Motorola Cliq Hands-on: Great Hardware, Mostly Good Software

CIMG0234It’s not a game changer, but the Motorola Cliq proves that Motorola is very much back in the game. We spent some quality time this evening with the company’s first Android phone and came away very impressed with the solid industrial design and mostly pleased with the Motoblur technology that runs on top of Android. While some may find the widget user interface initially confusing, this smart phone should ultimately be very popular with social networking fiends. Physically, the Cliq feels great in the hand. It measures 0.62 inches thick and weighs 5.6 ounces. The T-Mobile G1 is the same weight but slightly thicker and .67 inches. More important, the sliding mechanism feels smoother on the Cliq, and its keyboard is miles better; we appreciated the full size keys and the satisfying click with each press. We also prefer the D-pad to the right of the keyboard on this device to the trackball on the G1. And unlike the G1 and myTouch 3G, this device has a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The Motoblur service impresses with how it puts social networking front and center. Motorola walked us through the initial setup process, and it’s a cinch to add accounts out of the box, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace (who uses that?). The widgets make it easy to find out what your friends are up to, and we love the fact that you can broadcast updates to multiple services with a single message–a first for a U.S. smart phone. The only risk with the constant stream of updates on the home screen is that some users might find the interface a bit cluttered or confusing. We’d also be interested to find out how this impacts battery life. CIMG0232When you swipe to the next screen using the Cliq’s capacitive 3.1-inch glass touchscreen display, you’ll be able to set up news widgets for keeping up with the latest headlines. You can customize this and other screens to your heart’s content, and Motoblur makes it easy to add RSS feeds. If you click on a story for more info, the stellar browser will automatically pull up the full article. Similar to the Palm Pre and its Synergy technology, the Cliq unifies your contacts so you don’t have unecessary (and frustrating) duplicate info on your device. But Motoblur goes even deeper than Synergy, allowing users to view the latest status updates and photos right from the contacts app. In a similar vein, the Cliq will unify your inbox, so you can see your e-mail, text messages, and social networking messages all in one place–but you can also view each inbox separately. I don’t like that the Cliq sometimes uses a black background with white text and other times presents things the other way around. Some unification of the UI would be nice for a more streamlined experience. CIMG0226Other welcome touches include the ability to see others’ social status updates when they dial you, easy photo sharing with the 5-MP camera to social networks but also Picasa and Photobucket, and the ability to search with your voice (as with other Android phones). I also like that QuickOffice is preloaded so you can work with Office documents on the go with the great keyboard. As with the myTouch 3G, you can get turn-by-turn spoken GPS via TeleNav Navigator. Overall, I’m liking the Cliq so far. There seems to be a bit of a learning curve versus the myTouch 3G, but the rewards are greater, and you can do more and get to more information with less clicks. Android is gaining serious momentum, and we look forward to do testing out the Cliq and Motoblur to see how it stacks up against the HTC Hero and its Sense UI.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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