Announced at Mobile World Congress 2010, the Motorola Cliq XT is Moto's fifth Android offering in the United States and T-Mobile's fifth overall. Some might be quick to dismiss the XT as a slight revamp of the Motorola Cliq, but we think that's a bit of a disservice to the device. After all, it offers a sleeker design with a capable onscreen keyboard courtesy of Swype, a more full-featured and connected media player, and thankfully better performance than the Motorola Backflip. That's not to say that the Cliq XT doesn't have issues. The screen size is on the smaller side and it only runs Android 1.5, but we found much more to like than dislike about the Cliq XT. It's a nice alternative for customers who want something sleeker than the Cliq and can do without a physical keyboard, but this is all contingent on pricing.
As of this writing, T-Mobile has not released pricing or a specific availability date for the Motorola Cliq XT, though we do know it will be sometime in March. The Moto Cliq currently goes for $149.99 with a two-year contract, so if the XT is similarly priced or lower ($99.99 would be the sweet spot), we think it'll be a good choice for social networking and music fans. We'll update this review as soon as we receive official details about price and availability.
Some have described the Motorola Cliq XT as the Cliq without the physical keyboard, but it's not quite that simple. In fact, we'd say there are more differences than similarities between the two models in terms of design. For one, the XT is taller, wider, thinner, and lighter than the Cliq at 4.59 inches tall by 2.33 inches wide by 0.48 inch thick and 4.4 ounces. Without the slide-out keyboard, the XT's slimmer profile makes it easier to slide the smartphone into a pants pocket and is lightweight while still feeling solid.
In addition, the back of the phone has a textured pattern that feels a bit like the leatherette backplate on the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000 to give it that extra bit of durability. However, if that doesn't suit you, T-Mobile and Moto throw in an extra back cover in the box that has a smoother, soft-touch finish and comes in a metallic purple color.
The Cliq XT shares the same 3.1-inch HVGA (320x480 pixels) capacitive touch screen as the Cliq and Motorola Backflip. It's sufficiently bright and clear, but doesn't have the sharpness and vibrancy as some of the higher-end devices, such as the Motorola Droid and Nexus One. We understand the Cliq XT isn't in the same class as those devices and there will be trade-offs, but that said, we wish the screen was bigger. At 3.1 inches diagonally, content on the screen appears squished and condensed and text can look tiny.
The onscreen keyboard is also pretty cramped, so composing even the quickest text message required extra time and more concentration. Fortunately, there is an alternative to the standard Android keyboard and that's Swype. We first saw Swype on the Samsung Omnia II and the software basically allows you to spell out words by dragging your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard. If you're skeptical, we totally understand; we were, too. However, Swype works surprisingly well and is quite accurate. It gets a little tricky when you're spelling out longer words, and we wish there was a dedicated .com button when entering URLs or e-mail addresses; otherwise, we much favored Swype over the standard Android keyboard and switched it to our default keyboard.
On the upside of things, the Cliq XT offers multitouch capabilities, so you can use the pinch-to-zoom gesture in the browser and picture gallery. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in Google Maps, so you'll have to use the onscreen magnifying glass icon if you want to get a closer look at anything. The display also has a built-in accelerometer and proximity sensor, and a small LED above the screen glows intermittently to alert you to notifications for missed calls, calendar appointments, updates, news messages, and so forth.
Below the screen, you get the usual home, menu, search, and back buttons found on most Android smartphones but the Cliq XT also offers a navigational touch pad. With it, you can scroll through lists and menus and switch home screen panels and press on it to select an item. It works perfectly fine, but we often just ended up using the touch screen. One helpful tip: if you hold down the Home key, it will bring up a small window of all your running apps so you can easily switch between them.
On the left side, there's a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port; the right side holds the power/lock button and the camera activation/capture key. A 3.5mm headphone jack is located on top, and the camera and flash are on the back with the microSD expansion slot
The Motorola Cliq XT comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an extra back plate in a metallic purple, a wired stereo headset, a 2GB microSD card, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The Motorola Cliq XT's feature set is largely similar to the Cliq's, as both smartphones run Motoblur software and Android 1.5. We're not going to dive into every detail of Motoblur and the OS here (for more information, please read our full review of the Motorola Cliq for T-Mobile) but instead will focus on some of the new functions specific to the Cliq XT. Before we move on, however, we know many of you are wondering when these smartphones will be upgradeable to Android 2.1. Motorola has posted a general release schedule on its support site, and the upgrade for the Cliq (as well as the Cliq XT we're told) is planned for Q2. Unfortunately, we don't have a more specific date for you, but we can only hope the over-the-air updates will be pushed out on the earlier side, starting in April.
