Motorola Dext MB200 £219.99
5th Oct 2009 | 16:30
Is this Android offering enough to save the ailing brand?
Motorola Dext: Overview, design and feel
We all marvelled at the Razr, which was so thin that we didn't care there was a rubbish phone underneath. But then Motorola felt its laurels were pretty comfortable, so decided to have a little rest there.
But now it's back with Google Power, and the Dext Motorola's first Android phone. It's taken a leaf out of HTC's book and seen what can be done when you fuse Android with a little extra – in the case of the Dext it's MotoBlur.
Motorola is hoping this new social networking-friendly overlay will work wonders and see customers flocking back to the brand – but is a bit of Facebook and Twitter enough?
The Dext is a pretty big device, thanks to packing a full QWERTY keyboard and a 3.1-inch capacitive touchscreen. It feels like two phones merged together – with a super thin iPhone-a-like on top with a chunky physical keyboard beneath.
It's similar in form factor to the HTC Touch Pro 2 rather than the T-Mobile G1, and the top portion is – in an uncharacteristic move from Motorola – poorly connected to the bottom, with a large amount of wiggle making the whole thing feel cheaper than it should.
It's a shame, as apart from being a little large, the Motorola Dext is a nice phone. It feels a little strange in the hand with its generous dimensions, and won't be pocket-friendly if you're into skinny jeans, but there's a reason Motorola has made it in such a way.
Apart from its large and responsive touchscreen, the inclusion of a full keyboard on the Dext gives users the choice of text input. The keys are well formed and rubberised, with a decent amount of travel and space around them.
However we've given a few people the Dext to play with and the reviews of the keyboard have been mixed. Some liked it, but some said the keys were too squashed together vertically. Our own opinion is that this is a good keyboard, as we quickly got to grips with it and our accuracy was almost perfect within a day.
We compared this to the likes of the N97 and the G1 – no matter how much time we took to play with them there was always a degree of misspelling – and you can see why we're such fans.
The layout of the phone is not so great though. The keyboard is decent enough, with an Alt and Shift key (two of the latter) giving easy access to a number of characters, but the other keys aren't so ergonomically intuitive.
The power / hold key is hidden between the two partitions on the upper right-hand side of the phone, and no matter how hard we tried, it wasn't easy to hit. The camera button is in a similar place, and not only does it require a really hard press to start up, but it's also in a slightly tricky-to-hit place.
On the left-hand side is the silencer switch and the volume control, with the microUSB port at the bottom. The latter isn't covered, so you'd best watch out you don't pour dust in there or else charging the phone will be a nightmare.
The 3.5mm headphone jack is almost ornately carved into the head of the Motorola Dext, with sweeping curves leading to the protruding port. It's a little much, but at least you'll always be able to find the socket in your pocket.
The front of the phone hosts the three main buttons (no wealth of HTC-like keys here). It's basically a menu key, home button and back key, with the search button put on the QWERTY keyboard (which we must say is a more sensible place for it on such a phone.
There's also an unobtrusive tiny white LED in the top left-hand corner, which blinks for notifications, and is just the right brightness to be visible without being annoying when you're trying to ignore it on the desk.
The rear of the phone has only two things – the dappled cover and the 5MP camera (without flash). It's easy to remove the cover to get to the battery (which has a pleasing old-school pull tab to remove the battery) and memory card.
Both the SIM card and the microSD are locked in by weird rubberised gates – we don't know what's wrong with a good old-fashioned push and click, but there you have it.
It's not the most aesthetically pleasing device, and the large amount of give between the top and the bottom of the Dext is very annoying, but it's generally a well laid out phone and manages to stick a fair amount of keys and switches into a palm-sized device.
Motorola Dext: Interface
The MotoBlur interface is basically the same as HTC's Sense UI but taken in a different direction. Motorola took great pains to point out how very different it is to HTC's effort at the launch, but in all honesty there's only so many ways you can squeeze social networking onto an Android phone.
The main crux of the device is 'Happenings', which is another dubious word for updates on Twitter and Facebook. Starting up the phone is a slightly convoluted process as it requires to you to not only set up a MotoBlur account, but also to login to Google, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace in order to access those accounts and integrate them with the phone.
