With all the hype surrounding this potential iPhone-killer, we wanted to find out what the Motorola Milestone really had to offer. After spending a couple of months with the handset Ketaki Bhojnagarwala tells you if it's the real deal
Choosing a good smartphone isn't for the technically challenged. Increasingly, if you are looking for a decent OS, and you're not considering Apple, Google's Android would be your best bet. User experience is next on your list, you want a phone that's intuitive and one which gives you control without complexity. Then there's touch interface – it's all about capacitive; resistive is slowly losing ground. And of course, it must have the ability to multi-task, just like you. After all, a smartphone is more than a phone, it's got to be your computer, diary and entertainment centre all in one. Motorola, having been in the shadows for a brief interlude, launched the Milestone, also known as the Droid in the US. If looks could kill, this handset would be Tom Cruise from his Top Gun days. We spent a couple of months with this phone wanting to find out whether this would be the Android with a difference.
Encased in a sleek black bezel, the Milestone's fascia has four touch-sensitive buttons at the bottom, which function as return, options, home and search respectively. When the options button is touched, it pops up a menu that gives you different choices. For example, if you select a text message and then press the options button, you get choices to reply, call, delete, etc. The four buttons also respond with a slight haptic feedback when pressed.
In addition, the Milestone also has a pull out QWERTY slider, measuring just a few millimeters in thickness. It gives you a good, strong grip for typing, which is a plus for all the compulsive texters out there. Hold it in landscape mode and on the right side of the keypad is a large bronze D-pad, which you can use to navigate as an alternative to the touch screen.
The Milestone has a 3.7-inch TFT WVGA screen which has a crisp and clear display. We found the touch screen to be very responsive, reacting to even the slightest of gestures. The handset we got for review had five customisable home screens, which you can swap by flicking to the left or right. In the Settings option, you can customise the number of home screens you want displayed, choosing from 3, 5, 7 or a maximum of 9. You can also choose to add shortcuts, widgets and folders to the home screens. You can add a maximum of 16 icons to each home screen. At the bottom of the home screen is a small menu bar that you drag up to display the menu screen, which has neatly labelled icons displaying all the functions of the phone. The screen also has a small notification panel on the top, which displays the time and alerts for any new text or call that you may have missed.
The phone can be locked by pressing the small button on top of the bezel. To unlock the phone you have to press the button again, and the screen lights up displaying a lock icon, that needs to be slid to the right to unlock the screen. Similarly, there is also a volume button that can be slid to the left to switch between silent and normal modes. The phone has a built-in accelerometer to switch between landscape and portrait views. It also supports multi gestures, including pinch and zoom and double tap, making viewing easy.
Typing on the pull out QWERTY keypad was a breeze. While it does not have a separate numeric keypad, you can switch to numbers using the Alt key provided. There is an optional touch screen keypad that shows up in portrait mode, and although it looked cramped, typing on it was quite easy, thanks to the Milestone's responsive touch screen.
The phone integrates contacts from your Gmail and Facebook into your contacts list, and even displays thumbnail sized images of their profile pictures, so that you have a consolidated contacts list. When you select a contact it gives you the option to call, text, email or view their Facebook profile.
Browsing on the Milestone was a breeze. Once you open a page on the browser you can use the pinch and zoom gesture to zoom in and out. The screen's large size makes viewing easy, whether in portrait or landscape mode. Applications such as Facebook and YouTube also functioned well.
We were quite impressed with the Maps application on the phone. The built in GPS took a few minutes to get activated, but once that was done it pinpointed our exact location quite accurately. We tried it in a moving vehicle and our location was tracked accurately. It gives easy instructions and displays information clearly about going from point A to B, which is useful if you're also using it as a navigation device. However, the maps available with the handset in India are quite basic and lack detail. In other markets you'll have to buy more detailed maps on a memory stick, if the Milestone doesn't come preloaded with navigation software.
The Milestone has a 5-meg camera with built-in image stabilisation, 4x zoom and LED flash. The photo editor gives you a number of options, including auto correction, brightness and contrast, colour and saturation, special effects, resizing, adding text and flipping the picture. You can also tag the image and share through Facebook, Gmail, Picasa, or send as a text or via Bluetooth. There are also a number of ‘pre-sets' you can choose before you shoot the photo like Black & White, Negative, Sepia and Solarise. In addition, you can also choose from the available scenes. You have the option to select the image to set it as a contact image or as your wallpaper.
The phone comes equipped with a music player, which displays music either as Artists, Albums, Songs or Playlists. Once you select the song, it displays all the relevant information along with a thumbnail of the album cover. If you want to continue using the player, just navigate to another page and the music player will show in the notification bar on top, allowing you to pause or change songs at any time. The speaker output was clear and the volume was loud enough to fill a room, impressive for a phone speaker.
The Milestone comes with a 550 Mhz processor. The phone functioned quite well when multi-tasking, for example, we were able to have the music player on while we did other tasks such as Facebook or texting, without slowing down the phone. Sometimes the accelerometer failed to switch to landscape mode unless we pulled out the QWERTY slider, which was an inconvenience. One major negative we noticed was that every once in a while the screen tended to freeze for a couple of minutes in between tasks - a problem that Motorola needs to look into.
When we answered a phone call the proximity sensor switched the screen off, but often it got activated during a call, which means your face continuously pressed down on the dial pad, and sometimes inadvertently put the call on hold.
Battery life on the Milestone was one of its weakest links – a full charge lasted barely 24 hours, with just an hour or two of talktime and a few hours of browsing put in. However the phone charged quite quickly which was the only saving grace. The display has a habit of turning on every few minutes even when there is no alert, and this could also be contributing to the battery getting drained. You can charge the phone with the USB cable when it is plugged into the charger or directly from a PC.
The Milestone has what it takes to fight it out in the business phone market, except for a few nagging issues. If you're looking for a phone which utilises the full potential of the Android platform, then the Milestone should definitely be on the top of your list. Unless, of course, you want to wait for the more capable Droid X.
Love: Responsive touch screen, sleek looks
Hate: Phone freezes easily, poor battery life
Price: Rs 32,990