The Motorola Cliq XT wasn't at all what I expected. I assumed the phone would be a rehashed version of last year's Motorola Cliq. And while I liked the Android-based Cliq just fine, I wasn't sure why Motorola and T-Mobile were releasing an update to it just months after its launch. After testing out the Cliq XT, however, I realized that these two phones are actually quite different, despite the name.
Like the original Cliq, Motorola's Cliq XT features a nicely rounded design; there are no sharp angles here. And like the first Cliq, the Cliq XT sports a smaller-than-average 3.1-inch touch screen with a 480 by 320 resolution. But that's about where the similarities between the two devices end.
Unlike the first Cliq, the XT model is not a slider-style phone; this is an all-touch screen model. The result is a slimmer, more pocketable device. The downside, however, is that the screen can see cramped when you're typing. Still, it's not so small as to be unusable, and the images and text it displays are bright and crisp.
Below the screen, you get home, search, back, and menu buttons, plus a navigational panel. The buttons are set flush with the body of the phone, but still click satisfactorily when pressed. The back of the phone features a rubberized covering that isn't my favorite; it looks a bit too plasticky for my taste.
The slimmer profile and lighter weight (it weighs 4.4 ounces, compared to 5.7 ounces for the original Cliq) make the Cliq XT much more comfortable to hold during calls. Voice quality was very good, though, with calls coming through loud and clear on both ends.
I also like how easy it is to access the dialpad during a call. Most Android phones require you to dig through menus to access the dialpad during a call, which can be a hassle if you need to enter an extension or a voicemail password. But not the Cliq XT-- all you have to do is tap an icon.
The Cliq XT runs Google's Android operating system, which is a definite plus. Android is slightly geeky at times, but it's a powerful OS that gives you plenty of options and is fun to use. You get access to the Android Market, where you'll find plenty of apps available to download right to the phone.
But Android can be confusing at times, in large part because different phones ship with different versions of Android. And the Cliq XT is no exception: this phone still ships with version 1.5 of the Android OS (the same version that shipped on the older Cliq), which is now available in version 2.1 and even 2.2 on other phones. For more information, read my full review of the Android OS.
Like the original Cliq, the XT adds Motorola's Motoblur user interface to the Android OS, which syncs information across your e-mail account, social networks, photo sharing services, and more. All of your contacts are collected in one master list, from which you can browse their activity on various sites and services and your communication history with them.
Set up is easy; you just pick the services you use from the list, which includes options like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo Mail, MySpace, Picasa, Last.fm, and more. You enter your login information, and all of your contacts are pulled in.
The Cliq XT's home page features several widgets that display information pulled from Motoblur. One displays information like Tweets and Facebook status updates, while another lets you update your own status across multiple services. A third widget displays recent messages, such as texts or e-mails.
Motoblur makes it easy to stay on top of your various social networks and offers a handy universal inbox. But the widgets make the phone's home page look busy and having so much text thrown at you when you turn on your phone can be overwhelming.
Like all Android phones, the Cliq XT features tight integration with Gmail, but will work with any IMAP or POP3 e-mail account, as well as corporate email accounts.
Thanks to Motoblur, you get a messaging app that consolidates all of your inboxes in one location. You get a universal inbox that collects messages from your various e-mail accounts, social networks, and other online services, but you also get individual inboxes for each separate account. It's a nice way to keep track of all of the messages you receive, not just your e-mails.
Browsing the Web
The good news is that the Cliq XT supports both Wi-Fi and 3G networks. T-Mobile was the last of the four major nationwide carriers to launch a 3G network, but its reach is growing. In my tests of the Cliq XT in and around Boston, T-Mobile's network delivered speedy page loads.
I also like that the phone's screen supports multi-touch, so you can pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out.
What I don't like is the Cliq XT's browser; it just can't compare with today's best mobile browsers, like the iPhone's Safari. Where other mobile browsers (including some on Android phones) let you access the address bar simply by tapping on the screen, the Cliq XT forces you to do so through a menu. It's an annoyance to have to access a menu when you just want to enter a new URL.
The Cliq XT features a 5-megapixel camera that took some decent snapshots. You get a flash, digital zoom, and autofocus (though it seemed a bit slow to focus in my tests), a digital zoom.
The Cliq XT also captures video clips, but the video camera option is an entirely separate app from the camera. You can't toggle between them; you have to close the camera to open the video camera and vice-versa, which is too bad. It’s much more convenient to be able to switch from photos to videos by tapping an icon. The videos I captured were decent, though.
Music and More
Like all Android phones, the Cliq XT includes one-touch access to Amazon's MP3 store for DRM-free music downloads. As a nice bonus, you also get a revamped music player, which offers a better look and more features than the version found on the original Cliq.
The Cliq XT's connected music player consolidates access to a variety of music features, including your own music collection; FM and Shoutcast Radio; the ability to search music videos on sites like YouTube and GoTV channels; access to the TuneWiki Community for socializing with others; and the ability to identify songs off of the radio using SoundHound.
The Cliq XT is an attractive Android-based phone with some excellent music features. I wish the screen was slightly bigger, though, and I'd really like to see it updated to the most recent version of the Android OS.