Motorola Milestone XT720
Review compliments of Shaun from PDA247.
- Android 2.1 (Eclair) OS
- 3.7″ Touch screen display
- 8MP Camera with Xenon flash
- HD recording and playback with HDMI to HDTV (HDMI connection cable included)
- Google Maps
The success of the Droid in the US cannot be overlooked by anyone in the smartphone industry because it has 1) provided a backdrop for Motorola to come back from the brink 2) proved that a smartphone does not need to have an Apple or HTC logo on the back to be a huge success and 3) offered users the opportunity to do almost anything they like with their phone. It can be tweaked to oblivion, but it seems that not only hardened smartphones users have bought it and now it is time for the XT720 to take it to another level.
It is covered in buttons and ports and could be described as the Pearly King of smartphones. On the front there are the standard home, menu, back and search buttons which are virtual and merely icons below the screen. On the left there is a microUSB jack which is close to impossible to open unless you have long thin fingernails. On top there is an HDMI port (impressive), a 3.5mm headphone jack and the on/off button. On the right we have the volume keys, a media gallery button and the camera button. There is a hump over to the right which I cannot figure out, but presume it to be there for a good reason- it surely can’t be for styling.
The XT720’s design looks and feels quite industrial when you first pick it up. The open metal edging and the metal rear almost make the phone look unfinished and compares starkly with the clean lines of the iPhone and BlackBerry’s. I don’t know if I like this kind of styling which has a hint of i-mate about it and suspect it is much more acceptable in the US than Europe. I like the back which has a rubberised feel which will help grip, but after some consideration I have decided that it is, well, I don’t know what it is. It’s not ugly, it’s not a looker- it is what it is and maybe that’s a good thing after all.
At 3.7” the screen feels about the right size and the 480 x 854 pixel resolution offers a crisp presentation of the icons and general interface. Indoors the colour reproduction is excellent, but outdoors in bright conditions it does look more than a little washed out and it is very reflective. It is also a fingerprint magnet so a screen protector will be a necessity at some stage. Don’t get me wrong, it does work and will offer usability, but in a way that reminds me of some of the touch screen Nokia efforts. It could be a lot better.
Music is always going to be a difficult area for smartphone manufacturers since Apple decided to make the iPhone 4 unbeatable in this area. And then Motorola beats it with the XT720. IT IS BETTER THAN THE IPHONE 4 AT MUSIC! I was shocked, stunned and whatever other overblown word you want to insert yourself at the sound quality from this phone. It is truly breathtaking and far from what I expected.
At least Apple can be happy that the Retina Display means that the iPhone 4 is better for video playback. Um, not quite. Of course the iPhone display is special, but when you watch a highly encoded video on this phone that results are more than impressive. In short- if entertainment is a big part of your smartphone wish list, this phone will not disappoint.
Don’t forget that there is HDMI output as well to watch your own movies and the cable is supplied in the box.
Surprisingly good. The haptic feedback has been tweaked just perfectly and within a minute I was tapping away at iPhone speeds in landscape mode. If anything, it is quicker than the iPhone in landscape, but a bit more cramped in portrait mode. One of the better Android screen keyboards I have used.
Call Quality / Signal
Call quality is crisp and good when using the phone in standard mode. The speakerphone is even better and offers a deep sound even at high volumes. Signal quality is even better than the Pearl 3G which I reviewed last week and I held onto 3G all day long at home (almost unheard of). All in all, a very good ‘phone’ experience.
It’s going to need charging every day if you use multiple features, but if you do not overuse your phone you may squeak 2 days out of it. It should perform well with a rating of 1420 mAh and I do wonder if it should be performing better than it actually does? Maybe a software fix later on will up the runtime.
The stills camera is good, very good in fact and I managed to capture some good shots even when close up to objects. With a Xenon flash, 10x digital zoom, auto-focus and a mechanical shutter this is certainly the best Android shooter on the market at this time and if stills are your thing it is a worthy option.
I wasn’t so impressed with video recording; the video capture was good, but the microphone failed to pick up voices and sounds from only a few feet away. I need to play with this a little more, but must admit that I am struggling with it and cannot seem to get it to work. It picks up my voice when I am holding the phone though which is even stranger. One thing I will say is that the video recording could be a little better considering the 720 in the phone’s name stands for 720p video recording.
I expected problems here because of the lower than average 550MHz processor, but it clips along at a fair old rate. I have seen no slow-downs and performance has more than matched the rest of the Android bunch so far except in web browsing which can be jerky at times. Once the battery beds in, it may benefit from the slower processor and it could form a potent combination if Motorola decides to remove the silly underclock which currently slows performance down by more than 25%. There is also much more RAM in here than is currently available- again a software fix would be useful.
Android is Android is Android. I feel like I have written about Android so many times because it is running on so many different phones that it is difficult to know what to say. Motorola has, however, included some goodies which will prove useful. Moto Phone Portal which allows you to manage phone content from a PC via USB or Wi-Fi and Motonav for turn-by-turn navigation. Motonav is included as a trial, sadly, and will need to be purchased later. It is good, but the competition will eat it for breakfast and in my view Motorola should consider throwing it in for free.
There are no overlays in Android on this phone and so you get the clean v2.1 interface which works perfectly well. It is a personal preference, but I like the simpler interface that Android offers when it is used without Motoblur and it’s worked well for me so far.
For a smartphone to stand out in a crowded as dense as the Android one currently is, it needs to have some standout features. At just over £300 the XT720 is well priced and the overall feature set will entice many to it. The camera is wonderful on paper and only marginally less so in reality. I do wonder if it has enough though to sell in big numbers? Then again I said that about the first Milestone and it sold really well.
It is a good Android phone I could live quite happily with it each day if Motorola fixes some of the small niggles. The shallow side of me doesn’t like the industrial design much or the remarkably dull name, but as an overall package the XT720 is not a bad phone at all. I just get the feeling that Motorola could make it a lot better without needing to refresh the hardware.