We hardly waited until Motorola had finished announcing their third Android smartphone, the Motorola Backflip, before heading up to have a play with the handset ourselves, and we have to say we're in two minds about it. Motorola's concept is certainly interesting: the nature of the hinge means you can use it as a desk clock and widget station without, say, the dock the DROID demands, but there have been payoffs in the keyboard hardware that we're note sure are worth it.
Video demo after the cut
Since the keyboard remains exposed even when the Backflip is closed - the 5-megapixel autofocus camera is embedded in lower left-hand corner, along with the LED flash - Motorola have had to make it more rugged than the norm. They've ended up with large keys that, while they look like they should be tactile, are actually tough to use and overly firm. Meanwhile Motorola's BACKTRACK rear-mounted trackpad is actually confined to a small panel in the middle, rather than the broad surface we were hoping for. Still, it works as you'd expect, scrolling through lists and navigating webpages.
Build quality feels high, and considering everything the hinge is asked to do, we're relieved to see it's sturdy and strikes a decent balance between ease of opening and holding the Backflip open when in desk mode. When set to roughly 45-degrees, the Backflip automatically kicks into its media station mode, which can be navigated using the responsive capacitive touchscreen that, as far as we can tell, is the same 3.1-inch HVGA panel as used in the Motorola CLIQ.
Also as with the CLIQ is MOTOBLUR, and despite Motorola's announcement today that they would be upgrading all their Android devices to OS 2.1, right now the Backflip is still running OS 1.5. That's a big step back compared to the company's own DROID and other rivals, and while MOTOBLUR is good there are still some frustrations - such as there being no way to pull out '@' Twitter replies from the overall message timeline - which make it less successful than it could be. We're hoping Motorola address this and more in their upcoming upgrade, whenever that might take place.
We'll be putting the Motorola Backflip through its paces more thoroughly when the review units come out, so until then enjoy the gallery and hands-on demo video below.
Motorola Backflip hands-on: