The messaging phone is dead, long live the smart messaging phone. T-Mobile's new Motorola Charm looks like a messaging phone, feels like a messaging phone, is all cute and cuddly and made for TXTing the day away like a messaging phone.
But Charm runs Android 2.1 and has a multitouch capacitive display like a smartphone. Yeah, it's kinda charming, at least on first impression. If you set your expectations properly, that is. I got a Charm in the mail, I unboxed it and played with it for a day, and now I'm sending it to Sydney for a proper review by the proper messaging phone expert. What'd I think after my day with Charm?
- The size, shape and price are right. Charm is small enough to be cute, big enough for typing and touch-screening, and cheap enough to convince Mom to get it for you. The slightly odd, wide and almost square form factor is actually quite comfortable during both talking and typing. And at 3.9 ounces, this thing is a featherweight (but actually feels pretty solid).
- Voice quality was excellent. Motorola's Crystal Touch tech works here, just like it works on their high-end Droid phones.
- Charm's QWERTY board is totally usable. The fact that Charm isn't the absolute thinnest phone out there actually helps the thumbboard by allowing more space for both domed buttons and increased travel. Charm may not have a Touch Pro 2/Epic 4G quality keyboard, but it's really pretty good.
- On the one hand, Charm has a capacitive touch display with multitouch support. On the other hand, the display is smallish (2.8") and low-res (QVGA 320 x 240 pixels). So what you wind up with is a device that's really made for texting and calling, but can handle Web browsing and (some) apps so long as you're okay with pinching, zooming, and double tapping your way around content. When I loaded up the PhoneDog home page, all I could see was the logo in the upper left of the page. But I was able to zoom way out for an overview, zoom back in a little bit, and then pan around the page to scan the content.
- Charm's performance will never be mistaken for that of a Nexus One or Galaxy S. Moving between apps can be an exercise in patience and frustration. Don't expect to play Ashpalt 5 on this thing. But ... Know that going in and you'll be okay. Once I was in the Web browser, rendering and zooming was pretty responsive. Email, messaging, calling? All worked pretty well.
- Android 2.1. No Froyo, but you get Voice Search and Google Nav, which is pretty sweet for $80 (retail).
- MotoBlur's widgets look extra-awful on Charm's small screen.
- The phone came with two batteries, one an Extended-Life (with matching back cover) that's rated at 1170 mAh. Like I said, I only used the device for a day or so, and used the standard battery and didn't push it real hard ... But it was fine.
Alright, that's all I got for now. Charm seems like it could be a pretty good deal for a "Messaging Phone Plus" or "Text Plus Web on the Cheap" or "Gateway Drug to High-End Android" device. We'll leave it to Sydney to cast our official vote.
Until then, if you've got yourself a Charm, how are you liking it?