Phone Review: Motorola U9

Motorola's worrying convention for giving its mobile phones silly, truncated names may have been taken to breaking point with the PEBL, but few would be prepared to deny that the handset was a considerable hit with fashion-conscious consumers.

The company has now updated the concept with the rather more ordinary sounding U9, which retains the pleasingly rounded appearance of the PEBL but brings some intriguing features of its own to the party.

The most notable aspect of the phone is the shiny, mirrored front that conceals a surprisingly vibrant external screen and some undetectable touch-sensitive controls. When the U9 is dormant, the reflective casing is blank and unassuming; an incoming call triggers a showcase of colour and sound as the phone immediately springs to life. Also, when in music-player mode, the track name is displayed on the external casing.

The touch controls mimic those shown on the RAZR2, the big difference being that there's no tactile feedback this time around, which often makes it hard to discern when your presses are actually registered by the phone. But this is a minor quibble; the external appearance of the U9 is uniformly excellent and the smooth lines that made the PEBL such a crowd-pleaser are all present and correct here.

Opening the phone reveals a set-up that should be familiar to Motorola fans. The layout of the keypad is similar to that seen in previous handsets and the D-pad is a direct copy of the one seen on the RAZR2. Those of you savvy enough to follow Pocket Gamer's mobile handset reviews will undoubtedly recoil in horror at that last observation – when we reviewed the RAZR2 we were highly critical of the D-pad because it just wasn't up to the task of playing games on the go.

Thankfully the U9 comes as a marked improvement, and this is largely thanks to the dimensions of the phone itself. While the RAZR2 was thin and therefore awkward to hold correctly when involved in some particularly heated gaming action, the U9 is slightly fatter and its rounded form sits more comfortably in the palm of the hand. The upshot of this is that your thumb rests better on the D-pad, resulting in a far superior degree of control.

Our review unit came complete with a version of sudoku, which (as you might expect) singularly failed to put the D-pad through its paces. However, upon downloading some action-packed classics we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of the controls. It's still not completely perfect but makes the U9 a far more attractive proposition for mobile gamers than the RAZR2 ever was.

The joy of finding the U9 adept at mobile gaming was dulled slightly by the entry-level technology found elsewhere on the handset, though. The two-megapixel camera is acceptable but unexceptional, with no auto-focus or flash, while the 25MB of internal storage is unlikely to hold many music tracks. MicroSD support is included but we found it irksome that the slot is located under the battery, meaning that the phone has to be completely powered down in order to swap storage media.

Given the modest price point of the U9 (under £100 on PAYG at the time of typing) these rather underwhelming specs are a little more forgivable, but it's worth noting that other sub-£100 phones are available with much more power under the bonnet.

Taking into account the fact that the phone comes in garish purple and shocking pink (with metallic black almost coming as an afterthought), we'd assume that Motorola is gunning for the female customer with the U9. The PEBL was a hit with the ladies and it would be fair to expect this updated version to perform just as admirably with the fairer sex.

Combine the looks with the aforementioned low selling price and the phone to reach a wide audience, becoming yet another successful release for Motorola, but there's certainly room for improvement should the company choose to revisit the 'phone as a stone' idea.

by Damien McFerran

source: pocketgamer. co. uk

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