What's not: On the large side, not as attractive as Moto's other Android phones.
Reviewed March 16, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
T-Mobile was the first to adopt Android smartphones in the US, and they currently offer the most models. The Motorola Cliq, launched in November 2009, was the first US MOTOBLUR Android phone, and the Cliq XT is T-Mobile's second MOTOBLUR phone, this time without the hardware keyboard. The Cliq and Cliq XT share similar specs: a 3.1" HVGA capacitive touch screen, a 528MHz Qualcomm CPU, GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth. But the Cliq XT adds more custom software, and we're talking good stuff rather than bloatware. These include a very capable music player that integrates with TuneWiki and can download album art and lyrics on the fly, SoundHound (a free music ID app), Slacker Radio, Shazam and a player for Internet video and radio. Motorola has also enhanced the stock Android web browser to add pinch zooming and Flash Lite.
The Cliq XT, like the Cliq is a bit outclassed among Motorola's Android offerings when it comes to looks. The Motorola Droid is of course a high end phone and it looks the part. Even the Moto Devour's casing is metal and the Motorola Backflip on AT&T is made of alloy and plastics that speak of quality. Neither the Cliq or the Cliq XT try to dress it up: they're 100% plastic phones. The Cliq XT is the odd man out, neither resembling the small, rounded Cliq and Backflip nor sharing the angular, modern design of the Droid and Devour. In fact, it looks more like an Asian market phone, and if the branding were gone, our first guess would be that Samsung made this phone.
The Cliq XT is a bar style touch screen phone that's surprisingly large given the relatively small 3.1" display. It's almost as big as the high end, high res Nexus One whose screen is a half inch larger. All that space allows for large buttons and an oversized trackpad that sit below the display. These are mechanical buttons that go "click" rather than touch sensitive buttons: a relative rarity on Moto Android phones. Once you become accustomed to a good touch sensitive button implementation, it's hard to go back to mechanical buttons, especially ones with lots of travel like the XT. The trackpad works like a tiny version of a laptop trackpad, and given the small size, it's not that easy to use (but easier than the super-tiny trackpads we've seen on some Samsung Windows Mobile phones).
Like all Android phones, the Cliq XT has an excellent webkit web browser, email (POP3, IMAP and Gmail) and it can sync calendar and contacts with Google's services. MOTOBLUR adds good MS Exchange support (email, calendar and contacts) and contacts integration with Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. You can download free and paid applications via the Android Market application on the phone and it has support for Amazon's MP3 store. We particularly like the custom music and video application that can download album covers and lyrics on the fly. It integrates with TuneWiki and also comes with SoundHound (a free music ID service). The application also handles music video playback (YouTube and GoTV channels), FM radio (a 3.5mm standard stereo headset is required but not included) and locally stored video playback. Given vanilla Android's bland handling of multimedia, the Music app is a blessing.
Phone and Data
Motorola knows how to make a phone, and by that we mean a product that's good for calling (you do still use your smartphone to talk to folks, don't you?). The Cliq XT has excellent incoming and outgoing voice quality and it sounds a bit better than the Cliq and markedly better than the Nexus One. Voice is land line clear with no significant background noise and no voice feedback. The DSP and dual mics do an excellent job of canceling ambient noise, even in cacophonous big box stores. Volume through the earpiece is a bit louder than average and the speakerphone is loud and clear (it's great for voice navigation using Telenav in the car). If calling is important to you, the Cliq XT scores big.
Reception on 3G is something of a disappointment, especially for a Motorola phone. In places where our Nexus One gets -81 db the Moto gets -99 db, and the Nexus One isn't an RF demon. If you live in a weak coverage area, keep this in mind. If you have moderate to strong coverage, the phone works fine and we had no problems with dropped calls or overly slow data.
