Motorola is targeting social media types — that's anyone who can't bear the thought of finishing this review without taking a quick break to check what Stephen Fry is up to — with two new phones, the Dext and the Backflip, running Google's Android operating system.
Both the Dext and the Backflip feature a service dubbed Motoblur that pushes SMSes, status updates, emails, messages and photo upload notifications through to widgets that are pre-installed on the Motorola's main home screen via the Motoblur servers; all one has to do is sign up for a Motoblur account and begin linking in your email, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa (no Flickr we're afraid), MySpace and Last.fm accounts.
Motoblur receives a pass mark, just, if it's restricted to Facebook and email accounts. Add in Twitter, though, and you could be sailing for trouble. If you're following a bazillion twitterers — especially journalists, websites or those with verbal diarrhoea — your Motoblur Happenings screen could soon be deluged with so many news updates, loo statuses and "what type of sandwich?" conundrums that you'll miss the news about Shaz and Baz's engagement.
Those of us who demand instant gratification will be disappointed that there's a delay of anywhere between a few minutes to half an hour before the latest updates appear, with no way of forcing Motoblur's Happenings widget or combined inbox to refresh. A few other quirks abound, for instance Twitter comments made @you don't turn up in either your inbox or your Happenings screen, nor do responses to your Facebook statuses and comments. And while all Facebook status updates have a handy "add a comment" button in the Happenings widget, responding to tweets involves a rather unintuitive green icon and an extra button press or two — or you could just flip the keyboard out and begin typing, a trick that's applicable with almost every application.
All these small failings add up and more often than we cared to count we resorted to using Facebook's official Android app, as well as third-party Twitter apps, to do our social bidding.
The phone automatically aggregates all of your phone, email and social networking contacts; handy for when you're checking up on what everyone's up to, less so when you're trying to make an urgent call. Thankfully, it's easy to restrict the contact list display to, say, just phone contacts, but unfortunately it can't be cajoled into showing a combination of phone, Gmail and Facebook contacts to exclusion of Twitter and MySpace. Over time this may become less and less of an issue as you import contacts from your SIM card and begin linking phone contacts to their social networking selves.
Design and performance
Possibly due to its thickness — the Dext measures 114mm long, 58mm wide and 15.6mm thick — the Dext feels heavier than its 163g weight. The reason the Dext is more Kirsty Alley than Kate Beckinsale is it that has a side-sliding QWERTY keyboard. The raised and rounded keys are easy to tap quickly and respond with a resounding click. The space bar and Alt keys, with their prominent indent and position near the keyboard lip, as well as their lack of positive feedback, slow down the typing rate significantly though.
Letter keys are easy to press and have positive feedback; the space bar not so much.
To the left of the keyboard's keys is a five-way controller that rarely gets used, except to move the text cursor. While the keys on the on-screen keyboard are best suited to the slimmest part of a finger — especially the keys close to the edge of the screen, we're looking at you P — the predictive text usually makes up for this, unless, of course, you're typing "Persephone's pippies are piping hot".