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Motorola Proves It Still Has Design Chops

Motorola announced its best-looking handset in ages today, the Aura. With its stainless steel design and quartz face, this elegant, hand-crafted phone strives to be the Rolex of mobile phones. It comes complete with a Rolex-like $2,000 price tag.
Motorola announced its best-looking handset in ages today, the Aura. With its stainless steel design and quartz face, this elegant, hand-crafted phone strives to be the Rolex of mobile phones. It comes complete with a Rolex-like $2,000 price tag.The Aura has that love it or hate it appeal. (Pictures available here.) Motorola has sort of resurrected the design of the old V70 from early 2002. The Aura has a circular LCD and spins open. Where the V70 was a plastic contraption, the Aura was assembled with the care of Swiss watchmakers and is mostly made of metal.

There's no doubt the Aura is a high-end phone. If the price tag doesn't given it away, the craftsmanship will. The Swiss-made main bearing has more than 200 parts that create a seamless opening for the handset. Its gears are composed of Rockwell 50-55 hardened steel and 130 precision ball bearings work in tandem to drive the assisted-opening blade, an effect more like opening a luxury car door than accessing a mobile device. Its custom-engineered rotating mechanism is composed of more than 200 high-precision individual parts, and the gears are protected from harsh conditions with the same coatings used in high-performance racing engines.

Does the Aura have your attention yet?

The stainless steel front takes nearly two weeks to create. In that time, the stainless steel is sculpted, electro and hand polished, chemically etched, and PVD coated.

The LCD display is circular, can display a whopping 16 million colors, and has a resolution of 300 dots per inch. It is capped with a grade 1, 62-carat sapphire crystal lens - one of the most scratch-resistant materials on earth. (What, no diamonds, Motorola?)

The other features of the phone are surprisingly humble. It has just quad-band GSM/EDGE radios. Yep, $2,000 won't buy you 3G. It has a 2-megapixel, fixed focus camera that will capture video. It has Bluetooth 2.0 with support for stereo Bluetooth. The media player is compatible with most formats and the phone has 2 GB of on-board storage.

The market for this phone is not the average Joe, Joe Six Pack, nor Joe the Plumber. Maybe Joe Millionaire has $2,000 to spend on a mobile phone. The rest of us probably don't.

What I am most interested in seeing is some of these careful and thoughtful design elements trickle down to more affordable, mass market devices from Motorola. What do you think? Will it happen?