Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Motorola Milestone smartphone
Is Motorola's first Android smartphone really a Milestone?
- Gorgeous display, responsive and zippy OS, relatively thin, full Microsoft Exchange support, multitouch and Flash support, Android 2.0
- Clunky slider mechanism, unimpressive QWERTY keyboard design, uninspiring design may not suit all tastes
Motorola's Milestone isn't a game changer, but it's an excellent Android smartphone on the whole. The chunky design, awkward sliding mechanism and QWERTY keyboard are sour points, but the fantastic display, impressive features list and the updated Android OS provide a rich experience.
After a long hiatus in Australia, Motorola is back with a bang! The Milestone is the company's first Google Android smartphone and the first Motorola handset we've reviewed in almost 12 months. With an excellent display, the latest version of Android and a sliding physical QWERTY keyboard, the Motorola Milestone largely impresses. However, its weight and clunky slide mechanism detract from its appeal.
The Motorola Milestone is a large and rather unusual looking smartphone. Many of the latest and greatest smartphones have sloped, curved edges with chrome highlights, but the Motorola Milestone features an all-black design with pointy edges and angled slopes. Though this style won't suit all tastes, it's at least distinctive.
Build quality is excellent thanks to a combination of hard and soft plastic. The Motorola Milestone smartphone is also reasonably thin for a device with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but the slider mechanism is disappointing. It's not spring operated and feels awkward and clunky. It also requires a little more force than usual to slide open and closed.
The Motorola Milestone's screen is superb and at 3.7in it's slightly larger than the iPhone 3GS's. The capacitive display is also a little brighter and clearer than the iPhone's, and it supports multitouch. It isn't as kind to fingerprints, though, requiring constant wiping to keep free of grubby marks.
The full QWERTY keyboard of the Motorola Milestone is both a blessing and a curse. We love the combination of a touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard, but the Milestone's keys are too flat for our liking and the position of the five-way navigational pad to the right of the keyboard make it awkward to type, at least initially — your left hand is too close to the edge of the phone when it's held in landscape mode. The typing experience gets better once you've adjusted (and remains more efficient than the on-screen Android keyboard), but it is well behind the experience on the iPhone.
The Motorola Milestone runs Google Android 2.1 (codenamed Eclair). Improvements include a refreshed Android Market layout, an updated Web browser, faster performance, enhanced contact synchronisation, combined inbox features and support for Microsoft Exchange. The Milestone will also receive the latest Android 2.2 update (Froyo) in the coming weeks.
Though the user experience remains similar to previous Android devices, the 2.1 update is another step towards a more polished and complete UI. Particularly impressive on the Motorola Milestone is the speed — despite running a modest 600MHz processor we experienced no lag. Programs opened swiftly — almost instantly — though the camera application is rather sluggish.
The Android Market has undergone a slight facelift, making it easier to search for apps as well as see the latest apps that have been released. Android's notifications taskbar makes downloading apps a pleasant experience and provided you're not with Optus you'll have access to both free and non-free applications (at the time of writing, Optus customers can only access free Android apps).
Like all Android devices, the Motorola Milestone's integration with Google services is excellent. Android automatically synchronises your Google calendar, mail and contacts over the air. When you add a new contact or calendar event on your PC, it will automatically appear on your phone and vice versa. If you don't have a Google account, you can create one on the Milestone itself; you can then easily import a contact list from Microsoft Outlook or even Apple's address book.
Multimedia is an area where previous Android phones could be accused of being lacklustre. The Motorola Milestone improves on previous efforts largely thanks to the inclusion of media synchronisation software called Media Link. The media applications themselves aren't as smooth or slick as the iPhone's, and FM radio is a noticeable omission. However the standard 3.5mm headphone jack is a welcome inclusion.
The Motorola Milestone's large display combined with multitouch means this smartphone is great for Web browsing. You can pinch in and out to zoom just like on the iPhone (though it's not as responsive) and pages load and render quickly. Unlike the iPhone, the Motorola Milestone also supports Flash. The Milestone is a 10.2Mbps HSDPA-capable smartphone but operates on the 900/2100MHz bands, so it won't work on Telstra's 850MHz Next G network.
Other features of the Motorola Milestone include a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, a built-in accelerometer, a digital compass and a GPS receiver. The Milestone also has a microSD card slot for extra storage, though this is annoyingly located behind the rear battery cover.
The Motorola Milestone has reasonably impressive battery life considering its long list of features. During our tests its performance was slightly better than the iPhone 3GS's — easily lasting a full day even with Bluetooth and location settings switched on.
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