Motorola Motofone F3 Review


My Treo 750 is a fantastic device that does email, web browsing, PIM, and if you want it to it can even make phone calls. The price of all this functionality is size. The Treo is by no means a small phone. With the likes of the Dash, the Blackjack and even the JAQ3, the Treo (all models) are quite chubby. Normally I don’t find that a problem. I am addicted to email on my phone, so the tradeoff of size for WM5, thumboard and UMTS (and soon HSDPA) is well worth it.

But there are times when I don’t want to take my $800 phone with me. Either I want something smaller or don’t want to risk carrying my Treo with me (eg. If I have to leave my phone in my bag when at soccer or something, or get it broken at a party). The solution for me is a low end phone that is very cheap and compact that if I lose or break I won’t shed any tears over.

The new Motorola Motofone is one such phone, aimed at the lowest end of the low end market. The Motofone in all honesty makes other low-end phones look feature packed. The only function that this phone is designed for is making calls. There is SMS, but that is the extent of the extra features. So with the severe lack of features, is the Motofone even worth looking at? Lets take a look and see.

The Motofone comes is a very simple cylinder container (like those you get for posters) about 12cm tall. Inside is the Motofone, a battery, a charger, and a manual. That’s it. Just the basics.

The charger is very compact which is a nice change from the power adaptors I’m used to. The battery is quite small and very thin, but it doesn’t really have a lot to power so it doesn’t need to be big.

Last but not least is the Motofone.

When I first held it with the battery in I was quite impressed by both the build quality and nice heft that the phone had to it. That’s not to say it was heavy mind you, because it’s not, but for the size it feels very solid. It feels like it can take a fair bit of punishment.

The very thin battery cover is held on by two catches that are released by holding in the 1mm thin silver button on the left side.

Underneath is the SIM and battery slots. The SIM card slides in and then the battery sits above. Like most phones the SIM can’t be removed without taking the battery out first.

The Motofone is thin, and I mean really thin. It’s only 0.9cm thick, and takes up no space in a pocket.

Compared to the Motofone my Treo is a monsterous device, really showing it’s slightly aging overweight design.

When I hold it I grip it on the ends of the fingers, as there is simply no depth to hold it with! The Treo on the other hand is curved to fill the hand quite nicely.

The Motofone uses the new E Ink screen technology which has multiple benefits including extremely low power consumption, high contrast and visibility in bright sunlight, and very cheap.

The E Ink display used in the Motofone is similar to an alarm clock display, which has specific lines and icons that can be displayed, instead of pixels to draw items. This again saves costs, and is fine for the ultra-simple design that the Motofone is aiming at.

At the top of the phone there are two bars, one for signal (on the left) and one for battery (right).

The main part of the display comprises of several icons (on the top and bottom) and two lines of 6 characters. Not exactly the greatest resolution ever. Here is the SMS compose screen. As you can see letter entry is active. Yes that says hello. Most letters are uppercase, but “O” is demoted to lowercase to make way for the number “0”. There is also no way for the screen to display a full stop, so it appears as a dash. Just try to remember this phone is meant to be a phone first, and nothing else second.

On the main screen you will see your carriers name. After a few seconds the screen will go black (presumably to clear the residual “ink” from previously displayed characters/icons) and the clock is displayed.

The numbers are nice and BIG, very easy for an elderly person or someone with poor eyesight to read. I would be comfortable giving one of these to my grandmother for emergencies (if she would take it I would buy her one today) as the screen is very easy to see for its main function: phone numbers.

The “menu” is accessed by pressing the arrow button. The menu displays icons for SMS Compose, SMS Inbox, Call Log, Ringtone, Alarm and Time/Date setup.

There are 7 ringtones available, not of which are particularly exciting but they are loud and get your attention.

The keypad and screen don’t have the very best backlight, but considering their primary use of phone calls I don’t think it is much of a problem. If you were trying to read information off the screen it would be a pain, but with the limited use it will see the backlight is fine.

Battery life on this phone is estimated at over two weeks which is amazing. I haven’t tested this claim much yet, but with a LOT of playing around when I took it from the box the battery meter still hasn’t moved. I will test it over the next few weeks (it may take that long to kill it!) to really get a feel for it. With its dual-band GSM radio, almost no power consumption by the screen, and no other features it will very likely last a while.

I forgot to mention (which ascorve reminded me below) that the Motofone has a vibrate function. You can either have the phone vibrate before ringing, or vibrate without ringing. You can’t have it vibrate and ring simultaneously. I have to say the vibrate function is pretty worthless. More of a hum than a vibrate. It is so weak that you would be hard pressed to notice it. In all honesty consider the Motofone as not having vibrate.

