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Goodbye Razr, hello Motofone?

Nov 28, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 18 views

[Updated Jan. 12, 2007] — Motorola is shipping a new entry-level mobile phone in India. The Motofone F3 is an extremely low-end phone featuring an “electronic paper” display, breakthrough battery life, a bicycle-mounted dynamo charger, and usability features for the illiterate.

(Click for larger view of Motofone)

Motorola's Motofone does not run Linux, contrary to what was originally reported in this story. Apologies for any confusion. -ed.

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Motorola announced the Motofone back in July, at the same time announcing a new Scpl line as a follow-up to the Razr line for the U.S. and European markets.

Motorola Motofone, front, side, and back
(Click any view to enlarge)

A story published at BetaNews quotes Motorola officials as saying that if the Motofone reaches the U.S., it could sell for as little as $50, “even without carrier subsidies.”

Interestingly, with many mobile phone markets reaching saturation and relying on replacement business, low-end phones today represent “the major driver behind future subscriber and handset market growth,” according to ABI. In a recent report, the research firm noted that Nokia and Motorola — number one and two in the phone market — have gained marketshare by dealing with mobile phone market segmentation better than smaller vendors.

Low end phone

The Motofone is targeted squarely at one of the fastest-growing sectors of the mobile phone market — the low end. It has an entirely new interface designed to be simple and intuitive for those who have never used a phone or computer previously, and who may not even know how to read, according to Motorola.

Motorola calls the Motofone's interface “innovative,” in part thanks to its ability to deliver voice prompts in local languages. The prompts guide the user in navigating menus, placing calls, and sending text messages. The Motofone's interface also features graphical icons that “visually demonstrate the menu features,” along with battery life and network status.

The Motofone eschews fancy smartphone features such as video and MP3 playback, instead focusing on the basics — making and receiving telephone calls. It does also include a text messaging client, and of course, the capability to download ringtones.

Due to its simplicity, the Motofone will offer “extended battery life,” Motorola says. Some reports from around the Internet put the expected battery life at 400 hours (over two weeks) of standby, and 450 minutes of continuous talk time — presumably figures for stationary use. Other reports suggest that the Motofone uses a very small, inexpensive battery that yeilds about 8 hours of talk time.

Additionally, MIT Technology Review says Motorola is developing a bicycle-powered dynamo that will be capable of giving the Motofone a full charge in two hours of leisurely riding.

E-paper display

In place of the power-hungry color TFT LCDs found in nearly all mobile phones today, the Motofone sports a monochromatic “electrophoretic” display (EPD) dubbed “ClearVision.” Sometimes referred to as “electronic paper displays,” EPDs feature sunlight readability comparable to newsprint, yet require no power to hold an image, once set.

According to BetaNews, the Motofone's ClearVision EPD is sourced from E-Ink, which offers a Linux-based EPD development kit (pictured at right). An E-Ink EPD display was previously used in a Linux-based ebook reader from iRex.

Additional touted Motofone features include:

  • Stylish thin design
  • Durable housing for optimal performance despite dust and sun
  • High-contrast screen using new ClearVision display
  • Large font size for easy readability
  • High-volume for call clarity in loud environments
  • Automatic notification of current prepaid balance
  • Embedded polyphonic ringtones in eight voices

A few additional details about the Motofone are available in a BetaNews story, here. Note, however, that the Motofone does NOT run Linux, contrary to what was stated in the BetaNews story.

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