It could be argued that the mobile phone space is growing stale. There's been very little commercial innovations for handsets outside of the standard variations on the common phone design in quite a while. Modu is a phone that attempts something new; a central control unit that can be inserted into a range of products to create a new product. For example, you could take the Modu and insert it into your car's dashboard to connect to the stereo speaker system, or insert it into a notebook to synchronise content from both machines while you take calls using your PC's speakers or a connected headset.
Design and features
To facilitate the goal of being the central unit for a range of standard-sized devices, the Modu phone is positively tiny with 72x37x7.8mm dimensions and a feather-like 40g weight. This pint-sized physical specs don't leave much room for a screen or physical control, Modu offers a 1.2-inch low-resolution display and a navigation pad only.
What's this, no keypad? The central Modu unit is sans a number pad, but this is where inserting it into a Modu jacket will add much needed functionality. You can actually make calls without a jacket, selecting numbers on-screen with the nav-pad, but the Modu without a jacket is like the Fonze just wearing a T-shirt — it doesn't really work.
We saw three of the compatible jackets available in Australia and we can say the following without a hint of remorse: these jackets are garbage. Seriously, between the Mini Jacket, Speedy Jacket and the Night Jacket there isn't a single standout and none make the Modu better than an AU$99 Nokia in design or features. Mini and Speedy Jackets simply give the phone a different look and a number pad, while the slightly larger Night Jacket adds a crumby 3.2-megapixel camera to the mix. This gives you some idea about what Modu could be, you can imagine slotting it into a compatible compact camera with a 12-megapixel sensor, or a touchscreen running a smartphone OS like Google's Android, but that isn't what you can do with Modu at this time.
The phone's software is painfully simple; it makes calls, sends messages, keeps a calendar and an address book, plays music, displays images and that's about it. No games, no FM radio, no GPS with maps. There is a web browser but the Modu's low-quality screen and 2G data transfer speeds should deter you from using it too often. The one redeeming feature of Modu is its 2GB of internal storage, but this is cold comfort from such a dismal product.
It probably comes as no surprise that this mini mobile struggles to deliver a first-class user experience. On its lonesome the central unit makes entering numbers and text ridiculously hard. Worse than that, call quality is tinny and crackly with or without a jacket on. Battery life is about average for a 2G device, draining in approximately 2.5 days with moderate use of calling features.
We can appreciate the genius in the Modu concept, but the reality of this concept is half-baked at best. When you compare the Modu against a phone in the same price range, the Modu's poor feature set and below-par performance make it impossible to recommend. Modu is available in Australia exclusively through online retailer Mobicity.