Motorola FLIPOUT Review

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone, it can be used with AT&T and T-Mobile USA, but without 3G.


When it comes to entry level Android handsets, it looks like novelty devices are the dish of the day. With the surprisingly usable, truly tiny Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini leading the way along-side the more practical X10 mini Pro, now, hot on Sony Ericsson’s heels comes the quirkier still Motorola FLIPOUT. With a 2.8 inch capacitive touch-screen and a QWERTY physical keyboard underneath, the phone seems to compete most directly with the X10 mini Pro, a handset aimed at the messaging-centric market which we really enjoyed here at PhoneArena. So let’s take a closer look at the Motorola FLIPOUT and see how it does when compared with this, and other handsets on the market.

When the Motorola FLIPOUT is sitting in front of us, it looks more like a chunky make-up compact than a phone. With a twist-out form-factor reminiscent of the Nokia 7705, while small overall, it’s a little on the thick side at 17mm. Even though it’s all but a millimeter thicker than the X10 mini and the same thickness as the X10 mini Pro, its cube design takes up more space in the hand (and pocket). While the HTC Wildfire holds the crown for the slimmest in this range at 12mm, as far as novelty goes, the Motorola FLIPOUT wins out thanks to its unusual, arguably cool design.

You can compare the Motorola FLIPOUT with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

On the front of the device is the landscape 2.8-inch capacitive TFT touch-screen with a resolution of 320x240 pixels. Below it are three capacitive Android buttons, with the phone speaker above the screen and a small Motorola insignia to the left. There is a volume rocker on the top side of the Motorola FLIPOUT, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and the power/lock button on the right hand side, and a micro USB port at the bottom. The back of the phone houses a 3.1 megapixel camera, a self-portrait mirror and the loudspeaker. The back panel can also be interchanged with another color, our unit came with both a semi-matte black and a metallic green back panel. While with some phones, interchangeable panels are a bit unnecessary, the back-panel covers over 50% of the phone, therefore changing it results in a big impact to the Motorola FLIPOUT’s overall look and feel.

The screen on the Motorola FLIPOUT is predominantly functional. Sporting a 2.8 inch capacitive TFT display, it is slightly larger than that of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini / mini pro, though at the same resolution of 320x240, not quite as sharp. The screen delivers a decent viewing experience for most tasks, with adjustable brightness for good performance in sunlight as well as pretty good, albeit not great angles of view. Videos and photos viewed on the screen won’t blow your mind, with colours looking a touch dull and lackluster resolution. While this would unlikely be the main function of the FLIPOUT’s target user, a better display would have been nice. Despite this, the device’s form-factor lends itself very well to messaging and organizing, so for this purpose, the screen is perfectly suited.
Remove the back-panel to reveal a microSDHC card slot. It isn’t located under the battery, therefore a memory-card can be changed with the phone powered on, however, it is on the side of the device underneath the back-panel, therefore the panel has to be removed to access it.

The first few times we flipped out the screen, it was any-body's guess where the hinge was and which way the screen would flip. Unlike the Nokia 7705, there’s no gaping hole in the corner of the device to indicate this. As it stands, the hinge is located on the bottom right hand corner of the screen, which doesn't feel totally natural at first.. The phone's screen stays in landscape orientation open or closed, delivering a consistent user experience.
Once open, the Motorola FLIPOUT’s five row QWERTY keyboard is exposed with a four-way d-pad in the bottom left. Keys illuminate well when used and are clearly marked. There are also handy keyboard shortcuts (such as copy and paste) which use the capacitive menu button in place of Ctrl or ‘Apple’ on a PC or Mac. Keys are sufficiently raised, slightly matted and facilitate decent typing speeds. While our thumbs may have cramped with heavy typing, for most day to day emails and texts, using this keyboard should be ideal. Android’s on-screen keyboard is also present, and despite the screen size, is very usable, however, it doesn’t compete with a physical keyboard for extended use.

The phone feels solid and well put together. The keyboard panel is markedly heavier than the screen panel, which is great when typing as it sits well in the hand and there is no danger of it being top-heavy. The spring mechanism is also reassuringly solid, with opening and closing the device providing a satisfying recoil.
All in all, opinions on the Motorola FLIPOUT’s design will be subjective, but we quite enjoyed the novelty of its look and feel, as its quirkiness was also coupled with usability.

Interface and Functionality:
The Motorola FLIPOUT runs a customized version Android 2.1 with MOTOBLUR integrated. With a landscape screen of this size and a resolution of 320x240, Motorola has had to make some extensive tweaks to the OS to ensure the UI compliments the hardware, while retaining Android's usability.

