If you're so bored of the iPhone that you're bored by anything that even remotely resembles it, cast your ennui-ridden eye on the Motorola FlipOut, a square smartphone you can actually flip open. Launched yesterday, it may look like a cutesy gadget for the social networking teen, but it's actually a capable bit of kit that runs on the brand new Android 2.1 - and packs Moto's uber-social MOTOBLUR skin, as well.
Look and feel Well, it's a perfect square, for one. The FlipOut is more cute than cool, but its compact size means you can use a single thumb to swipe and navigate its 2.8-inch touch-screen, as well as flick it open in a single slick move. Underneath sits a five-line QWERTY, including a dedicated number line - great for all those status updates you'll be posting. The MOTOBLUR skin was last seen on the Dext, and comprises a universal phonebook that syncs contacts from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft Exchange; as well as a Happenings widget with updates from Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Under the hood Like all Android phones, internet is sorted, with support for Wi-Fi and high-speed HSDPA internet, as well as A-GPS for faster, more accurate location finding. The 3.15-megapixel camera is fairly standard, but comes equipped with the usual ability to share snaps with any social network, or via MMS and email. We're impressed by the 700Mhz processor - faster than the iPhone 3GS's 600Mhz, for comparison - which should help all those auto-updating widgets run smoothly. There's also a digital compass so you'll always know which way you're going on Google Maps.
Performance The QWERTY keyboard is a little springy, but spacious enough. The flip mechanism works perfectly, while the capacitive touch-screen is slick and responsive. Multi-touch lets you zoom in pictures or web, and the music player is powered by the TuneWiki engine, displaying lyrics and album artwork pulled from the web. You can also check out what other users are listening to, on a sort of social music map. Updates to MOTOBLUR include more networks supported by the universal phonebook such as Last.fm; as well as greater functionality in the Happenings widgets. For example, you can long-press on the widget to resize it. You can also select to follow certain friends only, or put friends into groups and choose to follow groups. Because you can have multiple Happenings widgets, you can then have different feeds for, say, work, friends or whatever. Like the Dext, this is phone tightly focused on a constant stream of updates, and it fulfils that purpose marvellously. Also like the Dext though, you might find it less appealing if social networking isn't at the core of why you need a phone.
The Motorola FlipOut comes in a rainbow of shades and launches in June on Orange. More networks and tariffs TBC.