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Review of Motorola's unique BACKFLIP Android smartphone for AT&T

Review by Michael Oryl on Monday March 15, 2010.

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Motorola, a company that has seen better days, has largely placed its corporate bet that the Android smartphone operating system is going to be a big winner. As such, the company has put out an impressive number of Android-powered smartphones in the past 6 months. The BACKFLIP for AT&T, the subject of this review, shares much in terms of hardware specs and software with other MOTOBLUR-equipped Android smartphones from Motorola, like the CLIQ and DEVOUR.

That's certainly not a bad thing, as we've found those devices to all be quite capable. But there is one thing that the BACKFLIP, as its name implies, does very differently. Its unique reverse folding clamshell form factor provided Motorola with an opportunity to do some things differently this time around. Read on to see how it all turned out.

Physical Aspects

The Motorola BACKFLIP features an interesting industrial design, thanks to that reverse-folding clamshell form factor. It is a good looking, if nontraditional, phone. The 3.1-inch, 480 x 320 pixel (HVGA) capacitive touchscreen(INFO) display dominates the front of the phone, and sits above 3 touch-sensitive controls for menu, home, and back. The touch buttons work very well, but are still prone to occasionally being activated by a finger that loses its way while handling the phone. The display is bright and crisp, and the touchscreen itself is quite responsive, seeming better than the one on the similarly equipped Motorola CLIQ.

In its default folded state, the 4-row QWERTY keyboard serves as the back of the device. The keys are made of a solid plastic membrane that keeps out dust and pocket lint. The 5 megapixel camera and its LED flash sit in the bottom left hand of the keyboard, and are therefore facing away from the user when the phone is folded, like a traditional camera, but face towards the user when the phone is opened up for making use of the QWERTY keyboard. This makes self-portraits and the like very easy to shoot.

The keyboard itself has left me unimpressed, though. There is actually too much room on the keyboard for my liking. One's fingers need to travel a lot further to type out a message on the BACKFLIP than would be required by Motorola's other QWERTY keyboard-equipped Android smartphones. On top of that, the keys themselves have a relatively poor feel, owing largely to that plastic membrane that keeps out all of the dust. I personally would have preferred a more compact keyboard configuration that included a d-pad controller of some sort, as is found on the CLIQ and the DROID.

Since the BACKFLIP lacks a d-pad, Motorola placed what it calls a BACKTRACK controller on the rear side of the display that can be manipulated with a fingertip while the keyboard is in use. The small rectangular patch functions just like a trackpad on a laptop computer would, converting dragging motions and double-taps into scrolling and clicking. It works well enough, but my large hands continually activate it by accident, wreaking havoc on whatever task is at hand. Thankfully it can be disabled entirely in the BACKFLIP's settings.

When left in a semi-open position, the unusual reverse-folding design of the BACKFLIP allows it to be used as a desktop clock, much like the Motorola DROID does when placed in its charging dock. In fact, when opened up in this way and placed on a flat surface, the BACKFLIP will automatically launch the clock application so that the phone can be used as a desktop clock (assuming you plug it in). The semi-open position also makes the BACKFLIP great for watching movies while the phone sits on a desktop.

The Motorola BACKFLIP features a metal battery cover that is exposed when the phone is opened up, and it has a nice design on it. The cover can be removed to access the battery, the SIM card slot, and the slot for the microSD(INFO) memory card, which can be swapped out without having to remove the battery.

There are a few hardware controls and buttons on the BACKFLIP. A power switch sits up on the top edge of the phone next to a 3.5mm headphone jack. The power switch can be long pressed to bring up a menu for toggling airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the phone's GPS system. The right hand edge of the phone, when closed, is where you will find a volume control, an uncovered micro-USB power/data port, and the dual-stage camera shutter button. All of these things work quite well, in my experience.

In fact, everything about the BACKFLIP's design is very solid. Nothing is loose, there's no creaking, and the phone feels up to the task of heavy messaging. The fact that it only weighs 141.7g (5.0oz) and measures a respectable 112.5mm x 53mm x 16.5mm (4.4in x 2.1in x .6in) adds further to the good feelings I have for the hardware design as a whole. It's just some of the details, like the feel and layout of the keyboard and the decision to use the BACKTRACK for navigation, that leave an unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth.

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Rocky @ 2:19:21PM EDT on Monday March 15, 2010

can not the user install google app and use the voice search on this phone, so why u said b'coz of yahoo seach u can not do voice search

Nicky @ 2:49:29PM EDT on Tuesday March 16, 2010

Anyone know how to turn off the alarm when it sounds? I have snooze set for 10 min. Is it the camera button on the side? I scramble in the dark to find a sure spot to touch/push. Thanks.

Larry @ 12:30:03PM EDT on Friday March 19, 2010

Keyboard left you unimpressed because of 'too much room'. ROFLMAO. You must hate your laptop/desktop keyboard.

