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Motorola Dext brings Qwerty back to Android

Motorola has launched the Dext, its first Android phone. It has a tweaked user interface, slide-out Qwerty keyboard and social-networking focus

Motorola has been sinking into the quicksand of also-rans since releasing the Razr V3 way back in 2004. After a few years of Razr clones, dropped vowels and insanely priced bonus-busters, it seems now may be the time for Motorola to reinvigorate its once-great brand, thanks to the Dext, its first phone to run the Google Android operating system.

The Dext has a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and a touchscreen, like HTC's first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1. It will shoot video and photos on a 5-megapixel camera, and has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use your own cans. Motorola tells us that the Dext will come with a 2GB microSD card in the box, with support for cards of up to 32GB.

The Dext was launched on Thursday at the Mobilize 09 conference in San Francisco. In the good ol' US of A, it's called the Motorola Cliq. Our American colleagues over at CNET News caught the launch of the Dext, and they tell us that it will offer Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, with 6 hours of talk time and up to 13.5 days of standby time.

Motorola has also tweaked the Android user interface, calling the result 'Motoblur'. It seems similar to HTC's Sense UI, seen on the HTC Hero. Motoblur merges the contact info from your social networks, like Facebook, with the address book on your phone. It also offers widgets so you can tweet or update your status, or view live updates and news feeds, from the home screen.

Motoblur also offers on online back-up service for storing all your gubbins on the Web, along with a phone tracker that hunts down your phone by GPS. That sounds like Apple's MobileMe service for the iPhone, although there's no news on whether Motorola plans to charge a subscription fee, as Apple does for MobileMe.

Being an Android phone, we can expect the Dext to offer the usual perks, like integration with Gmail and Google Maps. The Dext will also come with desktop syncing software, which will be happy to handle your iTunes and Windows Media Player playlists.

We're thrilled to see more Android handsets joining the fray, since the open-source OS is groovy but still has plenty of room to grow. Here's hoping that Motorola delivers a Razr-style sex machine and not a Z10-esque disappointment. We'll be reserving judgement until we get our hands on the Dext in a couple of days. The Dext will be available exclusively on Orange, starting in early October, and you can pre-order from the Orange Web site from 22 September.

In the meantime, check out the CNET News video below to get a flavour of Dext, Motoblur, and the navy suit and purple shirt combination currently taking San Fran by storm.

Now playing: Watch this: Motorola debuts Motoblur and Cliq