What's hot: Large high res display, hardware keyboard, great call quality.
What's not: Weird Spider Man keyboard wastes space.
Reviewed January 19, 2011 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The original Motorola Cliq was a distinctly mid-range Android smartphone whose low resolution display was overwhelmed by Motoblur widgets. The new Cliq 2 verges on high end smartphone territory and has become one of our favorite Android smartphones in its price bracket of $99 with contract. The Cliq 2 has a 1GHz Texas Instruments CPU, an 854 x 480 pixel capacitive multi-touch display, a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash and Android OS 2.2 Froyo. The Cliq 2 is different enough from the first gen model that T-Mobile and Motorola really should have gone with a fresh name.
In terms of looks, the Cliq 2 bears some similarity to the original Cliq, but it looks like a more high quality version of the older model. It has some heft at 6.2 ounces and the chrome surround and curved soft touch plastic back look nice enough. You won't confuse it with the Motorola Droid 2, but it doesn't look like a Fisher Price toy. Android phones have progressed rapidly since the first Cliq came out in November of 2009, and we now expect more sophisticated hardware and a reasonably recent version of Android OS-- the Cliq 2 more than delivers for $99 at introduction. The display is sharp and clear, speed is good and Motoblur in all of its widget overload has room to breathe on the larger high resolution display.
The only thing we question is the keyboard plane's Spider Man design aesthetic, but Motorola likes to take chances with design (consider the Motorola FlipOut and BackFlip). To show off that spider web pattern (or whatever it's supposed to be), the keys are scrunched toward the center, wasting space on the edges that could have allowed for a wider keyboard with larger keys. The large voids on each side of the keyboard do provide plenty of room to grip the phone when typing, as a consolation. Key travel and tactile feedback aren't tops on this membrane style keyboard where all keys live under a continuous plastic layer (it is however good for resisting spills). The keys are in their normal place with the space bar below the lowest letter row and the arrow keys on the right are handy. It's certainly decent enough if you hate on-screen keyboards, though the Cliq 2's responsive 3.7" multi-touch display is easy enough to type on.
The slider mechanism slides fully open and shut with spring assist and a positive lock-- we're more impressed with the Cliq 2's slider than the HTC EVO Shift 4G's. It feels solid with with no undue wobble and it's not loose. In fact, the phone itself feels solid and we appreciate the non-gloss sides and rear that are comfortable to hold and secure in hand.
Deals and Shopping:
Here's our video review of the Motorola Cliq 2:
Call Quality and Data
Motorola generally does an excellent job with voice and reception. The Cliq 2 has very good voice quality, in fact it's among the best in the current crop of Android smartphones. The rear-firing stereo speakers are quite loud and clear for calls and multimedia. Reception is also solid (a sore point for the original Cliq). This is a 3G phone with HSDPA but it lacks 4G HSPA+. Download speeds were quite good at over 4Mbps according to Ookla's Speedtest.net app. Page load times, Android Market downloads and emails were very good in our tests as well.
The Motorola Cliq2 has WiFi calling. WiFi calls use your plan minutes but it's a handy feature when making a call from an area where you have no cellular reception. The phone also has the 3G Mobile Hotspot feature that turns your phone into a WiFi hotspot for up to 4 laptops, tablets and other devices. This worked quite well in our tests and we found it stood in nicely for our dedicated USB data stick. We saw speeds up to 5Mpbs down and 1.3Mbps up with our MacBook Pro and Acer TimelineX 1830T.
Performance and Horsepower
The Cliq 2 has a 1GHz TI OMAP 3620 processor (ARM Cortex-A8 with POWERVR SGX graphics) and 512 megs of RAM. Despite the added weight of Motoblur, the phone ran smoothly and Froyo's (Android OS 2.2) speed improvements were obvious. Oddly, the Cliq 2 didn't do particularly well on the Quadrant Benchmark, getting a middle of the pack score of 751 which is half that of the T-Mobile HTC G2. It certainly doesn't feel like it runs at half the speed, and we wonder if this is a Quadrant issue with the OMAP 3620. The Cliq 2 did better on Softweg's Benchmark where it got a very competitive 1454 on the CPU test and 22.27 for graphics which beats the Motorola Droid X but scores just a bit lower than the HTC EVO Shift 4G.
The Cliq 2 has 1 gig of internal flash memory with ~ 285 megs free and it comes with a 2 gig microSD card. The card slot lives under the back cover (no need to remove the battery) and it's compatible with cards up to 32 gigs capacity.
Motoblur and other Software
We're not big fans of Motoblur which focuses on integrating all your social networking services and spams the phone's home screen with widgets galore (you can remove these). When Motorola first introduced Motoblur, it made some sense: Android social networking apps were in their infancy and the OS didn't offer integration with contacts. All that's changed now, making Motoblur seem somewhat superfluous. You must create or log into your existing Motoblur account when you first setup the phone, and the consolation prize is that the software and service do remember all your accounts so you needn't set them up again. Complaints aside, with the Cliq 2's large, high resolution display, Motorola's myriad widgets don't overrun the home screen as they do on phones like the Motorola Charm. We can live with Motoblur on the Cliq 2, and it didn't slow down the phone.
The music application is nicely customized into a media player that handles music, locally stored videos, Shoutcast Radio, FM radio, YouTube videos, a variety of music video streaming channels (GoTV), TuneWiki and SoundHound. QuickOffice is on board for viewing, editing and creating MS Office documents as well as viewing PDFs. T-Mobile has added Slacker Radio, Blockbuster (rent and download movies from Blockbuster), 3G Mobile Hotspot, Wi-Fi calling, visual voicemail, TeleNav GPS Navigation and T-Mobile App Pack.
The back has an embossed pattern.
The Cliq 2 takes decent photos with its 5 megapixel autofocus camera. The dual LED flash helps with dark scenes at close range and the camera software is much more intuitive than the first gen Cliq's. The camera can shoot 480p video with decent colors and frame rates and we particularly appreciate the 2 stage camera button on the phone's lower right side.
The Motorola Cliq 2 is a pleasant surprise: we didn't expect much from the Cliq line, but the new Cliq 2 is in a league of its own with a large, high resolution multi-touch display, Android OS 2.2 and Froyo. If you're looking for a well-made QWERTY Android smartphone with fairly high end specs at a budget price, the Cliq 2 is a solid choice.
Pro: Well made, fast CPU, large high res display, good GPS and solid camera, runs Froyo.
Con: Hardware keyboard could be better.
Price: $99 with a 2 year contract, $399 without contract