Telecom Motorola Backflip: A Pocketable Trainwreck

A funny thing happened today. The Motorola Backflip appeared, unannounced, at my door, with a note from Telecom. It said something about a four-week loan and added:
[quote]We’d love to know what you think of the Backflip, and would appreciate your feedback via your media channels, social media or otherwise.[/quote]
Sure. I’ll let you know what I think: this phone is a piece of trash. It’s a pocketable train wreck, as @Polarbearfarm suggested. Do I sound angry? I am.

It starts with the proud announcement from Telecom that the phone is “powered by Google’s Android 1.5 operating system”. Would that be the 18 month old 1.5 release that performs horribly, doesn’t support WPA-Enterprise WiFi and will only be upgraded at Motorola’s whim? Android 1.5 is a blight on the smartphone landscape and it is shameful that carriers are still foisting this bullshit on unsuspecting buyers.

Then you turn the phone on, and unbelievably it gets worse. Motorola demands that you register with their MotoBlur service. The phone is a worthless brick until you hand over an email address and password to Motorola. You can’t hit the home screen or make a phonecall. And why? So you can hand further information to Motorola by tying your Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts to MotoBlur. It doesn’t even use third-party OAuth to do so, it asks for your passwords in the clear, with no warning.

And the hardware: the keyboard is clunky, the performance anemic, and the stupid touchpad on the back of the screen is impossible to use and emits random click events as you use it.

I’m really, really sorry Telecom, but I just can’t in good conscience recommend this phone to anyone. I’m surprised it came to me outside of the regular PR channels. Maybe they were too ashamed? It’s the comedy smartphone option for stupid people. Save yourself $300 and get the IDEOS from 2Degrees.


  1. Hey Ben,

    I don’t care if your angry, you have a hell of apoint.
    Why can telecom get any good phones? i.e the HTC Trophy or even the iPhone 4? It’s because they botched the launch of their network, and no rightful smartphone company trusts them?

    Vodaphone has got the smartphone market – they are global, and have built up a solid reputation. Their only downside is perhaps texting plans, thus teen market share, but for serious business users using data or mins – awesome.

    So if/when telecom restore their reputation, then the carrier will get some decent smartphones.. till then… we’ll have old 1.5 Android and no iPhone or Win Phone 7 phones to boot.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m on XT, and generally happy – but I hate the shitty data options and questionably reliable service. Oh..and paying RRP for the iPhone… That sucked. Seriously, they need to get in the game. Esp with mobile data and phone range.


    1. They do have the Sammy Galaxy which is one of the better Android phones around, and the Milestone is a solid device. But I see your point.

  2. heh!

    Yeah, the backflip is certsinly a weird beast, even without 1.5.

    With all of the cool motorola phones like the Milestone2, Droid X etc they COULD have bought in, why that one?

    Less than 15% of Android devices worldwide have less than 2.1 one now, and that might get down to single figures by the time SE has finished the X10 upgrades.

    Let’s face it, anyone who had a G1 probably already is running a custom 2.2 rom, and the same goes for HTC Hero and Magic (although TMobile has officially upgraded their version of the Magic, the MyTouch 3G, to 2.2, VF don’t seem inclined yet).

    The other carriers already have flagship devices with 2.2 (Nexus on VFNZ and HTC Desire on Orcon) or about to be (Galaxy S – VFNZ, HTC Legend – Orcon)so Telecom are really dragging the chain on Android. They haven’t even got the Milestone 1 Froyo upgrade.

    1. …and that’s exactly why you should all get an iPhone. It just *works*. None of this “custom 2.2 rom” nonsense. You just plug it in, accept what Apple dictates as easy to use and reliable, and go about making calls and having fun.

      Speaking of fun: I remember back in the day, around ’02-’03, working on Motorola, and the exec team brought in the latest, greatest whatever-the-fuck-it-was model and said “We’ve got a $2.5m budget and we want to make this thing FLY!”.

      After *four minutes* of waiting for it to boot, we figured we could build a pretty fucking cool catapult for $2.5m. That’d make the fucker fly.

      1. …and that’s exactly why you should all get an iPhone. It just *works*.

        Tell that to the folks with with iOS4 installed on an iPhone 3G. Just works? Hardly works is more like it. Everyone has some trouble with versions, it’s a flat out lie to claim otherwise.

      2. …and that’s exactly why you should all get an iPhone.

        …or a Windows Phone 7 phone (despite the stupidity of that phraseology).

  3. Just saw the Telecom Android add with all their great new Android phones.

    Moto Flipout (even weirder than the Backflip)

    LG Qwerty slider, slow underpowered and old.

    Milestone – nice phone, but they really need to pull finger on 2.2.

  4. To each their own.

    I ‘should’ nothing!.

    You get the phone YOU want, personally, I prefer, ‘I want, and I can do'” 🙂

    When I bought my Magic 18 months ago, it ‘just worked’.
    Granted there were only a couple of thousand apps on the Market then, but now there are upwards of 100,000 and increasing exponentially every month.

