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Motorola Aura Mobile Phone
The Aura is the first and only handset to have a full 1.5-inch circular display that employs 16 million colors, 480 pixels in diameter and a 300 dpi resolution. This stunning display is safely nestling behind scratch-resistant 62-carat sapphire crystal. The curve of the glass makes the display even more visually appealing. Encased in Stainless steel with chemically etched textures, the Aura is a sophisticated handset that shows off class and although this may seem a bit off, a bit of distinction as well. The swivel outer panel is swung around by 130 precision ball bearings and Motorola guarantees the same grace at opening, even after 100,000 times of opening and closing it. While this may hold true, I did notice that the bottom of the keypad (lower level) seemed to loose a little color as it got scratched by the upper potion each time I opened the handset.
The keypad is large and easy to use but sometimes the weight of the handset (141g) dopes make it a bit of an issue typing. The round navigation pad is only four way but all the relevant keys for activation and ‘returning’ to previous menus are close at hand. There are no other keys on the handset save the volume keys on the side that can also be used for zooming in with the camera. The other two viable buttons are merely for popping open the rear panel. __STARTQUOTE__The Aura is just a fancy phone that’s designed with a very unique blend of materials, a sophisticated look and feel and a brilliant display but underneath it's a pretty standard Motorola handset with very, very standard features.__ENDQUOTE__
At the rear of the handset a transparent casing reveals three tungsten-carbide coated gears that assist in the handset’s panel rotation. The 2 megapixel camera’s lens is also plainly visible. You can see the gears in action while rotating the panel. A micro USB all-in-one port is located at the top of the handset.
Features and Performance
I imagined the Aura basking in the glory of that blinding price tag to have features that would rival any phone anyone could come up with. However, at the crux of it, the Aura is just a fancy phone that’s designed with a very unique blend of materials, as mentioned, a sophisticated look and feel and one of THE most brilliant displays I’ve ever seen. Underneath that stainless steel exterior is a pretty standard Motorola handset with very, very standard features.
Although the UI has been designed to suite the round display it’s horribly sluggish most of the time. Multitasking is a b*t*h. With the audio player on in the back ground typing a simple message became a cumbersome task. Even with Motorola’s auto-complete feature, which is quite remarkable as is, I had already hit keys worth three full words before I had to stop and wait for the phone to catch up. Without anything running in the background, I was able to stay at least one and half word ahead of the handset.
The interface is simple though and not all that jazzy. The main menu system has simple icons and the sub menus are just the names of features that scroll up or down. The desktop uses specifically designed wall papers or simply expands an image from the photo gallery to suite the round display by cutting out the edges and centering on the middle of the picture. It manages to do this quite well, just make sure that the picture has enough space around the subject you wish the focus to be on.
Audio and Video
The bundled earphones are proprietary (micro USB) so you cant use your own. They’re reasonably comfortable to use but the audio output from the handset was just too darn low for liking. I figured the sound engine would help me keep those unnecessary, unwanted ‘Sounds of Commuting’ at bay, but it didn’t help at all. Then again, this is not a handset that a commuter might use. In my opinion the music player is present simply as part and parcel of a high end handset’s make up, although in our test labs, that are sound proof, the quality of the audio was pretty good. I just couldn’t enjoy my music anywhere else.
For manipulating the sound, Motorola has included a set of EQ presets. These will cease to function if you activate the Bass Boost. The Spatial Audio option allows you to throw in a bit of virtual surround to the ambiance. It widens the frequencies a bit and once again let me just say that I’d have enjoyed it so much more had I been able to hear the music. For some strange reason Motorola regards the number 7 as a bench mark as the highest decibel level is 7 and so is the highest option for Bass Boost and Spatial Audio. All the settings, if accurately applied to your taste will no doubt, enhance the audio quality for you, but still does nothing for the level of output.
There’s no FM radio which makes me wonder again why would someone pay this much money for a handset if it lacks simple functions that can be found in handsets that cost less than 5 percent of the price. It does have a voice record as heaven help the rich, they love to leave their voice notes.
The Aura will playback MPEG4 files provided the frame rate is accurately altered to suit the handset. 3GP file formats work just fine. The funniest thing, and it’s even funnier now as I recall, someone asked Motorola’s Brand Ambassador Abhishek Bachchan at the launch - Will videos also play rounded? He had a good launch of course but I myself was very curious to see what a rectangular video would look like in a round frame. The videos that played looked good but it was quite weird watching a video like that. I’ll let the image better explain my point. The screen’s too small so you won’t be able to watch full length videos. Short clips will be fine.
