We like the retro flip phone design, which is surprisingly slim, although the hinge feels rather weak. The light-up front panel is very cool indeed
The numeric pad makes typing out messages awkward, while the basic social media apps and Opera browser are cumbersome
A basic two-megapixel camera captures simple shots, and you get a handful of useful apps and games. Nothing more
No complaints with regards to performance, as we didn't witness any issues, although some apps such as the Opera browser take a little while to open
You'll get days of use from a single charge, providing you don't hammer the data apps
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/30/2012 2:42:02 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Slick design, glowing lights, colourful interface
Troublesome hinge, basic camera, numeric pad for text, Opera browser
Flip phones may seem like relics of another era, despite their obvious sci-fi influences. However, the Motorola Gleam Plus (or Gleam+) is a funky little mobile that blends retro chic with some snazzy new features, giving it a fun and personal appeal.
Many flip phones of the bygone era were chunky rocks that barely fitted in your pocket, but the Gleam Plus is surprisingly slender at just 13.5mm. That makes it thicker than most candybar-style phones, but it still looks and feels positively svelte. At just over 100g, it's pleasingly light but also reassuringly solid.
Unfortunately, that solid build quality disappears when you actually open the phone. Both the body and the lid are rigid, but the hinge that joins them feels like a serious weak point. We were worried that bending the screen back under even light pressure might crack the plastic join, especially when pressing the screen against our ear during a call. It may just be paranoia, but a firmer hinge would've quashed our fears.
If you're after a proper rugged phone, something like the Motorola Defy Mini would better suit.
Still, we love the rest of the design, especially the light-up front face. Push the side buttons (which control volume normally) and the face displays the time in large numerals - a very cool effect, even if it is a gimmick. The narrow lip at the bottom of the Gleam Plus also glows, to alert you to any messages or calls. Despite all this glowing, the battery will sustain you for days on a single charge - providing you aren't hammering the data apps.
The Opera Mobile 10.1 browser provides a slightly clunky means of getting online. The Gleam Plus' 2.8-inch display isn't touch-sensitive, so you need to steer an on-screen cursor around using the thumbpad, which works well but takes some time. You can at least customise your homepage, to give you fast access to your favourite sites, while the BBC News page displays a handy summary of the latest headlines.
Socialites have a range of social network and comms apps they can use, inclusing Twitter, Facebook and Gmail. They're basic, but work as expected. For instance, the Twitter app shows you the latest tweets from everyone you follow, with the option to reply, retweet and check out profiles.
Typing out tweets, messages and other text takes a while as the Gleam Plus uses a number pad for entering letters, but the keys are well-labelled and backlit for use at night.
Gamers will be disappointed by the limited number of games - you get some classics such as Tetris, although many of them can't be played unless you connect to a data server, which will cost anyone without a data contract. You also get some bog-standard features such as a calculator and calendar, and the ability to play music and videos. However, watching movies or TV shows on the tiny screen isn't much fun, and the 3.5mm jack is on the side of the device, making it uncomfortable to listen to tunes while the phone's in your pocket.
The two-megapixel camera is functional at best, offering a cheap and dirty way of capturing spontaneous snaps. There's no auto-focus, so you can't get too close to your subject, although near shots generally came out sharp enough. The lack of flash means you're limited to daytime shots too, unless your local is better lit than ours. Motorola has added some extra features such as continuous shooting, but since each photo takes around 2-3 seconds to capture, it's as pointless as an edible codpiece.
At £80, the Motorola Gleam Plus is a little pricey for a retro flip phone with such basic features. However, we did like the slick design, with the glowing front offering great appeal. For this price, we'd rather have an Orange San Francisco II, which offers a more user-friendly experience.
Many thanks to Clove.co.uk for providing us with the review handset. You can buy the Motorola Gleam Plus from Clove for £74