We loved the Motorola Milestone, thanks to its no-nonsense Android power. The Milestone 2 freshens up the keyboard, trims down the weight and boosts the power, but it also gains Motorola's custom skin, Motoblur. Motoblur has some fun features, but we fear it's to blame for the Milestone 2's occasionally irritating slowness, which left us pining for the untouched Android goodness of its forerunner.
We're still waiting for any of the big networks to add the Milestone 2 to their shelves, but, in the meantime, you can pick it up SIM-free and unlocked for around £380.
Feel the blur
The biggest change from the first Milestone is that Motorola has slapped on its own Android skin, Motoblur. That's right -- rumours of the death of Motoblur have been greatly exaggerated, because it's alive and kicking on the Milestone 2.
That means all your data gets backed up to the cloud, which is handy if you're switching from another Motorola phone, or you need to restore your handset to its original settings. Motoblur also serves up a platter of social-networking features that aim to help you merge your Facebook, , email and other updates from around the Web.
Motoblur has definitely improved since we first saw it on the Motorola Dext. For example, the widgets (little tiles on your home screen that automatically display your social-network updates) are better. You can filter them to see updates from certain services, like Twitter only. You can also customise your view to only see updates from certain people or groups in your address book.
We're also happy that the profile pictures that illustrate people's updates in the widgets are of a higher resolution that better suits the Milestone 2's sharp, 3.7-inch screen. They used to be inflated-looking and jagged. On the downside, the text area seems wasted by displaying a few paltry words, rather than the full updates.
The address book is another treat, since it brings in your contacts' pictures and updates from Facebook, Twitter and plenty of other services.
But, despite these improvements, Motoblur definitely has its downsides. The biggest one is updates. Motorola is slow to bring Android updates to its phones, and having to further tweak each update with so many Motoblur customisations will make the process slower still.
This means that, when the currently fresh 2.2 version of Android on the Milestone 2 starts to go stale, and the rest of the Android-loving world is bragging about the features of the latest version of the operating system, you'll probably be unable to update -- at least for a while. Like most other manufacturers' attempts at polishing Android, we don't think the features Motoblur offers are good enough to warrant waiting around for updates.
We also think the user interface is ugly in places, with overwrought icons taking over from the default ones. Android's bog-standard skin isn't the most gorgeous thing in the world, but it's better than Motoblur's. For example, the icon for voice commands has been changed from a simple microphone to a green and white grid covered by a green handset and a red-and-black microphone. We don't think this design is suitable for the small screen.
Leaving the handbrake on
Another problem with Motoblur seems to be speed. The Milestone 2 has a 1GHz processor, but it doesn't feel very fast. Apps take a moment to open, and occasionally the phone hangs, even when you're doing simple things like unlocking the screen.