But there's a difference – not only do you get five home screens, but there are up and running widgets spewing information about your friend's statuses from Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.
Scroll around and there are news widgets, RSS feeds and tips and tricks to help you set up the phone. Tapping any of these will lead to a larger dialog box opening up, with a small green arrow taking you to the web version of any article or status.
The touchscreen on the Motorola Dext is top notch, registering the faintest of flicks with ease – Motorola has definitely vaulted into the upper echelons of touch responsiveness along with the Apple iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre and HTC Hero.
This is a very important feature on the Dext, as so much of it is scrolling through items like statuses. The first problem we envisaged with MotoBlur is that having all your Twitter and Facebook accounts synchronised into one stream (the Happenings... which sounds like a rubbish pop-horror film) is that the amount of information from 200 friends and the hundreds of people you're following on Twitter will result in an overload.
Well, that was the case at the start, and we worry that some users might simply switch off the happenings widget, especially as the pictures taken from Twitter accounts to furnish the Tweet are of a horribly low resolution and are cropped badly – it doesn't look good.
But take a couple of days to get used to it, and Happenings is a pretty good tool. It would be nice to have a dedicated Twitter client on the phone too (although you can download the likes of Twidroid from the Android Market), as in the HTC Hero, for more advanced Twitter functionality, but the Dext does let you update your status direct from the phone.
In fact, you can update the status of one or multiple accounts at once, so if something vitally important has happened (like you've had a new brand of cereal that morning and simply MUST tell the world about it) you can Tweet it and use it as a status on MySpace and Facebook too.
Some people might find that Twitter is just too constantly updated and will only want to see their friend's status from Facebook – you can select to see some, all or none of your social networking accounts through Happenings if you so wish.
However, it would be nicer if you could have one widget for Twitter, one for Facebook and so on It's just a bit much having them all in one place, even though it's easy to get used to as we said.
Also, we'd like to see an 'all read' label on Happenings – it's constantly telling us we have hundreds of unread statuses, but the reason we haven't read them is because they were from hours or days ago.
Locking the phone is once again a convoluted process – we miss the simple 'Menu, *' options of old. While it's nowhere near as bad as the Samsung i7500 Galaxy, the new phone needs you to hit the annoyingly placed power key and then tap the menu button – for some reason we couldn't get used to this and kept hitting the wrong options.
Other than the widgets on offer, it's standard Android fare, and it's here that we feel Motorola has missed a trick. So much of consumer opinion is about perception, and MotoBlur needs to be seen as an evolution in Android. So why put the standard background on at the start?
HTC managed to make some people think there was a new OS under the hood of the Hero, simply by inserting a new background to make the new widgets look even snazzier. Had Motorola done that, it would have made people realise MotoBlur is more than just a collection of widgets spitting information about their friends.
But we can't be angry at another phone using Android, especially as it adds something to the burgeoning OS. We're happy to see the standard tools present once more – pulling down from the top of the screen to access notifications about messages or USB connections or movement into roaming zones is still a great trick.
As is grabbing the menu tab to open up the icon list, and holding said icons down to place them on the home screen. We also still love the fact that holding an icon opens up the deletion bin – it just makes organising the home screens (and as we have five, they need even more upkeep) even easier.
The accelerometer works well too – we love those that can spin through 360 degrees for whichever way you want to hold up the phone, and the Dext does just that.
However, open up a couple of applications (such as the music player) and the whole thing slows down a lot – pressing buttons requires a couple of seconds waiting, in which time you've probably accidentally hit another icon.
It's a shame for a phone that promises a lot – perhaps Motorola should have done better than the Qualcomm 528 MHz processor it stuck under the hood.
The Motorola Dext might be a little bit too heavy when it comes to showing you information, but MotoBlur is something new and exciting for Android, and shows the power of the OS when the big names get developing for it.
Motorola Dext: Calling and contacts
This is another aspect of the Motorola Dext that the brand has used MotoBlur to enhance. If you thought that Happenings was just a bunch of updates, think again, as Motorola wants synchronised contacts across the board.