Fortunately, for the most part, the Motorola FLIPOUT does a fine job of delivering the goods. The home-screen forgoes frills of other iterations of Android, such as a pull out menu, home-screen indicators and oodles of empty space and fills the precious screen real-estate with the basics: notification bar in the top of the screen with the data connection indicator, reception, battery meter, clock all within. Along the right hand side of the screen are the icons that would normally appear at the bottom of Android handsets: contacts, menu, dialer. Finally, the main portion of the screen gives you space for your home-screen widgets and shortcuts. The lower pixel-count occasionally results in clipping of icon text, though this was rare and did little to mar the overall user-experience.

The no-frills appearance extends to the far-reaches of the handset, with the menu sporting simple low-res icons on a plain black background. This visual simplicity may be a little bit bland compared to the shiny bright lights of say, the Galaxy S, however, it does mean that coupled with the on-board 600 MHz processor, everything tends to run smoothly.
The inclusion of the keyboard greatly enhances usability of the Motorola FLIPOUT’s phonebook and organizer. From the home-screen, start typing the name to get to any contact quickly. We synced the handset with our Gmail accounts, so within 5 minutes of powering the phone up, had all 400+ contacts loaded on the phone. It also pulled information such as pictures and email addresses from Facebook and matched them with the contacts as well as syncing calendar appointments with the phone’s calendar. The calendar takes advantage of the keyboard or the touch screen, or indeed both, giving you the ability to finger-swipe between dates or scroll using the d-pad, while also giving you the freedom to enter new appointments with the on-screen Android keyboard or the physical QWERTY. The Motorola FLIPOUT also includes standard Android organizer features such as a calculator, multiple alarms and a timer, all of which worked well.

Camera and Multimedia:
The multimedia options on the Motorola FLIPOUT are pretty comprehensive, with a 3.1 megapixel camera, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a decent loudspeaker, an FM radio on board as well as a 2GB microSD card in the box.
The camera starts up quickly and captures pictures relatively instantaneously upon pressing the shutter-release button. This speed likely comes down to the lack of photo-light or autofocus, however is still useful. As a result of the omissions, scene-modes aren’t available, with the only variables being the picture resolution (3, 2, or 1 megapixel) and the digital zoom (up to 4x). Pictures on the camera aren’t great as they are over-softened in our opinion. While this does mean less noise than other handsets with similarly classed cameras, it also means a softer, duller overall image. Video is also underwhelming with CIF (352x288) QVGA (320x240) and QCIF(220x176) resolutions. The images and video from the camera can be viewed using the onboard gallery, providing a 3D coverflow like interface to thumb through pictures. Unfortunately, this is jerky and unresponsive, leaving us wishing Motorola had implemented a simpler, grid-like gallery option. Video playback options include MPEG-4, H.264 and WMV. In our tests, the only file format to successfully playback out of the box was MPEG-4, playing up to a resolution of 480x320, however, there are some codec-rich players available through Android Market. RockPlayer for example was able to play back DivX files up to 800x480 and Xvid files upto 400x240. Video playback on the device was okay. While colors are a bit soft and resolution low, the screen allows for comfortable viewing of a 30 minute sitcom, although a feature film might be pushing it.

On the flipside, Listening to music on the phone is a pleasure. With ‘My Music’, ‘Radio’, ‘Music Videos’, ‘Community’ and ‘Song Identification’ on board, the options for hearing your favourite tracks are extensive. The music player interface does a great job of getting album art for your music, and the phone sorts music by artist, albums, songs, playlists or shuffle. The media player is intuitive and simple to use, and resides in the top pull down bar when it is running in the background. This was a real highlight of the phone as even though the included headphones weren’t great, with hollow sounds, our better pair made a real difference, highlighting the device’s potential. The phone supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, AMR.

Even though the on-board loud speaker wasn’t the loudest we’ve heard, we are pleased to say it provided a good balance between volume and clarity, making listening to music on it viable for extended periods.

Connectivity and Data:
The Motorola FLIPOUT is a quad-band GSM phone with dual-band 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and AGPS.
While the handset comes with Android’s default web-browser, due to the nature of its screen and the phone’s form-factor, the browsing experience isn’t like other Android devices we’ve seen. Web pages open in overview by default, though this can be changed to various levels of zoom. On the Motorola FLIPOUT’s 2.8 inch screen with a 320x240 pixel count, little is discernable beyond images until you zoom in. The phone utilizes pinch to zoom technology as we’ve come to expect, though with only 2.8 inches to pinch, it’s not the most comfortable of zooming experience. Fortunately, the browser also offers a double-tap to zoom option which provides a more functional alternative. The default browser also cannot be viewed in full-screen which is a shame on a screen of this resolution as every pixel counts, however, other browsers such as Opera Mini can, and in turn make browsing the web on the handset more enjoyable if you’re prepared to sacrifice the flash support and multi-touch. Overall however, even without a 3rd party web browser, Android’s default browser still managed to present pages very well for a handset of this size, and in-turn deliver a decent browsing experience.
Motorola’s Phone Portal worked a treat with the Motorola FLIPOUT, reinforcing its status as a quirky, though ultimately usable handset. This feature enabled us to browse and control the device with a PC either via USB or Wi-Fi. We found the Wi-Fi option especially quick and easy. To activate this, we simply connected the phone to the same network as our computer, activated the application on the phone, and it provided us with a custom URL. This, when pasted into a web-browser acted as a control and file-explorer for the phone. It was faultless in our tests.

