Motorola Milestone in-depth review -

Look and feel

A black, angular QWERTY slider, the Milestone means business, which you might like if you're the power phone type, but sleek it is not.

 

Ease of use

The newest version of Google's Android OS is as intuitive as ever, and a superb capacitive touch-screen means light swipes take you easily around the interface. Even the new MOTONAV sat-nav software is easy to configure and use.

Features

Excellent, fast internet and GPS features, while push-email on Google and Microsoft accounts is easy to set up and use in a desktop-like interface. Unfortunately the phone doesn't support push email on any other type of webmail. We're glad to finally see an OK camera on an Android though - camera flash is finally supported and kits the five-meg autofocus lens out

Performance

Slick and quick, the Milestone is a good multi-tasker. Even with RAM-intensive apps such as browser and maps open at the same time as Facebook and Twitter ran in the background, we observed zero lag.

 

Battery life

When running the phone to its fullest, the Milestone barely lasted a day and actually died overnight

 Motorola Milestone Review -
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/13/2011 10:11:30 AM

10

out of 10

Performance

6

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

4

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Speedy internet, great browser, excellent Gmail and Google features, lots of internal memory and bundled with 8GB microSD card

Cons:

No push email on non-Google and Microsoft Exchange accounts, keyboard isn?t quite as tactile as you?d expect for an email-centric phone, difficult to sync contacts with a standalone Microsoft Outlook account, short battery life when using internet and GPS

Everyone's going around talking about Motorola's big comeback, but the Milestone, like the DEXT, still looks like it's stuck in PDA hell. Yes, yes, don't judge a book by its cover, but ever since the iPhone, nobody gets to play the 'but it's so powerful' card. Which the Milestone is, by the way. Running on the latest version of the Android operating system, it's one of the fastest phones for internet, and multitasks with finesse. It just doesn't have much in the way of stylish extras like those that are being pushed on recent and upcoming Android phones like Sony Ericsson's Xperia X10 or HTC's high-performance Bravo.

 

Slide in, slide out
Though the Milestone might be most politely described as 'old school', there's no denying its build quality is up there. The slide out QWERTY comprises flat, tactile keys with intelligent placing of number and symbol keys. There's a dedicated Shift key for easy capitalizing (believe us, you will write in full sentences with proper grammar on a serious phone like this) and an Alt key that lets you at numbers and symbols - a great system reminiscent of BlackBerry, the original email king. Speaking of BlackBerry though, the keyboard just can't compare. Tactile it may be, but its just a little too long, thanks to an unnecessary D-pad on the right (didn't anyone at Moto follow the Nokia N97 and N97 Mini keyboard saga?) and the keys are just a bit too heavy to type as quickly as on, say, the BlackBerry Bold 9700, or indeed, a touch-screen keyboard like that of the iPhone's or HTC Hero's.

The chassis itself is angular with bronze detailing on the back speaker and D-pad. Its internal memory clocks in at an impressive 16GB and Moto has bundled an 8GB microSD card too. On the sides, we have a miniUSB port, 3.5mm audio jack (yay!), dedicated volume/zoom buttons and the camera release button. The camera is the best on an Android yet (not that that's saying much) - thanks to the new Android 2.0 OS which finally supports a camera flash. So the Milestone is packing a dual LED flash along with its five-megapixel autofocus lens. Unfortunately the image sensors are still fairly average, so while daylight shots were clear, they still didn't quite pick up true colours. Lowlight shots are a huge improvement over past Android devices though, and the dual LED flash lit objects quite well. Again, the Milestone's cam won't really replace your digi-cam, but it's still a great ally for those out and about spontaneous photos, especially as the shutter release button also doubles as a camera launcher.

A 3.7-inch capacitive touch-screen stretches across the entire front face, with only four touch buttons along the bottom - back, menu, home and search. That's right - nary a call/hang up key to be found. Not to worry though - a preloaded shortcut takes you to the dialer - but it does mean an extra two clicks just to call back your last caller. What we did love about the phone feature though, is an extremely sensitive proximity sensor that turns off the screen when it gets close to your ear, and even more impressively, turns it back on as you pull it away from your ear - so crucial when calling voicemail or any other numbers that require you to press a virtual keypad.

 

GPS and internet
This is the meat of the Milestone - its GPS and internet features are speedy and simply top of the line. It's one of the fastest phones for internet we've tried, and what's more, it's an excellent multitasker that was able to run the browser, a Twitter app, Maps and messaging at the same time with no lag whatsoever. There's never any waiting time between pressing an icon and something happening and using the phone - whether online or simply zipping around the interface - was always fluid, intuitive and immediate.

