The name Milestone may lack the presence of any of our favourite tech buzz words (Xtreme, Touchwiz, iAnything) but it is one of the most accurate titles for a phone in years. This is a Milestone for mobile phones as it is for Motorola, a company whose days seemed numbered until this phone came crashing down in the form of the Motorola Droid in the US. Now Motorola looks to be beginning a second coming, with the Milestone capturing our hearts and minds the way thedid back in its day.
If you haven't watched the excellent Verizon ad for the Droid (and subtle stab at the iPhone) perhaps you should watch it now, chances are we might refer to claims made by the voice-over more than once during this review. For example, the ad says that "they" don't think phones should be pretty just fast, and this is the first thing most people will notice about the Milestone — it has a great face for radio. It's big, black and boxy, and its golden mechanical are an affront to good taste. Luckily, its sharp, colourful WVGA display makes up for most of its utilitarian design once the phone is powered on.
The screen is fantastic; not only is it easy on the eyes, but it's also very easy to use — the Android OS responds quickly and accurately to all finger gestures. This build of Android features a full QWERTY on-screen keyboard, but for those who shy away from touchscreens for text input the Milestone also has a full physical keyboard under the slider. The keys on the keyboard are fine, but not outstanding. In comparison to other phones with QWERTY pads, the Milestone is about average, it's not the best we've seen but it is large enough to use with a minimum of errors.
The Milestone also has a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, but as with other Androids, it has no front-facing camera for video calls. There's a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top of the handset, a microSD card slot under the battery cover (our review unit came with an 8GB card) and the Milestone charges using a universal micro-USB charging socket.
The Milestone features the latest version of Google's open-source Android platform to be released to date, version 2.0 or Eclair, as it was affectionately known amongst the dev community. Android 2.0 brings a few new graphics and an obvious speed bump, but overall doesn't offer anything outstanding to the feature set. There's a few neat apps from the Google Labs pre-installed; for example, Places Directory, which searches Google Map business references and lists them instead of mapping them, but overall nothing really exciting.
It has the usual swag of Google apps as well (Gmail, Google Talk, etc) and the browser is as good as we've seen in previous Android releases — the Milestone uses multi-touch zooming gestures , which is the same as the HTC Hero did just before it. There is, of course, the Android Market to dip into when you've had your fill of the phone's basic functionality. The store now has a new, brighter look and is easier to browse, plus the total number of apps is currently over 20,000 which is fantastic news for the Fandroids.
It's a shame that Motorola hasn't pimped the Milestone with a funky new home screen overlay, the way it did with the previously released Motorola Dext in the US. As it stands, the home screen on the Milestone is fine for performing the basic task of housing shortcuts and widgets, but it lacks the wow-factor of a UI shell with live updating social networking streams.