Motorola Backflip Review: Innovation at its best

11 Aug

motorola-backflip-frontThere is really no innovation taking place in the world of smartphones as manufacturers simply cram the highest available specifications in the thinnest frame possible. The Motorola Backflip attempts to break those shackles with a fresh concept and an unusual design.



With Android smartphones available at a dime a dozen, there is very little to differentiate them from each other. Most often than not, the difference lies in pure hardware specifications and numerous variations of iPhone-inspired user interfaces (UI). To top that, phones from the same brand will have the same UI and the only thing separating them is the price tags that they carry. One can review them with by just judging their battery and processor performance as the rest remains unchanged.



At times like these, Motorola has been impressive with all its three Android smartphones – the Backflip, the Milestone and the Milestone XT720 – not only bearing different industrial designs but subtle variations in their UI too. The Backflip, which is the most under-rated product of the three, is also the most innovative smartphone we have seen in a very long time.



motorola-backflip-designWhat strikes immediately about the Backflip is its unconventional design. While it looks like a Communicator flip design, the QWERTY keypad actually forms the base of the device – when kept on a surface the phone rests on the keypad. When the phone is in open position, the keypad and display are at an obtuse angle that makes it easy to view the screen. We find it a better solution than how other brands like Nokia and HTC use the slide-and-tilt mechanism (think about the Nokia N97) as there is very little wear and tear. Plus it also leaves a bigger space to accommodate the keypad, which means bigger keys and comfortable typing. Imagine this, the Backflip is narrower than the Milestone, yet it has a bigger keypad!



The biggest innovation on the Backflip, however, is not its unique design. Instead it is something that isn’t really visible in plain view while using the device and yet is the most useful feature. Motorola calls it ‘Backtrack’ while we call it a trackpad. Housed on the back of the display, the trackpad is similar to what one sees in laptops and works very much like one. By scrolling a finger on the trackpad, one can scroll through menu items, web pages, text messages … basically anything that either is in a list format or has space to scroll (like documents and web pages). To select anything – a link, text message, option – one has to gently double tap on the trackpad.



motorola-backflip-backtrackBut why make such a fuss about the trackpad when one can simply do the same tasks on the touchscreen? There is a very valid use case – using a finger on the touchscreen also blocks the view of the display. This becomes evident, especially on a 3.1-inch display. It took us less than a couple of minutes to get used to the trackpad and we felt so at home with it that we were searching for it while using other phones like the Galaxy S and the Milestone. Had we been calling the shots, we would have made it mandatory for every phone to have one. Mind you, this is not a new technology to be employed on a phone. HTC had used a similar strip on the front of its S620, which was announced way back in 2006.



Moving on, the Backflip has a stripped down version of the Moto Blur UI, one that is non-intrusive and does not change much from the stock Android UI. Our pet peeve with the UI was the fact that when a call comes, the ‘ignore’ icon on the touchscreen appears on the left and the ‘accept’ icon on the right, while the opposite is the common standard across all phones. It resulted in disconnecting many a call when we actually intended to attend it. However, one can easily get rid of Motorola’s UI by installing free UI from the Android Market, our favourite being ‘Panda Home.’



motorola-backflip-cameraOn the multimedia front, the Backflip has a good 5.0 megapixel camera along with a flash. Notice that the camera has been housed on the bottom left corner of the QWERTY keypad. The good thing is that one can easily take self-portraits by opening the keypad. It also has a 3.5 mm socket to plug a standard pair of audio headsets.



What might really repel users from the Backflip is that it runs on Android 1.5. Motorola has added a few features like support for flash in camera, Bluetooth file transfers and even offered a full license of ‘RoadSync ‘to access Microsoft Exchange email accounts. It is even giving a life-time license of ‘MapmyIndia’ navigation software. However, one won’t get pinch-to-zoom or multi-touch and there is no deep integration of the phonebook with online social networks like Facebook and Twitter. One would also be deprived of many Android apps that work only on higher versions of the OS.



At Rs 19,490, the Backflip could be a good buy for someone looking for sturdy smartphone for browsing the Internet and e-mailing. However, for those looking to milk Android for its apps, it would be prudent to wait till it gets updated to a newer OS version or look elsewhere. We are grief-stricken to see that Motorola is letting such amazing hardware out without updating its OS. Hopefully, it will hear us and roll out an update soon.

No Responses to “Motorola Backflip Review: Innovation at its best”

  1. Shivaan August 11, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    Why would I really need a backflip when I have a nice Moto droid X

  2. Thakur August 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Thanks for a detailed review. Very informative

  3. Sandeep August 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    I really appreciate review of Backflip from cellpassion
    Hope to see more of these!!

  4. Vasu August 11, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    Hi,
    You have reviewed both wildfire and Backflip.Which one will you suggest if someone is looking for this segment android phone?

    • Rajat Agrawal August 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

      Vasu,

      Both are addressed to different segments. The Wildfire is a plain jane Android smartphone that offers the latest (Android 2.1) version of Android. The Backflip is a more refined product with regards to the hardware, full QWERTY keypad and a nice display. However, it runs on the older Android 1.5 version, which is over a year-old and Motorola is not confirming whether they will update it to Android 2.1 or not.

      I have used the Backflip as a substitute for my Milestone and Hero without any problem. Of course, I could not make half of my must-have apps run on the older OS.

      If price is what’s attracting you about these two phones – then go for Wildfire if you love to download apps and like to have an integrated phonebook (with Facebook and Twitter). If that’s not the case, the Backflip.

  5. John Smith August 12, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Vasu – I recommend the back flip

  6. Navam September 1, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Hey i can not fnd resailers selling motorola backflip in NCR
    also most of them are saying motorola has stopped india operations
    any idea if that is true or not?

    • Rajat Agrawal September 5, 2010 at 8:29 am #

      Motorola India is certainly in operation. We will try posting a list of Moto resellers later this week.

  7. logan October 5, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    good phone. i like the flip out option so i don’t have to text on the screen. processor is fast enough for my business and the recorder and camera are good enough to catch my family up on my business trips. pretty good unlocked world phones. wifi, email, web browser are great for my business and company and my partner loves his for the gps helps us get around new york. my wife loves hers for the games and facebook, a lot more fun than our old unlocked sprint phones. also got our unlock codes and htc unlocking for free! speaker phone is loud enough for our meetings and web browser is great for my fantasy football and espn. got our last couple unlocked new phones at unlockthatphone.com 2 thumbs way up I really like my backflip

  8. M January 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Hello!
    I want an adroid phone within the range og 15-16000. I have zeroed down to Moto Backflip and HTC Wildfire. I am not interested in all the ease with regards to using social networking websites but all phones seem to be emphasizing on that only. Is it true that backflip lags a lot? Its now upgradeable to android 2.1 so whats a better choice between Wildfire and Backflip? Any other suggestions??

    Reply soon!

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