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Motorola E680

Motorola E680
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By Jonathan Cheah (editor@mobile88.com)

Motorola has taken the Linux phone to its third generation. The first two were clamshell phones that look just like each other. This one is the first time Motorola has made a Linux candybar phone. Is it any good?

At A Glance:

Price: RM 2,199
Local Distributor: Zitron Enterprise (M) Sdn Bhd.
Contact: 1-800-806-008 (Motorola Hotline)
Build quality: 9/10
Applications: 8/10
Interface: 9/10
Value-for-money: 8/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10
+ Memory Expansion
+ Bluetooth and USB cable
+ 8x Zoom camera
+ Video up to 2 hours
- SMS keyboard not ergonomic
- Battery life is short

This is the third time Motorola has made a Linux phone (in Malaysia). Although the American manufacturer is also hedging its bets with the MPx range of phones running on the Windows OS, the Linux phones seem to perform much better than the Windows ones.

The first two Linux phones were the A760 and A768i, and both of them were active folder types with a clear plastic shield that protected the screen of the phone. This one is the first time Motorola has made a Linux candybar phone, and we shall now see how it stacks up against its predecessors. Finally, there is another one called the A780, but there has been no announcement on the availability of that phone in Malaysia.

Bulk versus functionality As is the custom with me, I frequently show the review units to a few friends, and most of them think that the phone is a little heavy. Actually, it is slightly overweight at 133g, but I guess that the weight is acceptable considering the number of things that the phone can do.

However, I am a little curious as to why people think that phones should be light as a feather. It is not as though they are going in for a session of heavy physical exercise where every gram that they carry counts. I personally have found phones that are smaller than the userís palm are rather difficult to use comfortably, despite what those who use small phones say.

Anyway, there is a slight optical illusion here, as the screen of the E680 looks larger than the ones on the previous two Linux phones, but checking around revealed that all three Linux phones have the 240 x 320 pixel screen. Perhaps the length of the E680 causes you to estimate that the screen is larger.

I have always maintained that the Linux phones are one of the best operating systems in the market, and the Linux OS is more likely to be a serious contender to the dominance of the Symbian OS as opposed to the Windows CE OS. Although Windows comes with huge financial and development clout, it is likely that given sufficient time, the Linux OS could be one of the dominant operating systems for handheld gadgets.

Operational matters Although it has been a while since I wrote one of the first A760 reviews in the country, I could not help but feel that the E680 is slightly slower than its predecessor. There has been some improvement in the way the screen looks, but I would put that down to improvements in the hardware.

Reception is excellent, and there was little problem in hearing what the party on the other end of the line was saying. However, placing the phone on your face occasionally causes the touchscreen to end your call. In any case, the loudspeaker is excellent, and you wonít need handsfree sets if you use this phone while driving, unless you do not want your passengers to hear what you are discussing on the phone.

I do have an issue with the SMS facility here. A keyboard can be brought up on the screen, and you can tap in the letters shown with the stylus. The space bar and some of the punctuation symbols are located close to the send button. Therefore, because the spacebar is probably the single-most utilised character in an SMS, it was a frequent occurrence where the SMS was accidentally sent before the message was complete.

Editor,s Opinion

The Linux operating system is a serious contender for the dominant OS of the future. As with desktop computers, Linux has made inroads and is slowly gaining a following among gadget fans. True, there may not be a wide selection of applications yet, but this will change once there are enough people using the OS.

Currently, most of the Linux phones in the world are now sold in the Asia Pacific region. This is not a region known for selflessly developing freeware for usage. Until the Linux phone gets to developer talents in the western nations, the dearth of applications will continue to haunt it.

I would venture the opinion that Motorola should focus its efforts on developing phones that run on Linux. To date, Linux phones shoot the longest lengths of videos on handsets, and this should be a key selling factor of phones in 2005. The Linux OS for handhelds is very powerful, and usually faster than most of its peers in performing selected tasks.

The RM 2,199 that Motorola asks for it now is quite fair, but I would strongly suggest that Motorola give more consideration to developing and supporting applications for the Linux OS. Currently, that seems to be what is holding back most serious users from giving the E680 a try. And then, donít be stingy with battery capacity. The battery in this phone barely lasts a day even with minimum usage.

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