Motorola Cliq XT Review

motorola cliq xt review

Motorola Cliq XT

“Motorola’s Cliq XT forgoes a keyboard of the first-generation Cliq for a smaller, lighter design, but preserves the excellent Motoblur interface for social networking devotees.”
  • Motoblur aggregates social network, texting and e-email accounts, music player and address book
  • Google Android OS v1.5
  • 5-megapixel camera with flash
  • Anti-smudge screen reduces reflectivity
  • Motoblur bubbles cover home screens
  • Poor video recorder
  • Back battery cover difficult to remove

Introduction

During the course of this review, we’ll be discussing varying advanced aspects of the Motorola Cliq XT from T-Mobile, such its social networked music player, its Swype texting capability, its iPhone-like pinch-and-zoom photo gallery capabilities, and more. But none of these really matters. The Android-powered Cliq XT, an update of last fall’s Cliq, is aimed at a specific customer: the social networker, some whom spend most of their mobile day reporting every moment of their earthly existence (or commenting on other’s banal blow-by-blow) on Facebook, texting friends, sending pictures, and updating their blogs. For these folks, the Cliq XT’s otherwise unique collection of functions aren’t necessarily superfluous, but certainly won’t be primary purchase factors. But XT’s other social networking features may make it attractive even to casual Twitterers.

Features and Design

Like the original Cliq (for simplicity sake, hereafter referred to as C1), XT runs Motorola’s Motoblur, Motorola’s innovative (and still unmatched) social networking aggregation interface. All of your social networking streams – Twitter, Facebook, texts, etc. – are displayed in separate thought balloons scattered across the XT’s screens.

Once you enter your Gmail, Facebook or other social networking account details, your usual address book contact details are merged with relevant data from those services, including photos of your contacts, happenings, updates, and blogs. Motoblur is the cleverest method yet for keeping abreast of the growing number of social media sources we seem to be accumulating. We’re not big social networking guys, but XT’s intuitive Motoblur is addictive.

It’s one negative (other than drawing you into social networking more than you otherwise might), is that the thread bubbles blot the screen like thunderclouds covering an azure blue sky on an sunny day. Or worse, there’s little room left on your five home screens for application icons, which means you’ll be pulling up the menu for almost every other Android app and phone function.

Physically, the XT is lighter than the C1. Way lighter, thank goodness. By eliminating the slideout keyboard, Motorola has shaved 1.5 ounces and 0.12 inches in width off from the C1 – not an insignificant difference when the phone is sitting in the bottom your pants pocket.

Otherwise, there are otherwise few differences between the XT and the C1. Both have 5-megapixel cameras, but the XT adds an LED flash. Both have 3.5mm jacks on top, volume toggle and microUSB jack on the left perimeter, power and camera buttons on the right.

Motorola’s Cliq XT inexplicably subtracts an external ringer switch, and also inexplicably adds a touch navigation pad, which seems redundant since the XT sports a 3.1-inch touchscreen. Motorola’s rationale: You can see and move what’s on the screen without your fingers being in the way, and it reduces the chance of fingerprints (even though Motorola has added an anti-smudge coating).

Also added to the XT is a Google search magnifying glass icon, a welcome “why didn’t someone think of this before” function.

The Cliq XT’s rear is more tightly textured and rubberized than the C1. But try as we might, we could not pry off the back cover to get the microSD slot. The XT comes with a 2 GB card pre-installed, thank goodness, but good luck trying to replace it with a larger capacity card.

Like the C1, the XT runs on Android 1.5, which means the same five home screens.

Can a phone serve as a workable media player?

The XT’s new anti-smudge resistance coating doesn’t diminish the phone’s beautiful and bright high-res 320 x 480 pixel LCD, but slightly lowers reflectivity, which helps when you’re watching videos or snapping shots in the sun or under other bright lights.

Motorola’s biggest addition is the social networking aspects of its music player. Motorola has pre-installed both FM and Internet Shoutcast radio, along with SoundHound to identify unknown songs playing on the radio or other locale, and TuneWiki, which lets you know what your friends are listening to – but not on the phone, as far as I can tell. TuneWiki on the XT gives you Music Maps, which lets you know what other TuneWiki users are listening to in your area, searches for music lyrics, and supplies TuneWiki most-listened-to charts. As a music social networking tool, you need to convince your music-listening friends to sign up to the service.

Sound Quality

Subjectively, the XT sounds better than the C1, thanks, it seems, two dual earpieces and dual mics are cleverly hidden in the seams around the edges of the phone, with less echo and better ambient noise cancellation.

Phone Functionality

With the all-encompassing Motoblur social networked address book, Motorola and T-Mobile have eliminated the redundant myFavs feature. Otherwise, the XT’s phone dialer looks the same as the C1’s large easy-to-tap number keys, but adds reassuring haptic feedback to surprisingly faint key tones.

For texting, the Cliq XT includes Swype technology, designed to speed text input via a combination of predictive text and dragging your finger across the keyboard from letter-to-letter instead of tap tap, and likely the reason Motorola felt it could amputate the C1’s slide-out QWERTY. Swype adherents say it takes a couple of days to get used to the new input method, but this reviewer is an admittedly old dog who could not (or would not) learn this new trick. We allow, however, that others more digitally adept might find Swype wonderful.

Web

Like the C1, the XT offers an intuitive browser that automatically seeks the quicker-loading mobile version of Web sites such as The New York Times, CNN and ESPN. As with all T-Mobile phones, you’re limited by the carrier’s growing, but still stunted 3G network. In a northern Manhattan apartment, we got only T-Mobile’s EDGE service, and so Web sites took 10 to 12 seconds to load, instead of 4-6 seconds in 3G territory.

For most social networking functions, T-Mobile’s EDGE service, however, is not a huge roadblock. Our initial social networking bubbles take about twice as long – maybe 10 seconds – to load when initially turning on the phone, but once loaded, EDGE’s speed is completely adequate for most social networking needs.

Camera

The Cliq XT’s flash makes its 5-megapixel camera far more functional for indoor shots than the non-flash imager on the C1. Photos inside and out are colorful and bright, but details and edges are smudgy, as if they’ve been digitally interpolated, especially when zoomed.

By using its own photo gallery app, the XT no longer has a direct-access Gallery app – you have to go through the camera’s menu to get to your pictures. But the XT’s photo gallery lets you pinch-and-zoom photos, and has a lively page-turn animation when swiping through photos.

Unfortunately, Motorola has not upgraded the camcorder – you still get tiny QVGA clips.

Battery Life

In our unscientific tests, we got a little more than half of the XT’s rated 7.5-hour talk time, but that may be a result of living out of T-Mobile’s 3G coverage area.

Conclusion

The Cliq XT’s merged social network address book is a great drawing card for this phone, even if you don’t spend all your socializing time in cyberspace. If you’re not constantly Facebooking, you can eliminate the bubbles to acquire more screen real estate for other apps. In other words, while the XT is designed for the Twitter generation, it will help you get acclimated while performing as a well-designed regular phone.

Highs:

  • Motoblur aggregates social network, texting and e-email accounts, music player and address book
  • Google Android OS v1.5
  • 5-megapixel camera with flash
  • Anti-smudge screen reduces reflectivity

Lows:

  • Motoblur bubbles cover home screens
  • Poor video recorder
  • Back battery cover difficult to remove

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