Think organic. Think of a bar of soap. Think, as Motorola clearly has, of pebbles on a beach. You are starting to think about the Pebl. Unusual handset designs are not exactly rare, but the Pebl is more unusual than most in that it's minimalist rather than flashy, curvy rather than angular, matte black rather than any-colour shiny.
You might also see this handset referred to as the V6, but in a world of meaningless letters and numbers we're sticking to its more descriptive name. The Pebl is available from free on O2 and Orange contracts starting at £20, or SIM-free online for about £230.
Motorola's Pebl affirms the company's interest in producing handsets with strong physical design. Unlike the Razr V3, which was all thinness and angularity, the Pebl is more about rounded edges, comfort and softness.
It's a very small handset, just 49 by 87 by 20 mm, and it doesn't weigh much either, at just 110g. It feels very comfortable in the hand because of these dimensions, its rounded edges and symmetrical appearance, and the material used to make its outer casing, which has a soft, almost rubbery feel.
In order to keep the outer shell design as sleek as possible, Motorola has included only one connector -- a mini-USB type for both charging and sharing data with a PC. The side buttons, of which there are three, have no markings to indicate their functions -- they'd detract from the look. So you're going to have to remember what they are for.
There is a tall, thin outer screen whose colouring has been kept strictly two-tone so that it does not shout out from the blackness surrounding it. It sits on a rounded -- of course -- strip of shinier material that also houses the lens for the built-in camera and a large Motorola icon.
This icon has an important function apart from pushing the company logo at you -- it's the perfect spot to place your thumb in order to gently pull the upper part of the clamshell towards you. Think of it as stroking. Do this correctly and the lid springs open of its own accord.
The mechanism is impressive when it works, but you may need to practice, not only with the stroking part, which we found took a while to get just right, but also with keeping hold of the handset. As the lid opens, the Pebl's centre of balance changes, and we found it falling out of our hands onto the floor until we learned how to anchor it. (Here's how: ensure your forefinger protrudes a little from the top edge of the casing, so it catches the lid as it opens fully, and use your little finger to exercise some grip.)
Inside the clamshell you are greeted with a Razr-like shiny number pad with a metal-look finish. It's lovely to behold, and hitting the keys, which are not raised but rather separated by curved bevels, was no problem. However, our fingers left smears on the super-shiny surface, which detracted from the overall look, and we found the navigation key and select button slightly on the small side.
The main screen is small too, but its 262k colours shout out bright and clear.
For a handset at the leading edge in design terms, the Pebl is rather behind the times in some respects.
On the plus side, the Pebl is quad-band, and there's plenty of built-in software, including a diary, a 1,000-entry phone book, multiple alarms, Web and WAP browser, email support and Java.