Motorola A1000 Review
Review by Jah - November 2004
The A1000 is the third Symbian 3G (UMTS) smartphone from Motorola. The previous two smartphones being the A925 and the closely related A920. The main feature of the A1000 is that it is much smaller, the A925 is 148.5 x 60 x 24 mm while the A1000 is 116 x 57.5 x 20 mm, and lighter, 212g for the A925 and 160g for the A1000, with improved battery life and camera resolution. In fact the A1000 is also slimmer than the Sony Ericsson (SE) P910i, which is 115 x 58 x 26 mm in size.
The review here is of the Motorola A1000 as supplied by the UK 3 network. This device is compared at various points to the A925, SE P910i and other PDAs to assist with the explaining its features and capabilities.
1. HARDWARE OVERVIEW
Overall the fit and finish of the unit's case and buttons project the feel of a high quality device.
The main external button/switch functions are:
In general the buttons have good feedback/feel. Having said that I still think the Sony jog dial (as used in the SE P800 and 900/910) is a better alternative for navigation.
- One switch for On/Off operation and Hold. This switch feels fragile on initial use. However, the Hold feature is useful as it locks the screen and the other switches/buttons and the 9 way navigation key.
- 9 way navigation key. This key is used in conjunction with the touch screen and stylus to operate the software applications. The navigation key itself can feel a little slippery to the touch and thus making it a little imprecise to use (for example, it is easy to input "select" when the intension was to select "scroll up").
- The "Triangle" key. This is programmed to activate the browser and the catalogue of 3 services.
- The phone "End" key. This is used to activate the on-screen phone key pad as well as ending a phone call.
- The phone "Send" key. This is used to access the call history as well as initiating a voice/video call.
- Speakerphone button. The speakers (yes plural, see below) work well.
- Up/down volume buttons.
- Camera button. This activates the camera on the back of the unit. This button is also used to take a picture and to start and end video recording.
- Game button A. This is used for game playing but can also be used to display the menus for the built-in applications.
- Game button B (the one with two circles). This does not seem to have any additional function when used with the built-in applications.
There are three main sockets/connectors:
- On the side of the device there a 2.5mm stereo audio and handsfree socket. This is covered by a rubber cover, which does not open sufficiently (in terms of clearing) to allow easy insertion of the headphone plug. On initial use it can take a few attempts to move the cover away. The SE P9xx cover for the audio socket is also difficult in this respect.
- Main charger connector; this is a standard Motorola size.
- Serial/USB connector used for data transfer and synchronization.
Other External Features:
The other external features are:
- The stylus and stylus silo. The stylus is not cylindrical in shape and is telescopic (like the one used for the Sony Clie TH55 and UX50). It is also about 1 cm longer than the one used for the SE P9xx when fully extended. This additional length makes this stylus more comfortable in use when compared to the one supplied with the SE 910i. The stylus "head" (other end to the tip) is shaped to be part of the unit's curved case (bottom part).
- Two speakers. These are very loud and produce good quality sound, when compared the single speakers used in the SE Pxx series and the Motorola A925. These speakers can be used to playback music in stereo.
- There is a cut-away on the top left corner of the device (when looking at it face-on) that could be used for a wrist strap.
- As for the A920/925, there are connections at the rear of the unit for an external GPS antenna and a phone antenna.
- As the A1000 is intended to be used on a 3G network, there is a camera on the front of the unit for video calls. This has VGA resolution while the camera on the back of the unit has a resolution of 1.2 mega pixel (for still pictures) and a 4 level zoom (which is operated using the 9 way navigation key).
- The A1000 package includes a docking station for synchronisation and battery charging. Unlike the A925 docking station, the one provided for the A1000 does not have a slot for charging a spare battery.
And finally there is the 320 x 208 resolution and 65K colour touch sensitive screen. This is a lovely screen; it is difficult to believe it has just 65K colours. The brightness can be controlled from the Control Panel application. Even with brightness at 50% the screen is easy to read under moderate sunlight. The stylus tip shape and screen sensitivity mean the on-screen application functions are all very easy to access.
The official life of the Lithium Ion battery is 200 hours standby or 225 minutes for voice calls or 105 minutes for video calls. A quick experiment on a A1000 with a relatively new battery showed with a full charge the battery could last 48 hours on standby plus about 20 minutes of voice calls, 6/8 applications installations, 1.5 hours of use of the browser, about an hour of Bluetooth use and downloading and viewing of about 6-8 minutes of video before the "low battery" warning is activated.
The A1000 design means that under "real life" usage patterns/conditions it can probably be used as much as 50% to 80% longer on one full battery charge than the older A920/925 for equivalent operations. This is the reason the A1000 package is shipped with one battery while the A920/A925 standard (UK) package included two batteries!
Processor and Memory:
The A1000 device feels very snappy in use. The third-party Sman application reports that the A1000 is using a 168 MHz processor with 32 MB of RAM. However, once system processes have been loaded only about 17/15 MB of RAM is available for user applications (unlike the SE P910i which can have as much as 20MB available for user applications). Also there is about 22 MB of storage memory for user data and applications (the Transflash memory card can be used to extend the storage capacity for documents and media files).
"Internal" Hardware Features:
Once the battery cover is removed, it is possible to gain access to the compartment for the SIM card and the Transflash memory card. Unlike the SE Pxxx series, the battery has to be removed to exchange/access the memory card. At the time of preparing the review memory cards of up to 128 MB were available commercially. This does not compare favourably with the SD cards used in the A925 (cards of 512 MB are reported to work) and the MS Duo Pro (cards with a capacity of 512 Mb have been tested) used by the SE P910. Once formatted on the A1000, there is about 119 MB of usable space on the Transflash memory card.
Regarding wireless connectivity, unlike the A925 and the SE Pxxx series, the A1000 does not support IR connectivity (i.e. it has no IR hardware). However, Bluetooth for file/data transfer, PIM data synchronization, handsfree headsets and for audio streaming is supported (it is possible to listen to MP3s and the sound track to videos when using a BT headset). Bluetooth pairing with an old Ericsson HBH-20 and newer Nokia HDW-2 BT headsets was successfully achieved.
The other (unique) feature of the A1000, and of the previous A920/925 models, is the integrated AGPS (Assisted Global Positioning System). This allows the A1000 to make use of location based services (e.g. location of the nearest restaurant), content (e.g. map of the local area) and navigation applications such as Wayfinder (the A1000 is supported by Wayfinder for networks where access is allowed to the internet via GPRS).
At the time of preparing the review there were no other smartphones on the market with the form factor and size of the A1000 supporting built-in GPS capabilities.
Part II: Software/Application Overview >>>>>>>>>