After having my Motorola CLIQ for three days, I decided to write down my thoughts and opinions of the phone and specifically focus on those aspects that are (in my opinion) of interest to current Android users who are looking at the CLIQ as a possible upgrade device. So here it goes…
The Contents of the Box:
• Motorola CLIQ Phone
• AC Adapter Plug
• USB Cable
• SIM Card
Of course, there is nothing incredibly out-of-the-ordinary here but there are a few things worthy of a mention. First, the AC Adapter plug… It’s just that… a plug. You actually use the provided USB Cable for both the AC Power and for connecting your phone to your computer. This works fine, it is just weird. Second, there is a curious lack of reference to Android in the instructions. It’s there, just infrequently. Again, it’s just a little weird, especially considering Motorola’s almost over-zealous dedication to Android.
Having heard numerous people half-jokingly refer to the CLIQ as a toy, I am pleasantly surprised at the perceived ruggedness of the build. Only time will tell whether the ruggedness is real or not, but at this point I’m quite happy with it. When compared to the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) the lack of the swivel motion in the keyboard makes it seem sturdier. Also unlike the Dream there is far less motion between the front and back pieces when closed. There is still some motion, however, which is most noticeable when pressing at the left and right edges of the screen. So far there is no creaking or squeaking related to this motion, which was not the case with the Dream.
The CLIQ is similar in size and weight to the HTC Sapphire (T-Mobile MyTouch 3G, HTC Magic), but slightly thicker. And, although similar shape, the CLIQ does lack the “chin” as seen on most of the HTC Android devices. So if you don’t dig the chin, you might find the flat-face of the CLIQ more appealing.
When closed, the CLIQ has the Menu (designated by four squares), Home, and Back buttons on the front, a silent-mode switch and volume rocker on the left, the power/lock button and camera button on the right. On the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and on the left is the MicroUSB slot. Slide open the keyboard to reveal the 5-Way Directional Pad to the left of the Four-Row Keyboard. For those coming from one of the existing Android devices such as the Dream, Sapphire, or Hero, this is where things get different.
The fact that you have to open the keyboard to get at the directional pad is somewhat troublesome. It’s amazing but you don’t realize how often you actually use the navigation controls (trackball or directional pad) until you don’t have them accessible. For me, this is most obvious when using the virtual keyboard and need to go back a few characters or lines to correct something. Having used a Dream and a Sapphire for nearly a year now, I find myself constantly going to the trackball only to find it isn’t there. Also, the placement of the directional pad on the left is proving to be a little hard for me handle. At first, I had though “Sweet! It’s more like the game controllers I am used to, this is going to be awesome!” but I have found I am more comfortable with the trackball on the right. Again, this is probably because I am used to it.
The keyboard itself is different and interesting to get used to. With the Dream, our beloved physical-keyboarded Android, we have a 5-Row Keyboard which makes typing a bit easier than with the 4-Row Keyboard of the CLIQ. Also, it may just be me but it seems like the CLIQ takes a touch more pressure to press the keys. That being said, the shape of the keys (somewhat like a rounded pyramid) and their closeness to each other actually helps with typing speed because in many cases you can rock between the keys easily. The keyboard is where the CLIQ gets its name. There is actually a clicking sound with each keypress. It’s not a software generated sound but rather there is an actual clicking sound coming from the hardware. I know what you are thinking… Yes, I think this is intentional and not a defect. It’s not loud but it is noticeable, which means no secret texting in class kids (unless you go virtual).
Lastly, something that isn’t really keyboard related but is related to typing on the CLIQ. The placement of the volume rocker on the left side (which becomes the bottom when the keyboard is open) is unfortunate. This is because depending on how you rest your non-typing fingers while typing you may find yourself accidentally adjusting your ringer volume frequently.
The touch screen is slightly smaller than the HTC phones, coming in at 3.1” as opposed to 3.2” but this doesn’t make a huge difference (for me at least). Sometimes the touch response can seem a little lagged and somewhat inaccurate but perhaps I am at fault. I find myself hitting the wrong keys on the virtual keyboard more often on the CLIQ than on my other phones.
So I bet at this point you are asking yourself, this is a phone so how does it work as a phone? Although I don’t often use my phone as a phone, I have found the voice quality both on the CLIQ side and on the other caller’s side is loud and clear, and without any weird artifacts. This is not new to me though as I have experienced flawless voice quality on my other Android phones as well.
Somewhat disappointing is the fact that the CLIQ, with its MOTOBLUR services, is based on Android 1.5. This is disappointing for two reasons: First, the CLIQ is being released on a carrier that has already rolled out Android 1.6 to all of its existing Android phones (T-Mobile USA). Second, Motorola is releasing another device only days later that is running Android 2.0. I understand that the CLIQ is Motorola’s first Android device and that its MOTOBLUR services were built on that framework, but Motorola obviously has had the benefit of knowing Android 2.0 for at least some time and I would have liked for them to have MOTOBLUR updated to Android 2.0. Perhaps there is going to be a quick follow-up release to upgrade CLIQ users to 2.0 but I doubt it.
