Shamelessly aimed at fashion-conscious mobile shoppers, Motorola's Motoluxe has big ideas and lofty ambitions. The thin and alluring case design draws you in close enough for the phone to whisper sweet nothings in your ear about its 8-megapixel camera and large 4-inch LCD screen, but the beauty only goes skin-deep.
Once you get to know the phone, its shortcomings are brutally exposed. Instead of dual-core power -- which is slowly but surely creeping into the mid-range phone market -- the Motoluxe apologetically serves up a ponderous 800MHz single-core chip. What's more, the camera's large megapixel count makes the terrible quality of the photos it captures all the more disappointing.
Should I buy the Motorola Motoluxe?
If you value looks over user experience and form over function, then the answer is yes. The Motoluxe is all mouth and no trousers -- it has an under-powered CPU, runs an outdated version of Android and features an 8-megapixel camera, which promises much and delivers very little.
While the phone's lush design and large 4-inch screen are to be commended, the lack of muscle beneath that rubberised chassis presents a real problem. The user experience is sluggish and unsatisfying, and Motorola's stripped-down MotoSwitch skin adds little value to the existing Android 2.3 arrangement.
Aside from looking reasonably attractive, the Motoluxe doesn't really excel in any other respect, making it a poor choice for Android devotees.
Motorola is being pretty vocal about how gorgeous it thinks the Motoluxe is, and I agree with the hyperbole to some extent. It may not be the thinnest smart phone on the market, but the Motoluxe is still a fairly svelte customer, measuring 9.9mm at its thickest point.
Although it boasts a 4-inch screen, the Motoluxe's frame is very compact indeed. Apart from the interface area at the bottom, there's not all that much of a bezel around that 480x854-pixel display. This gives the device similar dimensions to Apple's world-beating iPhone 4S but with a screen that's half an inch larger from corner to corner. Speaking of the display, it's bright and bold, showcasing a good level of detail and impressive viewing angles.
The Motoluxe is clad in a rubber-like coating, which improves grip and feels nice under the fingers. Here and there you'll also find metal components, which lend the handset a premium feel.
One of the things I really liked about the Motoluxe's design is the notification light, which is cunningly concealed inside the lanyard hole. This light pulses a different colour depending on the alert -- a text message will cause it to glow green and during charging a red hue is displayed. Although some may find the size of this light to be a little overbearing, I found it was more useful than some of the tiny, easily overlooked examples seen on other Android handsets.
Processing power and internal storage
Although it's pitched as a mid-level handset, the Motoluxe offers bargain-basement power. The 800MHz CPU is disappointingly weak. It's the same speed as the one seen in the Motorola Defy -- a mid-range challenger from over a year ago.
With phones like the Huawei Ascend G300 offering 1GHz chips for less than £100, it's hard to see why Motorola would go with a less powerful variant in a more expensive device. The lack of power means that the Motoluxe rarely offers a user experience that lives up to its name. Navigation between home screens is appallingly sluggish and application multi-tasking is so painfully slow that I found myself deliberately using as few programs as possible to ensure smooth performance.
This lack of speed can also be attributed to the fact that the Motoluxe only has 512MB of RAM. Internal storage is equally lacklustre, with around 400MB on board -- of which, only 300MB is available to the user for the installation of apps and games. Because it's running Android 2.3, the Motoluxe is able to store some app data on the bundled 2GB SD card, but this doesn't entirely solve the problem.
Some data has to be retained in the internal memory, and if you're fond of downloading stuff from the Google Play app market, you may find that you run out of space sooner rather than later.
Motorola is one of those handset manufacturers that still seems to have a lot of faith in Gingerbread. Like its companion the Defy Mini, the Motoluxe launches not with Android 4.0, but 2.3. I'd wager this is partly due to the weak nature of the processor, which would definitely struggle with the increased workload of Ice Cream Sandwich. Nevertheless, Motorola has stated that Android 4.0 will be coming to the handset in the fullness of time, but the lack of a solid timescale for this promise makes me more than a little sceptical.
While the lack of the latest firmware is disappointing, it's encouraging to see that Motorola has finally seen the light and has ditched the processor-intensive and needlessly-invasive MotoBlur user interface. In its place, we have a basic menu system known as MotoSwitch, which differs from the stock Android experience mainly in visual terms.
