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Overview



What's Good:
Great physical QWERTY keyboard; Android 2.1; smallish form-factor (READ: It's not a giant mega-phone); comes with an extended battery  

What's Bad: MotoBlur can be slightly annoying and hectic; 3MP camera didn't perform very well; display resolution is low so text and pictures are pixelated

The Verdict: If you're only going to be doing a lot of texting and social networking, the Charm is great, but Blur isn't for everyone, and beyond those two functions the phone isn't very capable.

Introduction

The Motorola Charm is unique in that it's a smartphone that primarily functions as a messaging phone. It features Motorola's custom UI called Blur, which brings all of your social networking tasks to the homescreen in the form of several custom widgets and notifications. It also has a physical QWERTY keyboard (you can't have a social networking phone without that, right?) and a 3 megapixel camera. All of this plus its interesting form factor makes it stand out mostly to the teen social crowd. However, it may stand out, but is it worth purchasing?

Design and Features

The Charm basically looks like a stubby rectangle, with the screen taking up a little over half of the device and the keyboard underneath it. It may look a little awkward, but it's easy to get used to. Measuring 3.87 inches tall, 2.65 inches wide, .45 inches thick and weighing only 3.8 ounces, it's definitely a small device, especially in the wake of all these 4+ inch devices. It feels solid in the hand and not cheap or plastic. One thing that Motorola usually doesn't struggle with is build quality.



The device ships with a 2GB microSD card and, interestingly, an extra extended battery and custom backplate. At first, I wasn't going to use the extra battery since I thought it would add to much bulk to the phone. When push came to shove, however, I popped the thicker battery in and, to my surprise, noticed it wasn't that much of a change at all. Now it's the only battery I use for the phone.

Speaking of the battery, the microUSB charging port is located on the left side of the device along with the volume rocker button. The power and screen lock/unlock button and 3.5 mm headphone jack are on the top of the device.

Usability and Performance

The screen on the Charm is rather small and not the best in terms of resolution. The 2.8-inch screen has a resolution of 320 x 240, similar to what you would see on a featurephone. Because of this, text is pixelated and colors don't show up very well. Also, the small screen size limits the number of widgets and icons you can have on each home page, which does in a way restrict any customizing you want to do. It is a capacitive touchscreen and it performed very well in this regard. Pinching and zooming was quick and I had no problems scrolling or swiping through pages.

Android 2.1 is a welcome feature, though you wouldn't notice much of it under Blur's intense coverage. Blur comes with several custom widgets, not only for social networking, but also for weather and other tasks. I've never found them to be the most visually appealing, but as was said in the outset, if social networking is what you do, then Blur will help you stay on top of it. However, despite all of these features, I would still recommend downloading a dedicated app for each service you use. (Sometimes a widget just doesn't cut it.) Blur may not seem so overwhelming if it were on a bigger screen, but having all of those features and widgets scrunched onto the Charm's tiny screen - I started to feel claustrophobic, is what I'm saying.



The physical keyboard is probably one of the best I've used. It's as simple as that. The keys have just enough grip to them and are raised enough so that typing is a breeze. Within seconds, I was quickly typing out messages without any problems. You're also given four navigational arrows as well as shortcuts for messages, camera, and search. The Charm also comes with Motorola's custom virtual keyboard. I don't see why anyone would use this, but it's there and it functions fairly decently.

I was not very impressed with the Charm's camera. It is a 3 megapixel fixed focus camera with digital zoom. I wasn't impressed by the specs, but I decided to give it a fair shot and see what it gave me. Well, it didn't give me much. Close-up shots were blurry, certain colors came out with a sort of metallic hue to them, and I was overall disappointed by the camera performance. A few pictures came out okay, but these were just standard, far away shots of simple items - shots that didn't require a lot of work on the camera's part. I feel that a camera and pictures are just as important to social networking as a good keyboard is. Because of this, I felt that the camera on the Charm is inadequate.



Battery life on the Charm is about what you would expect from a smartphone these days. It lasted a little over one day with a full charge. Using the extended battery gave me over two days of use, which is much better. Call quality on the Charm was also great. I didn't suffer from any dropped calls and I could hear the caller just fine and they could hear me. Since the Charm has such a small screen, I wouldn't recommend doing much web browsing with it. It's doable, and the 600 mHz processor, along with WIFI capabilities, does it's job just fine, but it may get frustrating having zoom in and out and scroll around through a page just to read something.

Conclusion

After using the Charm for a week, I realized that it would make a perfect messaging phone. As a smartphone, it doesn't quite handle everything that a smartphone should, but it has the specs and the capabilities to be a great messaging phone. You can take that as a positive or a negative. If you have the money to spend an extra 30 or so dollars per month on a smartphone and mostly just do messaging, then you'll be fine with the Charm. If not, I would recommend just sticking with a messaging phone or picking one of other T-Mobile's offerings in the smartphone department.

 


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