Now, whether anyone wants to watch movies on a 2.2in, 240 x 320 screen is another matter. The long and ignoble history of mobile video suggests this is technology looking for a market. If the screen was a little larger, we could imagine watching 30-minute shows on a train or a plane at a pinch. Fortunately for Moto, the Z8 doesn't stand or fall on the public's appetite for mobile movies.
Making a call from the standby screen
The Z8 includes a two-megapixel camera, with eight levels of zoom. This is adequate, but there's no auto-focus. As is the norm with phones these days, it defaults to landscape - you take snaps with the phone aligned horizontally. Confusingly at first, when the Z8's slide is open, it uses the lower-resolution front-mounted 3G video-call camera, rather than the main, rear-mounted camera. Moto bundles the Shozu photo-sharing app with the Z8 - an excellent choice.
The handsets proved rather good for audio playback too. Note that although the retail Z8 is bundled with Moto's own new stereo wireless headset, it doesn't take a standard headphone jack, but instead uses mini USB. With the final retail package unavailable, we tested them with Sony Ericsson's lovely HBH-DS70 stereo headphones, and it worked very well indeed.
A major advantage is the lack of an artificial ceiling on media. The Z8 takes Micro SD cards, but it will be able to handle 32GB cards when they're ready: a welcome bit of future-proofing. And it's good to know there's now another home for the likes of SanDisk's 4GB Micro SDHC card, reviewed here
Unfortunately, there's no TV output. While I can't imagine a mass-market for tiny-screen video, we can envisage video enthusiasts using the phone as a portable cache for content they've acquired - as a kind of sneakernet - particularly since the USB transfers are rapid.
The Z8 uses the standard UIQ applications bundle, which includes a rich messaging client, Tasks, Notes and Calender - here called Agenda. However, as text input is so limited, the Z8 is really a read-only device. And you'll need to install Documents To Go or RoadSync for Office compatibility. The Agenda application demonstrates how good UI design - sensible layout and judicious use of fonts - can make a limited space effective.
At the end of the day it's still a Motorola and the only people to buy it will be the great unwashed in their Burberry who can't afford a decent phone and think the Razr was the height of sophistication.
Is Motorola getting better?
It sounds quite positive to me. The problem I always had with Motorola was the software on the phones was just horrendous with poorly designed menus and apps that absolutely repelled me. The stuck to peddling gimmicks like the Razr for too long. Still, given the huge streak of mediocrity on phone design it's encouraging that Motorola is actually trying to do better. The last Nokia and Sony Ericsson I've had have been hugely underwhelming.
re: howls of outrage
unlike a certain other phone, this one won't be costing the user that price - within a month or so they will be given it at no extra charge with their contract - just like almost every other phone out there.