Introducing Mobilicity’s Motorola Spice.

Anyone looking for an objective review should head elsewhere; here’s proof: Mobilicity’s new Motorola XT300 (aka “Spice”) is a locked-down, buggy, underpowered ghetto beast of a phone that is somehow filled to the brim with awesomeness.

How did I arrive at this irrational exuberance? Well, for starters, the Spice is a near-perfect storm of things I want in a handset:

  1. QWERTY keypad
  2. Vertical slider
  3. Android!

The $200 CAD price tag from Mobilicity doesn’t hurt, either. It’s locked, but I can easily fix that with a visit to my friendly neighbourhood unlocker once he gets the codes. This thing is so new that as of this writing I can’t even find a proper case for it on eBay.

You can pour over the Spice’s full tech specs here.

The screen resolution is mere 240×320 pixels, making on-screen fonts tiny and pixelated. And the sluggish (for Android) 528MHz processor makes for the occasional slow screen redraw. But in daily use neither ends up being an issue. The very handy qwerty keypad forgives a lot of other shortcomings; it’s not the best I’ve ever used but it’s far from the worst.

Around the back of the handset there’s a surprisingly good speaker (better than my Nexus One, even) and Motorola’s gimmicky “BACKTRACK” — basically a trackpad on the back for your index finger. Had I smaller hands this might be useful; I think it was a good choice for Motorola not to enable it by default.

And then there’s the camera. Unfortunately, it’s shit.

As a new convert to Android I’m slowly coming to terms with carrying a smaller caliber weapon, but the Spice can’t even deliver that. The photo above was taken in weak winter light; even so, it’s barely in focus.

Video is even worse. The camcorder defaults to QCIF — that’s 176×144 pixels, perfect for sending MMSes to your mates back in 2003. You can bump it all the way up to CIF (352×288). Woo. And what’s up with the audio? You’ll have to crank the sound on the sample above to hear anything at all; I couldn’t find any way to boost the recording volume. Am I missing something?

Yet despite these obvious and considerable shortcomings my Moto Spice comes with me everywhere I go. It’s a bizarre yet incredibly appealing combination of old and new: Android makes it cutting edge but at the same time it’s got an undeniable oldskool Motorola pager vibe to it. I’m quite certain that it was designed and tested by some guy with a pocket protector named Gary. How can you not love that?

A cutting edge Android phone this ain’t, but this bad boy is in a class all its own.

In the next post I’ll show you some screen grabs and the infamous MOTOBLUR

18 comments:

  1. I also picked up the Moto Spice from Mobilicity and gotta say, your summary review is exactly how I feel … it’s buggy, slow and yet full of awesome! I feel like that person who has a cat that pisses on the rug, tears the furniture, hisses when you pick them up, but you love them anyway

  2. It is quite cool … and since I don’t have giant hands, the BACKTRACK feature is actually really great! Especially when reading a news article. It basically allows one handed operation where it used to require two.

  3. I really had my hopes up for this phone and I really like the design. Unfortunately it keeps freezing on me and the only way to restart it is to take the battery out. I exchanged my first one with another Motorola Spice and yet again it froze as soon as I clicked Wi Fi settings 🙁 It’s impossible to do anything on it.

  4. Same here, actually. Forget to mention that the Spice isn’t at all a morning person — meaning that I too have had to pull the battery at least once while powering up.

    But now that said battery is properly conditioned (3 complete power cycles) it seems to run fine.

  5. Yeah, I’ve had the same problem with it freezing. Like Jesse I took the first one back and it seemed ok for a day. Then the freezing started all over again. Changed SIM cards. Still happening. I also noticed this since I enabled wifi. Going back to factory settings now. We’ll see…

    Anyone have any suggestions or a fix?

  6. Andrew – that’s a great recommendation – not! Booo! 😉

    Seriously, who wants to pay $200 for a phone that is promoted as having WiFi only to find out that it freezes the phone.

    And having to take the battery out every time it freezes? No phone, whether $50-$500 should have that problem.

  7. I’ve now had my Spice about 3 weeks. At first, all these same problems of freezing up. Spent much of my time removing the back and pulling the battery. As the battery conditioned, it started to be a once a day type thing. Now, the Spice has not had an issue since before Christmas.

    I’m not sure what caused all these issues, but whatever was causing problems seems to be done. Hold on to your Spice, don’t give up on it. Once it becomes stable and reliable, it’s pretty sweet!

  8. Mitch that’s good to know. Hopefully everyone else experiences the same as you.

    Anyone have an idea how to upgrade from Android 2.1 to 2.2 on the Spice? Is it possible?

  9. What Mitch said :Phone works great now after two weeks…I wander in and out of different Wi-Fi spots and it connects with NO problem.
    I would also like to get Froyo and UNLOCK this thing so I can use it in Mexico this winter ….anyone ???

  10. Same problems, but now it has stabilized as well. Not had a crash or had to remove the battery. Wi-Fi is now working.

    Just rooted it with z4root. Couldn’t find it on the market, but found it through a torrent at isohunt.com.

    Works sooooooooo much better without flashback. Also get a new launcher, Launcher Pro, again soooooooo much better. No longer laggy and can move screens fluidly.

    http://mobilesyrup.com/forum/showthread.php?p=22827#post22827

  11. Hey! I’ve just stumbled upon your blog and it’s great, since I’m thinking about switching from Simbyan to Android, probably with a Spice as a secndary phone to get the hang of it. With this said, I’d like to ask you how’s battery life on that phone and actually how slow is it; I mean, can I listen to music, browse, check my mails and use quickoffice without closing anything (like I do on my N97) or it will just be too slow? Thanks a lot in advance!

  12. Hey Lucas,

    Because of the way Android is designed you don’t really have to worry about closing apps — processes are killed for you as the RAM on your phone fills up. The Android “task killers” that you hear about merely give you more control over this.

    As for the Spice itself you’ll definitely notice a difference in battery life (for the worse). Operating speed for this particular low-powered Android handset is, in my experience, about the same as any Symbian device.

  13. Anyone having problems with their alarm? I got this phone last week and ever since the alarm wont even go off. I even downloaded another app to see if that would work. When I run a test alarm it plays back fine but when it comes to setting the alarm for a couple of hrs it wont even ring? Any tips that will help?

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