It is difficult to comprehend the speed and scale at which portable technology has evolved in the last ten years or so. You remember the days when Nokia released the 5110, an incredibly popular model in its time, which arguably revolutionised communication through easy access to SMS messaging, was chameleon-like in its ability to change appearances, and had that highly addictive snake game. The phone, as outstanding and impressive as it was nine years ago, would now be deemed beyond ancient, in comparison to the wonders we find ourselves immersed in our everyday habitations. Phones of this ‘primitive’ standard are rarely made these days. However, in certain instances, an exception is manifested to bring back the basic suite to perhaps a new user, as Motorola has done with the MOTOFONE F3. This is a phone that, while as basic as it appears to be, is able to perform the tasks it was designed to do moderately well.
The MOTOFONE F3 is perhaps one of the simplest phones of this generation, making it difficult to compare to anything available in the market, even to other Motorola models. At first glance, the arrangement of keys and the centralised five button jog dial indicates that the phone is indeed a Motorola, sharing its ‘Moto RAZR’ appearances with the L7 and even the clamshell V3s. The MOTOFONE F3 is essentially a very slender, candy bar shaped device. All functional keys are flattened to its face and a shiny metallic jog dial is positioned centrally underneath an average sized screen. The screen shares two distinct characteristics. The first is Electrophoretic Display technology in its screen (aptly called ClearVision view), which allows users to easily view the screen from any angle or in any terrestrial environment. This is due to the high contrast of the screen and the large font and symbols utilised. Secondly, on the upper corners of the phone are displays for receptivity of the antenna and the amount of battery life; both of which are separate from the actual screen.
The MOTOFONE F3 is released primarily for targeting the pre-paid audience. Such users would enjoy the convenience of knowing their current credit available for use. A very handy feature of this phone is that for such individuals, it will automatically report the status of their pre-paid account after each call or message. The MOTOFONE F3 does not have a plethora of features for the technologically minded but it is a very easy phone to use and does everything that a mobile phone was made to do. Beginners, especially those who have a low budget and who wish to have a basic, no-nonsense phone with a fantastic battery life, polyphonic ring tones, an alarm and a speakerphone may wish to consider the Motorola MOTOFONE F3.
Read on for the review.
From the outset, the MOTOFONE F3’s appearance would clearly make it a popular choice in this modern age of miniaturisation and sophistication. At just 9mm in depth, its super-slim body is perfectly complimented by its flattened keys and the metallic shimmer of the Motorola icon and 5-way jog dial at its front. The design, while not exclusive to this model, should still please the budget conscious user looking for a mobile phone.
Being the most basic model of Motorola, it is expected that the MOTOFONE F3 would lack the outstanding qualities its advanced siblings have. One distinct feature it has is the utilisation of Clear View technology; making the MOTOFONE F3’s screen very high in contrast and brightness, while being easily viewed under any lighting condition and angle. The MOTOFONE F3 is dual-band (GSM 900/1800) meaning it can connect to networks located throughout Australia, Europe and Asia but not in USA or South America. The MOTOFONE F3 features a dual internal antenna system, which ensures that the phone will have enough reception to receive/make calls and messages. The reception appears to be almost always four or five out of the maximum five bars in metro Sydney. It also features loud polyphonic ring-tones, a useful speakerphone, voice prompted commands and a very respectable battery life of 450min talk time and a huge 270h stand-by time.
Stripping off all comparisons to other phones, this model is about as uncomplicated as it gets, and in this regard, the MOTOFONE F3 wears the ‘no frills’ suit comfortably. For all its simplicity and lack of features, it is able to bring forth the impression that it is indeed a very simple, functional phone without looking and feeling like a cumbersome, rigid, generic piece of obsolete equipment. At just 47mm x 114mm x 9mm and weighing 70g, the MOTOFONE F3 is slick, light and smoothly fits most hands. It resembles a thin DVD player remote control and feels about as easy to use. The illuminated flat keys and jog dial easily respond to each firm press, making the phone a breeze when dialling or inputting messages. The trim is a classic black colour and is composed of durable plastic making the phone look great without looking too tacky and cheap. The back is uncluttered and smooth, with only one very thin plastic cover to be detached, revealing the battery and the SIM. The MOTOFONE F3’s front is cleverly textured to reveal and distinguish its flat keys. Its jog dial is centralised to remain a focal point for navigation. The 2.0 inch screen is perhaps average in size but appears larger due to the separation of the reception bars and battery life indicators at the upper corners of the phone. This is quite handy as the user can view these important variables without having to press any button to remove a screensaver (a common issue among newer phones).
There was little fuss when using the keypad for messaging or dialling. There were some instances when the phone would not respond quickly enough when entering in a number or a word. This lag can be problematic given the simplicity of the task. Due to the keys being almost perfectly imbedded into the face of the phone, it becomes apparent that any user with large enough fingers can mash neighbouring keys if he/she is not careful. The buttons, however, are spaced out just enough to allow most users to handle the keys as accurately as need be. The jog dial works perfectly well just like the other keys. The antenna is hidden underneath the body and nothing jots out or appears out of place. From a physical standpoint, the MOTOFONE F3 is neither a mark-up nor a mark-down compared to any commercially available phone. It is designed perfectly for its functionality and still manages to look appealing.
User interface & display
As previously discussed, the MOTOFONE F3’s 2.0 inch screen is bolstered up by the Clear Vision display, making the two toned resolution crystal clear, bright and visible in any situation due to the very high contrast.
