hours to fully charge. Fully charged from the dealer, I popped it into the back of the E398, together with the SIM card from the old Nokia, and turned it on. Nothing happened. Not a great sign. Was I wrong with abandoning my beloved Nokia brand? Undeterred, I tried again and it turns out that I have to hold the power button for a few seconds continuously before the phone would power up. With the phone powered up, it promptly logged onto my network and I started to fiddle with the unit.
The Motorola E398 - classy good looks
First impressions are good. The unit itself is actually pretty weighty, which I actually like. Gives the impression of solidity. The surfaces of the E398 is textured, and feels kinda like rubber, but isn’t, of course. In the black and silver unit I got ( it’s also available in silver and red), the phone looks understated and classy. Feature wise, the E398 has far too much features to list in full here, but amongst those that got my attention was its VGA camera, high resolution colour screen, video and audio playback (MP3 and MP4 compatible), Motorola’s own iTap predictive text technology and, most notably, a TransFlash memory card. The E398 is significant for the industry as it is the first phone to incorporate SanDisk’s 64MB transflash memory card and offers the user huge amounts of memory capacity for a device so small.
Exploring the new Motorola user-interface, I found that I could navigate my way through the phone’ features pretty easily. In fact, compared to the Nokia interface on the 6100, I couldn’t say that one had the edge over the other in terms of ease-of-use. Both present the phone’s features in windows on the main menu and navigating through the various features was a breeze. I even figured out how to connect to the E398’s optional Bluetooth headset and the call history lists without resorting to the user manual, and that is an achievement for me of sorts as past experiences with Motorola products had left me dumbfounded at the logic that the programmers used when laying out the menu system.
Screen shot of the new Motorola user interface - simple and very Nokia-like
I also found that the E398’s signal strength and ability to lock onto networks to be heaps better than the 6100. I live in an area where reception isn’t great. One or two bars on the indicator is about the best you’ll get and the 6100 had the tendency to drop calls when I ventured anywhere past my doorway in the apartment. The E398 coped admirably with the weak reception and never dropped a call, even when it was hanging on to the last bar on its indicator. Sound quality on the E398’s earpiece and built-in speakerphone is a little weak though, most callers sounding like they are talking to you through a can. In that aspect, the Nokia was better, with voices coming through naturally. To its credit, the volume on the E398 is louder, enabling you to hear better in crowded and noisy environments.
Another thing the Nokia had the advantage was when it came to messaging. Nokia utilizes the widely-used T9 software that is pretty adept at predicting what you’re typing. The iTap software on the E398 can prove frustrating from someone who is used to T9. Some words that you take for granted that a T9 equipped phone can predict is completely lost on iTap. Whats doubly frustrating is the fact that the iTap software is incredibly slow. The 6100 had no problems keeping up with my rather fast typing speeds. The E398, in comparison, struggles at what feels like half the speed at which I normally type. By the time I’ve completed four to six words on the keypad, the iTap software is still figuring out what I typed as my second or third word on the screen. So it’s a constant type-stop-wait affair with the Motorola. Its learning capabilities are also suspect, as words that I’ve entered into its database (it automatically learns new words it hasn’t seen before and stores it in memory, at least in theory) sometimes appears when it tries to predict what you've typed, and sometimes doesn’t.
The keypad layout closely mimics the Nokia 6100, which is no bad thing, with nice large buttons laid out in a symmetrical array. Instead of a 4-way directional button on the Nokia, the Motorola has a small joystick on the keypad to navigate the phone’s functions. In practice, the joystick can prove to be a little slippery and small for quick navigation, but that’s more likely caused by the fact that its owner’s fingers are of the “XXL” variety. Certainly others who fiddled with my phone had no trouble with the joystick.
