posted by Eugenia Loli on Tue 11th Oct 2005 17:36 UTC

"Linux smartphone review, Page 2/2"
screenshot Java works with quite a few QVGA-compatible games in the market, but the 3D performance of the included 3D games is really bad. It feels a lot like trying to run "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" on a Voodoo-2 with 8 MBs of VRAM while its minimum specs require a 16 MB Voodoo3. There is another very disturbing thing about java games on this phone. The phone comes with 4 extra gaming buttons (2 above the screen, 2 on the side) and you are supposed to use most full-screen games in landscape mode. Only 4 third party games support this layout and work in landscape mode though. All the rest of the 'compatible' java games will require you to use the phone in vertical mode but keep your fingers on the joystick below the screen and the other hand on the keys above the screen! In other words, the phone expects the java games to run on landscape, while 99% of them out there don't support that mode!

As for native applications compatible with this phone, there are none to speak of really, except 4-5 (insignificant) apps to be found on MotorolaFans.com. Obviously, this platform does not compare to Symbian's, Palms' or Windows Mobile's, each with thousands of native apps.

screenshot The system setup screen allows you to change a number of settings on the phone (ring style, wallpaper, color scheme, text size, language, backlight, screen calibration, data connectivity via GPRS or CSD etc), but it misses out quite a few others: no way to change the volume globally (volume buttons only change volume for Real Player, java games are always 100% loud - there is only a setting for java sound to be on or off and nothing in between), no way to remap the 5 extra hardware keys, no way to set both ring and vibration *at the same time* without picking special Motorola sounds that support vibration.

On the good side though, GPRS worked without a hitch here and its Bluetooth paired with my Mac without problems. Although iSync is not supported and the user must use a special modem script on the Mac to transform the phone to a usb/bluetooth modem, with a bit of effort it eventually works together just fine. However, to use the phone as a modem under Linux via USB, you need to patch the usbnet kernel driver with the device's usb hex info. Also, there is no WiFi or IrDA support.

To dial you must first press the dial softbutton in the touchscreen and then start typing the number. Because the device lacks a numeric keypad, two-stage clicks are required to establish a call. It would have been better if the manufacturer were binding the "call" hardware button with the dialing screen directly instead of the "dialed calls" screen. While this is a bit of a hassle, the signal reception is admirable and the Contacts menu is well done.

camera samples The E680i comes with a VGA camera (no flash) which is a bit peculiar and it was apparently the No1 gripe for most E680i customers. Because the phone is pretty high-end, a 1.3MP camera would have been more appropriate. Regardless, the camera takes the kind of pictures one would expect from a low-end VGA phone camera and it has a night mode that helps in low-light conditions. The user interface on snapping .3gp video (video sample, use "save as") and .jpg pictures is really great and exceptionally easy to use. However, when recording video for more than 6-7 seconds, the I/O of the phone gets clogged and while it stops recording video when you told it to, it continues to record audio (on top of a blank video) and it stops doing so only after the UI gets unclogged.

There are two major problems with the E680i: First and foremost, battery life. If you use the phone to do more than 5-6 calls per day and use its messaging client sparingly, you will have to recharge the phone in 2 days time. If you also add a bit of mp3 or gaming in the mix, you will need to recharge the phone by the time you come back from work/school at night. However, this is not the first phone with below-than-average battery life and Linux is known to be power-hungry so I am not that surprised. Where I am negatively surprised is with the battery indicator. It only has 3 levels: 20, 60 and 100%. Nothing in between (reminds me of the first Linux Zauruses)! And not only that, but you might have your battery saying that it's got 100%, then plug in the power supply and voila, for some reason it now says 20%. Conclusion: the battery indication meter is very, very buggy and apparently newer ROMs haven't fixed the problem.

camera samples The second problem is the fact that by touching the touchscreen the screen comes back to life. There is no way to disable this, except by using the Hold/Lock button at the top of the phone. I am spoiled on the way PocketPCs work: the PPC will come back to life after hitting a hardware button (if not on "hold"), but it won't come on if you touch the screen by mistake (which is much easier to happen as the screen is big and more sensitive).

Having said all that, this remains a good Linux phone. It has a pretty fast boot time (for a Linux) and it comes with 2 styluses and 2 batteries. Performance is good, overall; it is expandable and extensible (there is even an Opie port with Qt 2.3.10), it's super-stable and works well as a phone. Could it have been done better if Motorola had been more careful on the details and fix some eye-popping obvious bugs/problems? Definitely! But it's almost as good as it goes today with Linux phones and I am pretty sure that future Linux phones will be even better and will compete with Symbian and Windows Mobile more vigorously.

Overall: 7/10

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