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The Motorola Charm is the first Android phone to sport a dedicated QWERTY keyboard in a candybar form-factor or more commonly known as the “Blackberry” style. This particular form factor has long been overlooked by other manufacturers and personally, it seemed like the ultimate combination for someone who doesn’t like slide-out keyboards or onscreen keyboards.

Motorola Charm: Keyboard

Since the form factor/portrait keyboard seems to be the unique differentiating point for the Motorola  Charm, it seems fitting that we start our review with our thoughts on the keyboard. The keyboard keys are very comfortable and it’s very easy to type on. Anyone with prior experiences with BlackBerries might actually enjoy typing on this device and find that there is no learning curve associated with the usage of Charm. Separation is good and each keypad is well-domed and takes quite a firm press, cutting down erroneous keypresses quite dramatically compared to the flat arrangement of the DROID. As the device has a wider body than most Android smartphones, users will find that this provides an ergonomic grip. The keyboard also conveniently lights up in the dark.

Motorola Charm: HARDWARE

Bigger is better according to current mobile phone trends, but the Charm opts for a more compact form. The phone is a palm-sized 67.2 x 98.4 millimeters with metal siding and a slick, rubber back. On the inside, it packs a Texas Instruments OMAP3410 Cortex A8 CPU running at 600 MHz, 512 MB of RAM, 512 MB of internal memory, an accelerometer, dual microphones for noise cancellation and 802.11n WiFi.

The Motorola Charm also comes with a 2 GB microSD card was included in the box, as well as a standard battery (1170 mAh) and an extended battery (1370 mAh). Now, this makes us to wonder: Is Motorola trying to pre-empt all Charm’s users that the smartphone’s battery might not last as long as we hope it to be?

Motorola Charm: Battery Life

The standard battery, as expected, did not last very long. Even on standby with minimal use – a few phone calls and light web browsing – the battery fails to make it through one day without needing to be recharged. Because Motorola includes two batteries, you can basically charge up both batteries and make it through two days of usage – that is, if you do not mind carrying 2 batteries around! All in all, the battery life is nothing to boast about but it is expected with the current crop of Android smartphones and the wide variety of usage from a typical consumer.

Motorola Charm: Design

To be honest, the Motorola Charm wasn’t all that impressive with its short and wide design. Somehow, the candybar form factor seems to go against the “traditional” definition of a smartphone – which allows for mobile websurfing, games on the go and  viewing of videos. Obviously, this model is meant to target a specific type of users – most notably, current BlackBerry users – and aim to provide reasonable competition for this group of users. If you are looking for a large touchscreen smartphone, then the Motorola Charm will definitely not appeal to you at all.

Motorola Charm: Camera

The Charm includes a 3 MP, fixed-focus shooter 3MP Camera/Camcorder which is considered sub-par in this day and age of camera phones. The camera is easily accessible from the camera shortcut button at the bottom of the Charm’s keypad, and photos can also be taken with a single press of this key. That’s it – no focusing, no exposure settings, colour effects or the like. However, as a nice bonus, the stills camera mode features geotagging and a nifty auto-panorama function, which takes photos as you pan and stitches them together once finished.

Motorola Charm: Display

Just like with the recently released BlackBerry Torch 9800 – the Charm has so much potential but it has been shortchanged by a shoddy screen. At 2.8”, a 320 x 240 resolution is poor, but not unforgivable. There are certainly other devices out there with displays of the same size or larger, notably the venerable Nokia N95, HTC Wildfire, and HTC Tattoo. However, with the Motorola Charm, colors are oversaturated and images are pixelated, making the Charm reminiscent of a Gameboy Color. Text can also be blocky and grainy to the point that reading can be displeasing. The limited visibility also affects interaction with the software. For instance, the live wallpapers that typically look so beautiful on other devices lose all appeal when crunched into the confined space and poor display.

Motorola Charm: Software

The Motorola Charm is running Android 2.1 version of the custom MOTOBLUR software that integrates connections with Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter into the phone. Through the use of widgets and a universal inbox, every means of communication is readily available and organized how users see fit. However, for this case, MOTOBLUR and Android run into problems because of the limited screen
real estate.  It makes the home screen looks jumbled and filled to the brim, which actually defeats the purpose of the MOTOBLUR interface.

Along with the usual Android 2.1 suite of Google applications, Motorola has included a few other freebies in addition to MOTOBLUR. Motorola have added their own custom 3D gallery that looks quite similar to Apple’s CoverFlow music browsing interface and functions quite fluidly. Another inclusion of note is the music player, which has playlist and shuffle support, as well as FM radio, ShoutCAST radio, and SoundHound track recognition.

Motorola Charm: Additional Features

The BACKTRACK Navigation Pad is a unique feature on the Motorola Charm and probably one of the more user friendly features of the device. Since the screen is smaller than most other touchscreen smartphones, BACKTRACK enables you to view the entire screen at once, without your finger getting in the way of its visuals.

The BACKTRACK is an optional feature that you don’t have to use – so you don’t have to feel like you have to learn a new way to scroll around your phone. Personally, I don’t find the BACKTRACK necessary to use, but it’s certainly nice to have the option available to you.


The Motorola Charm is a paradox in itself. At one end, it has bravely adopts a new form-factor that is sure to please many who have waited for a different approach to Android. Add the Motorola Charm’s great keyboard and ergonomic form factor and what we have here is a decent smartphone for the average users. However, on the other end, we have the display issues that make this a device that
will turn off a substantial number of current and future Android users.

What future does the Charm have ahead of it? Having seen how nicely it runs Éclair, I’m eager to see it upgraded to Froyo. But will that happen? The Charm is not a Motorola flagship device, and it would not be surprising if Motorola left the Charm alone at its current version.

The Charm could have actually been a great phone for BlackBerry users trying to wean themselves off to an Android phone. However, in its current state the Motorola Charm is limited to being just a great texting phone or an entry level phone for young smartphone users.

Motorola Charm specifications

Frequency Quad Band

Phone Style Touchscreen w/ full QWERTY

OS Android 2.1

Thickness 11.4 mm

Length 98.4 mm

Width 67.2 mm

Weight 110 grams

Built-in Memory 512MB of RAM and by 512MB of ROM

Additional Memory Up to 32 GB MicroSD

High-speed Data GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi, HSDPA

Connectivity Bluetooth, USB

Screen Size 2.8-inch QVGA

Secondary Screen Size N/A

Screen Colours 16M

Camera Yes

Camera Resolution 3 megapixels

Flash Yes

Ringtones Preloaded and downloadable

Music Player Yes

Music Formats AAC, H.264, MP3, MPEG-4, WMA9, ACC+ Enhanced, WMV v9, AMR NB, AAC+

Radio Yes

Speaker Yes

Internet Yes

Browser HTML

Games Yes

Battery 1170 mAh Li Ion; with MOTOBLUR Battery Manager

The handset will be landing in India for a price of around Rs.15000 by November.

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Tags: android, charm, motorola, phone

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