The Motorola Droid may be grabbing all the headlines, but it's not the company's only -- or first -- Android-based smartphone. That honor belongs to the Motorola Cliq, which is just about as different from the Droid as an Android-based smartphone could be. The Cliq, with Motorola's Motoblur software for gathering information from social networks, is a decidedly consumer-friendly phone that makes the Droid feel deadly serious in comparison. The Cliq's social bent may not be for everyone, though.
Price and Availability
The Motorola Cliq is available from T-Mobile for $199.99 when you sign a new two-year service contract.
Like the Droid, the Cliq is a slider-style phone, but where the Droid is square and angular, the Cliq is soft and round -- and that's a good thing. I found it much more appealing to look at and more comfortable to hold than the Droid.
When the phone is closed, you see the 3.1-inch touch screen and three touch-sensitive buttons beneath it. The screen is smaller than I'd like, but not so much that it's unusable. It sports a high resolution (480 by 320 pixels), which helps makes everything look nice and crisp.
The full QWERTY keyboard slides out easily from beneath the display, and is very comfortable to use. The keys are close together, but they're nicely raised, making them easy to locate and press.
The Cliq is very comfortable to hold in your hand and use for typing, but I found it oddly uncomfortable to hold next to my ear during calls. That's largely because the Cliq is somewhat heavy (at 5.7 ounces, it weighs almost an ounce more than the iPhone 3GS, for example).
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 -- all you have to do is tap an icon.
The Cliq runs the Android software, but it adds Motorola's Motoblur user interface, 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's home page features several widgets that display information pulled from Motoblur. The Happenings widget displays information like Tweets and Facebook status updates from your friends. The Social Status widget lets you update your own status across multiple services. A Messages widget displays recent messages, such as texts, e-mails, or direct messages from Facebook or Twitter.
Motoblur makes it easy to stay on top of your various social networks and your multiple contacts. It offers a handy universal inbox, where all of your incoming messages are collected. But the widgets make the Cliq's home page look very busy -- there's little room left for the screen background. And the result can be overwhelming; quite a bit of text is thrown at you when you turn on your phone.
Beyond Motoblur, the Cliq is a highly-customizable Android phone. You get five screens that you can populate with the widgets of your choice, plus a fair amount of installed software.
If the software you want isn't on the Cliq, you may be able to find it in the Android Market. The Market can't rival Apple's App Store, which offers more than 100,000 apps, but you'll find a good selection of apps for work and play.
The Cliq ships with Android version 1.5, unlike the Droid, which comes with the newer version 2.0. That means you can't access Google Maps Navigation, the excellent (and free) GPS app that comes with the Droid. It's too bad. You do get access to Google Maps for text-based directions and TeleNav's GPS application for spoken turn-by-turn driving directions, but TeleNav costs $10 a month.
The Cliq handles e-mail slightly differently than other Android phones. For starters, it's the rare Android phone that doesn't require a Gmail address for setup. (Gmail users will appreciate the tight integration that Android offers with all things Google, though.) The phone supports POP3 and IMAP accounts and will sync with corporate email accounts as well.
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 Cliq's HTML browser is a bit of a disappointment when compared to the Droid's browser. Where the Droid lets you lets you access the address bar simply by tapping on the screen, the Cliq -- like many other Android phone -- forces you to do so through a menu. It's an annoyance.
The Cliq offers support for both T-Mobile's 3G HSDPA network and Wi-Fi wireless networks, though, so you have plenty of options for high-speed browsing. And while T-Mobile's network is still growing, I found it delivered fast browsing in my tests of the Cliq outside of Boston.
The Cliq's 5-megapixel camera took some decent snapshots, but it lacks a flash. You do get an autofocus (though it seemed a bit slow to focus in my tests), a digital zoom, and the ability to choose between three resolutions.
The Cliq also captures video clips, but the video camera option is entirely separate 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 looked a bit dark, but were otherwise serviceable.
Like all Android phones, the Cliq offers one-touch access to Amazon's MP3 store for DRM-free music downloads. You also get a basic music player for organizing and playing back tunes.
The Cliq's Motoblur interface will appeal to social networking fanatics, but anyone else may find it just a bit too much. Underneath that, though, the Cliq is a good-looking, easy-to-use Android phone.