So, now that we know MOTOBLUR was likely a part of reason that the CLIQ is being release with Android 1.5, let’s talk about those services and see if they justify the ends. We’ll begin with my experience starting up the phone and setting up the MOTOBLUR services, and then lead into how those services come into play with real use of the phone. Finally, I’ll discuss the overall experience without specific focus on MOTOBLUR.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I was very excited to receive my CLIQ and was very eager to get home from work and fire it up. And I did exactly that. I got home, I popped the SIM card out of my Sapphire and into the CLIQ and excitedly powered it on. Much as is the case with the instructions booklet, I found myself a touch confused when I was not presented with any indication that the phone I was booting was indeed Android. Instead, I got a pulsing MOTOBLUR logo. Fine, whatever, I can deal with that. I then got to what I will call the Welcome to Android screen, but again, saw no indication of Android’s presence. Instead I got a customized welcome screen and was directed to begin MOTOBLUR setup. This was easy enough, I enter my Name, my Email Address and a Password and I am good to go. After that I get to choose which accounts I sync (including MySpace, Facebook, Google, Last.FM, Twitter, Email, Corporate Sync, Picasa, Photbucket and Yahoo Mail). I am not sure if Google was optional or not but since this is Google Android, I chose it automatically. I also included Facebook and Twitter. It might have been nice to also have LinkedIn as an option for those corporate types. Everything went fine here and I was delivered to the Home screen of my phone.
Although I knew it was coming, I was caught a little off guard by the number of Widgets that were loaded by default to my Home screen. My Android experience, having flashed and re-flashed and wiped and re-wiped my phones countless times, has always been a minimalistic default Home screen. Instead I was presented with the Social Status, Happenings, Messages, Weather, News, Music, and Search Widgets already preloaded with either my social networking content or default selections. I updated the weather widget to show my location, removed the News and Music widgets, and went along my way a much happier person.
As you probably noticed, I left all of the social networking widgets in place. So, how does “The First Phone With Social Skills” stack up in terms of social networking? It’s kind of a mixed bag. While I am generally pleased with the way that MOTOBLUIR retrieves my statuses and messages from various sites, there is a bit to be desired. First of all, I have yet to find out if there is a way that I can set the frequency at which these sites are polled for updates, or whether I can manually trigger an update. In the case of Twitter, where conversations seem to fly by at the speed of a hummingbird, I find myself a little behind the times when I get updates. The good thing: MOTOBLUR makes is very easy to see what is new because only new statuses are shown in the Happenings widget. Once you view them, they are removed from the widget (but are still available for viewing in the Happenings application). This behavior is the same for the Messages, and News widgets. The Happenings application also functions as a Twitter (or whatever service to which the current message applies) client but it is somewhat rudimentary. For example, there is a way to Reply to Tweets and to Direct Message the Sender of a Tweet, but there is no option to Retweet, or follow Mentions or Hashes. This is probably due to supporting so many different services that they had to compromise some functionality. Needless to say, I have not been able to use MOTOBLUR as my sole Twitter client. Facebook, operates in much the same way so I won’t go into that here. I use Facebook much less frequently that Twitter so I am happy with the MOTOBLUR implementation there.
Where I think MOTOBLUR shines is actually in its modifications to the Contacts application. Instead of just being a list of people, the Contacts application becomes yet another way to see the status of your Contacts and consolidates all of your contacts from your various synced services. Of course, you have the option to just view a list as well. The Dialer view presents us with the Dialer and additional tabs for Recent, Frequent, and Speed Dial contacts.
Of course, with these modifications, the Contacts database had to be changed. Unfortunately, there have been reports of Contacts based applications not functioning properly in some cases. Keep this in mind of you see any weird things happening and notify the developer of the affected application so they are aware and can implement a fix or help troubleshoot.
As that pretty much covers the main features of MOTOBLUR in the device (there are other features such as remote wipe, but those are not device related, so we’ll skip them for now) I will move on to the general observations of the user experience.
If you’ve seen any videos or screenshots of the CLIQ you will already know that the UI is modified from the vanilla Android experience. Most of the UI is similar but colors have been modified and some elements have changed graphically. The theme of the CLIQ is nEx.Software colors. Only kidding, but they are red and black so in most places that you would normally see orange, you see red. In most places this works but there are some places where it might have been best to not modify the colors. For example, the stars to indicate rating in the Market are red instead of green, which makes them a little difficult to see due to their small size.
The phone has no physical call or end call buttons, which means that you have to go to the home screen to make a call, which is fine because if you are making a call you probably don’t need to be in another app. As you would expect you can answer a call while in any application.
Overall, the phone seems a little snappier than the Dream and Sapphire (except for the HTC branded variant which has the 256MB RAM) because it has more RAM. However, I would imagine that MOTOBLUR can dig into the speed on updates, which it seems you have no control over.
After having spent three days with this phone, I have definite things that I like and things that I don’t really care for but I have been generally impressed by this phone and would say that it is a good entry into the Android market (not the Android Market of course). I would recommend it as a replacement for the Dream if a replacement was needed, but would probably not recommend it if there was no actual need. It’s just not that compelling an upgrade for those who don’t have to. For a new Android user who wants a keyboard I’d recommend it over the Dream. But I’d venture a guess that it would be hard to choose this over the Motorola Droid or some of the other Android phones de out in the near(ish) future.
An item of note that isn’t really a part of the review but I felt like mentioning anyway. There is currently a bug in the CLIQ firmware which has broken some games, and has caused them to not display their graphics (i.e. Buka and Totemo by Hexage). If you know of any games that are experiencing this issue, please let the developer know so that they can work around the bug.
Please let me know if there is anything else you’d like to know about the CLIQ, or my experiences with it.