A few games have been thrown in, but with a slow interface it makes playing some of them a bit of a pain. The Real Dice Slots would have looked and felt much better were the rotations smoother. The Hearts game is fun but again a bit slow even on fast mode. There are always a couple of second to wait before the next round.
The Aura supports EDGE and GPRS. It’s a pity they couldn’t fit Wi-Fi or even 3G in the budget. Motorola and BPL, sorry, Loop Mobile, don’t seem to get along as there was no pre loaded option for my service although there were settings readily available for Vodafone, Airtel and even idea. Loop was not very useful when it came to providing settings for the handset as usual and since there’re currently undergoing a change, the original settings have been altered and the website is not as helpful as it was when BPL was in charge. I used a friends a friend’s Vodafone chip as my final recourse.
But back to the browser, once again like the video player, you’ll see a box inside a circle. It’s not all that bad but because of the screen being so small, it’s not all that easy to read or navigate. You can use the Fit to Screen option and that puts things in a slightly different perspective, but there’s not too much of a difference. You can also opt to have the font display Large, which makes things a little untidy and that also means you’ll have to scroll a lot more. The browser, like in their other handset also allows you to open multiple pages.
The handset also supports Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and A2DP. USB 2.0 enables data transfer to quite speedy. The absence of yet another feature – GPS is also very evident. Google Maps look far too tiny in their boxed in setting and the menus are very tiny.
You can download your personal emails via the POP and IMAP service that the Aura has, like other handsets. Gmail for Mobile is also an issues as it arrears in a box as well and the font is too small.
Other, more mundane features like a calendar for keeping schedules and appointments, Task manager, Notes, a World Clock, Alarm and Calculator are all present and accounted for. Here too a few things are lacking like a converter and some for of a Mobile Tracker at least. After all, this is a rather expensive handset and wouldn’t you want to get it back if it went missing? While it may seem like some of Motorola’s own proprietary features like Motorola TEXT for backing up your text messages and Motorola BackUp for data are absent, Vufone, which is an integration of all of these is available. It’s a paid service but it’s quite worth it and very capable. Click here for more information.
Motorola’s Crystal Talk technology seems to be far batter with the Aura than some of the other handset’s I’ve tested. In the many conversations I had it was only on one occasion that the static was more than I could handle, but I also presume that was disturbance form the other end. People I called could always hear my voice clearly.
You will not be able to read any office documents unless they’re in .TXT format. This means that other than an eBook reader the handset is almost useless when it comes to any sort of business functionality.
I think they could have cut costs and gone with a 1.3 or VGA instead of a 2 megapixel lens. It baffles me as to why a handset with such a price couldn’t even have autofocus, even a 3.2MP would have helped. The camera settings are also very basic – White Balance, Color options, Scene modes that consist of Night and Automatic only, Multi Shot and an Auto timer.
Pictures taken in decent lighting are quite average but not always. Low light conditions make for very grainy images. You'll also have to have a very steady hand. On the handset's display though the images look absolutely perfect. So if you're going to just store and show images on the phone or use them as wallpapers you'll have no issues.
For a 2MP camera the night shot was not too bad though.
Although I read that Motorola promised a talktime of up to 7 hours, I was not counting on it. It didn’t deliver that. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t fare well in this department. On a single charge, I was able to use the handset for a little over two days before the battery completely draining. Talk time by itself, reached somewhere in the range of 4 hours and a few minutes which is not bad but cheaper handsets have done the same.
The Bottom Line
One Lakh, Eleven Thousand Four Hundred and Ninety Two! I just wanted to spell it out for the full effect. In a time when we need to be concerned with saving and we have people jumping off buildings because they thought they could afford devices like this and then stocks plummeted, releasing this device may not have been that good an idea. Let’s face it, the timing sucks. I mean 8 megapixel camera phones cost less than half the price now granted they don’t look half as good but they also have more than double the features. Then again this is not a handset for the average Joe, but more of Bling accessory for the celebrity kind of personality.
However, the only thing I can say the Aura truly has going for it are – Sex appeal, innovation in design and the overall beauty in the form factor. Of course all of those factors pretty much mean the same. The splendid round display can be both an innovation in technology and a hindrance when it comes to certain factors like the browser, video player and a few third party applications. Let me just leave you with this old clinker though - if you got it flaunt it. It’s a status symbol and nothing more.