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Because of my liking for new technology, my now-ex-girlfriend bought me a Motorola A1200 (otherwise known as the "Ming").
INITIAL THOUGHTS: It looks like a normal flip-phone when you take it out of the box or your pocket. It is narrower but still thicker than the Razr. I got the black version (I love black) and it has a rubberized feel, giving the phone a more "expensive" feel. Also, the phone is heavier than one might expect, given its diminutive size.
Flip the cover open and the most obvious feature is its lack of a keyboard - the phone works completely of a touchscreen and included stylus. With the exception of 3 buttons - the red power button, the recent call or send button and a small joystick, the face of the phone is completely dominated by the touchscreen. The phone's stylus is stored in a little spot where one would normally picture the antenna to be - just to the top of the phone on the right side. Also, the top has a big Motorola logo in silver, which appears to be just a button there for the sake of being decorative, then you notice two VERY tiny wires running along the edge of the translucent gray protective cover - it's actually the phone's earpiece!
Motorola actually impressed me with the design of this phone, but that is pretty much where it ends, though. If I am correct, this is the first phone ever to provide a protective cover for the touch screen.
The SIM card is located under the battery, along with the memory card. The Ming uses MicroSD memory cards, available up to 2GB, and because I really don't use the extras that much, I have a 512MB memory card in it, although I have used a friend's 2GB card in it to see how it holds up.
On the left side of the phone, are a Menu button, and an Up and Down buttons, which can be used to access certain menus, even though the phone itself may be closed - because of the translucent cover, the screen can be viewed when the phone is closed, such as the music player and text messages can be read (and even answered) without even opening the phone.
Oh the right side of the phone are 2 buttons - one activates the phone's camera (operable even though the phone is closed) and works like a shutter control to take a picture (or to start and stop video recording), while the other is to activate the voice recognition software. The voice recognition is handy, but is little more than a novelty, since getting it to do certain functions by voice commands can be frustrating, depending on your accent (I am neither American or English).
Unfortunately, because of their location, these buttons were rather easy to press while in your pocket, to activate the voice recognition and take blurry dark pictures of the inside of your pockets.
PERFORMANCE: First and foremost, this is a phone, so I check out the phone's calling, MMS and SMS features.
This phone was designed for the Asian market, and as a result, it comes in either English or Chinese - it's kind of obvious which language I use. But, that means that the phone itself is unlocked for the Western Markets, so once your service provider uses one of the frequencies that this phone can access, you're in luck.
Besides via caller ID, people on the other end knew I was calling from a cellular phone, but could tell it was me, and could even make out the background music while I was in my car, with the windows down and the stock CD player on low volume. Reception was above average, although some calls would come through slurry, even though the reception strength would show all the bars available.
MMS and SMS settings would depend on your service provider, but typing messaged without a QWERTY or even a standard 10-digit keypad is a hell of a task. There is an onscreen QWERTY keyboard or character recognition available, if you are accustomed to Palm-based PDAs of yester-year. Unfortunately, the character recognition worked a little slowly for my uses and the onscreen keyboard is so tiny, hitting the correct letters WITH THE STYLUS was a little tricky. Sending messages on the fly without a stylus? Don't even think about it.
There are several templates for Mulimedia Message Services (MMS), and you can send pictures, audio and video via MMS. Unfortunately, the phone tops out at GPRS (think old-school modem dial-up speeds) and sending big files can very expensive very quickly, based on your service provider.
Speaking of MMS, the phone is equipped with a 2megapixel camera, but no flash. Just over the lens is a switch which switches between close-range shots like portraits, and landscape mode, for more distant or wider pictures.
Picture quality is about average, I would say, but if you want great pictures, get a digital camera - some cheaper Kodaks, Fuji or even Sony can give you better pictures. And if you are working in anything less than "normal" light you can read and write in, don't bother - the lack of flash then makes the camera useless.
Video shot with the camera is best viewed on the phone itself, since it is shot at 15 frames per second (TV averages at 30 frames per second) and is very pixelated.
EXTRA FEATURES: The phone is shipped with a USB data cable (the same cable which works on the Razr, actually), a software CD, an extra stylus but no protective casing.
The phone is equipped with Bluetooth 1.2, no infrared port but can receive FM radio when connected with a wired headset on the 2.5mm stereo headset jack. Yes, 2.5mm - no, your iPod headphones won't work here.
Bluetooth was flawless, working with almost every phone and headset I could find to try it with, and it worked. File transfers via Bluetooth between phones were very fast.
FM reception is very good, but only works with the wired headset (although there is software out there for using it without the headset). You can save several station presets, but because of how I am, I hardly use it (I put my iPod to use)
However, Motorola markets this phone as a Linux-based PDA.
PDAs can handle calenders, contact listings (with phone numbers, e-mail addresses, physical addresses and pictures), appointments, e-mail messages and more.
This phone does hold up rather well on all counts, but because of its diminutive screen vs the Blackberry and Palm, many power users would think it inefficient. Plus, with the advent of ***yuck*** Windows Vista, all synchronization features with the computer are rendered useless, due to driver issues.
The phone comes with an e-mail application, which would access your POP or IMAP e-mail, but I haven't been able to get it to work, plus, when I did, using GPRS - I found it faster and easier to either head home or back to the office to use my broadband internet access to download some of the really large files I need.
Therefore, if you plan on using this phone as a PDA, you are stuck with all your important information on one device (which is NOT a good thing) or the daunting task of having to re-type it all on your Outlook or Thunderbird e-mail application.
I should note, however, when using Ubuntu, Fedora or Linspire Linux, this phone works flawlessly, with one or two minor configurations to be made the first time the phone is connected to the computer, making it a geek's dream phone (unless iPhone is your thing).
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: If you want something different, then this is your phone (touchscreen with protective flip; PDA, mp3, 2MP camera in an inconspicuous device).
If you are moving up from a basic or sub-megapixel camera phone, I would recommend this phone, since it doesn't require iTunes, no special software for use (just not working with Vista even though there are Vista drivers available online) and has enough horsepower to get you through what you may want to try with your first smart phone. Blackberry, Windows Mobile & Palm users may want to stick with what they have. But, for the price in comparison to some of those models (no contract with the Ming), this phone is worth considering.
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