Monday, 25 February 2019

Motorola V80 (2004)

Launched February 2004

In these days of big slabby smartphones, it’s easy to forget that in the dim and distant past there was a bit more choice. There were monoblock “candy bar” phones, clamshells, sliders and even tacos and bricks.

On top of that, there was one other quite rare form factor - the rotator. Motorola were the king of this particular idea, and somewhere between the V70 of 2002 and the AURA of 2008 was the curious Motorola V80.

You could say that the V80 summed up Motorola in one handset. A combination of clever design, exquisite engineering, poor attention to detail and terrible software made the V80 both brilliant and infuriating at the same time.

To modern eyes, the V80 looks rather like the phones we have today, with the display dominating the front with a few buttons added in. But there was a trick – with a quick move of the fingers, the numeric keypad would swing out from underneath and rotate out. This was probably the most carefully engineered part of the V80, and was certainly its coolest feature.

There were some other cool features – the V80 could be pretty good at games as it was easy to use in landscape mode with a little joystick for control. Incoming phone calls would trigger a pretty epic display of lights, which you could customise according to caller. The 176 x 220 pixel display was sharper than most, and overall the physical design looked very different from anything else on the market.

There were some catches though, not least that the phone was nearly an inch thick. Given the phone’s pretty decent media and gaming features, there was no expandable memory so you had to make do with what was on board. The keypad itself felt cheap and the little green joystick had a habit of coming off. And because this was a Motorola from the early noughties, the software was pretty horrible too.

Despite its flaws, the V80 attracted a loyal fan base who often held onto their phones far longer than would seem reasonable. The rotator format itself remained pretty rare, but the Nokia 7370, Sony Ericsson S700 and Samsung X830 all attempted to do something similar. Today you can pick up a V80 for around £25 to £80 depending on condition.

Image credits: Motorola

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