The Cliq XT has 3G HSDPA 7.2 Mbps on T-Mobile's US bands (1700/2100MHz). It's quad band GSM with EDGE and it will work anywhere in the world GSM service is available. Motorola has enhanced the stock Android web browser with pinch zoom support and Flash Lite. The drawbacks are that even Flash Lite can slow down web page loading and pinch zooming isn't as fast and fluid as it is on the iPhone 3GS, Nexus One or even the HTC Hero. The distinctly midrange 528MHz CPU doesn't help, but even the Hero does better which leads us to believe that Motorola's pinch zoom driver isn't as polished as HTC's.
Both a textured black back and a purple back are included with the phone.
Here's our video review of the Motorola Cliq XT covering physical design, comparisons with other phones, Telenav, the Music application and more:
Camera and GPS
Like the Backflip, the Cliq XT is a mid-priced Android phone with a better than middling camera. The 5 megapixel camera with autofocus lens takes nice shots, though they're a bit over-sharpened. Colors are saturated and natural and images don't look terribly over-processed other than the sharpening. The camera can also shoot video, though at a less impressive CIF 352 x 288 pixel resolution. The camera can geotag images and the GPS managed to get a fix quickly.
The GPS performed adequately with Google Maps and Telenav, though Telenav warned us every few miles that the GPS had lost its fix for about 15 seconds at a time. This didn't cause navigational mishaps but it was curious since we were driving under clear skies in a suburban setting with no tall buildings or looming trees. Telenav is a $10/month subscription service that gives excellent spoken directions and has a good POI database. Since the Cliq XT runs Android 1.5, it doesn't have the newer version of Google Maps that has free spoken directions (that requires OS 2.0 or newer). Since the Cliq XT should get the 2.1 upgrade at some point, it should also get the newer Google Maps. Google Maps has the usual map and satellite views as well as street view.
Though MOTOBLUR phones haven't done well in the battery department, the Cliq XT does the best so far. While we had to charge our Motorola Cliq and Backflip nightly with just moderate use, the Cliq XT actually make it 1.5 days. We know that's not great, but it's a step in the right direction. More important, we found it could make it through a business day on a charge even when checking our various social networks and email.
No kidding, it's not a Nexus One. But then it costs much less and you can take it to your local T-Mobile store if you have problems. The Cliq XT isn't a power user's phone, but it's a solid Android handset. We confess that we prefer the Cliq on T-Mobile and the Backflip on AT&T, not just because of their hardware keyboards but because they're a bit quicker and look much better. The Cliq XT doesn't look Motorola, it looks more like a cheap Asian handset. But it does run Android-- a very powerful yet fun OS that's easy to expand with apps, and it has excellent call quality. We like the added multimedia software and still enjoy MOTOBLUR, and the camera is quite decent. But Motorola's web browser enhancements, which sound exciting on paper, in fact slow down the browser when viewing full HTML sites.
Pro:Reasonably priced Android smartphone, MOTOBLUR is great for you social networking types, good camera, excellent voice quality, good added software like Swype and the Music app.
Con:Large and not very attractive, mediocre 3G reception, just OK battery life (that's an improvement for MOTOBLUR), sometimes laggy, especially the web browser when viewing rich HTML web sites.
Phone:GSM quad band world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz. 3G HSDPA 7.2 Mbps on T-Mobile's 1700/2100MHz bands.
Camera:5.0 megapixel with autofocus lens and LED flash.
in speaker, dual mics, FM radio and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth with A2DP stereo profile.
Software:Android 1.5 OS with MOTOBLUR software. Custom music and video player, Shazam, Slacker Radio, Amazon MP3 Store, Swype, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Voice, Google Talk, YouTube player, Android Market, Telenav, visual voicemail, voice dialing and more. Mail and IM: Exchange support (email, contacts and calendar), POP3/IMAP email, AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo IM.
SDHC microSD card slot under the back cover, 2 gig card included.
In the box: Phone, charger, battery, USB cable and a 2 gig microSD card pre-installed in the phone.