Motorola has added a few welcome embellishments though. The most striking is the custom lock screen, which snatches ideas from HTC's Sense UI and the standard Ice Cream Sandwich lock screen. The lock icon is presented as a circle (no doubt influenced by Apple's recent patent war on horizontal slide-to-unlock gestures), and dragging the key icon in the middle to the outside of the circle will unlock the device.
Around the perimeter of the circle you'll see shortcuts. Selecting and dragging one of these to the middle automatically opens that particular process or application, so you can jump straight to your calendar or dialler in one step. Sadly, the camera isn't one of the shortcuts, and as far as I can ascertain, there's no way of editing the options available.
I also liked the Social and Activity graph widgets, which were seen previously on the Defy Mini. These track your frequently called contacts and most-used applications respectively, and feature shortcut icons that grow and shrink depending on their popularity. It's not the most original idea, but it works -- especially after you've spent a few days with the phone and allowed it to compile an accurate picture of your most-called pals and most-used programs.
There are seven home screens by default, but you can add two more to bring the total up to nine. Having such a massive canvas on which to spread your shortcuts and widgets is liberating, but the reality is that the Motoluxe just isn't powerful enough to keep all those balls in the air. Like me, you'll soon find yourself using as few home screens as possible to maintain a modicum of speed and reliablity.
Camera and video
The Motoluxe is one of the first mid-range Android phones I've seen with an 8-megapixel camera -- the same count as the recently-unveiled Samsung Galaxy S3, no less. However, as any good photography enthusiast will tell you, all the megapixels in the world don't mean a thing if the camera itself is lousy. Sadly, that's exactly the word I'd use to describe the Motoluxe's snapper.
Shots are plagued with heavy compression effects, which conspire to suck the life and beauty out of well-composed pictures. Light objects are often overexposed, robbing them of detail and making your snaps look like a series of disconnected blobs.
Macro shooting fares little better, with the Motoluxe's sensor failing to pick out close-quarters detail. The LED flash is intended to make low-light photography possible, but I found that it simply bathed images in too much light, resulting in unnatural, unattractive colours. Also, when shooting into the middle distance, the flash often proved too weak to illuminate the subject.
With a camera boasting 8 megapixels, you might naively assume that the Motoluxe also has HD video recording. Alas, that isn't the case -- the best you're going to get here is WVGA, which has a standard-definition resolution of 800x480 pixels. To be fair, the footage it produces isn't terrible and it should serve if all you intend to do is share the videos via email or YouTube.
Internet and battery life
That lovely 4-inch screen offers the perfect platform for browsing colourful and feature-rich sites, and the Motoluxe's support for Adobe Flash makes web content more dynamic. Sadly, it also impacts performance and brings the browser to a crawl. Often the loss of performance is so severe that you'll have no option but to disable Flash plug-in support. Navigating the Internet on the Motoluxe isn't really all that nippy, even with Flash switched off.
The phone's removable 1,400mAh rechargeable battery may not have the largest capacity ever, but the Motoluxe's modest power demands mean that it could potentially outlast its more ambitious rivals. As ever, stamina depends largely on what kind of activities you're indulging in.
Used sparingly, I found that the handset could be coaxed into lasting a day or two between charges, but a few hours playing games, hitting the web and watching videos drained the juice at an alarming rate. Even so, I'd feel a little more confident that the Motoluxe would see me through the day than I would with some quad-core monsters.
In many respects, the Motoluxe is quite a confused product. The appealing aesthetics and 8-megapixel camera hint at top-level aspirations, but the 800MHz processor and lack of Android 4.0 bring Motorola's latest blower down to earth with a bump.
Granted, the Motoluxe is intended as a mid-range challenger and has a modest price to boot, but the problem is it isn't anywhere near low enough to compete with handsets like the HTC One V.
Instead, the Motoluxe is placed in the same class as handsets like the aforementioned Ascend G300, which showcases a 1GHz processor for less than £100. Unless Motorola's design really gets your pulse racing, there's little reason to pick this over a more powerful -- and cheaper -- alternative.