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Motorola's mobile phones division is in a bit of trouble at the moment having been hived off as a separate business and suffered the indignity of a very public lambasting. The company can only remain a serious player if it produces handsets that people want to buy. With that in mind, what do we make of the U9?
Well, the opportunity to buy it is certainly widespread. Checking online as I wrote this review you can get it from O2 from free on contract and for £99.99 on pay and go; on Vodafone from free on contract and £72 on pay as you talk; and from Orange for £89.99 on pay as you go.
This is a quad-band clamshell phone and it comes in pink and purple. I feel duty bound to explain that Moto suggests this is a handset for the ladies and offers an inane quiz to help you decide which colour suits you. If you are Barbie-like and/or dim enough to think you need a quiz to decide what colour phone suits you, then try it here. Motorola really should have more sense than to try such a patronising marketing effort.
Anyway, I got the purple version, the PRs having cleverly picked up on my dislike of pink. The phone is Christmas-decoration shiny all over the front and rubbery on the back. The visual design is distinctly PEBL making it two years old in concept.
Despite the design's age I can't really fault Motorola on the rounded ‘bar of soap' style shape. It means the U9 feels as comfy in the hand as the PEBL ever did. And dimensions-wise you are looking at a pocket-friendly 90mm x 49mm x 16mm that weighs a reasonable 87g.
And there is something very new to this mobile - its outer OLED display. Now, OLED displays should not be new to regular readers, but Motorola has done something rather clever with its implementation. The front OLED sits under the outer shell and you'd never know there was a front screen at all when it's not active. When it is, its 128 x 160 pixels provide information in a way that dominates the front of the phone. Moreover there is a touch-responsive element.
When playing music, for example, the screen displays track info for a few seconds and then turns itself off. You can reactivate it by touching the front screen, and this could be handy because there are touch controls for forward, back and pause/play.
When a call comes in the OLED pops up and tells you who is making contact. When nothing much is going on you can tap the volume rocker and change profiles.
When someone sends you an SMS the OLED alerts you. It can display the message and you can send a quick reply using a combination of the left side volume rocker and select key. There are various predefined texts and you can add more. It is a bit of a fiddly system, especially as you need to unlock the side keys before using them, but it could come in handy.