The on-board AGPS takes advantage of Google Maps and Google Navigator, both of which worked very well. When using the Motorola FLIPOUT as a GPS, it became evident that the form-factor when closed is reminiscent of a small GPS unit, with the quirky design providing added versatility. The device especially excelled when hand-holding it and using the GPS when walking thanks to it being smaller than most standalone / phone GPS units. The only concern when using the Motorola FLIPOUT as a GPS is the impact on battery life, leaving us strongly recommending a car charging kit if navigation is one of the handset’s intended end-uses.

Motorola’s MOTOBLUR, the manufacturer’s customization to Android tries to streamline and integrate social-networking into the phone’s UI, and while this may be a good concept, for the most part, its application on the Motorola FLIPOUT is clunky and tedious. The associated re-sizable widget, ‘Happenings’, can be placed on the home screen. The first issue with this particular widget is that it needs to be enlarged to display any amount of useful information, however, with the low pixel-count of the screen, this left our unit with an entire home-screen containing a single Facebook update. In addition, when clicking through any of the links, only one update could be displayed at a time, providing a frustratingly long-winded method of keeping up-to-date with our social networks. In contrast, the status updater worked very well, enabling us to update multiple social networking statuses from a single widget which we found useful and time-saving. The beauty of using Android is ultimately that we could choose how heavily MOTOBLUR widgets featured on our Motorola FLIPOUT, and in turn only enable the widgets that enhanced the experience, so while the widgets that don’t work wasted a bit of time, they didn’t impose their way into our end use.
Android Market works well on the FLIPOUT. While we were aware that not all apps would be compatible with the phone’s lower resolution screen, all the ones we used worked perfectly. In fact, the inclusion of the physical QWERTY made some apps such as Gdocs much more usable than on other exclusively touch-screen handsets.

The Motorola FLIPOUT has a 600Mhz processor with 512MB of RAM.  Switching the device on takes approximately one full minute. The following minute, we noticed the device ‘thinking’ as it pulled all our emails and social networking updates from online. After this start-up period, the phone tends to work reliably quickly. Apps were multi-tasked with great success, with music playing while editing a document and messaging. While occasionally, the music would jump or stutter when heavy multi-tasking occurred or a data-connection was re-connecting, though this was rare.
Reception on the phone was also good. No calls were dropped on the device, even when going through areas of bad reception, and online browsing speeds were consistently high in and around London. Incoming calls were clear and loud enough, with the volume being easily adjustable using the volume-rocker. Outgoing calls on the Motorola FLIPOUT were also clear and audible with no cause for concern. Ringer volume is adjustable, and at the loudest setting, audible even outside in busy hustle and bustle, though the vibration notification could have been stronger.
Battery life is mediocre for a device like this, with the 1170mAh battery delivering 5.95 hours talk time and 365 hours of standby time. In reality, we found a day of relatively heavy usage with Wi-Fi was enough to drain the battery to about 10%, suggesting it would need to be charged daily.

We’ve really enjoyed reviewing the Motorola FLIPOUT. Its quirky design got it noticed wherever we went, usually for the right reasons. The fact it has the versatility of Android 2.1 under the hood made setting everything up and maintaining RSS feeds, social networks and emails a breeze. Having decent app support was also wonderful and made us appreciate Motorola's efforts in combining Google's OS with a phone of this form-factor. The result is a novel, truly usable, feature rich phone, proving that sometimes, ingenuity pays off. Although the screen and camera may ensure that the Motorola FLIPOUT isn’t for the multimedia hungry consumer, we found it to be a very fun, practical alternative to all the  more conventional handsets on the market, great for messaging and music on the go.
While we would happily recommend the Motorola FLIPOUT, if you are looking for a keyboard-less alternative with a more traditional form-factor, the HTC Wildfire would be worth considering. If however you wanted a physical keyboard, just without the quirky design of the Motorola FLIPSIDE, the Sony Ericsson X10 mini pro would deliver a more conventional alternative.

Motorola FLIPOUT Video Review:


  • Novel Design
  • Very usable QWERTY
  • Good music playback quality
  • Motorola's Phone Portal works very well


  • Low-res screen
  • Poor Stills / Video capture
  • Poor battery life
  • 3D gallery interface stutters

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