What do you do when you screw up one of the most popular mobile phone brands in the UK? Wipe the slate clean and start again, Motorola said yesterday at the launch of its first Android phone, the Motorola Dext.
Motorola said the Dext is the first ray of light in a new dawn for the company, and it's going all-in with Google's mobile operating system. The company has a range of smart phones in the works, and the little green robot will power them all. We can expect at least one more Android phone this year, Motorola told us.
Motorola's pushing its own flavour of Android, called Motoblur, which is targeting this crazy new trend among the kids: 'social networking'. Like the Sense system on the HTC Hero, also known as the T-Mobile G2 Touch, the Motorola Dext attempts to merge your amorphous blob of contacts from Facebook and MySpace with the address book on your phone. It also brings updates, such as tweets and statuses, into the stream of incoming emails and text messages that invade your life day and night.
Motoblur also has features for managing your phone online, similar to Apple's MobileMe -- except this one's free. You can track down a lost phone with GPS, or wipe the thing if it's gone forever. You can also back up your phone, including your Android apps, which we think could be one of its most useful features when you lose your phone, upgrade or screw it up trying to root it.
The Dext has a 5-megapixel camera, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and will come with a 2GB microSD card, with support for up to 32GB. It has Wi-Fi, GPS and a compass built-in, and access to the thousands of apps on the Android Market, including several meaningful fart apps.
The Dext will go on sale exclusively on Orange starting in October, with pre-orders open on 22 September. It'll be free on a £34-per-month, 24-month contract, which will include 900 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited Internet subject to Orange's 500MB fair use policy.
We had some time with the Dext at yesterday's launch and we were impressed by its snappy reaction times and spacious, comfy keyboard. Click 'Continue' to read more about the Dext's features and our first impressions.
The home screen of the Dext can be packed with widgets, including the default Android widgets and Motorola-designed ones that show social-networking updates from sites such as Twitter and Facebook, or a merged list of all your updates as a list of 'happenings'.
Motoblur currently supports the list of social networks shown above, and Motorola said it plans to release more via free firmware updates as new services get popular with the cool kids.
The Dext has a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, which should be helpful for the avid updaters whom Motorola is targeting. We were impressed by the large keys and we had no trouble typing accurately with it, during our brief hands-on. On the other hand, we weren't bothered about the five-way navigation button on the side, which we think is unnecessary and not as fun to wiggle as the typical Android rollerball.
Motorola's Motoblur user interface means you can send messages to your online peeps, send a text or an email, or summon the Dark Lord, all from the same place.
There's also a common inbox for your texts, emails, tweets, updates and messages from Beelzebub. Thankfully, you can filter the inbox so that you're not subjected to the rantings of the Twitterverse each time you want to check a text message.
You can also update your various statuses all at once or one at a time.