Motorola Motoluxe Review

It only seems like a few weeks ago that we were in London at the Motorola Motoluxe VIP party. Up until recently Motorola’s Android devices have been high end devices like the Milestone range and the recent Droid Razr. You may think I have forgotten the Defy range, but this was initially priced at the high end and then subject to huge price drops.

With the release of the Motoluxe, Motorola have made a definite attack on the budget range. Especially with getting T-Mobile and Tesco Mobile to stock the Motoluxe at some great prices.

So here is our review for the Motorola Motoluxe. A big thanks to Clove for sending us one out.

Design

The Motoluxe has two personalities, what Motorola people want it to be and what it actually is. The Motorola marketing team decided they were going to sell the device as fashion accessory at first, hence the big party in London and the wording from their own website. Here is how they describe it:

“DESIGN: ATTRACT ATTENTION

Go ahead and stare. It’s OK. MOTOLUXE™ is a beautifully designed Android™ smartphone that demands your attention. A lean 110 g body that’s an alluring 9.8 mm thin, this elegant phone has sharp edges and a brushed metal trim — striking, yet affordable features you’ll be proud to show off.”

Yet the pricing and the design of the device target a different market. Not that this is a bad thing, but for a fashion accessory I expected something a little fancier. The Motoluxe will fit well into the phones for kids and phones for people who don’t want to spend lots of money each month bracket.

The Motoluxe is made of that nice soft touch non slip coated plastic, which gives it a good feel. The battery cover back panel is made of metal and also coated in the same material. We got hold of the black version, as reported the other week a white version is also available from Tesco Mobile.

The Motoluxe does feel nice in the hand, it feels compact. This is down to a very narrow bezel around the screen allowing Motorola to fit in a 4″ screen. The Motoluxe is no bigger than my Nokia Lumia 800 which has a smaller screen.

The Motoluxe has a nice selection of buttons around the case, power button, volume rocker, separate camera button and a row of capacitive buttons beneath the screen for home, menu, search and back. It is certainly nice to have a proper camera button on a phone, it even has a half push to focus first as well.

Underneath the battery panel lives the sim card, the battery and a micro sdhc slot. The memory card slot is a pleasant surprise these days. Another interesting feature is the large lanyard loop on the bottom left of the device. I don’t know anyone who actually uses a lanyard any more though. You could easily attach a neck strap or wrist strap if you wanted. This loop also has a rather clever feature as well. It lights up, depending on what notifications you receive. So if you receive a text message it flashes green, emails green, reminders nothing, missed calls  green, charging from red through yellow and then grren when charged. It is a really good idea. The notification light is something that is slowly disappearing from Android devices so to see such a large and prominent light is a refreshing change. The light at the bottom of the device does give the Motoluxe a unique look, a bit like the loop on the Sony Ericsson Active. Although I do feel that if the light had been at the top of the device or on the side the Motoluxe would look and feel more streamlined. But it is good to be different, in a sea of similar looking Samsung devices.

Overall the design of the Motoluxe is good, with a few unique selling points that will mark it out from the crowd. But it is certainly not the ultra fashionable accessory that Motorola intended it to be. Although so far the Motoluxe is an impressive device.

Hardware

Motorola have decided to go with a fairly basic specification for the Motoluxe starting with an 800mhz Qualcomm single core processor, 512mb Ram, out of the box the Motoluxe had about 300mb of memory left for installing apps and the like. Motorola have made a wise decision with the spec of the camera though, they have chosen an 8mp camera. Which seems to be one of the main things people in the budget market choose for a phone. The choice of CPU does seem and odd choice though. For only a little bit more money per month people can get hold of devices like the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the Sony Ericsson Arc or Arc S. Which all have greater specs. The rest of the spec is fairly normal.

Battery life on the Motoluxe was quite surprising. I easily got a day out of it with light use, which I always struggle to do with my Galaxy Nexus.

Here is the spec of the device.

DISPLAY TYPE FWVGA 480 x 854 (244ppi), 16M colours

COLOURS Liquorice or Glacier white

WEIGHT 122 grams

SIZE (H X W X D) 117.7 x 60.5 x 9.8 mm

DISPLAY SIZE 4-inch

MEMORY Up to 300 MB

ACCELEROMETER Yes

NETWORKSUMTS 900/2100; HSDPA 3.5, EDGE class 12, GPRS class 12

PROCESSOR SPEED 800 MHz

REMOVABLE MEMORYUp to 32GB microSD

SENSORS Gravity sensor, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor

CAMERA 8MP autofocus with LED flash and digital zoom; resolution up to 3264 x 2448; front-facing VGA camera

