The Motorola Flipout is without doubt the oddest-looking mobile phone we've come across in 2010.

This Android smartphone is completely square and has a five-row, physical QWERTY keyboard. Aimed at people looking for an entry-level smartphone, the Motorola Flipout may hold some appeal for its target audience, but it suffers from a low-resolution display and it is awkward to hold and use.

The Motorola Flipout flips out from the bottom-left corner, hence its name. The slider feels solid enough and it is spring operated, so it requires just a light push of your thumb to open. However, the phone is awkward to hold — both when opened and when closed — and it is hard to flip the screen open with one hand without accidentally tapping the display. The rear battery cover feels flimsy and doesn't click reassuringly into place like it should. Motorola includes three interchangeable covers in the sales package — our review unit came with white, black and green covers.

The Motorola Flipout slides open to reveal a rather large five-row QWERTY keyboard; most smartphone keyboards are either three or four rows. The extra row means that the number keys aren't shared with letters, so you don't need to use the ALT key when typing digits. Apart from an awkwardly positioned D-pad in the bottom left corner (which you'll rarely use) the keyboard is well designed considering the size of the Flipout, and it is relatively comfortable to use with one hand.

Next to the awkward aspects of its design, the weakest aspect of the Motorola Flipout is its display. The 2.8in TFT, capacitive touchscreen is responsive, but it has a low resolution, is difficult to see in direct sunlight and has poor viewing angles. It also does a poor job with rendering text, and produces poor colours. Its square shape also causes problems with a few apps — for example, the official Twitter app for Android displays the wrong way around and can't be rotated, and the popular LauncherPro home screen app has the same issue.

The Flipout runs a newer version of Google Android than some of Motorola's other Android phones (the DEXT, Backflip and Quench). It uses the 2.1 version of Google's operating system, but Motorola hasn't announced whether the Flipout will be upgradeable to the latest 2.2 "Froyo" edition, which adds full Flash support, built-in wireless tethering, and the ability to store third-party apps on your SD card, as well as a range of other improvements.

Mototola's MotoBlur service is a core part of the Flipout. MotoBlur is a widget-based system that combines multiple social networking and communications accounts into one portal. You can view Facebook status updates, read tweets, check your Gmail and update your MySpace profile without the need to log into each separate application. MotoBlur also automatically synchronises your contacts, but the problem is that it adds every contact from every social-networking service you use, including Twitter. Thankfully, you can sort by individual lists of contacts, so your phone book isn't full of your entire Twitter list. It also includes a number of handy widgets, such as "happenings", where at a glance you can see updates from all connected social-networking services, as well as handy airplane mode, Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi toggles. We also liked the sticky note widget, which allows you to save a quick post-it style note on the home screen.

The Motorola Flipout also has a few handy applications preloaded including Google Latitude, Quickoffice and Google Talk. Its media player is a notch above most Android phones' — the "connected music player" automatically finds album art and lyrics from the Internet for any tracks in your library, while an included "song identification" feature, similar to the app Shazam, is included.

The phone has a basic 3-megapixel camera and lacks a flash for night-time photography, while the smaller display has a negative impact on Web browsing. The Motorola Flipout has multitouch support, meaning you can pinch the screen to zoom in and out of applications like maps, the browser or photo albums, but text rendering is quite poor unless you are zoomed in.

Other standard features include a built-in accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a digital compass and a GPS receiver. The Motorola Flipout also has a microSD card slot for extra storage, located behind the rear battery cover. Motorola includes a 2GB microSD card in the sales package.

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Motorola Flipout: Specs

  • 3.2Mp camera
  • Geotagging
  • 2.8in 320x240 TFT capacitive touchscreen accelerometer
  • Expansion card slots
  • GPS
  • Full QWERTY, Touchscreen keyboard
  • email, MMS, SMS
  • Microsoft Exchange support
  • Attachment editing
  • Attachment viewing
  • 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM
  • Mobile phone networks
  • 1800MHz (2G), 1900MHz (2G), 2100MHz (3G), 850MHz (2G), 900MHz (2G), 900MHz (3G)
  • Radio support: FM
  • Voice recorder
  • Video playback
  • Music playback
  • Phone features
  • Sound profiles
  • Speakerphone
  • Speed dialling
  • Vibration alert
  • Voice dialling
  • PIM features: Alarm, Calculator, Calendar, Notes, Stopwatch
  • Rechargeable, Removable battery, 1130mAh
  • 600MHz processor
  • Google Android
  • 150MB
  • eAAC+, MP3, WAV
  • H.263, H.264, MPEG-4, WMV, XviD
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • A2DP Bluetooth
  • Wireless 802.11b, Wireless 802.11g, Wireless 802.11n
  • 120g
  • 67x67x16mm
  • 3.2Mp camera
  • Geotagging
  • 2.8in 320x240 TFT capacitive touchscreen accelerometer
  • Expansion card slots
  • GPS
  • Full QWERTY, Touchscreen keyboard
  • email, MMS, SMS
  • Microsoft Exchange support
  • Attachment editing
  • Attachment viewing
  • 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM
  • Mobile phone networks
  • 1800MHz (2G), 1900MHz (2G), 2100MHz (3G), 850MHz (2G), 900MHz (2G), 900MHz (3G)
  • Radio support: FM
  • Voice recorder
  • Video playback
  • Music playback
  • Phone features
  • Sound profiles
  • Speakerphone
  • Speed dialling
  • Vibration alert
  • Voice dialling
  • PIM features: Alarm, Calculator, Calendar, Notes, Stopwatch
  • Rechargeable, Removable battery, 1130mAh
  • 600MHz processor
  • Google Android
  • 150MB
  • eAAC+, MP3, WAV
  • H.263, H.264, MPEG-4, WMV, XviD
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • A2DP Bluetooth
  • Wireless 802.11b, Wireless 802.11g, Wireless 802.11n
  • 120g
  • 67x67x16mm

OUR VERDICT

Motorola has tried something different with the Flipout Android smartphone, but the end result is a clunky-feeling handset that is awkward to use. The Flipout is relatively cheap, but its display has a low resolution and an odd aspect ratio. There are much better alternatives on the market for a similar price.

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