Motorola's Milestone is the company's second Android smartphone. Lacking the social-networking focus of its predecessor the Dext, and boasting the newer Android 2.0 operating system, it's a more business-friendly device.
The Milestone is something of a brick to look at. Blocky and black, it lacks the visual 'wow factor' that many smartphones aim for. There's an unsightly lip along the bottom edge of the device. This is present because the lower section of the Milestone, which slides out to offer a QWERTY keyboard, is slightly taller than the upper section.
The Android 2.0-based Milestone has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
We'd much rather the upper section extended a few millimeters too. This would allow the device to lose the lip and provide more space for the touch-sensitive shortcut buttons that sit beneath the display. As it is these buttons are rather cramped.
The Milestone is quite heavy at 165g, due in part to the use of metal for some of the casing. This makes the device quite robust. And Motorola has used a rubberised finish on the back so that the Milestone does not slip around on the desk. It measures 115.8mm by 60mm by 13.7mm, which allows for a decent sized screen — 3.7in. with a resolution of 480 by 854 pixels. Image quality is clean and sharp, and web browsing in particular is a rewarding experience.
The touchscreen is capacitive and responsive to finger-presses and sweeps. The screen does attract fingerprints: within a minute of coming out of its box, ours was covered with greasy smears.
The Milestone's QWERTY keyboard is disappointing, partly because of the amount of space given over the D-pad on the right-hand side.
The keyboard is a big disappointment. Motorola has allocated a fair chunk of space to a large D-pad for scrolling around and making selections. However, on a touchscreen handset, tapping and sweeping the screen should be enough most of the time. Where it isn't, such as when editing text, a set of cursor keys embedded into the keyboard is all that's required. As it stands, the QWERTY keys lose about 1.5cm of width they could profitably have used.
The keys themselves are flat and — on our review sample at least — unevenly laid, making this area look shoddy. Keys are not individually raised, and although they give some tactile feedback when pressed, this is minimal. We could only manage about 75 percent of our normal typing speed for a small-format device.
Most bizarrely of all, the left and right keys the bottom row are space-fillers with no function. Why didn't Motorola use this space for shortcuts to features like silent mode, Wi-Fi activation or user-selectable applications? It's a real opportunity missed.
There are few buttons and connectors around the edges of the Milestone. The top edge has a small power/screen lock button and next to it a 3.5mm headset jack. On the left edge is a Micro-USB mains power connector, while bottom edge, with that overhanging lip, is clear. The right edge houses a volume rocker and a camera shortcut button — the latter is bronze-coloured so that it stands out from the otherwise almost entirely black chassis. The bank of buttons beneath the screen offer touch-sensitive access to Home, Search, Back and Menu functions.
The Motorola Milestone ships with an AC adapter, a PC connection cable, a one-piece stereo headset with flat in-ear buds, an 8GB microSD card, a printed quick-start guide and a CD containing synchronisation software.
The Milestone runs Android 2.0 and is the first device to do so out of the box in the UK. If you're familiar with earlier versions of the operating system, you won't notice any major differences. The look and feel is very similar, although the screen unlock mechanism now requires a left-to-right sweep rather than a top-to-bottom one.
Enhancements include support for more camera features such as digital zoom, macro mode, white balance adjustment and flash (should manufacturers choose to support them). The ability to reach contacts by a variety of means from a single location is included, as is support for Microsoft Exchange.
Motorola has chosen to include support for Microsoft Exchange, and also a very welcome double-tap-to-zoom feature in the web browser. This makes it easy to home in on precisely the area of a web page that interests you without having to drag a page around too much. A second double tap zooms back out.
Android's usual three home screens are provided by default, and Motorola does not add any more. Nor does it skin the standard Android look and feel, which is little changed from previous versions. One rather fun tweak is voice-based web search. If you tap the search button beneath the screen, hit the microphone icon and say what you want Google to search for, it does. Voice search was fairly accurate during testing, but not foolproof: it found 'BBC News UK', for example, but failed to locate 'ZDNet UK'.
The processor is clocked at 550MHz, which is not overly fast for a smartphone today. However, we had no performance issues during our tests. The blank screen moments we sometimes experience with our HTC Hero are not present here. Out of the box, the Milestone had 152MB of available internal storage and came with an 8GB microSD card. It's irritating that you need to remove the battery to get to the microSD card slot, though.
The Milestone is a quad-band GSM phone with HSPA support, plus Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) and Assisted GPS. An accelerometer turns the screen as you swivel the device in your hand, and does so quickly and efficiently.
The camera is a 5-megapixel unit with a dual-LED flash, autofocus and a macro mode among its features. It's a pity there's no front-facing camera for two-way video calling, and images can appear rather washed-out.
Motorola provides few bundled applications on top of the Android basics, although easy access to the Android Market means you can add plenty of extras yourself. You do get Motonav, Motorola's own navigation application, as a 60-day free trial. Google Maps is also present, of course.
There's also an application called My Sign with which you can configure gestures for launching applications or accessing other features. Preconfigured gestures, for example, include a W to activate Wi-Fi and a G to activate GPS. My Sign is of limited use because only a subset of the Milestone's apps and services are supported.
Performance & battery life
Motorola rates the Milestone's 1,400mAh battery as good for 390 minutes of talk and 350 hours on standby. We got more than a day's use from a full charge with moderate Wi-Fi and GPS usage, but not much more. Daily charging is recommended, as is frugal use of energy-sapping elements such as GPS — but that's normal with any smartphone.
The responsive screen is a real plus and the 550MHz processor never seemed especially troubled by our demands. However, the poor-quality keyboard was a constant irritation.
Motorola's Milestone isn't the most attractive smartphone, but business users will appreciate its Microsoft Exchange support and high-quality display. Unfortunately, the slide-out QWERTY keyboard is a real let-down.