Its full HTML browser handles websites with ease, whether mobile optimised, or picture-heavy Flash sites. The 3.7-inch touch-screen is very comfortable for browsing, and supports multi-touch zoom for an even more intuitive web experience. Pictures and fonts display with great clarity, while the touch-screen is responsive and accurate when it comes to hitting hyperlinks. No tabbed browsing, but even so, we'd go as far as to say this is a near-perfect internet phone. The only problem with all this high-spec goodness? A pretty pitiful battery life. Simply by running Twitter and Facebook in the background, and often using the browser, the Milestone couldn't even last a day without running out of juice - to the point it turned itself off. Considering that internet is the biggest highlight of the phone, it really needs a much more powerful battery.

Sat-nav wise, its GPS receiver is speedy and precise, and had our location down to the door number even when we turned it on inside the building (a good GPS fix usually requires a clear view of the skies). The Milestone comes with Google Maps, but unfortunately, us luddites here in the UK don't get the voice navigation feature that US users will. Moto's fix? Its own navigation software, MOTONAV, which is actually a really great, full-featured solution for car as well as pedestrian sat-nav. The phone comes with free maps for Europe and a 60 day trial to the Premium service. The free stuff is pretty good as is though - you have option to look around a city, or find places around a cursor, as well as SMS or email maps and directions. Places include searching for categories like petrol, restaurant, parking and accommodation, while routing options include filters for motorways, period charges, per use tolls, ferries, unpaved roads.

We do wonder why MOTONAV is kept totally separate from Google Maps, which is pretty counterintuitive - after all, they're both maps that also tell you how to get places. As well, you can't turn on GPS from inside MOTONAV, which added a few extra clicks and inconvenience to the whole process. Yes, you can go to to the Android Marketplace and download auto-GPS on/off switches, but it just feels like another one of those little usability touches that a lot of other phones manage but this one doesn't.

 

Contacts book and email
As with any Android device, Gmail is top notch and exactly like it is on the desktop, and the QWERTY keyboard really made us want to type out missives to all and sundry. But we were pretty surprised that the Milestone doesn't go further here. While you can easily set up push email for multiple Google and Microsoft Exchange accounts, the device doesn't support push notifications for any other type of email, even Hotmail - the best you can do is set the send/receive interval to the shortest possible, which is still 15 minutes. And more annoyingly, even after you've cleared the notification of new email on your non-push accounts, if you haven't actually read those emails, the Milestone will keep sending you notifications of new email. As someone who doesn't actually read all that spam in their Hotmail (or pretty much any webmail to be honest) this was incredibly frustrating.

Meanwhile, social networking isn't really one of the Milestone's main strengths - obviously, thanks to the plethora of free apps for Twitter, Facebook et al available on Android Market, you can still get push notifications from the network of your choice - but unlike the DEXT, you won't get all that info pushed to the homescreen because the Milestone doesn't have the MOTOBLUR interface (or any interface on top of Android in fact). That's ok - if you're not one of those Facebook hounds, you certainly don't want status update and update filling up your homescreen.

The Facebook app is still pretty anemic for Android though, inexplicably lacking the ability to direct-message your friends. You can view the news feed pretty much as on desktop and anyone you've hidden won't show up in your phone app, but profiles still lack much of the info you'd see on desktop Facebook. But once you've downloaded the app, you'll have the option to sync Facebook contacts with your phonebook, a new feature supported by Android 2.0 only. However, we weren't actually able to do this - when trying to add our Facebook account, we just kept getting bounced back. This could be a software issue with our review model; we're waiting for a response from Moto on this one.

Contacts can be synced with Google and Exchange over the air, but trying to simply move contacts from a standalone Outlook account is a little more complicated and will involve a third party solution - e.g., syncing Outlook to Google. Surprisingly, Moto's preloaded Phone Portal software, which lets you manage your phone content from PC and can even import contacts from Outlook, can't actually sync Outlook contacts to the phone. It does contain information on literally everything you've done with your phone though - from texts and call history to photos and browsing history (eek!).
Very usefully, you can connect PC and phone with Wi-Fi - great if you've lost the USB cable, or, like us, are confronted with a mysterious message about inserting installation disks not found in the box.

 

The verdict
The Milestone is very powerful phone and we're hugely impressed by its internet and GPS features. It's lacking the style and finesse of Android devices like the HTC Hero, which pack all sorts of usability tweaks like contact syncing from multiple social networks, but it absolutely excels at its base functions. Its lack of an interface to grant these extra features may not be such a bad thing either - it does mean that when the next update to Android comes out, you'd be able to upgrade this phone right away. It's not one for everyone, but if you're just after the email and internet aspects of Android, the Milestone masters both.