You might find the Motorola Backflip to be ordinary-looking at first glance. The device comes with the usual 3.2-inch capacitive screen and three touch panels below it. Top it off with the usual volume buttons at the side, a 3.5mm audio port paired with the power button at the top, and you would think the Backflip is as normal an Android device as you can get.
Until, you flip it over and discover a physical QWERTY keyboard staring at you. That's right, the given moniker for this Motorola phone is based literally on a design that involves flipping the back of the device to reveal the keyboard. Another interesting concept lies with the Backtrack, which is essentially a trackpad located at the back of the screen. This works in tandem with the keyboard, leaving your thumbs to do the typing while the index fingers navigate via the Backtrack trackpad.
Adding on to these unique features is the Motorola home screen (as seen on the Motorola Milestone), which is activated when you rest the Backflip on its keyboard with its screen angled at 45 degrees. With the keyboard fully extended, you'll also get a somewhat unofficial front facing camera, which makes self-portrait photos that much easier.
There are a few challenges associated with this new form factor, one of which is familiarizing oneself with the use of your fingers to access and control the trackpad. On top of that, the typing experience was not helped by the stiff keys. The most notable problem happened as we closed the keyboard. Whilst doing so, we often grazed the Backtrack trackpad or the screen, which almost always unintentionally activates an app on screen.
Once you get past the Backflip's unique form factor, the rest is, as they say, history. Similar to the earlier Motorola Dext, the Backflip utilizes the Motoblur service. Once we logged on to our Motoblur account, it was only a matter of minutes to get all our contacts back into the Backflip. Social networking is made easy with the aforementioned service, linking up Facebook and Twitter profiles with our current contact list. The constant updates from both channels and a single conduit to post status updates makes for a great social media experience on the Backflip.
The experience is unfortunately marred by a few minor upsets in the phone's usability. There were noticeable lags in its interface, with a few instances where we had to force-close some apps. With Google's Android reaching its next Froyo (2.2) update soon, this could leave the Backflip's Android 1.5 trailing far behind. Fortunately, a future update to Android 2.1 (no timeframe confirmed) is slated for the Backflip. With a full charge ready, we got less than a day of usage.
If you're opting to purchase the Motorola Backflip now, do note that this Android device will be exclusively available to SingTel customers. Of course, you can purchase it off the rack at S$788, which will see a huge subsidy of almost 50% when you sign up with a SingTel price plan along with a few special offers thrown in. This includes free data transfers from SingTel's AMPed music service and no extra data charges for popular networking sites via mSocial.