Motorola DEXT smartphone
The Motorola DEXT smartphone offers MotoBlur, which unifies emails, SMS messages and social-networking services
- Build quality, comfortable keyboard, MotoBlur service, various social-networking portals, 3.5mm headphone jack
- Slow, MotoBlur isn't perfect, phone book quickly becomes cluttered
Motorola deserves credit for trying something a little different with this Android-based smartphone. Though the execution of MotoBlur leaves a little to be desired, we think the DEXT will appeal to the younger, social network savvy crowd. If MotoBlur can be refined and its speed improved, future MotoBlur devices may be very exciting.
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After a long hiatus in Australia, Motorola is aiming to hit back with a bang. The Motorola DEXT is an Android-powered, touch-screen smartphone with a full QWERTY keyboard. Featuring MotoBlur software, which aims to unify communications on the home screen, the Motorola DEXT is an admirable effort. However, the sluggish user interface detracts from its overall appeal.
The Motorola DEXT is a surprisingly heavy smartphone, but its build quality is impressive. Though the rounded edges and grooved rear battery cover may make it look like a quirky device aimed at teenagers, the DEXT actually feels like a high-end smartphone when it's in your hands. The spring-operated slider feels slightly clunky, but there are no rattles or creaks and the finish and attention to detail are impressive. We loved the backlit Motorola logo on the back of the slider, which reminds us of an Apple MacBook Pro.
With a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a 3.1 in touch-screen display, the Motorola DEXT smartphone seems well equipped to handle Google's Android OS. The screen is capacitive, and it's fairly responsive. The keyboard is excellent — each key is slightly raised and feels firm when pressed. The keys emit a reassuring click, making typing both comfortable and fast. Our only complaint is that the Alt, Space and Sym buttons on the bottom row are too close to the edge of the phone, so your finger digs into the edge of the handset each time these keys are pressed. To the left of the keyboard is a five-way navigational pad that’s well positioned, but we didn't need to use it very often.
The Motorola DEXT review runs an older version of Android (1.5), and Motorola hasn't announced any plans to update to the newer version (the latest at the time of publication being 2.1). All the features and benefits of Android are present, but it's Mototola's MotoBlur service that is the real star of this show. MotoBlur is a widget-based system that combines multiple social networking and communications accounts into one portal. For example, you can view Facebook status updates, read tweets, check your Gmail and update your MySpace profile without the need to log into separate applications. You'll need to create a MotoBlur account to use the service, but it's free and all content and data is pushed live to the handset.
Though the idea certainly has its merits, we feel Motorola's execution isn't perfect. Setting up Facebook, Twitter and Google log-ins for MotoBlur resulted in a very cluttered phone book — and that's with only three out of a possible 10 services selected (others include MySpace, LastFM, e-mail, Picasa, Photobucket and Yahoo Mail). MotoBlur automatically synchronises your contacts, but the problem is that it adds every contact from every social-networking service you use, including Twitter. Though you can sort by regular contacts, it's still overwhelming; we can't think of anyone who would want Twitter contacts in their mobile phone book. The MotoBlur service also quickly becomes hard to follow if you have a large number of Facebook friends or followers on Twitter — it's not as advanced as many Twitter iPhone apps, for example.
Among the more positive features of MotoBlur is the unified "happenings" menu, where you can see at a glance updates from all connected social-networking services, and a universal message inbox that displays SMS, Facebook messages, direct Twitter messages and e-mails. We were particularly impressed with the last of these, although it can become cluttered if you are using more than one e-mail address. As its running the Android OS, customisation is one feature Motorola is touting as an advantage over the iPhone — you can choose to have up to three or four widgets on the home screen, or even none. We prefer to keep it to one or two, as the screens can quickly become busy and cluttered looking.
The rest of the Motorola DEXT is mostly standard Android fare, with one major drawback: speed. Unfortunately the DEXT's hardware struggles to keep up with its busy software, often resulting in frustrating lag and delay, even when accessing basic phone functions. We'd like to think that a software update could fix these issues considering 1.5 is now a rather outdated version of Android, but with Motorola providing no details about if or when the DEXT will receive an update, it's not looking good.
A 5-megapixel camera that doubles as a video recorder and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack make the DEXT a decent multimedia phone, though Android is still lagging behind the iPhone in terms of a polished experience. A microSD slot handles memory cards up to 32GB in capacity.
The Motorola DEXT is exclusively available through Optus in Australia, on plans starting from $49 per month. Online store MobiCity is also selling an imported model of the Motorola DEXT in Australia.
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