Well, as promised, Cellcom started its "soft launch" of Modu today. We got to lay our hands on one of those tiny devices and here's what we thought.
The package we got had the basic phone in it, plus we got to test four jackets. You probably already got the idea: the basic phone is extremely basic and its whole purpose is to get a new life every time you insert it into one of the jackets. It could turn into a music player with nice speaker, a GPS navigation device, a fully-featured smartphone or even a netbook. All those things will immediately receive cellphone capabilities and can access your contact list and your media collection. The phone is only generation 2.5, so fast Internet connection is not going to happen in this version. It has bluetooth but not WiFi.
When you take it out of the box, it strikes you right away: this thing is really (no, really) small. Modu claims a Guiness world record for the smallest phone, and we believe. It feels so small you could accidently swallow it while talking (If you ever watched Futurama, you know that phone swallowing is very common in the future. Well, son, welcome to the future). While it sounds nice on paper, when you actually try to use it and talk to someone you realize there is such a thing (and this is certainly a first on this blog) as a 'too small' cell phone. It feels weird to hold such a small thing when talking, although the weight feels right. One thing for sure: it draws amazed looks and double-takes when people spot it.
The device itself has 5 navigation keys and the two standard green and red call buttons. Navigation is easy and intuitive, but you don't get any shortcuts. The best example is entering text into the device. This takes zen-like patience and is much like entering your name into the high score table on arcade machines. A virtual keypad appears and you need to pick each letter with the direction keys (A touch screen would have made a hugh difference here). Beside the basic dialing/texting/contacts you also got a calendar, a music player and a slideshow player (but as long as you use the basic device, your pics will remain thumbnails forever). On the bottom of the device you have a standard micro USB slot and the docking slot that connects to the jackets. On the side you have the SIM slot. It doesn't look like you can change the battery on your own. The screen is 1.3" 65K colors OLED, nothing to write home about. The UI design looke a little tired. The screen on our set showed a distinctive green tint which didn't make things any better.
Also in the box is a micro USB cable, PC suite software (no Mac) and a headset.
The jackets we got are "express jackets": they don't have any real purpose but to make the basic device usable: they add a keypad and more buttons, and convert the thing into a more managable size and thus easier to handle. One of them looks okay, but the other three look like cellphones from the '80s. They all have a glass window through which you see the screen.
Call quality is okay, nothing special here. The speaker is quite usable for talking, less for listening to music. There is no vibration option: the silent profile is simply silent, and if you dont keep an eye on the phone, you can't tell is someone is calling you.
Bottom line: the device has a lot of potential, but its not really showing yet. The small basic Mudo phone is just that: very very small and very basic. The average (and tiny) screen makes the menus look dithered. Together with a questionable graphic design it makes the device feel like it was made a couple of years ago. The jackets that we got are not fun, and we couldnt risk being seen on the street holding them (except the one that looks okay).
There has already been am official announcment of a music jacket with JBL speaker, and presistent rumors of a touchscreen jacket. If you check the Modu website, you can see a lot of other jacket concepts which look interesting. We are going to have to wait for those to appear to make a final verdict. If the modu slot becomes as popular as a SD-card slot, then its a sure winner. If no other company joins the Modu call, then the Modu owner will be stuck with a brick, a very small brick that makes phone calls.
The basic phone + one express jacket of your choice is on sale for NIS 500 (around $130). You will get a full refund if you fill some feedback forms and give your opinion, so its basically free. You also get an extra SIM card so you dont have to ditch your other phone for now. Given all that, it's a very hard to beat deal.
This is an English translation of the original article.