Outside of everything Micromax does, it’s not often you look at a phone and go “Hmm. This is interesting.” Remember Nokia’s all-too-brief “outrageous” era? It was a time of glorious bohemianism—we had the lipstick-shaped 7280, the camcorder-inspired N90 and the curious 3250, whose keypad could be flipped to reveal music controls.
Now, it seems like we’ve settled into a few comfortable design categories (again, Micromax is exempt from all this)—the touch tablet, the classic candybar, the svelte slider and the...um, “qonvenient” Qwerty.
The Flipout has a square-shaped display.
The Flipout ignores all this. It’s a category all its own—the funny flipper. It’s a neat little square-shaped phone that flips out (hence the name) to reveal a five-row Qwerty keyboard. The screen is attached to the keyboard via a single hinge, making it ultra-compact. Nokia has a similar model in the 7705, but it’s not available in India. The Flipout runs Google’s Android operating system, and has a 3.1 megapixel camera at the back. All very impressive on paper.
The form factor is nice. Our worries that the single hinge would make the phone seem fragile were unfounded—it flips nice and solid, and the keyboard is excellent. Android, inspite of its quirks, works just fine and Motorola’s custom layer on top of it is unintrusive and thoughtful. The usual Android advantages apply—a large app store, easy access to your email and Google contacts, a fully functional browser and a wide range of media and playback capabilities. The phone apparently comes with a proprietary “CrystalTalk” technology that filters out background noise during a call. We didn’t notice any dramatic improvements in call quality, but it was good overall. The bundled headset is also excellent, and the phone has a surprisingly cool voice-activated dialer.
There are, however, some bizarre omissions in the operating system. For some reason, the Flipout doesn’t come with Android’s fantastic Gallery app, replacing it with a generic alternative. There also appears to be no way to turn off data services (the option is missing from its usual place in the menu) without downloading a third-party app. Battery life is poor as a result—you’re lucky if you get through a full day with more than 20% left. During many calls, we heard loud beeps as we were speaking. We initially thought the phone disapproved of our crude speech patterns, but it turned out our cheeks were activating the numeric keypad on the touch screen. Strange.
The Flipout costs Rs15,990, putting it at the higher end of the entry-level smartphone crowd. It’s not the best phone you can buy in this category, but it’s definitely the most interesting.