Review Motorola has refreshed the PEBL concept with the MOTO U9, another stylish clamshell with a glossy front and external music player touch controls. But is this tune-playing mobile the one to get Motorola back on track with the fashion phone crowd?
Motorola’s been here before with the rounded look, smooth-feel mobile, when it first skimmed its PEBL U6 onto the market a couple of years back. With the afterglow of the RAZR’s iconic success now very much faded, Motorola has introduced the PEBL-alike MOTO U9, an updated take on the design. The U9 has a similar rounded shape, but packs more features and has a few eye-catching touches to distinguish it.
Moto U9: a more conventional open-and-shut clamshell
It doesn’t have the addictive slide and spring open flip mechanism of the PEBL, nor the tactile rubberised all-over shell - it's a more conventional open-and-shut clamshell. There’s that rubber feel on the back of the phone, but the front now has a mirrored metallic paint-job-on-plastic look, with a hidden external display that appears to glow out of the casing when active. This shows calls and messages and can be used as a viewfinder for the camera, but also displays the music player, with touch-sensitive controls appearing under it to play, pause and skip tracks.
None of this is particularly new or novel - the mirrored shell with hidden screen echoes Sony Ericsson’s Z610i from 2006, while Motorola has had touch-activated music player controls on last year’s RAZR2.
Targeted as a fashion phone and available in purple, pink or black, the attractions of the U9 are quite obvious and upfront – the shiny look and feel. It's a brasher look than the elegant charm of the PEBL, and pitched at the sub-£100 mark on pre-pay, it’s aimed at mass-market pick-up - though it faces stiff competition at this price point.