You can choose from a huge number of different contacts lists (available directly from the home screen), be it Facebook, Google or the MotoBlur option, which collates them all into one lovely contact book.
We call it lovely because not only is it stored in one place, it's also backed up to the online server, so should you lose your phone you don't lose all your numbers too.
It's a bit strange to have this when you've got Google already doing roughly the same thing – but we guess with MotoBlur you get that all important Facebook and Twitter information too.
The cool thing about MotoBlur in contacts menu is that, like Synergy from Palm and INQ's contacts system, users can link different profiles together under one name. However, the sad thing about this is you pretty much have to do it manually for every single person – in our case the list ran to 1,000 people (we're not that popular, it's just what happens when you dump four different contact lists into one place).
The Motorola Dext will synchronise Facebook if the email address is present and matches the contact, but apart from that it will just list every name, meaning users are forced to manually link all their contacts.
And what's odder is that the Dext doesn't seem to be able to alphabetise the list properly – it will list the imported SIM contacts first (as long as they're not linked to another profile) and then move to the rest.
Users can dynamically scroll through the list to see their contacts, or use the pull tab at the side to fly through the alphabetical list (as much as they can do with the aforementioned problem). The responsiveness of the touchscreen to the flick action is good, meaning you can clear a very long list in three swipes.
Once the contacts are linked, there are a plethora of options available from that screen, and it's here the MotoBlur system comes into its own. Users can see conversations they've had over Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or text, they can view phone calls between the two, send messages through a variety of mediums and see the updates from their friends too.
Oh, and of course you can call as well... but that's very 20th century.
Actually, that does raise a problem with the Dext when it comes to calling – you only need to touch a number in the contacts list to start calling. And the phone often decides you don't need the screen when calling, for some reason automatically switching it off.
And as there's no physical terminate key, users will then do as we did and scramble around in a blind panic trying to get the screen to fire up again by pressing all manner of buttons and eventually heading back to the home screen – all the while connecting (and likely confusing) someone on the other end of the phone.
Mind you, call quality isn't too bad, even if the phone is a little bit chunky to be holding to the head. Audio quality was acceptable, but there was some weird echo feedback from the microphone – you can hear yourself speaking into the phone from the earpiece from some reason.
It makes everything sound clearer, but it's very disconcerting.
Calling is made easy through the dialler, also living on the homescreen, which allows users to type in a number, see the most recent calls in and out the phone, see which numbers are dialled the most frequently (a really nice touch) and see speed dial numbers. The latter are essentially just a list of favourites categorised under a different name, but we like the variety Moto brings here.
There's sadly no smart dial on the dialler, but that doesn't matter as users can instead pop open the QWERTY keypad and simply start typing in a name to access it. However, it's a very slow process and seems to stump the Dext's 528MHz processor for some reason.
We like the MotoBlur system for organising contacts – however, we also like the fact that HTC's Sense UI will give us suggestions for people we may like to be our contacts on Facebook. Something needs to be done else Motorola will find many of their customers not taking the necessary day of work simply to spend hours linking contacts together.
Motorola Dext: Messaging
The Motorola Dext also brings combined messaging to the phone with MotoBlur, on top of the contacts synchronisation mentioned earlier.
Users don't just get a normal inbox when using the phone – they see all messages stored in a universal inbox where Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, text messages and emails are all lumped together.
From there users can reply in any way they want to, meaning if somebody sends you a Facebook message but you want to get hold of them quickly, a text or direct Tweet might work better and is within easy reach.
However, the downside here is the same as in contacts – if you haven't spent hours linking the contacts together you just have to go through the normal channels of messaging, scrolling for a contact before sending the message. It's no great hardship; it just takes the sheen off the experience a little bit.
We've already spoken of our affection for the QWERTY keyboard, but when it comes to entering text the on screen version is equally as good.
Accuracy is good, and the word prediction is as scarily good at selecting the word we're after as the iPhone – which is high praise indeed for such a feature. However, one problem is the build quality – the mane flexes and wobbles badly under the finger when using the onscreen effort, which is most disconcerting.