The dimunitive little joystick on the E398
The E398 also boasts of “Stereo Surround Sound”, but the effects were lost on me as I detected little difference between the playback of ringtones on the Motorola and the Nokia. What I did appreciate was the quality of the sound played back on the tiny stereo speakers flanking the E398’s screen. Compared to the weedy sound of the Nokia, the Motorola was excellent, playing back Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” ringtone with convincing bass and clear treble. I even loaded the E398 with some MP3 tunes and it played back well. It gets better if you plug the E398 into proper stereo headphones through the socket at the top of the phone. It quickly became a favourite feature of mine to store a few tunes in the E398 for playback in the car where I have a matching jack to plug the E398 into the car’s audio system.
Its interesting to note that the E398 has flashing coloured lights on the sides of its screen that change colour as the phone rings, creating a disco-light effect. It’s a huge hit with a few of my friends and it certainly makes people look and stare when my phone rings. Certainly not a feature for those who want to remain discreet.
The display screen is crisp and clear, and beats the Nokia hands-down for clarity. Where the Nokia’s display would wash out in sunlight, the Motorola’s would remain highly legible. This is possibly due to the fact that Nokia persists in using passive LCD displays whereas Motorola has moved on to clearer active matrix screens for phones like the E398.
Battery life was pretty good while I was using the E398 for daily use. I’m a self confessed SMS-addict, sending out on average 40-50 messages daily, and taking that in mind, the E398 lasted 3 days before requiring a recharge. The Nokia was about equal in terms of battery life. Using the camera feature often on the E398 saps battery power quickly though, and should be best avoided if you’re trying to squeeze the last ounce of talktime on the Motorola.
The VGA camera on the E398 produces acceptable quality pictures. Nothing great, and I’ve only used it for candid shots of myself so far. Sometimes I wonder why people make a big deal about camera phones.
The VGA camera sits at the back of the E398
Overall, the E398 represents what Motorola has successfully done to counter the brilliance of Nokia’s products. Its stylish, easy to use and has almost too many features for its own good. Short of a full fledged smartphone like the Nokia Communicator, I think the E398 represents all an average joe would ever need in a mobile phone. And for once, you don’t have to justify why it isn’t made in Finland. Motorola’s back in the game, and the E398 is the best example of how far it has come.
i got the same problem!when i'm talking at the phone,it's suddenly becomes no sound..
i've been using e398 for a month and i found no problems with it, except it lags a bit and the sms typing is quite slow, alphabet doesn't appear instantly. until today the conversation speaker suddenly becomes nearly no sound at all, i can't even hear wat ppl are talking on my phone. what is happening? is there any settings to do with this?
There's only 1 memory card - the small one !!! that's the one u put into the phone, into the slot near the sim card, it's very easy. The big plastic thing that looks like a memory card is a sd card support, to use the little one as a sd card by putting it in the big one.
i dont think i was very clear, but... that;s that
Sorry to ask does anyone know how to put he memory card in y is ther 2 cards?
Finally I got an E398...but its been just 4 days & there r some problems..
1.Sometimes while transferring an mp3 file frm pc to phone i get an error..
2.Also sometimes when i associate an mp3 with a category,and then play it it sez 'file not found'
3.The camera works fine during daylight, but during night-time the pics come out to be blurred..
4. Also is there a limit to the bitrate of the mp3 files that the phone supports?
yeah i agree ... atleast be polite if u donn wanna answer ..... chodrya lund
it is not mentioned in the review whether any player is provided on motorola e-398 for mp3 songs...or it can be played as ringtones only ? or is there any system through which the mp3 songs can be played one by one ? please clarify.
Rao Adnan - is it that hard to read the review for this phone on this website to find out what;s a trans-flash card ? or do a google search !
what is mean by flash card and only this kind of card use in this phone or we use any other memory card and what kind plz tell me
As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best (if not the best) phones released this year.
I tried this Motorola E398 after many years using Nokia, it seems not bad. The picture taken is better than Nokia 6230, speakerphone is very clear, bluetooth works wonder, MP3 very nice, video can transfer from my Nokia 6670 to this phone, etc.
If you do not have budget for a good camera/ MP3/ Video playback/ bluetooth-this is the phone you can buy.
Big improverment from the old motorola series.