It’s been hailed as a revolution and 3’s advertising talks about video telephony as something that no-one should live without. My personal interest however, was not the video telephony at all, but rather the nice hefty bundle of inclusive voice calls that 3 offers at a very competitive price. The 750 minute bundle costs a very affordable £35 a month which seemed ideal to me as I use my mobile phone quite a lot.
So off I went and ordered the brand new Motorola A920 handset online, at a bargain price of nothing at all. A day later the handset arrived as expected. I was aware that 3G phones where larger than the current generation of GSM handsets; but I still didn’t expect the brick that arrived.
The Motorola A920 is larger than most modern PDA’s but still offers a smaller screen. It might be a bit narrower than the HP iPAQ 1940, but it’s much taller and quite a lot chubbier. The exact dimensions are 60 x 148 x 24mm (WxHxD) and it weighs in at a hefty 212g, which makes this by far the largest mobile phone I have ever owned.
Taking a closer look at what you get in the box, you might think that you’ve bought a portable computer and not a phone. The package contains the phone itself, a desktop cradle, two chargers, a USB sync cable, two batteries, a stereo headset, a stylus, a 32MB SD memory card, a protective pouch, a software CD and let’s not forget the massive manual and documentation bundle. Not a bad set of accessories with a phone. There is a reason for the two chargers and two batteries but I’ll get to that later.
First off, let’s take a closer look at the handset itself. The display sports a resolution of 208 x 320 pixels and 65,000 colours which equals to 16bit colour depth on a PC. The display is touch sensitive as with modern PDA’s and as mentioned a stylus is supplied. The stylus is however nowhere near as good as those seen with most PDA’s. The stylus is a bit too short and smooth to feel comfortable in use. The A920 also features 8MB of internal memory which seems a bit stingy for such an advanced device, but this can be expanded by adding an SD card.
Below the display you’ll find the main buttons. You get a four-way navigation rocker with a push button in the middle, a programmable back button, a quick access button to 3’s online services as well as call and hang-up/power off buttons. At the top of the display are two game buttons on either side of the speaker. Above that is a digital camera that can be rotated to either face towards or away from the user.
On the left side is a button that accesses the built in hands free, a volume button and a voice dial button. You’ll also find a connector for a hands-free kit behind a small rubber flap. On the right hand side is what looks like an infrared port, but this doesn’t seem to be enabled and there is no option in the menu system to enable it either.
Below the battery compartment, inside the rear cover, is a card slot for SD or MMC memory cards. You’ll also find a SIM-card slot behind the battery. One thing worth mentioning here is the small plastic tab that you have to pull to remove the battery. This felt particularly flimsy and could well come off at some point if you change batteries regularly. The supplied batteries are of Lithium-Polymer type and are rated at 3.6V and 800mAh.
On the topic of batteries, why does this phone come with two as standard? This is something you don’t expect to see with a modern mobile phone, but with the A920 reporting flat battery after about 90 minutes usage with phone calls and data use, you’re going to need to change the battery. An in-car charger would also have been a handy inclusion. The A920 managed some 40 hours standby with light usage (no phone calls), although 3 quotes up to 70 hours. The stated talk time is quoted at 95 minutes and the video talk time at 55 minutes, which is fairly poor compared to standard GSM phones.
The integrated camera is capable of capturing video and stills at resolution up to 640 x 480. This is very good for a mobile phone, but it can’t compete with even cheap digital cameras. This is however slightly beside the point, as the camera is meant to be used with 3’s video telephony service. Sadly, I was unable to try this out, as I don’t know anyone else that owns a 3G handset. Recording a video with the built in camera is fairly straight forward, but a shortcut button for the camera would have been preferable, rather than having to press an icon on the “home” page to access it.
The video image quality is very blocky and doesn’t bode well for those wishing to have long video conversations. Still images come out much better, but the quality is still nothing to brag about. You can assess the still image quality yourself by clicking on the picture taken outside the TrustedReviews office.
The A920 can roam on GSM 900/1800/1900MHz which allows you to take it with you when you go travelling. On top of this you get support for GPRS as well as the 3G UMTS (WCDMA) standard which allows for high-speed data transfer. It should also be possible to roam on other 3G networks abroad, especially in countries where 3 already operates a service.
I have to mention the hands-free headset, as it is beyond a doubt the most uncomfortable set of head-phones I have ever used. The ear-buds are so big and heavy that they start to hurt even after a short while. If it wasn’t for the soft foam pads it would be too painful to use the hands-free device, this is something Motorola should improve on in a hurry.
The USB cable and the docking cradle are straight forward enough to use and the neat thing with the docking cradle is that it can charge the second battery at the same time as the phone. The only slightly odd thing is how you connect the charger to the cradle.
Instead of having a separate connector for the charger, it connects to the side of the USB sync cable.
The one really cool feature of the A920 has to be integrated AGPS (Advanced Global Positioning System) navigation. This allows you to access GPS satellite data in order to locate where you are or navigate a route to where you want to go. The only snag here is that 3 charges 10 pence per map download. The problem is that the maps aren’t exactly accurate, although they do show the exact location you enter. The level of detail displayed is sketchy at best and it’s hard to see the street names. It can however be very useful for locating the nearest cash point, pub, restaurant and a wide range of other services that 3 offers as part of its GPS service as long as you have some idea of where you are in the first place.