There's a variety of messaging options on the phone beyond the MotoBlur and the Universal Inbox, with Google Mail making its usual appearance on the Dext. But users can also synchronise another account easily to the phone through the email function, and add in Exchange support through a corporate email server as well.
It's important to remember that underneath all of this MotoBlur excitement is Google Android pushing things along nicely with its 1.5 Cupcake version. Simple tricks like threaded conversations can be dressed up how you like by the different brands, but the fact is it's easy to see what you've been saying with someone, and adding an item such as sound or a picture is only a couple of clicks through the menu system.
The Motorola Dext is capable of many messaging options, and it's a credit to the MotoBlur platform that you can interact with your friends so easily. We like being able to Facebook message our friends from the menu, but it's been done by INQ on a £60 phone, so we're not sure it's that exciting a move any more.
But social networking addicts will certainly love the feature, and Motorola has got it working well, so we have to commend the company for that.
Motorola Dext: Internet
We're sure Motorola would love to take credit for the browser functionality, but it's very hard to see beyond the excellent Android browser.
Internet browsing on the Android platform has always been one of the best mobile experiences on the market, and that is thankfully mimicked on the Motorola Dext.
The springy and responsive screen lets you move web pages around as easily as if you were using a mouse, and the zooming in and out, admittedly not as good as multi-touch pinch and zoom, still works well.
The internet on the Dext will give easy access to full HTML options, and the phone has a similar smart-fit ability to the HTC Hero, with text quickly resized at the correct column size even after zooming in heavily.
There's also an easy option to resize back to the normal zoom level thanks to the '1x' virtual button in the bottom right hand corner, and the excellent mini-magnifier mode is there once more.
The latter is a particularly cool function as it allows users to drag a little pane around a highly zoomed-out view of the web page to find the text you want, before automatically focusing back in on it.
The Motorola Dext can also handle multiple web pages, with a nice animation for each change showing the new windows opening a new pane. These panes can be accessed through the menu button, giving users easy access to all the pages they currently have open.
We had six open at once at one point, with no hint of slowdown if you're only using the web browser – start listening to some music, though, and things start to judder a bit.
The Motorola Dext, through the Android 1.5 Cupcake update, also features intelligent bookmarking as well. When holding down the back key (for quite some time, it has to be noted) new tabs are brought up, with bookmarks, most visited and history all listed for your prodding pleasure.
This screen can also be seen when heading through the bookmarks option, although it's not a patch on the visual bookmarks from HTC on the Hero.
Copy and paste is also supported, activated by opening the menu and choosing to select text. There's no option to just hold down the screen to call up a menu to copy and paste, so you have to navigate through a series of menus. The accuracy isn't the best at normal screen sizes, so if you really need some text then it's best to zoom in heavily.
There's no Flash support, unlike the HTC Hero, so the Dext doesn't quite manage to duke it out with the best Android phone just yet – it may get updated in the future, but given the excellent YouTube application it's not necessarily missed that much just yet.
If you click a video link you'll get asked if you want to try and view it in the Browser or YouTube – it's a simple pop up that's been around on most Android handsets for a while, but we still love it.
Other Android phones let you share pages to Facebook, Twitter or other locations from the menu, but you can only share these sites to email and text on the Motorola Dext – considering the integration with Facebook and Twitter we can't understand this decision.
Another real problem we encountered was the inability to download – well, anything. A long press on internet pictures will bring up a menu asking to save or view the image – but when we asked to save it, the Dext simply told us that the download was unsuccessful. Whether there are some settings we accidentally disturbed that stopped us being able to download we don't know.
The internet experience on the Motorola Dext is very good thanks to a great Android browser and the screen responsiveness puts it on a par with the iPhone, with the superb mobile Safari application on the iPhone, and easily the peer of the HTC Hero and Magic in terms of speed and performance.
Motorola Dext: Camera
The imaging functionality on the Motorola Dext isn't of the highest quality, which is hardly unexpected when you consider the phone doesn't have a flash and a small sensor bolted to the rear of the phone above the battery cover.
