updated 01:15 pm EDT, Fri April 3, 2009
Motorola CTIA Hands On
While at CTIA this week, Electronista has had the chance to try some of Motorola's latest phones, including the QA4 Evoke that was just launched at the event. The slider is unofficially pitched as one of Motorola's first real attempts at a competitor to the iPhone, and in practice we'd tend to agree, even if it's not aimed at the exact same audience. Aside from the self-evident black-and-chrome design similarities, it shares a capacitive touchscreen (a first for Motorola) and is very easy to navigate with finger swipes and taps, though it doesn't support multi-touch.
The interface, however, is noticeably different. Rather than use multiple home screens for icons that launch apps, multiple apps themselves each occupy a "page" on the front; users simply flick to access calling, messaging, weather or similar tasks. The again iPhone-like home button triggers a launcher for other apps, which are mostly limited to what come with the device. We found it surprisingly easy to use, but limited. However, the company also has one important edge over Apple until the release of iPhone OS 3.0: although typing while upright is done with a T9-style input, tilting the phone on its side automatically kicks in a comfortably-sized QWERTY layout for most any app.
A spokeswoman for Motorola says the company doesn't want to portray the Evoke as a smartphone, like its most obvious challenger, and instead sees it as a high-end feature phone that just happens to excel in touchscreen features. Even so, the cellphone maker will need to price the phone well below $199 on a contract to make the difference clear. Expect it to reach either Sprint, Verizon or both in the spring.
While at the event, we also had the opportunity to try the Aura luxury phone. It is, essentially, what pictures would suggest: a simple but very well-built and unique phone. The focal point, its circular display, is hard to ignore and may be worth the money for its target audience by itself, though we also found the all-metal shell and the watch-inspired swivel design impressive, if not as automatic as we'd like. Still, the chief issue for the phone is its cost relative to technical features: at $2,000 for an unlocked phone with EDGE-only data and no GPS, the Aura is likely to only ever be sold to people who would otherwise buy a Vertu phone instead.