The Motorola Charm is not your typical Android phone. This compact device features the smallest display we have used on any Android phone, a BlackBerry-sized QWERTY keyboard, and a unique rear touchpad called Backtrack. Our hardcore audience might be turned off by some of the entry-level specs, but anyone interested in a low-cost, messaging phone that focuses on social networking should give the Charm a long hard look.
For starters, the Charm is one of the overall cheapest Android phones. T-Mobile sells it for $269 at full price or $74.99 with 2-year contract. Those who purchase their phones online can find the Charm for FREE with 2-year contract. The price conscience customers will also enjoy T-Mobile’s no-contract Even More Plus smartphone plans which start at $59 per month. It would be nice if T-Mobile rolled our some lower-tier data plans for a phone like the Charm, but at least they offer the choice of contract or no-contract plans.
If you have already owned an Android phone, the most notable feature of the Charm is its 2.8 inch QVGA (320 x 240) display. It gets the job done but I found the text was sometimes blocky, many apps were not optimized for the smaller QVGA resolution, and it was difficult for me to adjust to the smaller area when I was swiping down a page or trying to pinch-zoom.
I found the compact QWERTY keyboard was pretty solid and felt like typing on most BlackBerry phohnes. Each key was rounded and had a nice feeling when clicked. If you have a family member or friend who’s still stuck on a BlackBerry, then the Charm would be a great phone to introduce them to Android.
My experience with the Backtrack pad was a little disappointing so far and thankfully it can be easily toggled on and off. I’m guessing Motorola included the rear trackpad to aid in scrolling since the screen was so small, but the Backtrack pad has a smaller surface than the display and I found it awkward to use. Scrolling a list was very “jumpy” and I ended up relying on just touching the display. Maybe it gets better after extended use and a little practice, but I can see why they left it off by default.
Other things I noticed in my first few days with the Charm:
- The 600 MHz OMAP3 processor felt pretty snappy and would run 3D games which worked at QVGA resolution. This phone also sports 512 MB of RAM and it kept up when multiple applications were running.
- Speaking of games, I had a ton of issues with the accelerometer controls. They were always way off which made some games unplayable.
- Android 2.1 with the full Motoblur UI powers this phone and I’m still not a fan. Motoblur duplicates features already found in Android and has a history of slowing down the software update process. I hope Motorola upgrades it to Android 2.2, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was not.
- T-Mobile included a 2nd battery in the box. It’s a higher capacity battery (1420 mAh), but it also takes up more space and they had to include an extra battery cover which adds a small hump to the back of the phone.
Overall I found the Charm was a really solid Android device, but it’s obviously not for everyone. I would recommended the Charm to anyone coming from a BlackBerry or those looking for their first smartphone, but if you already have an Android phone then you might be frustrated with the limitations of the smaller display. Check out our unboxing video for more details and let us know what questions you have about the Charm.