Motorola MotoSmart review

Do nice things ever come in very small and very cheap packages?

Hands on with the Motorola MotoSmart
Is it smart enough to thrive at a low, low price?

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We don't totally hate the poor little phone. The Motorola MotoSmart is solidly made and can perform most smartphone tasks well enough.

But the combination of a low-res display, shockingly limited onboard app storage space, awful stills camera and a rather visually bland and outdated version of Android means the phone simply has no real reasons to recommend it over similarly priced Android competitors.

We liked

The Motorola MotoSmart feels surprisingly heavy and solid for its small size and budget price, with a really nice metallic sliding rear cover giving it a touch of class.

Some of Motorola's new widgets are pretty sweet. The Activity and Social Graph widgets are clever additions to Android, which generate their own list of apps and contacts depending on what phone features you use and who you call the most often.

The onboard speaker is loud and generates some decent bass, while the pre-loaded TuneWiki music player and its Shoutcast internet radio integration means you'll never be short of something to listen to.

We disliked

The version of Android 2.3.6 Motorola's used here is pretty grim and grey when compared to what you find in many other Android phones today. The music player's ancient, and the menus are the bland old grey tiles Android used back in 2009. It's not pretty.

The camera is awful. Being rated at 3 megapixels meant our expectations weren't high, but the images that emerge are really terrible. Vague, blotchy, angular lumps replace grass and trees, plus it's so poor at reproducing colour you might think you've got some sort of retro black and white filter activated. But no. It's just rubbish.

The onboard memory limitation ruins the Motorola MotoSmart. With only around 150MB free for apps, you'll run out of space within minutes of firing it up and hitting Google Play. With some of today's essential apps hovering around the 30MB mark, only providing 150MB to play with is an amazingly dumb move.

Final verdict

The Motorola MotoSmart is physically a solid little phone, but it's let down internally by shockingly limited onboard memory, a poor screen and rather duff camera.

We understand there's a big market for cheap smartphones, but Motorola has cut so many corners with the Motorola MotoSmart it may as well come in an octagonal case.

The Motorola MotoSmart's £99 (around AU$155/US$159) Pay As You Go asking price could instead get you the awesome Huawei Ascend G300, which is vastly better across the board, as is the Sony Xperia Tipo, which offers a better spec and arrives with Android 4.0 as its operating system for the same money.

In the end, we can't help but think that the hobbled and disappointing Motorola MotoSmart only serves to dent the ambitions of Motorola and Google, because surely anyone who uses this will form the conclusion that Android's a load of rubbish and Motorola's a bit of a joke, and will therefore head off straight to the nearest Apple Store.