Michael Oryl @ 1:07:05PM EDT on Friday March 19, 2010

@Larry - If I had to type on my PC's keyboard with just my thumbs, yeah - I would hate it. That's the problem here with the BACKFLIP.

G-Lo @ 6:14:50PM EDT on Friday March 19, 2010

I bought the backflip on sun 03/14 and the battery doesnt last more than 15-20 hours even with no use and gps and other apps turned off. switched the battery today so i'll let u know how that turns out

sunnyboy @ 6:04:19PM EDT on Sunday March 21, 2010

OK well there mixed reactions around and i want a new phone fast but i kind of want to wait and see what other android phones att is going to release. any advice?
does the phone hav a accelerometer or do u have to open the keyboard to get landscape?
can you change the yahoo search widget and hav voice search?
how laggy is it?
and is the browser decent?
Also can you turn off motoblur and just use plain android?

Caramel Cupcakes @ 12:45:11PM EDT on Wednesday April 7, 2010

how much iz it someone anwser

JazzyPHU!!! @ 9:53:18PM EDT on Monday April 12, 2010

tis is a great cell phone im gonna try 2 switch my phone to at&t instead of having VERIZON WIRELESS [But theres only 1 problem... HOW DO U DO TAT!!!

unknown @ 11:55:11PM EDT on Tuesday April 13, 2010

i relly want tat phone

Diamond Diva @ 12:14:17PM EDT on Thursday April 15, 2010

I love this phone. At first, I wondered why I had to charge it 3-4 times a day. After my daughter told me to turn off all the features (wireless), I had no problems. The phone is very sensitive to touch. Once you become familiar with the phone, you are good to go. Voice dial is wonderful. The greatest thing is that you will not be able to text while driving.

JB @ 4:50:53AM EDT on Wednesday April 28, 2010

How do you clear out history ?

firecracker @ 2:29:54PM EDT on Tuesday May 18, 2010

love dis phone bout to get it saturday gonna luv it

Lovestolaugh93 @ 10:24:15AM EDT on Thursday May 27, 2010

This phone looks amazing ! :D
I can't wait to get it !!!

fia @ 1:02:30PM EDT on Sunday June 6, 2010


HLloves....? @ 1:19:41PM EDT on Wednesday June 9, 2010

Okay, I have Sprint and this is a ATandT phone. I reeaaallly want this phone so how would it work. My birthday is comeing up so please someone answer.

sandy @ 9:50:20AM EDT on Monday June 21, 2010

love the features but am losing friends because they can't understand me when I talk on it..no matter where I am..this is a ton of people who refuse to try to understand my voice on it now..this is my SECOND one...neither one works for my voice..HELP!!!

jones @ 12:46:05AM EDT on Friday October 22, 2010

my battery on mine only last like 12 hours what is wrong with mine?

Monty @ 11:58:28PM EDT on Friday November 5, 2010

This phone does have some good features. As for the ATT model. if you are next to a tower you will be fine.. it trys to force 3G when none is available so you get no signal even if 2G is available. Trying to get information from ATT gets nothing.. They say this is a 3G only phone? of course its not. Are they lying or ignorant? Any attempt to resume problems are met with ignoring of emails, telling lies, or sending you to a store where you will get a signal.. I am VERY upset that I baught this phone and they will not take it back. So to you out there.. if you get a Backflip do not get ATT..

Mack @ 4:35:31AM EST on Tuesday December 14, 2010

This phone does have a D-pad on the keyboard...

briah @ 7:45:55PM EST on Friday December 24, 2010

lol i have this phone i just it today and i really like it and it took forever but i found a cute case for it i had to go almost on every street in canal new orleans to find it lol but i got one and i like the phone so @ thumbs up lol now im about to go to my room and play on it more lol (: <33

Maria @ 10:53:50PM EST on Friday February 11, 2011

This phone is so cute...but i just want a yes or no if its good?!

Sydni @ 3:25:10PM EDT on Sunday March 13, 2011

They suck! Do not get a backflip.. They are not worth buying at all!!!! They break very easily and the screens are a piece of junk!They turn off in the middle of everything and restart the whole phone. Theres not really many cool features on this phone at all. The battery life sucks! I can go somewhere fully charged and come back and barely used it at all and it will be almost dead. Dont make my mistake. Buy a different phone. Everybody I know who has this phone HATES it!

blake @ 2:37:01PM EDT on Friday March 25, 2011

I second everything Sydni said above. Same problems. do not buy this phone!

Helee @ 12:49:11AM EDT on Tuesday March 29, 2011

Blake and Syndi. What sort of problems have you had? I got one for my son, it wouldn't hold its charge and 4days after buying it the charging port (soft plastic) came out of the side of the phone when the USB charging cord was removed. The inside of the phone was totally screwed by this coming out. The store says it was excessive force and wont refund!

About the author

Michael Oryl
Michael is the Philadelphia based owner and former editor-in-chief of MobileBurn.com. You can follow him on Twitter as @MichaelOryl

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