Motofone F3 (North American version)

I purchased a north American version of the Motofone F3 (Manufactured in Brazil), which operates on the 850/1900 Mhz GSM bands (used almost exclusively in North America) for $34 including S/H from After plugging my SIM card in the phone it reported that it was on the AT-T network. My original Motofone F3 from India worked only on the 900/1800 bands, and wouldn't work on the AT&T network (or any other North American network). 

What didn't work:

I was surprised to find out that it didn't load the date and time from the cellular network. Instead, I was prompted  to enter the time and date. Even more surprising, the phone doesn't remember the date and time if it is turned off. Every time you turn on the phone, you have to re-enter the date and time.  Additionally, the phone did not receive AT&T's standard voicemail indicator messages (sent as a special SMS), so it never indicated that I had voicemail waiting. As long as I had missed a call when the phone had coverage this was fine, because the phone did display a "missed call" indicator that looks like a phone with an arrow pointing at it. However, if I ever missed a call while in a tunnel, or if AT&T didn't ring through to the phone (which happens relatively frequently on the 3G network with my other phone durring peak times) I would have no indication that I missed a call and had a voicemail waiting.

What works:

Voice quality is fine (as good as any other GSM phone I've had), and the built in speakerphone works very well. The e-ink display is very readable, and I like the fact that it displays the clock all the time. The phone gets very good reception, I have been very happy with the performance of the internal antennas.  Battery life is good. I charged it up on a saturday afternoon, and it lasted (with light use) until Thursday morning before the power indicator went down to one bar. I only made a few minutes worth of phone calls on Thursday, and then on Thursday night I called someone and talked to them for 15 minutes before the battery completely died. It beeped warning messages at me and flashed the battery indicator for the last 10 minutes of the call. So, I would say that the phone would easily goes for 3 to 4 days between recharges with light usage.


The phone book editing is very basic. You can add numbers, and delete numbers. To edit a number, you have to delete it, and then re-add it. (Luckily, the recently dialed/received calls list will store the number even if you delete it from the phonebook, so you don't have to remember the number if you have called it or received a call from it within the last 15 calls.) Positioning entries in the phonebook (which are stored on the SIM card) is done in the same way. (To move a number to position 4, delete the number that is currently in position 4, and add the number you want to be in position 4.) The phone book displays entries in alphabetical order so the only thing that the numerical position matters for is the speed-dial setting. Pressing and holding the numbers 2 through 9 will dial the associated phone book entry. The number 1 however does NOT dial the first item in the phone book, instead it dials the voicemail number.

In your pocket:

The Motofone F3 weighs less than my Motorola V3xx, and is slightly thinner and narrower. It is however a half inch taller, due to the candy-bar form factor. This extra half inch is surprizingly noticable when carried in a front pants pocket. In fact, the extra narowness combined with the extra height (and general candybar form factor) make it less comfortable in my front pocket than my V3xx. Perhaps this is just because I've gotten used to the flip phone factor over the last four years… My main complaint was that the phone would rotate so that the long-side was parallel to the ground, instead of staying upright.This made it feel extra wide in the pocket and it would tap my leg when walking or sitting until I rotated the phone so that the long side was pointed down again.

In your hand:

As candy-bar phones go, the F3 is very small and light. It initally feels toy-like due to the light weight, but after a few days of use I was perfectly happy carrying it around with me and using it.

8 thoughts on “Motofone F3 (North American version)

  1. Hey Jay, Great review, verry accurate! I also just received an F3 and really like it for the money ($30 total from ebay). One thing i’m not liking is the absense of the vmail indicator light from att. Do you know if there is anyway around this? I’m assuming no since att sends this as a “special” sms which the phone does not support.

  2. Scott:

    I’m afraid I have not figured out a way to make the voicemail indicator work. When I take the sim card out of the Motofone F3 and put it back into my V3xx, I then receive multiple SMS messages from special addresses such as _@ and a delta-@ which I believe are the normal SMS messages to set and un-set the voicemail indicator. (I’m not sure why the motofone f3 doesn’t just report that it’s received those SMS’s, but for some reason they get queued up until I switch to my other phone.

    Even more interestingly, they DON’T trigger the voicemail indicator on my V3xx as they would usually do, but instead arrive in the mailbox as normal SMS messages!


  3. Hi Jay, thanks for your write-up. I just ordered an unlocked F3 from Motorola. Paid a bit more, but Cellhut couldn’t ship as first promised. SIM is currently in a busted V551 using ATT.

  4. Hi

    I just received mt F3 today Oct 6. I worried I had made a mistake because I was not aware of the voicemail issue until after I had bought it on ebay, and started poking around the web reading different reviews….but guess what…it works. Lucky me I guess. As you all know my old carrier “cingular” was gobbled up by AT&T. The included holster has the cingular logo on it and the manual is in English.
    I can only guess that this phone was preprogramed for the cingular network?
    The ebay seller is monstercellular.
    I really like the phone so far…but to be honest 3 hours is a little soon to call it. Everything I read before I bought it was positive I just didn’t catch the voicemail issue. I guess for once in my life I lucked out:-) and for 30 bucks plus shipping it does just what I want…It Phones

  5. Pingback: Jay’s Technical Talk › Motofone F3 working with AT&T Voicemail

  6. I’ve owned three F3’s in the past three months. I keep dropping them. One was directly from Motorola. This one DID display the ATT voice mail symbol AND kept time from the ATT network. It had english directions. The other two off eBay had the same voice mail icon and time issues as you reported.

  7. James:
    To delete an SMS message after reading, scroll to the end of the message (after date/time) and press the “up” button on the 4 way pad.

    Alternatively, when your SIM card gets full, the oldest message will be deleted when a new message arrives.

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