The Motorola U9 borrows most of its design traits from the old Motorola PEBL. However, while the PEBL is finished in a sober matt black, rubberised finish, the flamboyant pink and purple metallic options available for the U9 should attract a real female following.
However, design and finish have always been Motorola’s strength and the U9 looks and feels great. It’s compact without being fiddly and lightweight without being flimsy, and no-one does flat, etched keypads quite like Motorola.
The real stand-out feature is the OLED display which sits beneath the glossy surface of the phone’s fascia and offers touch-screen controls for the U9’s music player while the clamshell is shut. Elsewhere, the features are fairly standard, with an ordinary two-megapixel camera and EDGE data speeds for internet browsing.
We’ve no complaints here, although, if you’ve ever used HSDPA or 3G, you’ll find internet browsing with EDGE sluggish. The camera is basic, but the music player is fun to use and the sound quality is good.
It looks as though Motorola has finally shrugged off its reputation for fiddly phones. It may not be quite as simple as a Nokia Series 40, but it’s not half bad.
One word – excellent.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:50:30 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
The OLED is a revolutionary technology that could represent the future for mobile displays
Aside from the OLED and music player, the features are fairly ordinary
It’s very easy to underestimate the Motorola U9. This is in no small part because of Motorola’s recent tendency to re-hash old designs with a few new but minor flourishes.
So, when we first saw the U9, we blithely assumed that Motorola had simply dusted off the old Motorola PEBL phone, given it a glossy new finish and some bold colour options, removed the stroke-to-open mechanism and re-packaged it as a music player. However, there’s something far more clever than a stroke-to-open mechanism going on under the Motorola U9’s bonnet. Beneath the curvy fascia, Motorola has ingeniously fitted an OLED (organic light emitting diode) external display.
This OLED display may be a gimmick, but what a gimmick it is. For the uninitiated, OLEDs create light with the application of electricity and experts claim they can provide brighter, crisper displays while using less power than the traditional LED and LCD screens found on many of today’s mobiles and electronic gadgets.
Technology websites like Howstuffworks.com suggest that OLED technology is so clever it could soon enable wondrous technological feats, like, for example, an 80-inch HD TV with a screen that’s so thin and flexible, it could be rolled up when you’re not using it.
Or, in the case of the Motorola U9, the OLED enables you to choose from one of 20 floating screensavers that twinkle mischievously from beneath the U9’s glossy shell.
Even more impressive is the OLED’s ability to transform into a touch-sensitive music control pad. When the U9 is in music player mode and you flip the clamshell shut, the OLED on the outer display automatically presents you with all the track details and the option to forward, pause or rewind the track using touch-sensitive controls. This is technical wizardry at its finest and elevates the U9 from the ranks of regular clamshells into pioneering territory.
Although it’s no Nseries, Walkman or iPhone, the Motorola U9 has a decent music player and is very easy to use. Music pauses when a call comes in and there’s a dedicated music button on the keypad to the left of the central nav-pad.
You can use Microsoft’s Windows Media Player (download from www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/default.mspx) to rip and burn your CDs to the U9 or to transfer music you’ve bought from one of the hundreds of online music stores.
Once Windows Media Player is downloaded, it’s very easy to transfer music to the U9 via a microUSB cable. However, you’ll need to check if the cable comes packaged with your phone. It wasn’t with ours, so we had to get hold of one separately. Beware if you don’t have the USB boxed, because you don’t want to be downloading music wirelessly using the phone’s EDGE data speeds.
The U9’s music library is arranged by artists, albums and genres, and you can create your own playlists. There’s also a shuffle option to play songs at random.
The phone offers a paltry 25MB of on-board user memory, but there’s a microSD card expansion slot, so you’ll be able to boost the memory to 4GB.
Unfortunately, there’s no 3.5mm headset jack port, so you’ll have to use the plug-in headphones boxed with the U9. However, the phone does offer wireless Bluetooth (A2DP) so you can listen to music using Bluetooth stereo headphones.
The phone does have built-in speakers, but the music is a little tinny, so we’d recommend using headphones.
We’ve mentioned that the U9 borrows most of its design ideas from the Motorola PEBL. However, while the PEBL is finished in a sober matt black, rubberised finish, the flamboyant pink and purple metallic options available for the U9 should attract a real female following.
Design and finish has always been Motorola’s strength and the U9 looks and feels great. It’s compact without being fiddly and lightweight without being flimsy, and no-one does flat, etched keypads quite like Motorola.
The OLED also adds a certain dash to the U9’s aesthetic appeal. For example, when you set the phone to camera mode and shut the flip, the OLED will display the lens’ view on the fascia, which is fun, even though it serves no real practical purpose because you can’t take photos this way.
Motorola has certainly got the user interface sorted with the U9. When the clamshell is open you have two main menu options accessible via two soft keys – shortcuts and main menu. The shortcuts menu gives you access to seven of the common menu options, while the main menu presents you with a simple
icon-based menu system.
Alternatively, you can use the navi-pad to choose one of four menu options with a single directional click. Click up, down, left and right and you can access Bluetooth, contacts, messages and Google search.
Because of the size and shape of the phone, it’s pleasant to get to grips with and the keypad is nicely designed, giving the keys plenty of room to breathe.
Aside from the OLED and music player, the rest of the features on the Motorola U9 are fairly basic. There’s a two-megapixel camera, EDGE data speeds for internet browsing, a video recorder, Bluetooth, stereo Bluetooth and a couple of pre-installed games, including Sudoku.
The Motorola U9 could easily have been just another clamshell phone with a snazzy finish but, thanks to the OLED and the choice of colours, it’s destined to stand out from the crowd.