The little phone itself is cute enough but the jackets it wears look uniformly poor
Many of the jackets mean the phone works in a conventional way, but others make it hard work
Features are variable according to jacket, and though the camera is better than some other handsets, the music player is not advanced and the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack is a flaw
It’s slow to respond when you’re launching the camera, for instance, but basic tasks are moderately quicker
The Modu has a small battery, so no wonder it needs frequent charging, though it’ll easily last you a full day or two
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:58:48 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Tiny, innovative and fun
Cheap looking and exceptionally basic features
The Modu phone is a proper tiddler. The screen measures 1.3 inches and it weighs in at 43g. But while you’re admiring its compact form, you’ll notice that it’s lacking something - keys. And there’s no number pad. Instead there’s a noughts and crosses style set of nine squares – four direction pads round a central button. Waking the screen and pressing the button brings you menus, including a number pad, on screen. Then you can dial by using a series of direction presses and the central button to confirm your choice of digit.
If that sounds like a long-winded process, well, it is. But Modu has another trick up its sleeve, even if it means it won’t be the smallest phone around any more. You see, Modu is a modular phone: the diminutive basic unit plops into any one of a series of jackets that transform it into a more conventional handset with, hallelujah, number keys!Slip the main unit into a Shiny Jacket, for instance, and it turns into a cute black plastic and chrome phone. As you slide it in, the phone recognises it has a new suit on and reconfigures itself so the now-redundant Dial option disappears from the main menu. Then there’s the Night Jacket, with its styling resembling a cross between a dinner jacket and a diamond. Flip open the top and slide the Modu in and the phone not only has quite a different character, it now sports a 3.2-megapixel camera on the back! There’s even a dedicated camera button on the side to launch the snapper, which also includes a flash, though this takes a while to launch. Image quality is not great either, and is really let down by the low-resolution display. Change to the Speedy jacket – a garish red and black super-plasticky holder that is actually quite fun to use – and the camera menu option vanishes as swiftly as it arrived. There are more jackets available – we got to see the Sport Jacket, which has been designed with those trips to the gym in mind – a splash-resistant case slides into a bright green armband and plays up the media playback buttons. It also elides number keys: well, you can’t dial and jog, can you? Incidentally, it is worth noting that the Modu’s earphones attach to each of the jackets via a micro USB connector rather than a considerably more useful 3.5mm headphone jack.
What remains constant in all the items in Modu’s dressing-up box is the function of the small LCD screen – though the icons and styling vary with the jackets. There are direction shortcuts to call log contacts, messages and music player, with two soft keys to direct you to the inbox and screen lock. In some ways, this is the most versatile phone imaginable. The Modu has been on the horizon for some time now and it’s always been clear that would be an innovative product. The trouble is, none of the jackets is worth using. The Sport jacket is perhaps the most useless, enlarging the tiny handset and making you realise that an iPod shuffle is really what you need to wear when you’re running, not a hefty device like this. All the covers look pretty cheap and feel lightweight but not solid. The tiny screen is so low-res that it looks pretty ropey, despite the imaginative different stylings. The Modu is a cute idea, with some attractive facets. But the tacky cases and basic feature set mean it’s hard not to see this Mr Benn of the mobile world as a gimmick too far.