I’m surprised Motorola didn’t call it the SMPL to go with the rest of their vowel deficient product line. It is definitely a member of Motorola’s thin and compact line of phones, including the famous flat keyboard and RAZR styling. It actually looks a lot like the Motorola L7, but obviously is designed for a very different market. The Motofone would be great for someone who just wants to make calls, wants excellent battery life, all in a compact and cheap phone. The phone is very well built, and will be able to take a fair bit of punishment. My stepdad, a roof plummer, is considering getting one for use at work because of its low cost and excellent durability. As shown in the video below, it is pretty tough!! I would highly recommend this phone because of its excellent quality of construction, great voice quality at both ends, and low cost.

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About the Author

Mitchell Oke
Mitchell is a video producer and director working with Australia's leading motoring news sites and car companies. He's always on the go with a camera in hand. With a Bachelor of Creative Technology (Digital Video Production), Mitchell's worked for News Limited, and as a freelancer for many years.

15 Comments on "Motorola Motofone F3 Review"

  1. First of all – the video was FAB! Completely impressed – you should do more! πŸ™‚

    Secondly, there are actually a lot of things about Motofone that I find very impressive! Loved the minor destruction demo you did – and I would like to find a US equivalent of this phone for my mom! Or import one. πŸ˜‰

    OMG -?but when you were trying to pick it up with your feet…almost blew diet coke at my monitor! :lol_tb:

  2. Mitchell, thanks for the review! The concept of just having a simple phone (and taking a break from emails) when running errands, exercising, weekend use or especially in rainy conditions makes sense.

    Razr’s are becoming “affordable” in the low pricing range – I got a Cingular Razr for $59; with a $50 rebate neeting out at $9.

    The packaging was cool –

    I too was impressed by the video. Good stuff!

  3. Finally, Motorola gets back to what it does best, because they haven’t done such a bang up job with phones that have actual features!

  4. Mate! Looking good! Which dealer org is selling them down here, would like to go have a squizz? Is the SMS bit that awful? I have a builder friend who might have a go for it but does a lot of texting..

  5. Thanks guys πŸ˜€

    You can pickup the Motofone from pretty well any of the Woolworths-owned stores down here, like Dick Smith Electronics and Big W.

    Lets just say with SMS that you can do it, but it won’t be the most fun you’ve ever had. I have only done it a few times, and it works just fine. Takes a bit of getting used to.

  6. Judie, I figured it just had to be trodden on. It was holding up to everything else including being thrown across a room, and bashed with my fists. You wouldn’t even know it had been dropped.

    Kerry, those are all great usage situations for the Motofone. Mine will definitely be seeing some use when I don’t trust my Treo to survive (or not get stolen).

  7. Thanks for the review.

  8. Does it have a vibrate feature? Thanks.

  9. Yes I forgot to mention it does. Just adding that to the review now πŸ™‚

  10. It seems I cannot get a definitive answer from anyone…….anywhere! Question: When, if ever, will the Motorola F3c be released in the good ole US of A??? I’m not happy that the US was not the first to get it. I understand why not, that is; I understand their marketing strategy, but not to have it available here in the USA is a real bummer.

    If you have any information as to a possible USA release please email me: [email protected] At this point I’ll settle for any fact, fiction or rumor you might have!! Thanks for your time an attention!!!

    [email protected]

  11. OK, it is a smooth phone, (I have one) but… it has its limitations –

    You cannot programme the speed dail which options only the first six numbers on yoiur SIM which you cannot re order or reprogramme.

    The speed dail is limited to the first 99 numbers on your SIM card (which hilds over 200 numbers)

    You cannot edit or erase any SIM number once it is in the phone

    Apart from that it is a great piece of design, the speakephone is excellent and easy to use, the battey life is good but nothing like claimed.

    All in all a real value for money easy to use phone if you want it simple – no camera, no games, no wallpaper, no music – just a phone – thats it.

    Its back to the future!

  12. He guys, I am considering buying this phone. The only thing that bothers me is the lack of functional sms.. Do you think it would be possible that they create a software update that fixes the problem of readability.. i.e. that the font size would be smaller and messages would appear on the whole screen instead of only one line.. I am not sure whether this would be possible considering the type of screen..

  13. No its not possible simple because of the screen design. The display has more in common with a clock radio than a mobile phone, which works quite well for this type of phone.

    And there will never be any software updates for this phone, simply because they can’t really improve anything, and there is no data port to run an update anyway. It is what it is, and as a cheap, basic, durable phone, it does a great job.

  14. Jack Karouac | January 2, 2009 at 7:18 am |

    How do you TURN OFF the vibrate function? No matter what mode I have it in, it vibrates before ringing.

  15. Peter Ferguson | January 10, 2009 at 2:08 am |

    How do you TURN OFF the vibrate function?

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