Hi-Mobile.net was very kind to send us over a Symbian/UIQ 3G smartphone for the purposes of this article, the Motorola M1000 (currently $290). This specific model originally was only sold in Japan as a “world phone” since last July, meaning that it can work both in Japan and in the rest of the GSM world. We tested the operating system, its usability and the phone itself with the Cingular network in the Bay Area. Many screenshots and pictures included.
What you get:
The Motorola M1000 comes with a 32MB TransFlash card (microSD), a US AC/DC adapter, a USB data cable, a stylus, a 1600 mAh Li-ion battery, a desktop stand (cradle), a CD and a Japanese manual (english manual here). The phone runs the Symbian 7.0 OS and as its user interface on top you can find UIQ 2.1. There is 48 MB of internal storage (23 MBs available to the user), 32 MB DRAM (about 15 MBs of free RAM after a clean boot) and a 32bit 168 Mhz ARM9 CPU. The phone weighs 168gr and its dimensions are 117×59.5×21.5 mm (thiner than the HTC Wizard, but a bit taller and wider). The device sports a 2.9″ 65k 208×320 TFT touchscreen, a 1.3 MP back camera (no flash) and a VGA front camera for video-calls. The phone supports 802.11b WiFi (unsecured, WEP, WPA, WPA-PSK, LEAP etc. networks are all supported), Bluetooth 1.1 (obex, HFP/HSP, serial profile support) and it operates at GSM 900/1800/1900 MHz and 2100 Mhz WCDMA.
The device feels pretty nice in the hand, it has a solid feel. However, the stylus could be better. It feels like an elephant sat on it or something, and so one of its sides is completely flat. It is not very nice using it for extendend periods of time, but it will get the job done.
Above the screen is a wrist strap hole and two buttons: one opens the menu of an open application and the second one is a “joker” button that each application can add its own special support for, for example, the included Opera 7.50 browser uses it to alternate between fullscreen and windowed mode. Especially for Japanese users these two buttons also have an alternative meaning when pressed and held: they activate/deactivate the “manner” and the “drive” mode. These are modes that the phone goes into automatically when the user is driving a car or when it’s necessary to show good “manners” towards other people in the same room as the user (e.g. at the cinema, next to a person with a heart pacemaker, at a business meeting etc). The user can indicate how these modes should be carried out exactly (e.g. if there will be an active ringtone or not, if there will be a vibration or not, if there will be sounds when pressing the touchscreen or not etc).
Below the screen is a 5-way joystick that helps you navigate through lists, the “answer” button, the “hang up” button, and also an additional button below the joystick, the “Home” button, which loads the “Summary Screen” of the device. In that screen there is the month calendar displaying, the date and time, number of the emails, voicemails, SMS, upcoming appointments and active tasks. There are also 3 buttons that load the video, image and music playback applications.
On the left side of the device you will find the button that launches the camera application and a two-edged button that increases and decreases the volume. On the right side there is a “Voice Record” button and when used during a call it works as a “speakerphone ON”. Below that there is a slider button that has 3 states: Hold, Phone ON, Phone OFF. We should note that the phone comes with extremely good stereo speakers, maybe the best ones I have heard on any phone. This is a good thing given the fact that (except for Bluetooth mono headsets) you won’t be able to find and purchase DoCoMo-specific wired headsets outside of Japan — the phone only accepts DoCoMo headsets. At the bottom of the device you will find the charging port which also doubles as a USB data exchange port. You can charge the device either by using its power adapter directly, or by placing it in its cradle. The cradle has a very funky design, so it might take a while to get used to it.
