Christopher Price is the Founding Editor of Today, he leads the team building Console, Inc. - a new kind of Android™ device. He still likes to pontificate... a lot. You can visit his personal blog at

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36 responses to “Review: Motorola Backflip (AT&T) – Our First-Ever Do Not Buy Rating”

  1. SaltyDawg

    I agree 100%. I would NEVER consider buying a locked down Android phone. AT&T’s antics are why I left them. I prefer GSM over CDMA, but there is just no way I can put up with AT&T’s riduclous antics.

  2. Jeff

    Good luck with your stance. I guess the iPhone should be avoided too.

    I don’t think your stance should be so restrictive. For example, the iPhone’s walled-garden might be considered acceptable to many because of the quality and quantity of apps at reasonable prices (navigation being the exception). I think you may want to amend your stance.

  3. SaltyDawg

    The iPhone is certainly unaccaptable to me with the locked down nature, that’s for sure.

  4. SaltyDawg

    And it should be noted that AT&T is only doing this because of the iPhone.

  5. Pierre

    You dont have to tell me twice. I dislike AT&T so much that I’d rather pay Sprint $96 a month for my service than pay $0 by being with AT&T on my company’ plan.

  6. Vasek

    I tried a backflip out for 30 days. I was able to install unsigned 3rd party apps, but it was a bit of a headache that required me to use Android ADK with a computer. Better 3rd party apps, such as junefabrics PDAnet, come with a windows computer that jumps over the hurdle ATT imposed on the Backflip.

    I never planned on keeping the backflip. I just wanted to play with it. I returned it and am waiting for the Pre Plus.

  7. Vasek

    edit: I meant to say that better 3rd party apps come with a windows INSTALLER that does everything for you automatically to install the app to the locked down backflip.

  8. Vasek

    I did not root the phone. has been trying to root the phone as soon as it came out. Using Android ADK simply installs any Android app directly to the phone memory to where it can be accessed and run. I did not root my phone. I still was unable to get rid of the bloatware that AT&T bundles with the phone as a result.

  9. SaltyDawg

    @ Vasek

    It doesn’t matter. The fact remains, people buy android phones because they expect to be able to install whatever they want. They expect the freedom of open source.

    While you may have been savvy enough to get around the restrictions AT&T put in place, a lot of average joes would not be so savvy.

    Most people don’t buy an Android phone expecting it to be restricted to an App Nazi’s governing.

  10. Noel

    I also have one and didn’t find it all that difficult to install 3rd party applications. Allright you have to download the SDK but that is one time and you don’t have even to install it. From then on it is just one command to install any software. I even installed navigation software with all the maps of europe and it is working fine. (I bought my backflip online as it was much cheaper then the european one)

  11. Vasek

    Agreed. It was not terribly difficult to install apps that are not on the Android Market. Here is a link on how to do it.

    Someone also wrote a self installing program for any app that you want that all you have to do is connect your phone and then it installs the app for you with the click of one button.

    All this being said, I agree that AT&T is ridiculous for having the phone on lockdown. I am a little surprised that the article made no mention of all the Yahoo stuff that is on the phone instead of Google. One of the first things I had to add to the Backflip was Google Search by Voice, which ended up being added to the browser and Google Maps.

    But as I stated before, I returned the Backflip. Battery life is ludicrous. I would leave the house with a full charge and see the battery run down to 55% in less than two hours without me even using the phone heavily. At the time I could find no spare battery chargers, and I hate having my phone sitting on a charger all the time because it makes me forget it when I walk away. Also, the phone was not the quickest thing around. I did find that it could get quite laggy.

    When a phone call came in, often it took a while for the phone to retrieve the contact information to go with the phone number it was displaying on the caller ID. So most of the phone calls I would answer I did not know who was calling until after I was already on the phone. Dialing numbers, sometimes it would call the wrong person. One person it would consistently call incorrectly was that I would dial someone named Ryan and it would call a David. No affiliation between the two whatsoever. And I really could make little sense over the way the phone decided to merge contacts together. Oh and just try to edit a name on the phone for a Google Contact and see if your changes ever stay the way you made them.

    Oh and did I mention the retina burning intensity that the three capacitive buttons on the front of the phone would remain, being so bright when in clock mode at night. I really tried to use the clock mode at night, but those three buttons with non adjustable brightness made it impossible.

    Oh and did I mention the lack of thought that was put into the keyboard with all the numbers on the top, and the backspace key right next to them on the right? So if you are entering text on the phone, like a string of numbers, like when I have to send financial figures for my departments sales performance for the day, I would hold down the ALT key and enter the numbers, but on more than one occasion, I accidentally hit the backspace key. Problem is, if you press the backspace key while you hold down the ALT key, you delete the ENTIRE line of text you just entered. No problem, how about undo to get your text back? Forget about it, there is no undo function. You have to reenter the whole line all over again.

    Oh and I hope you do not need to take your pictures right away to get the exact moment you were hoping to capture. The camera takes forever to take a picture and then takes forever to regather itself to take another one.

