The Motorola Milestone was the first smartphone to arrive with Android 2.0, and it's the thinnest physical Qwerty keyboard handset with the longest battery life. We found the keyboard to be a tad awkward to use, while preferring the touchscreen and the improved virtual keyboard of Android 2.0, with its better auto completion and spell-checking functionality. It's good to see the latest Google mobile OS on a phone, but it is just a vanilla installation without any frills or niceties. Missing is the Motoblur rich feature set seen in the Dext handset, with its peace-of-mind security measures and social networking functionality. Its much sleeker design and appearance means that Motorola could be aiming the mobile at the corporate world, which would make sense with the Motoblur missing and the native Microsoft Exchange support.
Android 2.0; large responsive touch screen; long battery life.
No Google turn-by-turn mapping software; keyboard is a tad awkward to use; no Motoblur Android overlay.
Android 2.0, 3.7in 480 x 854 touchscreen display, slide-out Qwerty keyboard, 5-megapixel camera, 3.5mm audio jack, quad-band GSM, 8GB microSD card, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, A-GPS, microUSB.
The Motorola Milestone offers a similar feature set to the firm's previous touch-screen Dext smartphone, with its slide-out Qwerty keyboard and social media functionality, but supports a sleeker overall appearance.
As with the Dext, the Milestone also runs the Google Android mobile operating system, and is the first to use the latest iteration, Android 2.0. This latest update to Android looks and feels much like any other vanilla deployment with its three customisable home screens. However, there have been some improvements to a few key areas.
These fall into the realms of native Microsoft Exchange support, a better user interface and browser experience, along with a much improved virtual keyboard. The latter is almost a bit of a moot point with physical keyboards, but the browser's 'pinch to zoom' plus full HTML viewing works much better than on other phones.
The zoom feature was left out of the US Droid version of the mobile, and the Google turn-by-turn navigation software has been replaced by Motorola's own sat nav in the European model. The plus side to this is that no other phone has the Google mapping software either, so what we don't know we won't miss. Also all the Motorola maps are based on the phone and they're not pulled down over the air.
One item missing from the Milestone that was first seen on the Dext is Motoblur, which is an overlay to the Android OS much the same way as the Sense is on HTC Android mobiles. Besides expanding the number of screens available for widgets, there's an in-built engine for displaying social networking updates on the home screen.
Motoblur also offers great security for the handset, making it possible to track the mobile's every movement through Google Maps, along with being able to back up all the phone's contents into the cloud. If the phone is lost or stolen, the handset can be remotely wiped of all data and the content restored to a new mobile.
Other features that were available on the Dext but not the Milestone are the phone book's synchronisation, where Facebook and Gmail contacts are automatically populated throughout the address book in an intelligent way. We contacted Motorola to ask why this was missing from the Milestone, and it said that it is not aiming this phone at the same market as the Dext. We firmly believe that these security elements would be a useful addition for anyone, not just social networkers.
A feature we haven't seen before is the Moto Phone Portal, a remote way of accessing the phone through a web browser on a computer. When launching the application on the handset the user is presented with an option to connect via USB or Wi-Fi, the latter producing an IP address and port. From here you are able to view call info on the phone from a PC-based browser, see and export the address book from the phone, and view and send text messages. It could be seen as a little bit gimmicky, but we actually found it rather useful in the end, especially when sending text messages.
Motorola's Milestone has one of the largest screens we've seen on a mobile, and is the largest on any shipping Android handset today. It has a huge 3.7in 480 x 854 WVGA capacitive touchscreen display, the slightest touch being interpreted with pinpoint accuracy.
It's a far cry from the small hit and miss 3.2in resistive screen we last saw on the HTC Android Tattoo mobile. The Samsung i8910 HD also boasts the same screen size as the Milestone, only with a much lower 360 x 640 resolution. LG's Crystal handset has a similar resolution of 480 x 800, only on a 3in screen, and the larger Milestone display comes across much better in every respect.