In its defence, it's a 5MP effort with autofocus and geo-tagging – but that's sadly not enough to save it. HTC has made the same mistake with its Android range, focusing on other features and leaving the camera as an afterthought, and it feels like that's what Motorola has done here with the Dext.
Starting the phone up also takes far too long, but that's more the fault of Android, as there's a terrible shutter lag – something it intends to fix in the 1.6 Donut upgrade.
However, there are some nice touches – our clear favourite was only aesthetic, as when you twist the phone between portrait and landscape modes, the display spins the icons with you. It's a nice touch, and shows how much more intuitive phones are becoming in the age of the smartphone.
There are also some nice options in the colour settings – you can do more than the plain old Sepia and Negative now – say hello to Solarise and Aqua. The latter is less exciting, making everything look like it's under water by adding a grey-blue sheen.
But Solarise keeps everything the same colour, except the brighter parts, spinning them into a hallucinogenic colour scramble, and something we didn't expect on the Dext.
The only other options users will be able to play with to improve picture quality are... well, Picture Quality (named Good, Better and Best) and white balance. It's not a lot, but we guess it can make outrageously bad shots look okay.
Video on the Dext is only available at HVGA and at 24 frames per second, which is considerable lower resolution than other comparable phones. For instance, the iPhone 3GS has managed to pack VGA recording, the equivalent of a DVD, and 30fps for a very smooth experience.
The Dext doesn't manage anywhere near that, resulting in some pretty choppy and jerky footage. It looks like 'stereotypical' mobile phone video, and after being able to record in HD on the Samsung i8910HD, we guess we expect a little bit more these days.
You can share straight to a variety of sources from the camera (be it the camera or camcorder) including Picasa, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.
Motorola Dext: Media
Android has a decent media experience, if a little bit basic, and Motorola has tried to update this a little bit by adding in some 3D effects.
However, Motorola has defaulted to Android's basic media package for most of the applications, meaning it's a basic but functional experience most of the time.
The Android layout for music on the Dext is the same as it has been for the Magic, G1 and Galaxy thus far, with a simple layout for Artist, Album, Songs and Playlists.
The UI for music playback is similarly simple, with album artwork, song title and other titbits of information next to some large and easy to use touch buttons.
One cool feature is the ability to touch the Artist's name, for instance, and search for content relating to them in the web browser or over YouTube. The latter is a nice addition, and especially relevant now the UK problems with the PRS are over and a multitude of videos are now available online.
Music lovers might not see this as the ultimate audio device, but there's a simple library layout to the tracks as well as party shuffle mode – although we're not sure we'd want to go to a party when the tunes are being pumped out by a Motorola Dext.
However, the single speaker is a pretty good effort, vibrating the case of the phone with its power. It's loud, a touch bassy and not as tinny as others – it's not going to replace a sound system but for watching a video it's pretty good.
The Video Gallery on the Dext has been overhauled compared to other Android phones and finally resembles something close to a media suite on a mobile. Not only are the videos arranges in a thumbnail grid, users can also tag videos (presumably before uploading to YouTube, which you can do directly from the gallery, or share it between friends via email or similar).
There's also a video editing suite for your personal vids, where you can crop the footage, delete audio or take a still from a video frame. It might not sound like much, but it's a big leap forward for the Android clan and something to be applauded from Motorola.
Video playback still has the nice large icons for skipping and scrolling through the file, and it doesn't look too bad on the screen. Having seen full widescreen VGA screens on other phones, the playback can never look amazing in comparison, especially on a 3.1-inch screen, but it's more than passable.
YouTube is back again on the Google-powered Android OS, with a simple interface allowing access to a growing number of videos. It might not mimic the full breadth of the website version, but it's pretty good now and it will only improve in terms of content.
The playback is the same as video files – at high quality the videos look the same as if they were stored on the phone. However, you have to activate this quality mode (over 3G at least, with Wi-Fi defaulting to it automatically) which means some users will never realise it's available as it's hidden down a few menus.
The Motorola Dext is probably the most full-featured Android handset on the market at the moment in terms of media, and with Spotify on board this will really rock.
iMeem has been supplied out the box, but we'll deal with that in the Applications section of the review.
