Motorola A630 – Our Review
Sure, you can type an SMS on any phone. But with the Motorola A630, there’s more than meets the eye. Under its unassuming facade, there’s a messaging dynamo lurking.
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For a candy-bar phone, the A630 looks sort of odd. It’s short, squat, and a little too thick. And its tiny monochrome external display leaves a lot to be desired. That is, until you flip open its well-concealed hinges to reveal the spacious QWERTY keypad and 1.8-inch, 220 x 176-pixel TFT. Deployed in full messaging mode, the A630 may still look odd, but you won’t be complaining.
The widely spaced QWERTY keypad gives you plenty of room to twiddle your fingers. In fact, it’s one of the largest we’ve seen to date, even spreading a little further end to end than that of the BlackBerry 7780. We only wish it didn’t ride so close to the phone’s hinge, forcing your fingers to bump against the base of the screen as you hit the keys in the top row.
While 1.8 inches isn’t a lot of space by current screen standards, the A630 makes the most of it by turning it to landscape mode. So you get a more text-friendly view of your messages as you type, and it’s a little easier to make sense of web content than it would be with a portrait screen. (Don’t get your hopes up, though. Web pages look almost as bad on this handset as they do on any other; you just get a little more text on the screen.)
Battery life is where the A630 overtakes the pack. In a field where two hours is more or less the standard, this phone knocked out a staggering five hours and nine minutes in our tests, more than doubling the expectations set by Motorola’s spec sheet. Clearly your mileage may vary, but the competing Nokia 6820 came in at just under the two-hour mark, so we’re plenty impressed.
High on cool factor though it is, the A630 is far from flawless. But then, we’ve yet to encounter a transforming messenger phone that doesn’t suffer from some significant shortcomings. This phone’s main problem, apart from the close quarters at the top of the keypad, is a poor combination of funky software and an oddly placed five-way pad at the center of the controls. It wouldn’t be so bad that the menus are unintuitively laid out if it wasn’t such a pain in the wrist to get your thumbs to the controller every time you want to change selections. We’d like to see the five-way placed off to one side in the next incarnation (preferably in a position that favors right-handed folk).
We generally love the idea of transforming messenger phones, and the few models that have hit the market thus far are essentially adequate in their way. But most are either too bulky or suffer from unbearably small screens. The A630 overcomes both of those limitations with a little bit of compromise and a whole lot of moxie. Though it’s got some growing pains to overcome before it can truly dominate the market (and no carrier has picked up the phone yet), this is the best transformer we’ve seen. –Robert Strohmeyer
Best Feature: Longest battery life in its class
Worst Feature: QWERTY keypad lacks headroom
$200 to $300
Weight: 4.4 ounces
Size: 3.6 x 2.8 x 0.9 inches
Specs: 50/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS; monochrome external LCD; 220 x 176-pixel, 1.8-inch internal TFT; 0.3-megapixel camera; QWERTY keypad; lithium-ion battery