Motorola's brash advertising for its Droid series of phones touts this "evolved" second-generation as the ultimate productivity tool, as well they might. But with very little different on the outside, how much has changed inside to draw you away from stiff competition from Samsung and HTC's Androids?
Sleeping in your clothes
Have you ever had a big night, woken up the next morning in the same clothes you wore the day before and wondered, "who's going to notice that I haven't changed my shirt?" Did you get away with it? Motorola hasn't. The Milestone 2 looks almost identical to, but then, the first Milestone was impeccably dressed. The Milestone 2 seems just as sleek: its boxy-feel, reflective surfaces and stiff sliding keyboard suggests a man who doesn't look out of place in a boardroom overlooking the city or a booth seat in a smokey top-notch night club.
And, yes, we did say man. There's something unashamedly masculine about this phone, something removed from the soft curves of theor the neutral steel colour of . The QWERTY keyboard is amongst the best we've seen this year, with keys that feel stiff and spring back after being pressed, helping your fingers to almost glide over them while typing. With four rows of keys there's plenty of space for extras, with Motorola placing common punctuation, like the comma, full-stop and "@" symbol on dedicated keys. Gone is the five-way directional pad of the first Milestone, and in its place we find a more space-economical collection of directional keys, making it possible to navigate the menus without using the touchscreen, thanks also to dedicated "search" and "back" keys on the pad.
More important than the keyboard's design is that you can control most aspects of the phone without the touchscreen. In the settings there is a menu for creating Quick Launch keyboard shortcuts for any app you have installed, plus there is a detailed range of shortcuts recognised by the Android OS. Between the two we found it possible to go long stretches of use without touching the screen at all.
It's a good thing too, because while we love the keyboard, the touchscreen is a bit of a disappointment. The 3.7-inch LCD seems right on paper, but in reality the screen feels small and the touchscreen lacks the precision we've come to expect from capacitive screen technology this year. That the screen feels small is down to the fact that the custom font Motorola has opted for is itself tiny.
It's strange to think that when we reviewed thenearly 12 months ago, we noted that it would have been nice to see Motorola incorporate a custom user interface. Since then we've seen the Motorola-designed UI and we don't like it. It's called MotoBlur, and it is comprised of about a dozen widgets and a deep layer of social networking integration. When you first power on the phone you'll be asked to create a MotoBlur account, attaching each of your social networks to this address. Thereafter all traffic through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others will be aggregated in MotoBlur, pushed down to your phone and displayed in the custom homescreen widgets.
We have a few problems with the MotoBlur system, the most important of which is that you can't opt out. You can't skip the log in screen and you can't associate your email accounts with the phone without using MotoBlur. Far less important is how ugly the homescreen widgets look. The dozen or so widgets are a motley collection of oddly shaped boxes and tickers, and the obsessive in this reviewer struggled to find a layout which pleased his aesthetic sensibilities.