DIGITAL ZOOM Yes

FLASH LED flash

FOCUS Automatic

CAMERA 8 MP, plus front-facing web cam

WEB CAM Yes, front-facing VGA camera

TALK TIME 2G, up to approximately 6.5 hrs; 3G, up to approximately 4.5 hrs

BATTERY TYPE 1400mAh

STANDBY TIME 2G, up approximately 450 hrs; 3G, up to approximately 400 hrs

Software

Motorola are famous for their Motoblur software, possibly for the wrong reasons though. In the past Motorola skinned a lot of the normal Android interface with Motoblur which tied together a lot of aspects such as social networking and contacts. Motoblur did tend to slow the devices down and using another launcher was difficult. A LOT of people get quite upset about manufacturers skinning Android, be it HTC with their Sense software of Samsung with their TouchWiz software. For some reason though Motoblur was always the most unpopular. Motorola have addressed this problem with the Motoluxe and they have a new version called MotoSwitch. It is basically a launcher with a few widgets and a few different app icons. The widgets in question allow you to group together popular apps you use and popular contacts you contact. The launcher feels very familiar to many other launchers you may have used, you can drag apps and shortcuts around and add widgets in a fairly straightforward manor. The only slight problem is that there is a little lag between homescreens. Luckily this lag is only present on the homescreens, in apps it doesn’t appear. Which leads me to think that this “problem” could easily be fixed in a software update.

Normally when I have problems with lag on a device I will switch launchers. I thought I would give this a try on the Motoluxe which when I tried ADW Launcher things improved slightly. I just couldn’t use the Motoactive widgets. So if you get one of these and a tiny bit of lag between screens annoys you then try a different launcher. Motorola have always made it awkward to swap between launchers and the Motoluxe is not exception. If you install an alternative then you are stuck with it until you uninstall it. Even apps that used to help switch from one to another on MotoBlur devices do not work. Guess these will be updated in due course.

For the target market though I do not think they will notice any lag, they will not care about other launchers, they will just use it. Talking about what the average user cares about though leads me to my next topic.

The Motoluxe comes with Android 2.3 Gingerbread installed. Which to some may be seen as sacrilege especially as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was released last October. Motorola initially said that only the Droid Razr would be getting an upgrade to Android 4.0 but then shortly after the release of the Motoluxe they announced that the Motoluxe might be getting an upgrade as well. Whether or not Motorola will skin Android 4.0 remains to be seen, I just hope that the cpu and ram are up to it without any lag. But once again I ask this question “does the average Android user care about Ice Cream Sandwich” I don’t feel they do, I look at the number of battered HTC Desire’s that people at my work own that have never been updated. One person I know actually has to cancel the OTA alert from Vodafone on her Desire every single day. She is too scared to update it apparently. So the Motoluxe not getting an update is not going to be a problematic as if Motorola said the Droid Razr wouldn’t.

One other area where Motorola MotoSwitch comes into play is with the lockscreen. The lockscreen has six app shortcuts around a ring. It works a bit like the recent HTC Sense lockscreen where if you tap and slide a shortcut into the ring it loads that app and if you tap the key and slide it out of the ring it unlocks the device. While this is nice having shortcuts to your messaging, emails, phone, calendar, web and contacts as it allows quick access to your apps. It would be nice if the lockscreen used the same intelligence that the app shortcut widget uses. I.E. It would display your six most used apps on the lockscreen. Now that would be nice. Another nice feature would be the ability to edit the lockscreen shortcuts. I.E. replace email with gmail, different web browser maybe, shortcut to twitter instead of contacts and a shortcut to the camera. I am sure most people will only regularly use two or three of these shortcuts. It is definitely an improvement over the standard Gingerbread lockscreen though.

Earlier I mentioned the notification light that doubles up as a lanyard loop. I feel Motorola have missed a trick with not letting you configure the light at all. If you could create custom notifications using a variety of vibration, ring tones and colour flashes you could really personalise the Motoluxe. Instead you are left with a Motorola developers idea of what you should have. Which is it flashing green for a few certain notifications. Push notifications from apps like Google+,Instagram or alarms or calendar notifications don’t get flashed either. If the light had an app to control it, where you could add apps to be notified about it would be great.

As part of my testing of the Motoluxe I installed a variety of apps to test out normal day to day use. The Motoluxe easily handles social media, music, web browsing, video playback, games, news apps, photo editing, etc etc. Obviously super intensive games like Shadowgun or Soulcraft are never going to work, but Angry Birds and Cut The Rope play with no problems. The 300mb of app storage does limit quite how much you can install, but in total I installed about 30 apps covering most things you would need and I still had about 70mb left. Luckily a lot of game developers now allow you to move the game to an SD card or they just totally install the app to the card automatically. You will just need to buy a big card first.

Where in a phone review should you mention locked and encrypted bootloaders? I guess somewhere about here. Motorola really do not get the Android modding community. The community can take a budget device like this and really turn it around. Fixing things that do not work, adding tweaks to improve other elements, creating custom roms that allow people to move beyond the standard upgrade tree. None of this is ever easily possible with Motorola devices. Most recently Motorola’s response has been “buy the Droid Razr Developer edition” to any question about rooting or unlocking it. Soif you were hoping to get this device to watch it be unlocked and rooted, I would not hold your breath.

There are a few little things that did impress me whilst using the Motoluxe though. It supports Flipfonts, which are font packs for devices. So you can change the font without having to root it. the Motoluxe came with Bauhaus which is one of my favourite fonts. The MotoSwitch skinning of certain apps is actually quite good, especially on the dialler and the keyboard. Which were both a pleasure to use. Also Motorola has allowed you to save your homescreen setup as a profile, giving you home, work and weekend so you can easily setup different screens.