Motorola Dext: Applications
We mentioned earlier that there was a problem with the Android Market on our phone – and it's a big one.
We basically can't download any applications from the portal, which is bizarre to say the least. We signed into our Google account, loaded up the portal, selected a number of different applications, but while they would all state they were 'Starting Download' none of them actually did.
We can only hope this is a simple problem with our handset and not a more widespread mistake from Motorola – we'd advise users to check their new Dext as soon as it comes out the box in case it needs a fix.
EARLY UPDATE: We've spoken at length with Motorola, and a spokesperson has told us that Android Market will be available to all Motorola Dext users in the UK from 6 October (the first launch date), so we'll keep our fingers crossed that this will be case and no users will have to suffer a broken Market.
That said there are some cool applications on board already, which are enough to be getting on with in case you need to wait.
iMeem Mobile and Shazam
The former of these two is very similar in style to last.fm, allowing you to enter an artist and hear a song or two from them. Users can skip a track a certain number of times per hour, and favourite the ones they like for future reference.
It connects quickly, works well but isn't a patch on Spotify. Except for the fact it's free – it all depends on your favoured way of discovering music. There's no way to listen to the tracks offline though, so in some cases you'd be better off listening to internet radio instead.
The latter application is the same as the 2-5-8-0 mobile service, except this time it's free and visual. It's still dumbfounding the way it can work out the tracks you're listening to, and now it offers links to viewing them on YouTube (brilliant) and to purchase them off Amazon MP3 (cheap).
It's similar to Samsung's Music Finder on its phone range – except the tracks it suggests cost around three or four times more than the Amazon equivalents.
Orange / Google Maps
Pre-loaded with maps on board, we like Orange Maps, in the same way we prefer Nokia Maps when we can't get a signal for Google's version. Both are included on the Motorola Dext (Orange and Google, not Nokia obviously) and while we like Orange's effort with saveable points and specific searches, we just prefer the familiarity of Google's.
Both applications pick up GPS blindingly well, even indoors, and respond to the touchscreen well too. We advise you take a look at both options and decide which is best for you – especially as Orange's includes turn by turn navigation.
It's pretty easy to tell what this one does – but the great thing is you can check out documents on the move, be it PowerPoint, Word or Excel. It's basic but functional, and we're glad to see it breaking out of its Symbian base to be included on an Android phone with the Dext.
Motorola Dext: Battery life and Organiser
Given the Motorola Dext has a 1400mAh battery life, we're a little disappointed in its performance. Measuring how well battery life performs has become increasingly difficult as phones become more connected – powering up your handset every night while you sleep has become the norm for a lot of people.
Motorola is quoting a standby time of around 320 hours for the Dext, which equates to around 13 days without needing to be charged. We gave the Dext a pretty hardcore pummelling on the first couple of days, connecting to the internet frequently, using the music player and watching videos.
Add to that the fact the phone is constantly pulling down new Happenings, and you can see why the power would run down quickly. The battery was sadly flat within 16 hours, but in our opinion that's more than enough time.
As we dialled back the usage, we managed to extend that to nearly 20 hours, which means that while you might not get away with missing a charge night, day to day usage won't be affected.
One worrying thing we noted was that on occasion the battery would get a little warm and charge down quickly – we've seen this before in other phones, and it's generally intermittent and solved by upgrades, so just keep an eye out for such an instance.
The Motorola Dext isn't really a phone designed for organisation, although the Google Calendar function is pretty good experience. Fast synchronisation with the web means you're always up to date, and it's easy to simply drag and create new events on the phone, which can then be viewed online.
You can choose a range of alerts for upcoming events on your G-calendar, which appear in the notification bar by default for easy reminders of when you actually have to stop playing on your phone and do things in the real world.
The screen displays the information well, and you can choose a variety of views, such as day, week and month to manage your life. If you're someone who needs a calendar to use day to day for work or the like, this is a great experience, and something we've come to expect from Google.
Other software isn't so plentiful, with the calculator the only real other option in terms of organising your life. There's a rudimentary alarm clock (with a new arty-style clock instead of the stark black and white option) but that's about it (unless you count the Quick Office application).
