The Motorola Milestone has been a long time coming, particularly after a fairly underwhelming UK launch and the disappointing decision to rename it from the Droid in the USA. But more than that, the Milestone has been hailed as Motorola's comeback phone following the company’s recent shaky performance. With the burden of hype riding on it, can it ever live up to our high expectations?
What we like
The screen is the highlight of the handset – it’s a beautiful, 3.7-inch work of art. The display is crisp and sharp as a knife, and the quality of the screen makes it feel even bigger than it is. It also has the multi-touch capability its poor American equivalent is missing out on.
Android 2.0 works really well with the handset; we love the freedom to lay our homescreens out however we want, and viewing things like calendar appointments at a glance is invaluable. Although the app store is not as wide-ranging or varied as the iPhone equivalent, the apps that are available are generally well-designed and easy to use.
The spacious display made web browsing actually quite pleasurable, as opposed to the usual painful experience on mobile devices.
While the Milestone isn’t the most beautiful phone we’ve ever seen, it has a certain charm about it. We really like the bronze highlights on the camera button and the speaker, and overall you feel as though you’re holding a quality phone.
There’s very little lag when opening menus and switching between applications and once you get accustomed to the very specific motions you are required to make in order to open your notifications centre or unlock the keys, then you’re away.
The iTunes-equivalent for the Milestone is the Moto Phone Portal – which pops up in your web browser when you connect the phone to your computer. It’s a little disconcerting to see your text messages, mobile browsing history and contacts on screen, but it makes for a nice way to back them up.
Whilst the still camera is nothing to write home about, the video function is very good; we particularly like how it encourages you to upload and share your recordings through quick, easy menus.
What we don't like
The Milestone has an unfortunate appendage that we just can’t ignore; its slide-out keyboard. The keys are so flat and the top line of the Qwerty keyboard so close to the body of the phone that it’s very difficult and really quite uncomfortable to type. Should you be talented enough to get any kind of speed going, be sure to read your text back as we guarantee there will be mistakes. The D-pad to the right of the keyboard is also a little redundant; we can’t help but feel that space could have been used for a more spacious keyboard.
We experienced occasional lag when opening emails and certain areas of applications, like the Direct Messages inbox in Twidroid. It was also disappointing to experience a few apps freezing and ultimately shutting down on us: whether this is a software or hardware issue, it’s something to be aware of.
The camera is not as good as it looks; the five megapixels don’t really deliver as they are let down by a poor lens. Similarly, the call quality was noticeably lower quality than the majority of handsets we’ve tested of late.
As much as we like the little bronze touches, we can’t ignore the fact that this handset reminds us more of a PDA of old than an up-to-the-minute Android device.
Despite our reservations, the Motorola Milestone feels like a special phone, although we’re not entirely sure why. Perhaps because of the attention to detail that has gone into making it, or perhaps because it signals a return to form for Motorola which was once one of the mobile heavyweights. Either way, it’s a great handset and a real contender in today’s crowded marketplace.