One cool thing you get on the Cliq XT right out of the gate is a revamped music player that integrates a handful of connected services. From within the player, you can now stream music from ShoutCast radio, identify songs with SoundHond, and search and view music videos on YouTube or GoTV. Also integrated into the player is TuneWiki Community, which has several components, such as Music Maps where you can see what other people are listening to around your current location or other major cities. What we like best about the player is that it provides numerous ways to discover new music as well as the capability to purchase tracks and share recommendations in one seamless experience.
Connectivity, in general, is a strong point of the Cliq XT. Motoblur takes care of merging your contacts, e-mail, and calendar entries from various accounts and social-networking sites into a master list, and streams any new happening or updates via home-screen widgets. The smartphone also offers quad-band world roaming, 3G support, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.0. The Cliq XT's Android HTML WebKit browser allows you to open multiple windows and has support for Flash Lite 8.1, so you should be able to view Flash content, such as YouTube videos, right from the browser.
Of course, you still get the dedicated YouTube app as well as other standard Android apps and offerings, including Google Maps, Google Talk, Gmail, Google voice search, and the Quickoffice Suite. There were some extra apps loaded on our device, such as TeleNav GPS Navigator, Slacker Radio, and Shazam, but there are plenty more titles in the Android Market available for download. As always, though, be aware that you can only save apps to the phone's main memory and not to an SD card.
The Cliq XT has a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, digital zoom, and autofocus. It can also record MPEG video at 24 frames per second at HVGA resolution. There are standard editing options, such as color effects, white balance, and picture quality. The smartphone is GPS-enabled so you can geotag photos as well as add custom tags if you please.
We were quite impressed with the picture quality. The image shot above was taken in a rather dimly lit room, but the XT's camera managed to grab a very sharp and vibrant shot, even without the flash. There is a little bit of shutter lag, so don't pull your hand away too quickly after pressing the capture button.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Motorola Cliq XT in New York using T-Mobile service and call quality was great. There was barely any background noise or voice distortion on our end, allowing us to talk carefree with friends. The sound was rich and there was plenty of volume, so we had no problems using an airline's voice automated response system. Callers also praised the XT and commented, in particular, about the lack of any background noise. We did get a slight bit of hissing when we activated the speakerphone, but only during breaks in the conversation. The speaker has plenty of volume, too, so we had no problems using the speakerphone in noisier environments. Pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones went off without a hitch as well.
T-Mobile's 3G network was mostly reliable throughout Manhattan, though it did drop to EDGE several times in the Midtown area. On average, CNET's full site loaded in 22 seconds; CNN and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 7 seconds and 6 seconds, respectively. With the built-in Flash Lite support, we were able to play YouTube videos right from the browser as well as video from other sites like Angry Alien. It took a couple of seconds to buffer, but clips played back smoothly with synchronized picture and audio. MP4 files also played back nicely, but again, we wish the display were bigger since it was a bit of a strain on the eyes. Music playback sounded rich and well-balanced whether we were listening to tracks through the phone's speakers or through our Bose On-Ear Headphones.
The Cliq XT is equipped with the same 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A processor as the Backflip, but thankfully didn't exhibit the same sluggishness and bugginess as AT&T's first Android phone. The XT wasn't a high-performance machine that blew us away with amazing speeds. There were some brief delays when switching screen orientations or launching an app, but the XT was much quicker to respond than the Backflip, and it handled multiple apps at once. We didn't experience any crashes or spontaneous reboots, so all in all, the Cliq XT felt like a stable machine.
The Motorola Cliq XT has a 1,420mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6.5 hours and up to 13.5 days of standby time. XT fell short of the rated talk time in our battery drain tests, coming in at 5.25 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Cliq XT has a digital SAR rating of 1.36 watts per kilogram.