Motorola Dext: Connectivity
Connectivity on the Motorola Dext is as well stocked as most mobile phones – it's got Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP stereo streaming, GPS and 3.5G connection (up to 7.2Mbps).
Wi-Fi is a little patchy at times – for some reason it kept deciding against connecting to our secured browser, resulting in us having to trudge through the settings to force it to connect. It's not the best when you consider other Android phones and the iPhone can maintain a connection to wireless networks without a hitch – we'd hoped for better here.
Bluetooth was more of a success – it synchronised with our Jabra Halo headphones on the third time of asking then stayed stable and automatically connected when they were switched back on. It did have trouble playing music through the headphones for the first minute or two, despite stating it was connected, but it was fine after that.
As we mentioned before, the GPS on the Motorola Dext is excellent, connecting well when we're were out and about, and even managing to find us indoors. It upset us when the likes of the Samsung i7500 Galaxy just refused to work for no reason, and this was a much more pleasant experience.
The 3G connection was also stable, working well in all the places we're used to getting a strong signal. It might be a while before everyone can get the full 7.2Mbps download speed in the UK, but at least the Dext will be ready for when they do. It's a shame we couldn't actually test stuff downloading to see how fast it really is, but hopefully Motorola will fix this in the near future.
Motorola Dext: Hands on gallery
Motorola Dext: Official photography
Motorola Dext: Verdict
Motorola is certainly back – the Dext is a phone with a lot to talk about. Moto's had a good hard think about a lot of new ideas for the phone, and the MotoBlur platform shows it's serious about configuring the software side of things as much as hardware.
There's a lot riding on the Dext for Motorola, so has it actually put the right bits in the correct places?
Nobody likes to see a company slide out of existence, so we're happy to report that the Dext is a decent handset with some nice features.
MotoBlur is, overall, a good thing for Android, building well on the new trend for social networking integration on mobile phones.
Messaging your friends through the huge variety of mediums is a great thing to be able to do, and we're pleased Motorola is offering something that no other manufacturer is doing right now by integrating all the platforms so tightly.
The touchscreen is great, with swiping through the multiple updates easy to do and most applications easy to find and use without any prompting. We also really enjoyed using the QWERTY and virtual keyboards, with both offering us something cool and useful.
The Dext is probably the best media handset running Android on the market at the moment – we liked the video layout and native editing support especially, and we're going to be photographing everything in Solarise from now on.
The build quality of the phone is inevitably going to come in for criticism, as it's not up to the usual Motorola standards. The phone itself is huge compared to its peers, and it's obvious a number of people are going to be instantly put off by its size.
The placement of the power/lock keys isn't the most intuitive either – the amount of times we pressed the wrong key was annoying.
Not being able to download anything off Android Market was a real problem too – we hope the problem simply melts away on launch day, as it currently scuppers a huge part of the phone's appeal.
The camera certainly isn't the best on the market – we'd have preferred a flash or a better lens over more megapixels.
The lag when running multiple applications is disappointing too, especially as it's unlikely Motorola will be able to do anything about it – it's certainly not as bad as other phones on the market, but when it happens it's very noticeable.
We swayed backwards and forwards over the Dext – MotoBlur is an odd proposition due to the amount of information it displays, but over time we came to like it.
The shape is obviously going to put a lot of people off buying the Dext, but we think the QWERTY keypad will similarly win over a few who might be bored of touchscreen keyboards.
There are a few bugs in the system of the phone we tested – we hope Motorola acts quickly to iron them out, as it seems that many (like the Market problem) are fixable with a swift settings tweak.
It's free on a £35 a month, two year deal – that's a little pricey for a phone that will appeal to teenagers and young adults. We're still waiting for a SIM-free price, but we believe it will land somewhere around the £500 mark, which is a lot for a chunky Android handset, despite the cool bells and whistles.
We have to label the Motorola Dext in the same way we looked at the HTC Hero – MotoBlur is a good platform, but it needs a better phone underneath it before it's a true player. Like the G1 was for Android, the Dext is a marker for what Motorola can achieve, but the Dext isn't going to be the pinnacle if Motorola is to have its hoped-for renaissance.