The Motorola user interface is completely dependent on symbols and icons and to a lesser extent (if the user wishes), voice commands. It is important that the user be familiar with these symbols, as the voice commands may frustrate him/her. Therein lies a particular issue with the MOTOFONE F3. The reliance on symbols and icons mean that the user must be fairly adept at knowing these and being familiar with the buttons on the phone, as a simple task like entering a person’s number can become quite a chore.
The separation of reception and battery levels from the main screen is an effective innovation. On stand-by, the only other variables visible on the main screen are the clock and the current profile of the phone (whether on vibrate, ringing or both). If an alarm is activated, a call is missed or a message is received, these will appear too, as represented by icons. The GSM network will only be viewed (in one short glance) when the phone is not on stand-by.
Since there are no wordings to explain the symbols or functions of the phone, languages appear irrelevant, though the voice-commands are in various languages. Unfortunately, in order to access the advance settings of the phone such as changing the language, removing the voice prompt or even resetting to factory settings, the user cannot simply scroll through menus. Instead, he/she must type in particular numbers to unlock these functions. Considering the simplistic nature of the phone, this appears to be a set back for the user, who must now refer to these numbers as well as recall the icons and symbols. All alphabetic or numerical units appear as though they were adapted from a digital watch or clock. The size of the font is not adjustable, which becomes an even greater issue when searching for names in the phone book or reading/writing text messages. To further elevate the frustration, users will soon learn that all alphabetic units are either lower cased or upper cased. It is not possible to change these. This is an unforgivable trait to the phone as it presents messages and names very poorly and unprofessionally.
Making and receiving calls
The MOTOFONE F3 is able to make and receive voice calls with a minimum of fuss. When a conversation is in progress, the volume of the ear piece is easily adjusted by pressing up or down on the jog dial. The phone did not come with a hands free kit, so initially the user may need to use the speakerphone as an alternative. The speakerphone worked very well in most areas thought it was much preferable to discontinue its use in high traffic areas where outside noise would hinder hearing. In general, call conversations from the MOTOFONE F3 sounded great and reasonably clear.
The MOTOFONE F3 was tested for reception on the Optus network. It generally had great reception on most metropolitan areas so using it when making and receiving calls was not problematic in this regard. Reception is similar, if not marginally better than my current mobile, the Sony Ericsson K800i.
The MOTOFONE F3 does not have any internal memory and does not support memory cards to store more contacts and messages. This means that the contact list is entirely dependent on the sim card capacity. Contacts are simply assigned a name and a number – the type of number and other information tags cannot be linked to the contact. The phone will display both the name and number. If either name or number is longer than 5 characters, these split on screen, so in order to see the full name/number, one must scroll horizontally using the jog dial.
8 polyphonic ring tones were found in the MOTOFONE F3 and appear to be selectable only for incoming calls and not when receiving messages.
Profiles set on the MOTOFONE F3 vary from vibrate only, silent, vibrate then ring or just ringing. You can select from these profiles via jog dial. The selected profile will be indicated on the phone’s interface (and during stand-by).
For such a basic phone, the MOTOFONE F3 does not reward the user with a simple process of receiving and creating messages. When receiving a message, the phone would indicate this with a suitable icon displayed. It is not possible to view the message immediately upon receiving it if the phone is locked. There is no word dictionary nor predicted text functions which would allow quicker messaging. Despite the lack of these features this reviewer is not deterred, however, the heart of the problem lies with the size and appearance of the digital font the phone uses.
First and foremost, the large font used for the alphabetic and numerical units make it impossible for messages to be read without flicking back and forth horizontally. Messages are generally truncated to space the screen as the font sees fit. This issue exists whether the user receives messages or wishes to produce one. The actual input of the text is uncomplicated due to the fairly responsive keypad. Again, because the message does not fit the whole screen, even a short message becomes frustrating to create. As if to add insult to injury, the phone’s ‘radio-clock’ font does not have an option to lower case or upper case the alphabetic units – which means not only do particular words look ridiculous when made, but the messages received from other sources will also look strange and very unprofessional. A certain word such as ‘dragon’, will appear on the phone as ‘dRAGoN’.
The MOTOFONE F3 not only makes it difficult to read the messages received by the user, it almost ensures the user will be put off by sending one back. For this functionality alone, the MOTOFONE F3 performs quite poorly, which marks it down even further, as messaging is one of its few abilities.
The MOTOFONE F3 does not have connectivity via Infra-Red, Bluetooth nor USB, nor does it need to as it holds no data of any sort. Therefore, it will not be rated in this category.
The MOTOFONE F3 does not have any functionality of this nature. Therefore, it will not be rated in this category.
The MOTOFONE F3 does not have any functionality of this nature. Therefore, it will not be rated in this category.
It’s easy to expect that a phone costing around AU$ 69.00 is about as durable and resilient to the conditions as its price. Fortunately, to this reviewer’s surprise, the phone is very well built and highly durable, owing to the hard plastic material it is composed of. The phone is very light but fairly rigid and solid in structure. Users who accidentally drop the MOTOFONE F3 may find the phone merely scratched and still functioning perfectly after a minor fall on concrete pavement.
The MOTOFONE F3, on average, had decent battery life considering its only functions were exclusively directed to calls and messaging. I was able to obtain a fair amount of talk time during some testing. After just 66mins worth of outgoing calls made on the phone, I had depleted about three fifths of the battery life (two bars out of five). Compared to my personal benchmark, the Sony Ericsson K800i, this is relatively good. On stand-by, the phone lasted approximately five days stand-by with minimal messaging and calls made. The MOTOFONE F3’s battery life is perhaps better than most advanced models but on the flip-side this was to be expected, given its limited functionality. It certainly performed less than the 450mins talk time, but it was still able to offer great battery life for everyday usage.