Launching later this month, the Motorola CLIQ XT is the newest Android device from T-Mobile. This phone features many similarities of the original Motorola CLIQ, but there are some notable differences. Has Motorola made enough improvements over the original CLIQ to win us over?
Form factor: The biggest departure from the original CLIQ is the subtraction of the physical keyboard. As a result, the CLIQ XT is extra thin (XT?) and feels much nicer in the hand (or pocket). We were never that big a fan of the CLIQ’s keyboard layout, so we can’t say it is that big of a loss.
The CLIQ XT features the same 3.1 inch touchscreen along with almost identical hardware of the original device.
Motorola has improved the button layout on the front of the phone by adding dedicated keys for Back, Home, Menu, and Search. A touch navigation pad is located between the buttons and it can also be clicked. The touch pad has a nice textured coating and we had no issues navigating around.
Dedicated camera, power, and volume keys are located on the sides of the device along with a 3.5 mm headset jack and micro USB port.
Styling: Two interchangeable battery covers are included with the device. Customers can choose from a soft-touch black cover or a glossy purple back. We don’t normally see handset makers include two battery covers so it is nice to have a choice.
Unfortunately, the CLIQ XT has the most annoying cover design I have ever seen. I broke my fingernail and dropped the phone a couple of times trying to swap the back cover out. It takes two hands and extreme concentration to pop it off.
OS: Our biggest gripe with the CLIQ XT is the Android 1.5 firmware that powers the device. This outdated version of Android will prevent you from installing the latest apps and I’m surprised to see it still being used on new phones. Motorola is planning to update the original CLIQ to Android 2.1 this Q2 2010, so hopefully we will see a matching firmware for the CLIQ XT.
Motorola has included Motoblur which is their custom flavor of Android. It offers additional features like social media integration and mobile backup, but it is starting to show its age. Newer versions of Android (2.1) now include multi account support and integrate easily with social networks like Facebook. Hopefully, Motorola will roll out some new features for Motoblur when they update to the Android 2.1 firmware.
For more information on Motoblur, visit the official Motorola site.
Bundled apps: Just as we saw with the CLIQ, Motorola and T-Mobile have decided to bundle several Android apps with the CLIQ XT including MySpace, Quickoffice, Slacker, Swype, TeleNav GPS, and a few others. We appreciate the effort to include some cool apps, but Motorola has blocked the uninstall option for these programs.
Android phones are notorious for their limited internal storage space for apps, so it is disappointing to have someone else dictate how that gets used.
The CLIQ XT includes a 5 megapixel camera with flash, auto focus, and digital zoom. Taking still photos with the CLIQ XT produced excellent results. The pictures look clean and crisp and they are comparable with ones I have taken on my Nexus One.
Sample Video: We shot a quick sample video and you can find the results below. The CLIQ XT can in no way compete with the HD video capture of the Nexus One, but it gets the job done. If you want a phone primarily for video, pass on the CLIQ XT.
FM radio: Not many Android phones have a working FM radio, so it is nice to see Motorola include one with the CLIQ XT. Users must plug in the supplied headphones to launch the radio application and it appears they operate as the antenna. Our demo unit was missing the headphones, so it was difficult to fully test this feature. We tried several spare headsets and experienced mix results.
Flash: First generation devices like the CLIQ XT will not support Flash 10.1, but Motorola has included a version of Flash Lite with their phone. Flash Lite is based off an older version of Flash so some objects work and some don’t.
We tried several different Flash sites and some loaded, but the experience was generally disappointing. Flash ads slow the browser down and Flash games are hard to play because they are not designed for the small screen.
Multitouch: Google did not support multitouch APIs till Android 2.1, but Motorola has implemented some gestures in the CLIQ XT. Both the browser and gallery have pinch zoom controls, but Maps does not. At least CLIQ XT users can experience some multitouch gestures, but they will have to wait till Android 2.1 for full support.
I may be over simplifying things, but I think we have two types of customers: those who own Android phones and those who don’t.
If you have purchased a previous Android phone, there is virtually no reason to consider buying this phone. The specs are from last generation and the software is outdated.
For those that are new to Android, the CLIQ XT is a nice phone and I would suggest it over any non-Android phone that T-Mobile offers. However, Android has so much more to offer and a wave of new phones is around the corner. Waiting just one month could result in a faster phone with better specs that runs the latest version of Android.
Basically, the CLIQ XT would have been competitive if it was released a year ago.
T-Mobile has yet to provide the full retail pricing, but that really has no bearing on our opinion. The original CLIQ retails for $399 ($99 w/ 2yr contract), so we expect it to fall in that same range.
Update: The Motorola CLIQ XT is now available from T-Mobile for $129 with 2 year contract or $329 off contract.
Why is this phone rad?:
- 5 megapixel camera takes excellent photos
- Touch navigation pad works well
- External speaker is super loud
- Pinch zoom controls are a nice addition to the browser and gallery
- FM radio – not many Android phones have one
- Two interchangeable back options
- Flash Lite – not the full version, but better than nothing.
What about this phone makes us sad?:
- Android 1.5 – unable to install latest Android apps
- Last generation specs – same CPU as the T-Mobile G1
- Video capture quality is lacking
- Cannot remove bundled applications
- Removing battery case is an exercise in frustration
See all the pics on Flickr or peruse them below: