A brick of a phone, that weighs more than your average handset, there is a slight ridge on the back of the phone to accommodate the Xenon flash
The virtual QWERTY keyboard requires a degree of care, and the touch-screen overall is maybe a tad too responsive
An impressive feature list that includes an eight-megapixel camera with a Xenon flash, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, A-GPS and a capacitive touch-screen
Opening applications requires a degree of patience, as the processor struggles to deal with the array of features
An impressive battery life of 540 minutes talktime and 320 hours standby time
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:58:53 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
The Xenon flash enables the Milestone XT720 to take some cracking photos, even in relative darkness
The processor struggle to cope with the array of features, leading to a lethargic experience
Motorola has been slowly clawing its way back to credibility. After gaining credence with the iconic RAZR range, the manufacturer went AWOL, occasionally popping up with bizarre concept handsets such as the Aura. However, since their comeback device the Dext launched last year, Motorola is starting to find its feet again. The Motorola Milestone XT720 is the second of the manufacturer’s Milestone range, and with Android 2.1 onboard we’re expecting this renaissance to continue.
With the Milestone XT720 your initial reaction is likely to be “Blimey, it’s a bit of a brute.” It’s thick and is certainly one of the heaviest mobile phones we’ve come across, weighing in at a hefty 160 grams. The screen is an impressive 3.7-inches, but we feel it could have been bigger with such a spacious border encompassing it, with the vertical sides in particular redundant. It’s also a haven for fingerprints, a common occurrence with touch-screens, but this seems worse than usual. Below the screen are four touch-responsive buttons; the menu key, home key, back button and quick search key.Flip the phone over and you’ll find a navy blue back that actually complements the metallic fascia better than we would have anticipated. You don’t have to have eyes like a hawk to find the Milestone XT720’s killer app either. Emblazoned in the bottom corner of the handset are the words ‘8.0’ and ‘Xenon’. That’s right kids, this is the first Android phone to feature a Xenon flash. We’ll discuss the phone’s camera credentials in more detail later, but the Xenon flash actually plays a role in the build of the phone. The flash and lens, an unprotected lens we might add, sit on a slight ridge that gives that side of the phone even more girth. This is of course to accommodate the Xenon flash, which needs more room than say an LED, but it still might take some getting used to.
The touch-screen is capacitive, our preferred option, but the Milestone XT720 is perhaps a little too responsive. Double key presses were commonplace and even the lightest brush of an icon could inadvertently fire an application up. Unlike the original Milestone, there’s no slide-out QWERTY keyboard. There is a virtual one, however, available in both landscape and portrait mode. As we’ve mentioned, the display is relatively thin, and as a result we struggled to maintain 100% accuracy when typing using the vertical keyboard. There is haptic response though to give you that short vibration alerting you that your key press has been recognised. The accelerometers are not the quickest, with a long pause between switching from portrait to landscape or vice versa. Google has introduced an experimental feature on the Milestone XT720. Located next to the space bar on the keyboard is a microphone icon. Press this and ‘Voice Input’ will be activated. This will enable you to dictate your messages. We were pleased by the results, though predictably it can fall short with more tricky or unusual names. We’d also advise against dictating email addresses, unless you’ve got the patience of a saint.
There are five customisable home screens, the middle being the main home screen that can be reached at any time by simply pressing the aforementioned home key. Somewhat bizarrely there are no preloaded social networking apps. So your two options for getting your Facebook or Twitter fix for example, are to either use the browser or download the versions available from the Android Market - both are free and make for a far easier and slicker experience than the browser option. One widget that is preloaded on the handset is YouTube. Drag this onto one of your home screens and it will regularly update itself, recommending a video to watch. As for the videos themselves, the quality is varied. It takes a few seconds for the clip to load and when not played in high quality (HQ), the videos look grainy and are played on a smaller display. However, hit the HQ button and you’ll transform this drab experience into one to behold. There’s a 3.5mm headset jack to plug your own headphones in, but we were quite impressed by the sound generated from the exposed speaker found on the back of the phone – loud enough to bother a bus load of passengers.The Motorola Milestone XT720 is kitted out with some rapid data speeds. Assuming your network is capable; you can expect HSDPA data speeds of up to 10.2 Mbps, which is quick. There’s also Wi-Fi for those times you find yourself in a hotspot. As it’s an Android 2.1 device, you can expect multi-touch, that old pinch and pull zooming method Apple seemed to have had dibs on for so long. Of course we’ve seen it in other Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S, where it was executed it to near perfection, and we expected a similar top notch showing in the Milestone XT720. Sadly the Milestone XT720 fails to deliver. Though the pinch and pull process is slick enough, it takes a couple of seconds for any text or pictures on the website to readjust.
In fact, a degree of patience is required with the Motorola Milestone XT720 as a whole. The processor used by the handset is an ARM Cortex A8 720 MHz which, while powerful, is left whimpering by the likes of the Apple iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S or HTC Desire. This slowcoach approach even applies to the Milestone XT720’s pièce de résistance, the eight-megapixel camera. Turn the handset on its side and you’ll find a dedicated camera key perfectly placed where your right index finger sits. However, there’s a delay of around four seconds from pressing this key to the camera loading up, by which point that cute little kitten you were trying to photograph has run off to catch a mouse. There’s also a slight lag when taking the actual photograph, so be sure not to move as soon as you hear the shutter noise.
Delays and lags apart, the Milestone XT720 delivers in both the still and video camera stakes. Of course there’s the eight-megapixel factor, but it’s the Xenon flash that takes centre stage here. Night time shots often appear dull at best with LED flashes, but with the Milestone XT720’s Xenon, we captured detailed photos in pitch darkness. There are also plenty of settings to accommodate your surroundings as well as face detection, multi-shot (up to six quick-fire consecutive shots), red eye reduction and camera shake prevention, all of which not only worked, but also helped enhance our somewhat amateurish shots. Wannabe Spielberg’s and Scorsese’s will be pleased to hear the video making credentials are top notch too, with the Milestone XT720 enabling budding filmmakers to shoot over four and half hours of footage in high definition in one go. What’s more, Motorola has boxed the Milestone XT720 with an HDMI cable so you can watch your footage back on an HDTV. To access your gallery for either your video or photo collection, you’ll find a one button access next to the camera key.For those of you who like to use their mobile as a navigational device, you’ll be able to trial Motorola’s own mapping solution Motonav. We achieved a good, accurate fix, and were pretty impressed with Motonav’s 3D maps and clear voice instructions. Our position occasionally jumped rather than glided, but it’s sure to tempt more than a few in paying the full price, once the trial version has expired. And for those that don’t, there’s always the reliable Google Maps onboard as an alternative.
On paper, the Motorola Milestone XT720 is right up there with the best of them. However, phones aren’t made out of paper, and sadly the Milestone XT720 fails to deliver where it counts. It’s a brute of a phone, and the processor just isn’t powerful enough to cope with all its features, leading to a lethargic experience. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a bad phone, and the camera in particular is excellent. But for the price range it’s going to be sold at, there’s better all-round smartphones than the Motorola Milestone XT720.