The phone application is pretty nice: it has large numbers, allowing you to type a number with your thumbs. You can select if you want to make a voice call or a video call. Unfortunately, I was not able to test the video call camera because I don’t think Cingular supports WCDMA at 2100 Mhz (it works in Europe and Japan though). Another problem was the fact that the phone wouldn’t get the information it expected from Cingular’s towers regarding voicemail and so I couldn’t check my voicemail. Thankfully though, the phone comes with a small utility that allows for speed dialing, so you can specify the voicemail number (you can get that number by directly calling your carrier and asking for it or by checking it out on a SonyEricsson phone’s voicemail settings). The phone application also allows you to block some callers, enable/disable the Caller ID, and it has roaming and call forwarding settings. In the “History” window you will be able to see the Dialed, Missed and Answered calls. When making a call you are presented with the ability to Mute, put on Hold, enable the Speakerphone and lock the screen avoiding to accidentally pressing on it with your face against it. Finally, you can setup your own ringtomes, mp3 is supported.
The phone supports alternative ways of communicating such as email and SMS. On this business phone Motorola purposely removed MMS/EMS support unfortunately (which would make useful the sending of personal video messages of the user’s face by using the front camera). At least, the email application is pretty good and even supports GMail and IMAP. However, there were a few discrepancies with HTML email not rendering at all. You can have multiple email accounts and you can apply filters on them.
The Contacts application is pretty good. It has lots of different default fields and even allows introducing your own fields! The only problem with the Contacts app is that there is no quick button search (e.g. click a button named “A-C” to find all contacts that their names start with A, B or C). To be more presice, there are such buttons, but only available for Japanese characters.
Regarding Bluetooth, the phone maxed out at about 30 KB/sec of transfer rate, while the GPRS connection was constantly between 7 and 10 KB/sec. Finally, the service line at the bottom of the screen shows up the time, Bluetooth and WiFi status, profile chooser, virtual keyboard launcher, network status (also allows to enable Flight mode) and the battery status (which unfortunately only has three readings: high, medium and low).
Battery life, cameras:
Battery life is a bit lower than I expected given the fact that the main bulk of the phone is its huge battery: both in capacity (1600 mAh) and in actual space it occupies. The phone managed about 3 hours of GSM calls and about 5 days of stand-by. WiFi and Bluetooth can’t be used together (their hardware runs at the same frequency and they conflict so Motorola only allows one or the other), but in our tests the phone managed over 4 hours of WiFi usage, which is pretty good.
Regarding the cameras: Quality is better that someone would expect from a phone camera, although the absense of a flash is a bit disappointing. Nevertheless, there is Night mode support, mirroring and a self-timer. There are also settings to setup the look of the snapped picture with options of “Sunny”, “indoor home” and “indoor office”. The user can also choose which camera to use to snap pictures of video (front or rear camera) and where to save the media (main memory or transflash storage card). When viewing an existing snapped picture you can choose from many eidting tools: Crop, Rotate, Rescale, Colour, Pen size, Eraser.
The video grabbing application also supports muting and you can set either 300 or 12 seconds of recording. Unlimited recording is not supported. The video application grabs video at 176×144 (but can display in fullscreen and in landscape mode). Here is a sample of video recording using the front camera and one from the rear one. The phone can playback 3GPP, MP4, WMVver8 (and WMA) and ASF.
Symbian and UIQ:
UIQ has a very weird user interface for sending pictures/video over Bluetooth. There is no proper file manager in the phone (although Symbian has a real filesystem) and only 5 folders are visible from specific applications (e.g. audio, video, image, document and other). If you have some files on “Other” folder there is no way to send them over to another device via Bluetooth. You will need to find a special app to “understand” that “Other” folder and make it visible to the user to select files from it to send or manipulate. To send images/video for example, you have to load their respective apps, then select the file you want to send/manipulate, let the file fully load on your screen (e.g. playback a video) and THEN it will let you delete it or send it. The whole user interface has the exact same kind of “unpolishedness” and weird UI design decisions that can confuse users. It’s just that there are options at places that you would never expected them (e.g. random files received via Bluetooth can only be accessed by the “Email/SMS” application)!