    What did I like about the phone? There actually was alot to like. Motoblur. The forward facing camera when the keyboard is flipped out. The extra bright LED on the camera. The keyboard is very useable. The phone had great data speeds on 3G. You can access the MicroSD card without taking out the battery, but you do have to take off the battery door. It was awesome being able to stream Pandora in high quality over 3G and play it through my car stereo using my Motorola T605 stereo bluetooth car kit.

    But I am back to my trusty Palm Centro, with it’s far inferior camera, web browsing and facebook applications, but at least I will keep my information as I key it in, and the number pad on the physical keyboard is easier to use too, being in telephone pad format. I can tell who is calling the moment the phone rings, and the phone call recorder/voice recorder app records in far higher quality. Hopefully at this point, the AT&T Palm Pre Plus is either 4 or 10 days away, according to the release date rumors I have been following, those days possibly being May 10th or May 16th.

  12. Noel

    Re battery life i had same problems i used androzip to remove all useless processes which i was not using like at & t navigation, at & t radio etc etc and i managed to get 4 – 5 days in standby

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  14. Joe

    1) It is very easy to install non-market apps on the backflip.

    2) Your article is factually inaccurate, you state “But, as it is Open Source Software, device makers can overrule Google. In this case, the carrier, AT&T, has chosen to do just that. They have demanded that Motorola remove the Backflip’s ability to run unsigned applications from the device.” The Backflip runs unsigned apps just fine.

    3) You state in the comments that users “know what they are getting” when they buy an iPhone. This is not true. How many iPhone owners have read the agreements that developers have to sign to get an app into the iPhone market? How many iPhone owners realize that Apple can and will censor the content delivered by the spps available?

  15. Vasek

    Oh and by the way… could I forget…

    One of the biggest reasons I returned my Backflip (and my wifes Backflip also)


    The worst I have experienced on any ATT phone. And I know because I sell them.

    My wife is happy with her new Bold 9700 and I cannot wait till the 16th to get my Pre Plus.

  16. ZK

    Interesting review. Interesting, but inadequet. You’re assuming the only reason people buy Droid phones is for the open app. Not so. While I would prefer the phone to be unlocked, the other features (like the fantastic keyboard) made it the best option for my uses. There’s also the fact that the reception and sound quality on this phone is the best I’ve ever had, on any cell phone I’ve ever had, ever, regardless of carrier. (I currently have a Verizon phone for work, and the reception is terrible, despite the Verizon repeaters in the building. 5 bars with Verizon = terrible. 1 bar with the backflip = damned good.)

    I rate your review a D-. I understand your political stance regarding locked phones, but you didn’t provide enough information for the consumer looking to buy one. Consumers are smarter than you think, even if we don’t share your views.

  17. Vasek

    I am glad someone had good reception. Because I have not tried a Backflip yet that I could talk on where I work. All the other AT&T phones I have tried had much better reception.

  18. Christopher Price

    Much like a Toyota Prius accelerating without your input is a major issue, so is the Backflip not taking open apps. We aren’t going to waste our time reviewing devices that we’re already going to tell you that you shouldn’t buy. If you’re still interested in a phone after reading our cautionary tale, go to an AT&T store and try it out. People still bought Toyota Priuses in the midst of a recall.

    Android is an open platform. To us, an open platform being denied access to open apps, is just as bad as a car accelerating when you don’t want it to.

    As to objections over AT&T vs Motorola… we don’t care who gave the order to neuter the phone. Palm has no problem shipping open phones on AT&T.

  19. Vasek

    Certainly it was AT&T who gave the order to neuter the phone, otherwise the Backflip would be identical to the Cliq and Cliq XT, complete with Google search and not Yahoo.

  20. SaltyDawg

    If it wasn’t AT&T that ordered the crippling of the phone, then it would be one heck of a coincidence that both Dell and Motorola decided to cripple their new AT&T Android phones, without crippling them on other networks.

    The Motorola Droid is the best selling Android device to date- not crippled…

  21. Noel

    Altough AT&T ordered the crippling of the phone this comment is not correct —-
    “Android is an open platform. To us, an open platform being denied access to open apps, is just as bad as a car accelerating when you don’t want it to.”

    Open applications can still be installed, just not as easy as usual. (You need an extra click from the pc :P)

  22. Noel

    There is an OTA update right now for some users as they are still verifying bugs etc and that option is not removed. People already checked it.

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  24. ZK

    @Christopher Price: You’re comparing a motor vehicle with a deadly flaw that has no sure fix, one that goes out of its way to kill people, to a cell phone without open apps? Really?

    You need to seriously re-think your priorities.

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  26. Margaret

    I bought the backflip 3 months ago. I have had technical problems with it starting right ater the 30 day return period. I shuts off when I try to text, check messages, or return missed calls. Although under warranty, I am on my third call with tech support and they keep wanting to give it another chance before honoring it. I have hardly used it since it keeps shutting down, and yet the keyboard is worn looking and has been since the first week. It certainly was not made to hold up to any use at all. I had a razor for five years, and it still looked brand new when I quit using it.

