The F3 showcases a Union Jack-style segmented e-ink display up front, making it likely the largest distribution of e-ink displays thus far considering the handset's widescale availability and low price point. The quality of the display is awesome, and let's be honest -- e-ink displays are still
fun to look at and play with, even though they've been around for a while now. It's visible in all conditions and covered with a matte plastic that gives it the typical "paper" look and feel. The segmented characters run across the middle of the display, used for phone numbers and text -- we'll admit, viewing and writing texts is a little painful, but we've got to remember that the focus here is voice calling, so any other functionality is a bit of a bonus.
Icons at the top and bottom of the display keep the user abreast of the phone's status and current mode, while two extra, dedicated e-ink displays at the very top display battery life and signal strength. We weren't able to fully test battery drain, but we imagine it'd run forever and a day; long run times are typically a focus for handsets targeted at emerging markets, and indeed, Motorola rates it at a solid 300 hours of standby. E-ink requires no power except when changing, so that's gotta help.
Admittedly, being left without a wealth of information delivered by a standard dot matrix display requires a learning curve, but the bottom line is this: the F3 doesn't do much. It's designed to make calls and be reliable -- that's it -- so it really doesn't take long at all to learn all its functionality and become adept with it. In fact, the entire user's manual is a single fold-out sheet of paper. For users that still find themselves needing a little extra guidance, though, the phone offers voice prompts that explain its operation. It's a nice little bonus, but one we didn't really find ourselves needing.
So why are we getting so worked up about a phone that does nothing more than work as a phone (imagine that!) and sells for less than $50 contract free in some parts of the world? It's not unheard of to find prepaid phones in the US at that price point, but good luck finding one that you can pull out of your pocket in company and turn into a conversation piece. It's innovative, it's attractive, it's just 9mm thick, and there's a beauty in its simplicity that's hard to deny. So, like we said: Motorola, give us the F3. Price it at $30 or $40 and make it accessible -- sell it in electronics stores, convenience stores, and everything in between. Heck, at that price, maybe we'll take two.