Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
6/13/2011 10:11:03 AM
MOTOBLUR brilliantly integrates all your contacts, email and social networks into one easy to view list
Despite its HSDPA billing we were left twiddling our thumbs while websites loaded up.
Call us sentimental, but we for one are glad to have Motorola back in the mix. Of course, the manufacturer will argue that it never went away, but apart from the overly priced Motorola Aura with its swivel-blade design, Motorola has not so much as taken a back seat, but missed the ride altogether. When rumours first started circulating of a Google Android phone in the pipeline, many simply passed it off as mere gossip. Thankfully, it did prove true and despite its bulk, it was worth the wait.
We’re big fans of full QWERTY keyboards, particularly on devices marketed as being social networking or email heavy. We also like our touch-screens – as long as they work well, of course. A combo of the two is becoming a much more common occurrence, e.g the T-Mobile G1 and the Nokia N97, both of which sport a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Neither of these devices were on the thin side and the Motorola Dext is definitely of this larger ilk. While we’d like it to be a tad more pocket friendly, it does feel great in the hand when closed and open. That said, the top half of the device did feel a little flimsy and didn’t leave us with peace of mind that it could take much more than your average daily knock.The Dext sports a 3.1-inch TFT capacitive touch-screen, which can be swiped from left to right to reach any of the five home screens. In an unusual move, Motorola has decided to omit haptic feedback (vibrating response) each time you press one of the icons. While we would have preferred it to have been present, as we like that extra bit of assurance that the phone has recognised our command, the touch-screen was very responsive with accurate key presses. Even the virtual QWERTY keyboard with its smaller keys didn’t deter us too much, though with a full actual QWERTY keyboard at your disposal this would appear a better bet.
To coin a phrase from the HTC Hero’s press announcement, the Motorola Dext is a very ‘people-centric’ phone. The idea being that all your contact information, whether it’s phone numbers, emails or social network updates are all there in one easy to find view. Motorola has called this solution MOTOBLUR and is something we are going to see on all future Motorola Android devices – that’s right, there’s more coming. It sounds complicated, but in fact it works seamlessly and is an absolute breeze to set up. As soon as you initially switch your Dext on, you will be prompted to set up any email accounts you wish to receive via ‘push’ as well as any social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. As long as you don’t have some obscure email account, all the settings are preset and automatic, meaning you simply have to follow the brief step by step instructions.Each time you receive a new email, Tweet or Facebook message to any of your assigned accounts, a corresponding symbol will appear at the top of the screen, while a discreet white light blinks in the top right-hand corner when the phone is inactive. The integration is great, particularly if you have one email for your personal life and another for work and business. The Dext will merge these two accounts together meaning you have all your emails in one list. Or you can choose to keep them separate. In fact, you can filter what information you want to receive, so that you’re not bombarded with continuous updates and tweets. It’s entirely up to you.Depending on what information your contacts provide in their social networking profiles or of course if you enter it manually, your address book will consist of their profile picture, phone number, email, birthday as well as direct access to their Facebook, MySpace or Twitter page Motorola says Bebo will be available soon, with many more in the pipeline. One of our favourite aspects was that if you have their address you can click on it and Google Maps will automatically fire up to pinpoint the exact location. You can also see your recent contact history with each individual in a conversation-esque view.
With this type of information available, security is an issue. You don’t want something containing this magnitude of information to fall into the wrong hands. Thankfully, Motorola has tried to combat this with some nifty security features.Access your MOTOBLUR account from a PC or Mac and you’ll be able to locate your phone via the on-board GPS and Google Maps. Of course, this feature relies on you losing your phone in an area where there is a strong GPS signal and will prove pretty fruitless should your phone have been stolen rather than lost behind your sofa, unless the thief happens to be a couch potato. Should you have the misfortune of having your phone stolen, you can remotely wipe the phone’s content safe in the knowledge that all your content, contacts, text messages, emails et al are all backed up by MOTOBLUR. Once you have replaced your Dext (with another Dext, naturally), then you can retrieve all your information back onto your new handset.
Despite its ‘people-centricity’, there’s plenty more in the Dext’s artillery, including both HSDPA and Wi-Fi. Sadly, it’s with the internet experience that our first gripe lies. Even when using HSDPA data speeds, websites didn’t load nearly as fast as we would have hoped. This may ultimately be an issue with the operator, but as the Dext is an exclusive to Orange, this could prove problematic to all Dext users. To further reiterate this issue, when we logged on via Wi-Fi, the experience improved greatly. We’d even go as far to say it was excellent. Webpages looked especially crisp and vibrant, with standard sites displayed in full, though a degree of scrolling is still needed. Press down anywhere on the webpage and you can copy the web address before pasting it into a text or email. Useful for sharing the latest breaking news story or football transfer. You can also set up RSS feeds on any of your homepages, so that you receive regular updates from your favourite sites – www.mobilechoiceuk.com perhaps?The Dext is a Google phone so has direct access to the ever-growing Android market. There’s now thousands of applications to choose from, where users can search via category, or via the search tool. While we continue to be impressed by the Android market, it’s now a bona fide competitor to the Apple App Store; it did on more than one occasion take us numerous attempts to download an app.
While we continue to be impressed by Android phones, we’re yet to discover one with an above average camera, despite the five-megapixel billing. Unfortunately, the Dext doesn’t break the mould. There’s no flash or zoom, two vital ingredients if a camera phone is going to be considered anything more than a token gesture. You can zoom into a picture after you’ve taken it, but the quality does suffer as a result.Displayed in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen is the last picture captured, which cleverly rotates depending on whether you are holding the phone horizontally or vertically. Despite our grievances with the camera, we were impressed with the geo-tagging function that displays the city and postcode before you’ve even snapped your picture, though if it is unable to secure a GPS fix, an error message will appear. You’re also able to upload pictures direct to an array of social networks, as well as video to YouTube, with a maximum recording time of over five and a half hours. But with the ability to only record in 24 frames per second, the quality is not great.As touched upon, Google Maps is as good as ever, with the added bonus of including Street View, giving you the affect of actually standing at the location and being able to look around through your camera in a 360° direction. The GPS connection was fast and accurate but we did lose our data connection on more than one occasion.Other highlights include Shazam, the ever impressive music identification tool and a quirky voice control, which allows you to bark key search words into Google instead of having to laboriously type them out. There’s also a 3.5mm headset jack found at the top of the device to enable easy plugging in of your headphones while in your pocket.
We went from loving the Motorola Dext to just liking it, a lot. In terms of integrating all your contacts and social networks, it works a dream and even the biggest technophobe will get to grips with it in no time. The fact that there is direct access to the Android market is obviously another bonus, and there are enough high-end features to attract the early adopter market. However, there were just a few too many glitches to warrant giving the Dext full marks. The wobbly top half of the phone also didn’t fill us with confidence. That said, if Motorola continue to churn out handsets of this calibre, it’ll most certainly be back amongst the big boys. Motorola, welcome back!