Camera

Recently on Coolsmartphone we have had a few camera shoot outs and as Motorola cite the camera on the Motoluxe as being one of it’s main selling points I thought we should do a camera shoot out for this as well. I did a quick scan around the house and “found” a few 8mp camera phones. I found a Nokia Lumia 800 and a Samsung Galaxy S2. There are quite a few shots involved in this so I have put up another article here about this.

But in the meantime here are a few sample shots took with the Motoluxe.

 

The Motoluxe has a few options hidden away within it’s settings menus. You have a macro focus, a normal focus and an infinity focus! All the infinity focus seems to do is screw up your photos. The macro focus helps you take close ups of ladybirds and the normal focus is fairly normal. One thing that I did notice on the camera app is that there are quite a few different settings hidden away in different sub menus, so if you get one have a good look through the options. Here are some shots of the camera interface, ddms really wasn’t happy taking screenshots of the camera though.

The other thing that slightly annoyed me was the method off taking a photo, you can either press the onscreen button which does a focus and a capture in one motion or the camera button which has a half way focus if you want to use it. The focus just seems to come and go as it pleases. In well lit outdoors shots this isn’t really a problem, it’s just at times I wished it would just focus. On macro mode the focus behaves as you would expect and the half press would pre-focus a shot for you.

The video camera on the Motoluxe tops out at vga resolution so you not going to be recording vital moments in history. I guess this is a limitation of the cpu used.

Overall though the Motoluxe has a fairly good camera. It certainly takes a bit of getting used to the different settings, especially the different focus modes. But if you persevere you should get some decent shots. Some of the colours did seem less vibrant than other pictures took with other cameras, check out the camera comparison article for more details.

Music

The Motoluxe having a Micro SDHC card slot allows you to put a load of music on it and use it as your music player. Obviously listening to a lot of music is really going to hurt you battery life. But for me several things govern my choice of music player. They are loudness, depth of sound, hiss, can it stream music well and lastly the interface of the media player.

So the first thing I did was to copy some music across to the SD card and try that out. The Motoluxe allows you to just drag and drop music onto your sd card so that was nice and easy. Sound quality was better than I expected, it didn’t have a huge amount of bass out of the box. After installing the Equalizer app the quality definitely improved. There wasn’t any huge amount of hiss, like what you get with cheap devices. I was impressed, it was definitely better than I thought it would be.

I am one those people who managed to get through the loopholes to set up Google Music so that was one of the first things I tried out. Getting it on the Motoluxe was just a matter of transferring the player from my Galaxy Nexus. The app worked as expected, over 3g it will eat your data limit for breakfast, so stick to wifi if I was you. The quality of streaming with Google Music is really good. It is certainly worth setting up. Again I had to make sure the Equalizer app was doing it’s thing first.

Motorola have provided Music+ which is like a combined LastFM, Soundhound, YouTube, lyric finder and Amazon MP3 type app.  Which was fairly useful but just takes up space really.

The standard Android music is what your expected to play your music on. It works, it plays music, you just may want to have a look round third party apps.

The Motoluxe overall is a great music player. It would be ideal to use as device to take out for a jog, to take on holiday or to give to your kids. Motorola do provide headphones and a micro SDHC card in the box. But if you are planning on using the Motoluxe as you main music player I would suggest replacing both of these items quickly.

Video

Mobile video is a popular thing. The Motoluxe plays video, so all is good. The cpu used is never going to be up to watching hd video. But it copes with normal dvd rips, without a kickstand though it gets a little tedious holding it up. Also if you decide to charge the Motoluxe whilst watching a video you get blinded by the notification light. Again if you could alter the lights behaviour this would be fixable. The Motoluxe also handles YouTube without any problem and over wifi YouTube HD videos aren’t a problem either.

As a device to quickly watch a video during the day it is ideal. Any longer videos I would prefer a larger screen with some sort of stand.

Conclusion

The Motoluxe would be an ideal first Android phone, as it doesn’t do anything badly. Just when compared to devices twice the price you spot problems. Which is the wrong way to go about things. The Motoluxe handles games, social media, multimedia, normal phone stuff and loads more with no problems. The only slight problems would be the storage space would soon fill up and you may start to get annoyed with the light.

The most similar device I have recently used was T-Mobile Vivacity which is certainly a step down from the Motoluxe as it uses an older generation CPU, the Vivacity has a lot less memory and the Vivacity has a peculiar touchscreen. In all these respects the Motoluxe was better than the Vivacity.

I think the Motoluxe is going to meet stiff competition from the HTC One V which beats the Motoluxe in most categories. But it costs slightly more. Already in the last few weeks the price of the Motluxe has dropped and you can get it for under £200 now.

So if you want a no frills Android device this could be the one for you.

  • Sage of 7 Paths

    You definitely can root the device but I looked for hours but never found and custom roms :(.There is a way to install ICS though…takes a bit of chinese motoluxe XT685 not motoluxe XT615 (which is this). I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. I agree that controlling the notification light would be awsome. Overclocking is going to be very hard too