Android phones are all the rage at the moment. Motorola, a manufacturer that has always come in for stick for its thudding operating system, has seized the opportunity to turn its hand to someone else’s and had improved on Android in the process.
What we like
Android smart phones offer a slick touchscreen interface and lots of downloadable programs. This is only the second Android phone with a physical keyboard, though it’s much sleeker than the first, the T-Mobile G1. The keys are well spaced and easy to use in bright light. If you want the security of a real keyboard, this is a great phone.
On top of Android’s operating system is the Motorola interface, MotoBlur. This is the phone’s standout feature. It impressively aggregates all your personal information from sources like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook as soon as you’ve told it your passwords. Then it displays the latest tweets and status updates onscreen automatically. It’s the most comprehensive and effective collation of social data yet.
MotoBlur builds on Android’s standard three home screens with an extra two and replaces Android’s yellow highlight with a dramatic blood-red tint. Like the iPhone, MotoBlur has a system to track a lost Dext via GPS and remotely wipe the phone if you need to. It has a good screen and the Motorola icons are neater than Android’s own. Oh yes, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, too.
What we don’t like
Although Motorola’s take on Android is impressive, it could have gone further. HTC placed cooler, better-looking icons over vanilla Android. So does Moto, but cute little extra touches like the elastic bounce when you scroll to the bottom of a list are missing here. The QWERTY keyboard is unexceptional and although it’s generally usable, the backlight is poor. Letters are displayed clearly but alternative characters like '@' are tiny and almost impossible to read in low light, which is a major disappointment.
Phone manufacturers must think we live in bright, sunlit places – or they just don’t think to put a flash on their cameras. Battery life isn’t great on smart phones generally and it’s especially short here, perhaps because the system is regularly refreshing that social networking information. The keyboard chunks up the phone substantially, and makes it heavier as a result, though the smoothness of the slide mechanism goes some way to make up for this.
The keypad is the only deal-breaker here. It’s easily Motorola’s best phone in years, and if you want a physical keyboard it’s one of the best smart phones available. The integration of social networking is hugely successful and the Dext, though big, fits the hand well. The touchscreen is responsive and of course there are those Android apps to download.