    To make matters worse, I have been having ongoing problems with AT&T with my land lines. Basically the main box for my area has gone underwater and needs major repairs, and corporation will not do it. Much of the time my land lines are unusuable due to static. It also often interfers with my DSL as well. Worse still, when I requet repairs, it takes sometimes weeks and while waiting they ‘test the line’ every two hours which means my phones ring every two hours 24/7 waking my family at night. I don’t shut off the ringer in case of a family emergency.

    Our household has 2 land lines, two dishes, two cell phones and our internet access with AT&T. Pretty sweet for them, I should think, but they seem to not be interested in continuing to have us as customers. Untilsomewha recently with only one exception, I felt value by them. this time around I have been verbally abused, lied to, and in general mistreated. I have also recieved several recorded messages via phone from AT&T with misleading information and several emails regarding changes of sevices that I did not request. AT&T apears to be a sinking ship lately.

    I would not recommend AT&T products and services to anyone at this point, and I think the best use for the Backflip is a paper weight.

  27. Robert

    I agree with this review, but I’m not sure if the “Do Not Buy” rating is appropriate. Like many att customers, I only use att because my company made the decision for me. Because I’ve been planning to switch to Android-based phones for a while now, I’m willing to take anything I can get. If I had a choice, I’d take most any Android phone over att’s offerings, but I don’t and I’d rather support Android than wage a campaign against att. So, my advice would be to choose an Android device from another carrier if possible, but if not, then don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

  28. DG

    The apps are the least of our problems. My husband is on his second Backflip. The first one was (according to att) a battery problem. Now the second phone will call someone while the phone is in his pocket and the screen is locked. I have been standing in front of him, the phone be in the other room with no one around, and my phone will ring. It has been known to call people in the same manor off of social websites if their numbers were listed on a profile! Again, phone is locked and not being touched at all. He has had other problems as well. We would not recommend this phone to anyone at all!

  29. aha

    great phone
    veryyyyyyyyyyy nice

  30. logan

    good phone. i like the flip out option so i don’t have to text on the screen. processor is fast enough for my business and the recorder and camera are good enough to catch my family up on my business trips. pretty good unlocked world phones. wifi, email, web browser are great for my business and company and my partner loves his for the gps helps us get around new york. my wife loves hers for the games and facebook, a lot more fun than our old unlocked sprint phones. also got our unlock codes and htc unlocking for free! speaker phone is loud enough for our meetings and web browser is great for my fantasy football and espn. got our last couple unlocked new phones at 2 thumbs way up I really like my backflip

  31. English 15, RER

    AT&T’s Motorola Backflip is a disappointment. Within a few days of using this brand new phone, I started to experience complications. It’s supposed to be specialized for text messaging, social networks, email, and more, but it falls short.

    Text messaging is far from satisfactory. It isn’t very often that I’m able to text without the phone freezing in the middle of typing a text, not being able to send a text, not receiving all text messages, or displaying an annoying message asking me to “force close” or “wait”. It is a very irritating experience that happens consistently. Sending and receiving pictures is also a complicated process. It takes multiple tries to get a picture to send. Receiving a picture is not any better. A “download” button appears in the text message and sometimes the phone doesn’t respond when the button is clicked. The only way I can think of fixing this is to turn the phone off and then back on. The Backflip makes texting feel like a burden.

    The battery life is also very disappointing. I expected this phone to be equipped with a battery that would be able to last throughout the day. The phone must be charged at least twice daily. Even after being charged over night the phone is prone to dying in the middle of the day after being on for only a few hours.
    Other disadvantages of the Motorola Backflip include slow reaction time, freezing, absence of applications that are found on other phones (such as a recording device) and an unsecure back piece which easily comes off.

    This phone has many bugs which should have been fixed before it was put on the market. The negative aspects of the Motorola Backflip definitely outweigh the positive aspects. I would have expected more from AT&T.

    – English 15, RER

  32. Heather

    I got a backflip about 4 monthes ago and I must say it’s nothing like my razor. I had a razor for 5 years and LOVED IT! I am a text-a-holic to put it nicely and well this phone falls VERY short of how AT&T makes it out. I also get the “force close” and “android has stopped working” from time to time. What aggravates me the most is when I am trying to text and it freezes or “glitches” ALso hate when I am trying to call my husband or am on the phone and it says “sndroid has stopped working” or “android is forced close” and I have a dropped call. My husband is in the military and our phones are our life line. When I upgraded to the android I thought I was getting a GREAT phone…well no so much. I now have this “great phone” that doesnt work half of the time and my husband has my 5 year old razor that is working perfectly and it frustrates me so much! I had no problems with my razor and so I just renewed my account and got this backflip so I really have no choice but to deal with it until my account expires because I cant afford to pay to cancel it…

  33. draperbr

    This is the worst made phone ever. SO SLOW, random rebooting, text messages takes up to hours to receive. Black screens, and on and one….According to AT&T there are “no known issues” with this phone. I am on my third one – the only advice they give is “let’s try a factory reset”. The phone is defective. AT&T will not offer me an “exception” upgrade, just keep sending me new backflip. I am at my wits end. I have put up a facebook page for those equally frustrated at: Stop by, “like” the page, post your story and let’s see if AT&T will own up to the fact that they sold us garbage.