Retro Phone Review: Motorola PEBL

An early Moto hit

Motorla PEBL

We're looking back at some of the most innovative and influential handsets of all time - this time, the Motorola PEBL V6. This sleek handset flaunted it's rock-like looks, and boasted a new hinge design with a magnetic closure, which was big news back in 2005.

Although the PEBL existed in a pre-Siri world (can you imagine?), it still had voice commands to let you dial up contacts hands free, and although it lacked a megapixel camera and only had 5MB (yes, FIVE) of storage with no expansion, it came with 39 different polyphonic ringtones. What a time to be alive.

Original review published December 2005

Some things are genuinely cool and stylish, others simply try to be. This latest offering from Motorola, however, really is the business. Smooth to the touch, tactile, curvaceous and elegant, it's set to be such a style icon, you just won't want to put it down.

It's not often a mobile phone is the lucky recipient of such compliments, but this little delight will definitely help you make friends and influence people.

Dubbed the PEBL (for obvious reasons – check out the smoothness, those curved edges and that 'just buffed' finish), this is just one of the graduates of Motorola's style stable. It sits alongside the 'king of thin' RAZR and slimmer-still candy bar-style SLVR to complete a trio of supermodels, each with something distinct and desirable to boast about.

Motorola PEBL
The PEBL opens up to reveal a smooth, attractive keypad and high quality display

The PEBL V6 has a real chic-ness about it; it's the kind of gadget that will attract covetous glances from colleagues and friends, while its almost soft textured feel makes it pleasant to hold. But looks are just the start – wait until you peep under the bonnet.

Features

It's not so much what's concealed beneath the PEBL's exterior, but how you get there that's of interest. Motorola's design team haven't skimped on anything here; just in case you want to be able to operate the PEBL single-handedly, the cover glides open in response to an ever-so-slight pull with your thumb.

The screen delicately pops open, revealing one heck of a classy interior. The designers have used an innovative new hinge design to keep the sleek lines of the PEBL true, together with a magnetic closure to avoid clunky clips and fastenings.

Motorola PEBL
A very smooth and sophisticated slide-and-open mechanism adds to the must-feel factor

Another nice design touch is the elongated vertical LCD screen on the front cover, a mono affair, which displays the caller's details, clock (with the numbers stylishly balanced on top of each other), battery level and ring mode.

Inside is another design winner. The keypad, in the same vein as Motorola's other two classy stablemates, is flat and smooth, with just a few raised protrusions around the numbers to help your fingers keep their bearings.

The only problem with having something as sleek and shiny as this, however, is that it does get easily marked by greasy fingers (as does the screen after pressing the phone up against your cheek).

The large-enough 176 x 220 262k-colour TFT LCD screen gives great colour definition, and it feels big enough to use as a viewfinder for taking pictures and watching videos on, too.

As usual with this generation of Motorolas, shortcut graphics icons can be displayed on top, or hidden from view. Softkeys under the screen take you to your messages and WAP services, while the centre of the circular rocker key gives you access to the menu.

Around this, the four way pad allows you fast access to whichever functions you have allocated to the fast access keys. On the phone's right-hand side, a quick press of a button takes you straight to a bunch of voice commands.

PEBL
Motorola has opted for an unusual but striking mono panel design on the PEBL

For instance, you can use it for voice dialling, digit dialling (you simply say the number and the phone will recognise it and dial for you), to access the camera and voicemail, among other options.

The speakerphone is also just a button press away, which is really handy – often you have to trawl through menu systems to find this.

A long press of the button takes you to the voice recording function, which is handy for voice memos or recording snippets of calls. Two other keys on the left also provide quick access to menu options.

The PEBL features a standard VGA (640 x480 pixels) camera, which is slightly disappointing – it's a shame such a nifty mobile doesn't a sport megapixel unit to complement the high-class styling.

It features the usual image controls, such as a 4x digital zoom and brightness control,while you can also record video clips (at maximum resolution of 176x144 pixels); you can set it up for either a few seconds, or for longer clips as the memory allows.

PEBL
Small and discreet, the front mounted camera offers maximum VGA quality resolution

Video playback is offered for clips you've downloaded or transferred to your phone. There's a lot that you can do to customise your phone – as well as 39 different polyphonic ringtones, including MP3 tunes, you can compose your own with Motorola's iMelody, which is fun.

There are three Themes to choose from (in terms of colours and backdrop), while eight pictures are pre-stored. Mobile internet access is also catered for through WAP, while one Java game and an application come as standard.

Rebels is the classic arcade space shoot 'em up (graphics are not bad and it's fun for a while). For something a bit longer-lasting, the Fitness app is pretty neat – whether you want to find out the nutritional value of a certain food, how many calories you can burn doing your favourite exercise or keep a phone journal of your diet and exercise regime.

You can add recipes, find out your ideal weight and add definite goals to keep you going long after your willpower alone lets you down.

Connectivity is good – the PEBL boasts Bluetooth. There's also an email client which supports POP3, SMTP and IMAP4 email accounts, plus other handy features include a calculator, calendar and alarm clock.

Performance

Simplicity is the key – this is a stylish phone which marries up a straightforward menu system with uncluttered graphics. Battery life was good – our sample lasted over six days after making around 15 minutes of calls, and taking pictures and videos.

Making and receiving calls is a doddle, with call quality easily up to spec. Feature-wise, the PEBL hasn't moved on greatly from Motorola's RAZR, which was launched some time ago – we would have expected a megapixel camera or at least an MP3 player to bring it up alongside other up-to-the-minute Motorola mobiles.

PEBL
The Motorla PEBL is 20mm thick

The addition of video recording is welcome, though it would be good to get swappable memory to bump up the 5MB storage. But let's not lose sight of what the PEBL has also been designed for: looking good and feeling great.

If style is what you're after, then this is where it's at. The PEBL is definitely an attention-grabber – and seems to attract positive purring from both men and women alike. And believe us when we say that everyone will want a feel...

Verdict

The Motorloa PEBL came out at a time when smartphones were transitioning from bulky rectangles that you felt you had to carry around with you, to stylishly designed bits of kit that you'd be proud of showing off to people.

As is unfortunately still the way, style came at the cost of substance, so although the Moto PEBL was a looker - for its time – it lacked a megapixel camera.

Motorola's competitors, most noticeably Sony and Nokia, had been proving that phones could pack decent digital cameras as well, which left the PEBL's VGA feeling out of date even then.

In other areas, especially the design, the PEBL impressed, getting a score of 82% in issue 139 of Total Mobile.

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