In the product’s defense, the phone is extremely stable. Not only has the OS itself proven super stable (much more than any of my Linux phones or my Windows Mobile smartphone), but even the third party apps I installed. The OS is also pretty fast too, though the experience would have been better if the phone would boot faster (currently a whopping 70 secs) and the virtual keyboard popup window was faster to launch (takes 2 seconds to load the keyboard each time)! Thankfully, the input options are plentyful: you can use T9 using your thumbs as well as using a full virtual keyboard, or a special pre-defined phrases (e.g. “Hi, how are you?”). There is also handwritting support for Japanese but you can train the application to also recognize English.
There are a number of apps that come with the phone: a calendar and appointment/alarm support, a task utility, a basic thumb calculator, an mp3 music player (which it wouldn’t read my mp3s on my microSD card but could read them from the internal memory), a Notes application, SyncML, a Time utility showing times for two locations, a voice memo application that records AMR and of course, the heavyweight apps: Opera 7.5 (with tabs, landscape and fullscreen support), the very fast Picsel Viewer 1.0.33 (supports PPT, DOC, XLS, PDF and ZIP, TXT, WMF, BMP and HTML source), the McAffee AntiVirus utility, a Japanese-to-English dictionary, moviaVPN (supports a number of gateways and policies), and a Desktop Suite utility which connects to the Windows XP part of the application that allows to easily modify or send office documents to your phone. Finally, the phone comes with MIDP-2 java support, Opera Mini 2.0 ran great for example! Please note that some Java games that don’t “understand” touchscreens and require hardware buttons won’t be able to work on any such smartphones.
In the settings panel of the phone you can find many options, including: rename/format the storage card, install/uninstall apps, assign security locks, power settings, screen calibration and brightness level, assign different apps to the hardware keys, sound settings for different actions, MIDlet permissions, currency and time settings, GPRS counter, and a Bluetooth pref panel. However, it was quite a shock to see the “Phone Information” screen of the phone and read that the phone model named as “Reference Platform” instead of “Motorola M1000”. To me, both as a user and reviewer, this showed me that Motorola didn’t put lots of enthusiasm on this product and if I were a manager at Motorola-Japan, I would have fired the person responsible on the spot for this oversight that degrades the professional look of the product in the eyes of the consumer. I can live with a few bugs, software engineering is complex these days. But for something as eye-popping, I can’t forgive.
The greatest feature of any smartphone is its native third party applications. And UIQ has plenty: over 400 of them. I successfully installed Sman 1.4 (very important to close applications rather than just minimize them in order to save main memory), Explorer4U and Handy Explorer (great commercial file managers), Agile Messenger (ICQ, Y!, AOL and MSN support), AvantGo, Netfront 3.1, OggPlay, TCPMP with support for many video and music formats (finds media on the Transflash’s “Media Files” folder) and more. I believe that business users will be pretty happy with the amount of office and professional software available out there for UIQ.
The Motorola M1000 is a good phone, but if Motorola were to fix the mentioned few outstanding issues and hadn’t removed MMS support, it would have been an excellent phone. Nevertheless, it’s still a good device and moreover, it is the most affordable unlocked WiFi 3G phone in the market today at just $290. I dare you to find online another WiFi-capable unlocked, brand new, 3G phone that comes with a desktop cradle at such a price: you won’t be able to. Do you need a big screen, loads of native applications, WiFi and Office support on your phone? Then that’s the phone for you. And especially if you are travelling to Japan for business, this product is your best bet.
– Ultra stable
– WiFi support
– Twin cameras
– Bright, large screen
– Good business software
– Multiple text input options
– Great quality stereo speakers
– True multitasking with Symbian
– Over 400 native third party apps available
– Proprietary audio jack
– No EMS/MMS support
– Battery status has only 3 levels
– WiFi & BT can’t be ON at the same time
– Contacts application not fully localised for English
– Voicemail number autodetection didn’t work (Cingular)
– UIQ 2.1 not as file manager friendly as it could have been