The Motorola Dext is another in a long line of particularly disappointing phones from Motorola, running an old and totally non-intuative operating system. Sometimes I really do wonder why they bother, and it’s no wonder Motorola is likely to end up pulling out of the mobile industry altogether by next year.
Okay, if you’re still reading; scratch that opening paragraph. That’s what you would have most likely expected to read from a review at any time in the last year, before Motorola found its saviour in the form of an operating system called Android. The intro was written for lazy people who can’t be bothered to read through a whole review. Hopefully, I’ve now got your full attention.
The Dext is a similar size to the original T-Mobile G1, and a bit thicker than an iPhone. It’s built to take on all other smartphones, including the iPhone, which is quite a tall order. What’s impressive is that in most cases, it does – even though the type of person wanting a smartphone like this isn’t necessarily a typical iPhone buyer.
At first glance it’s a bit dull to look at, looking just like all the other touchy-slidey phones. A little thinner than other sliders, but no great piece of innovative styling like iconic handsets such as the Razr, V66 or StarTAC (for those with extremely long memories). Post Razr, we’ve probably forgotten that Motorola knows how to make things look great – indeed, Motorola did too – but the Dext is merely OK.
We’ve also forgotten that Motorola is great at mechanics. Snap it shut and it does so with a quality feel. The keyboard is excellent too, being every bit as tactile as a BlackBerry. It’s miles ahead of the disappointing Palm Pre.
Android OS is the most fashionable operating system you can imagine and, as long as nobody does anything stupid, is likely to be around for many years to come.
A little more than a year old, it’s quite amazing how far Android has come. Motorola is traditionally rubbish at software, so I expected it to take what Google had done and ruin it completely. How wrong I was. Motorola has avoided tampering with things beyond adding its own front-end, called Motoblur.
Public broadcasting channel
This gives you all of your social networking in the palm of your hand. It does an incredible job and there’s nothing better than having an active idle screen. Loads of applications running at once, which the iPhone certainly can’t do. Watching Twitter, or Facebook, it does give you a huge dilemma when you want to show it off. Do you really want to hand over a phone that is up to the second with all that’s going on in your life, and that of your friends?
It’s bad enough your other half digging through your texts, but this is everything all open and upfront. Fantastic when you are reading it, but making you feel like you are undressed when it’s anyone else looking on.
The hardware is good but the software is awesome. There is all the nice eye-candy stuff, such as super smooth scrolling, but unlike the similarly pretty stuff on a Windows Mobile phone, it’s quick. Although the Dext uses a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A processor – unlike the 1GHz Snapdragon processor used on some new devices, including the Toshiba TG01 or Sony Ericsson’s forthcoming Xperia X10 – the Dext has no discernible speed problems. In fact, it’s the same processor used on HTC’s award-winning (but keyboardless) Hero.
Being online constantly takes an inevitable toll on battery life. This is a phone you definitely have to charge every day – religiously. Fortunately, the hardware ensures you’ll maintain a good signal, partly helped by the fact that the Dext is exclusive to Orange. Orange has one of the highest levels of 3G coverage.
Many of the people who worked on the development of the Dext, and other Android handsets we’ll be seeing in 2010, are ex-Palm. It seems that, although Palm’s webOS has a lot of potential for the future, Android is where you want to be right now. The Dext may not enjoy huge sales on a par with the original Razr V3, but it will be enough to get Motorola back on its feet.
The Dext ships with Android 1.5 (aka cupcake), but will be upgradeable in the future. The 3.1-inch capacitive touchscreen is easy to use, and the 5-megapixel camera is at least equal to HTC’s Hero. Sadly, there’s no flash or other fancy features. But Motorola has produced a few above average cameraphones in the past, so fingers crossed there will be improvements made in this area as the product range increases.
1GB of onboard storage can be complemented with a further 8, 16 or 32GB memory card, and since our review of the Hero (which commented on its poor multimedia playback, especially in the video department) there are now a number of decent third-party applications downloadable from Android Market to improve the experience no end.
If there is one big issue with the Dext, it’s the fact that Orange has decided to put it out at a very high retail price. If you want to get this phone for free, you’ll be expected to sign up to a £35 a month, two-year contract. Ouch.
However, if you’re wanting to dip your toes in the world of Android, and need a physical keyboard to speed up your messaging, the Dext is where it’s at right now. Motorola, it seems, is well and truly back.
The Dext is the first of what we’d expect to be many new Android handsets from Motorola from now on. Some people have even suggested that this might be the only type of phone the company releases from now on. As its first offering, the Dext is a very decent package. It has a decently sized screen, a camera to match the HTC Hero on resolution and a slide-out keyboard that’s comfortable to use. It also has the additional support of Motoblur, which pulls in all your social networking content and displays it in one single screen; although this may raise privacy fears.