The best Android based Smartphone. Just wish it had better battery life.
Motorola has certainly seen their share of ups and down. This is the same company that has given us two of the most popular mobile phones ever- the StarTAC and the RAZR and then almost disappeared into oblivion. But they’re back and with a device that has been wisely dubbed as “Milestone” as that’s exactly what this Smartphone will prove to be for Motorola. Based on the latest 2.1 version of Google’s Android Operating System, lets find out how big of a Milestone Motorola’s new Smartphone is.
The Milestone comes packaged is a nicely sized box that includes a Quickstart guide in English and Arabic, a Wall charger and a Smartdock. The device uses the now-standard flat USB connector to charge itself and to connect to your computer. The dock that comes is pretty interesting and its part of what Motorola describes as their Smart Accessories about which we’ll talk later. Also included was a CD with the Motorola Media Link application that, unfortunately, is Windows only for now so Mac users (myself included) will need to rely on a third party application to sync their data. An 8GB microSD card comes inside the device for syncing your music, pictures and other data.
The Milestone measures 115.8 x 60 x 13.7 mm and weighs 165grams which I believe is a good size- especially for a phone that has a slide-out keyboard. Motorola claims it to be the thinnest slide-out keyboard in the Middle East and I believe them. Featuring HSDPA, 802.11 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and a GPS receiver, the device is pretty impressive as far as specifications are concerned. Although you only have 133MB internal storage, an 8GB MicroSD card is included for your applications and data. For your capturing needs, A 5MP camera is present on the back along with a dual LED flash that takes decent pictures as well as videos. This wont replace your DSLR but it is decent as far as quick and casual pictures are concerned.
Looks wise, the device is drop-dead gorgeous and construction quality is top-notch. The phone feels extremely rigid. The large battery cover on the back has a rubberized finished that not only feels good but allows for a good grip on the phone while the sliding mechanism is pretty tight in its place. You can tell that Motorola has paid close attention to detail as the Milestone feels like a finely crafted device.
The front of the device has a 3.7″ multi-touch capacitive screen with an incredibly high resolution of 854×480 pixels making it one of the sharpest screens I’ve seen. The text looks crisp and the images beautiful. Although you wont have an issue using the device indoors, the Dubai sun managed to pale the screen outdoors even when it was set to the brightest level. Below the screen you have four touch buttons common to most Android devices- Back, Menu, Home and Search. A notification LED sits above the screen while a charging LED is placed next to the USB connector on the left that lights up when the phone is charging. The top of the device has the lock switch and headphone jack while the right side has the volume and camera buttons.
Below the screen sits the slide-out keyboard for which you have to turn the device into a landscape/horizontal orientation. The first time I tried such a keyboard was back in the days of JasJar by i-mate and didn’t like it much. So it took me a while to get used to the Milestone’s keyboard and although its pretty ok, I still prefer using the touch screen for typing quick messages etc. The keys feel a bit flat but that’s what you would get for making a thin device.
Android’s soft keyboard is almost as good as the iPhone’s so I didn’t have much of an issue. Also, Arabic is present on the hardware keyboard as well as the soft keyboard. Since Android does not support Arabic out of the box, Motorola had to use a third party application to handle this. It generally works well, however, I could not figure out a way to switch languages in the middle of a sentence. You have to complete your text input in the language you start it in.
Using the device is pretty speedy- thanks to the latest version of Android that Motorola is using. The Cortex A8 CPU of the Milestone is clocked in at 600MHz which is certainly lower than 800MHz and 1GHz models found in other Smartphones of late but you will not feel much lag on the Milestone. Scrolling is reasonably smooth and features the inertia effect while the accelerometer is pretty responsive with switching between portrait and landscape modes. The following video gives you a small tour of the interface.
As you saw from the video, Motorola hasn’t done much to customize the UI of the launcher but the amount of third party apps available for Android are plenty. Speaking of apps, the Milestone will not come with the Android Market on it and I’ve been told that this goes back to Google and TRA in the UAE that have yet for finalize Market content for the country. So, its not just the Milestone but any official Android handset will not have Market on it. To tackle that, Motorola is planning on including a repository known as Slideit which also has a decent number of Android apps available for it.
There are few apps that Motorola has bundled with the Milestone such as Exchange support for syncing your contacts, calender and email with an exchange server. Although I was able to sync my information with an Exchange Server, Searching email did not work. It worked for my GMail account but not for Exchange at the moment. Quick Office is also included for editing Microsoft Office formatted documents and spreadsheets. A sixty day trial version of Motomaps can be found for navigation using the built-in GPS receiver.
Along with the phone, Motorola is releasing “Smart” Accessories for the Milestone that are basically recognized by the phone. So for example, when you dock the phone on the included docking station, the phone switches to a landscape format showing time and temperature as well as an alarm to be used on your bedside. Along with that, you also have a button to play music or show pictures as a slideshow. Similarly, when you connect the GPS car accessory, a map mode should automatically pop up with controls for blue-tooth etc.
My only real disappointment with the Milestone is the battery life- it sucks. If you enable push email, expect the device’s battery to die in about eight hours. With push disabled, I managed to get about twelve hours out of it which is still on the lower side. It could be because I had Twitter being updated every 15 minutes as well as some browsing and IM’ing sessions but when you buy a phone like the Milestone, you don’t expect it to use it simply for phone calls and text messages.
Priced at AED 2,500, I feel that the Milestone is an excellent buy. It’s not only the best Android device that I have ever used but its also the second best touch screen device. Yes, the comparison to the iPhone is inevitable- and although there are areas that Android excels in, for me, iPhone still offers a better overall experience and a lot of that has to do with the closely knitted hardware and software by Apple. But not everybody likes the iPhone and lots of people still prefer a physical keyboard and if you’re one in that crowd along with wanting a device that pushes the limits of technology, the Milestone it is.