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Motorola Aura : Aura of bling

tech-reviews Updated: Apr 28, 2009 19:47 IST
Shayne Rana
Shayne Rana
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The Aura is designed for those who want a handset that caters to their tastes in not just the features it offers, but also the way it looks. But exclusivity and the work of art look aside, here’s the big question — is the Aura really worth its Rs 1,11,492 price tag?

Form
The Aura is the first and only handset to have a full 1.5-inch circular display that employs 16 million colours, 480 pixels and a 300 dpi resolution. This stunning display is safely nestling behind scratch-resistant 62-carat sapphire crystal. The curve of the glass makes the display even more visually appealing.
Encased in stainless steel with chemically etched textures, the Aura is a sophisticated handset that exudes class and a bit of distinction. The swivel outer panel is swung around by 130 precision ball bearings. I noticed that the bottom of the keypad (lower level) seemed to lose a little colour as it got scratched by the upper potion each time I opened the handset.

Features
The phone’s features include a calendar, task manager, notes, world clock, alarm and calculator. There’s no converter or mobile tracker; the latter would’ve been especially relevant for a handset this expensive. Motorola’s Crystal Talk technology seems to work at its best in the Aura; anyone I called could hear my voice ‘crystal’ clear.
Some of Motorola’s own proprietary features, like Motorola TEXT for backing up your messages and BackUp for data, are absent from the array. On the other hand, there’s Vufone, which integrates all these features. It’s a paid service, but well worth the expense. Do note that you will not be able to read any office documents on this handset unless they’re in .TXT format. This means that the handset’s business functionality is fairly limited.

Audio and video
The bundled earphones work on a proprietary port (micro USB), so you won’t be able to substitute them with your own. They’re reasonably comfortable but the handset’s audio output is too low and the sound engine doesn’t cut outside noise. Motorola has included a bunch of EQ presets, but these stop functioning if you activate Bass Boost. Spatial Audio allows you to enjoy virtual surround, which would’ve been more enjoyable had I actually been able to hear the music. There’s a voice recorder, but no FM radio.
Aura plays MPEG4 files provided the frame rate is altered to suit it. 3GP works fine. The videos look good, if a bit weird — rectangular in a round frame. The screen’s too small to watch full length videos.

Connectivity
The Aura supports EDGE and GPRS, but there’s no Wi-Fi or 3G, which is a pity. The browser is a box inside the circular display and while it’s not terrible, it’s not easy to read either. You can use the Fit to Screen option but it doesn’t help too much.
The handset also supports Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and A2DP, enabling speedy data transfer. But the absence of another important feature — GPS — is very noticeable. Google Maps and the menus look far too tiny in their boxed-in setting.
You can download your mail via the POP and IMAP service that’s similar to most other handsets. However, there be some problems; for eg, with Gmail for Mobile you’ll find the font is too small when it’s reduced to fit the boxed-in display.

Camera
It baffles me that a handset this expensive has only a 2 megapixel camera with no autofocus. The camera settings are also very basic — there are white balance and colour options; the scene modes only include night and automatic only; and there is a multi shot and an auto timer.
Pictures taken in good light turn out rather average, while those shot in low light are grainy. You’ll need a very steady hand to take photos with this phone’s camera. However, the images look perfect on the handset’s own display, so if that’s all you’re planning to use them for, there’s no problem.
The night shot wasn’t too bad for a 2 MP camera.

Games
A few games have been thrown in, but the slow interface makes playing them a pain. The Real Dice Slots would have looked and felt much better were the rotations smoother. The Hearts game is fun but again a bit slow, even on fast mode. There are always a couple of second to wait before the next round.

Battery
Motorola promised a talktime of up to 7 hours, but it hasn’t delivered that. On a single charge, I was able to use the handset for a little over two days before the battery drained completely draining. Talktime was about 4 hours and a few minutes, which is not bad.

Keypad
The keypad is large and easy to use but sometimes the handset’s weight (141 g) does make typing a bit of an issue. The round navigation pad is only four way but all the relevant keys for activation and returning to previous menus are close at hand. There are no other keys on the handset save the volume keys on the side that can also be used for zooming in with the camera.
At the back of the handset, a transparent casing reveals three tungsten-carbide coated gears that assist in the handset’s panel rotation. You can see the gears in action while rotating the panel.

Interface
The interface is simple and too jazzy. But though it has been designed to suit the round display, it’s very sluggish. With the audio player on in the background, writing a message becomes cumbersome. Even with the auto-complete feature, which is quite remarkable, I had already keyed in three full words and had to wait for the phone to catch up. Without anything on in the background, I was able to stay at least one and half word ahead of the handset.

Performance
The Aura is a fancy phone designed with a unique blend of materials. it has a sophisticated look and one of the most brilliant and innovative displays I’ve seen. But under that unique exterior is a pretty standard Motorola handset with very, very standard features.

Verdict
With an economic slowdown on and stocks plummeting, Motorola probably chose a bad time to release this device. Especially given the fact that some new 8 megapixel camera phones on the block cost less than half the price and offer twice the features.
The one thing going for the Aura is its looks. The splendid round display can be both an innovation in technology and a hindrance when it comes to using the browser and video player. We’d say this one’s a status symbol and no more. http://tech2.in.com/go/65212