The first phone to run Android 2.0, the Motorola Milestone feels like an evolution of the T-Mobile G1. It's got a funny chin and handy slide-out Qwerty keyboard, but, with built-in Microsoft Exchange support, a stunning capacitive touchscreen and a smorgasbord of smart-phone features, the geeky gadget feels much more polished.
The Milestone is available from eXpansys for £450 SIM-free, or for £50 on a £35-per-month, 18-month contract.
Enter the Android
The Milestone is the first phone to run version 2.0 of Google's Android operating system, and there are a couple of big improvements. The phone supports Exchange email without a separate application, and it does it very well -- we had no trouble setting up our Outlook email.
Exchange email is still handled separately to Gmail, in a different application, as on previous Android phones. Unlike on older phones, however, you can add more than one Gmail account, and they're all shown in the same, combined inbox. We'd rather have Outlook and Gmail work from the same email app, but we can survive without it.
Motorola told us that the official Facebook app for Android should work with Android 2.0 to merge your friends into your phone's address book, but we had no luck getting this specific feature working on our test phone, although the app worked fine otherwise.
This popular feature is available on HTC's Android phones and via the Motoblur feature of the Motorola Dext. There's no Motoblur on the Milestone, so its social-networking features are much more limited than the Dext's, but it's worth the swap to get the latest features of Android 2.0.
Of course, you still get all of the usual Android advantages, like a choice of thousands of apps from the Android Market. Apps are easy to find and install, and still mostly free, so you can add every feature and game you can imagine to the Milestone.
The Web browser has also been improved in the new version of Android, and it does a fantastic job of rendering complex Web sites accurately and clearly. It doesn't support Flash, so you'll miss out on some elements, but this is still one of the best Web-surfing phones out there, thanks to its speed and simple user interface.
The Web browser also shows off the biggest bragging right that we have over the hugely popular US version of this phone, the Droid. Our Web browser has multi-touch zoom capability, so you can zoom in and out on those fiddly little links with a pinch of your fingers. It's a fast, intuitive way to interact with the Web, and we love it. We just wish it were everywhere -- there's no multi-touch functionality in Google Maps, for example.
MotoNav to nowhere
But the Yankees have their revenge -- the most exciting feature on the Droid is nowhere to be found on the Milestone. Google Maps Navigation is a free sat-nav feature for Google Maps that looks simply awesome, and the Milestone doesn't have it. It doesn't have the in-car user-interface option either, which shows simple, big icons in landscape mode for easy tapping when you're on the road.
Instead, the Milestone fobs us off with MotoNav, Motorola's own sat-nav system. After a brief test, we're not huge fans, since it's not easy to use. But it has one big advantage over Google Maps Navigation. Because the maps are installed on the phone, you can use MotoNav without having a data connection, which is handy for avoiding data charges when you're abroad.