    My Magic was fine on 1.6 for over a year, and reliable, if not as capable as an iPhone 4, or not as slick as a 3Gs, it was at least comparable to it’s comtemporary the IP3G and I could do more with it.

    And until the IP4 came out with support for VFNZ 3G extended 900mHz, I could get faster and better internet than any VF iPhone 1, 3G or 3GS in more places.

    When it cme out of warranty I decided to play, and because I have always stuck to stable ROMS which are based on the standard android release I have never had a reliability issue.

    I use what meets my needs and none of the previous iPhones could cut it. I’m not anti Apple per se, I think the alloy Macbook Pro is beautiful and love my little 2nd Gen iPod shuffle for running.

    I also think the 5th Gen Nano is pretty cool but the 3rd gen shuffle was an unusable piece of crap and I can’t stand the look of the current Nano – eewww!

    [rant]And don’t get me started on iTunes; what a shitty piece of bloatware masquerading as a modern media manager. [/rant]

    Is it nonsense that I can easily extend the working life of my smartphone that cost me a fair amount of money and make it in fact faster and more capable for zero cost as the OS has matured?

    It should easily last out my contract without any need for an annual refresh.

    If I go out tomorrow and buy a new HTC Desire I will get a brand new kickass phone that ‘just works’ with Android 2.2 and I can personalise it to my requirements and make it my own (without resorting to any custom firmware) in a way that just isn’t possible with any iPhone.

    That’s what I want from my phone. Other people will have different requirements, and choose what suits them, but I’m not going to tell people what they ‘should’ be doing.

    I haven’t ssen enough of WP7 yet to form an opinion, but I will watch with interest.

  5. OK, I take it back, I see why you were raging last night. 🙂
    It’s like they found the worst phone possible to foist off to people who don’t know better. It LOOKS shiny and pretty, and most people who buy this will be looking at that.

    To be perfectly fair though, Vodafone has it’s own brick. The Vodafone 845. So it’s not Telecom specific. All networks seem to have their “cheap crap phones to lure unsuspecting users.”

    1. The vodafone 845 is a good deal for $200 (not for more than thought)
      The 845 is running 2.1 and has all the smartphoen bling. It’s only pitfalls are the crappy screen.
      But for $200, I don’t see how you can complain..

      (I’m running a custom ROM on my 845)

      1. Yeah, I suppose it is ok value for someone who is happy to put a custom ROM on it, but maybe not so much for the average punter?

      2. Hmm, I’m not sure. I didn’t even try the stock ROM! I just rooted/loaded the custom ROM right away 😛

      3. @Lewis.
        This is working on the assumption that your average jo will know how to do this (or that they can.) I totally disagree with companies foisting crap products by using their ignorance against them.

        Your answer could be “Well people should do the research” but in reality, companies should be thinking about the customer from the start. At the end of the day, my dad is going to hate the phone, have a negative image of Vodafone and poof! Vodafone has lost yet another customer.

      4. Capacitive touch should be the way to go..
        they only have to spend a few more dollars to get capacitive touch…
        Instead they use resistive touch.

        Not very nice for choosing that phone..

  6. For the money the 845 isn’t bad.

    IDEOS is better.

    Or a parallel imported HTC Wildfire.

    That’s a pretty nice reasonably priced smartphone, like a mini Desire, but with the same build quality.

  7. Funny, I was just talking to someone the other day about how long it has been since Motorola made a decent phone and did we miss the company’s death.

    I’d say the company is at least a decade away from its last really worthwhile handset, anyone want to disagree?

  8. Droid/Milestone are good phones, just Telecom need to get Milestone onto 2.2 like everywhere else.

    Droid X is a good phone, as is Droid 2/Milestone 2.

    Far from dying, the Droid/Verizon combination seems to have sparked a Motorola renaissance; at least in the US.

    Backflip, Flipout and Cliq are definite misses though.

  9. I got a Backflip last week, and I’m already regretting it.

    The keyboard. Especially the space bar, despite that bar at the bottom you actually have to reach that physical button in the middle, and it doesnt even feel nice nor does it press well. I result with loads with typos in whatever I’m up to.

    Android 1.5. It’s a pile of trash. It’s really just ‘working’. All the apps I want, like Skype and all the IMEs I want are at least 1.6+. How old is 1.5? As you said; 18 months.

    The screen is far to small. I saw someone say it feels like an iPhone in terms of the websurfing. Just because its got the same resolution doesn’t mean same experience.

    It’s WiFi doesn’t even work better than the old LG Renoir I had before.

    and finally, ITS LAGGY

    I can’t keep at least 3 apps going at the same time thanks to motoblur crap hogging all my ram and cpu.

    I just completely wasted a good $500.

    I’m just glad I got it cheap at Parallel Imports.

    Not to buy. At all.

    I just wasted 4 hours today looking for a store that sells a case for this, and the result is just a waste of bus fare. No case at all.

  10. I have a motorola backflip. The phone is great, no lag nothing. All you need is something like Android Assistant and you can manage the processes running. The phones sleek the keyboards great and i have had now issues. Don’t know what all the fuss is about sorry Ben.

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