Review – T-Mobile Motorola CLIQ

As a product reviewer, I look at a lot of different items from a number of different genres and vendors.  I've looked at everything from beer glasses to PC's and mobile devices over the last 15 years. One of the things that I learned early on, especially with electronics, if your review is going to be value-added for ANYONE it can't be done in a couple of days. That kind of "off-the-cuff" review doesn't nearly give the reader the opportunity to see what the product is REALLY like after the honeymoon period or "wow factor" wears off. That being said, let's take a good at one of the newer Android offerings from T-Mobile – The Motorola CLIQ.  The phone is supposed to be a social networking junkie's dream. Everything that you would be interested in – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, e-Mail, Text/SMS/MMS, Last.FM, etc., is completely integrated and available to you on one of five different home screens.  Is the CLIQ for you? Does MotoBLUR live up to hype and deliver? Let's take a look and see..! Device As you'll see below in The Full 360, the device is comparable in size to the AT&T Tilt/HTC Kaiser, albeit a little taller and somewhat thinner than the Kaiser. Interestingly enough, I found that I could carry both the CLIQ and the Tilt in the same pocket in the SeV Quantum Jacket that I am also currently reviewing.
The CLIQ & the Kaiser in my Quantum's Clear Fabric pocket

The device’s specs are pretty decent.  The full monty can be seen below:

Spec sheet courtesy of

The device’s specs are halfway decent, but have me a bit concerned.  The device has a Qualcomm MSM7201A processor running at 528mHz.  The device itself has 256MB of RAM, 256MB of onboard storage and comes with a 2GB microSD card.  The slot, also supports microSDHC.

Many of you are likely wondering what has me concerned at this time.  The device’s performance should be excellent; but leaves a bit to be desired.  At best, the device has mediocre performance for such high technical specs.  The device’s battery life, also leaves a GREAT deal to be desired. I have a very hard time getting through a full day at the office without the device wanting for some kind of power plug-in. If you’re going to be out and about for a full day, you might want to have an extra battery with you or stay close to some kind of power outlet.

The Full 360


The CLIQ & the Kaiser side by side

I chose to compare the CLIQ to the Tilt because of the similarities in the device’s form factors.  They are very close.  The CLIQ has a larger screen than the Tilt and its buttons are relegated to a simple three near the bottom of the device’s face. 

The bottom of the CLIQ (top) and Kaiser

The bottom of the Tilt has its memory card slot, mini USB connector and soft reset hole.  The bottom of the CLIQ is bare.

The left side. The CLIQ’s vibrate switch, volume rocker, and USB connector

The left side of the CLIQ has its vibrate switch (like the Treo and iPhone before it), volume rocker and micro USB connector.

The top of the devices. The CLIQ has the audio jack on the top

The top of the CLIQ has a centered audio jack.  The Tilt’s top is bare.  As you can clearly see from this shot, the Tilt is MUCH thicker than the CLIQ.  You can really feel the thickness difference between the two devices. The CLIQ while not anorexic by any means, fits easily in your hand and isn’t too heavy or too wide. The thickness (though thinner than the Tilt, its still a bit on the thick side) isn’t too bad, and some of it is to be expected, as it is a slider.

The right side. Both devices have their camera and power buttons in the same spots

Both devices have their power and camera buttons on the right side.  The Tilt has a 3MP camera.  The CLIQ has a 5MP camera, and  takes pretty good pictures for a camera phone. I was really quite impressed.  The camera also location tags the photos (actually the file name with your location) with its GPS receiver.  I’m still out to lunch on the whole geo-tagging thing; but for now, its at least helpful in that it can remind you of WHERE you were when the picture was taken. The GPS receiver’s data is not saved to the photo’s meta data, but unless you’re really into tagging your photos, its not going to be a huge deal.

Build Quality & Form-Factor 
The form factor of the device is really top notch.  I like the way this device looks, feels and works.  However, I did bump into a couple of issues that I’d like to bring up.

The CLIQ & the Kaiser’s keyboards slide out from opposite sides

I like this type of messaging device.  The only other messaging form factor that I prefer is the Blackjack/Blackberry form factor. You’ll notice that the amount of buttons on the CLIQ is a few shy of those.  As such, the device is very touch oriented. You’ll find that the device requires a bit more touch screen interaction than you might otherwise think.  I was a bit surprised that so much of the device and MotoBLUR relied on touch as opposed to buttons or keyboard interaction.  The keyboard, unlock, back and home buttons are truly just meant for those direct functions – the keyboard for messaging and other typing, the unlock button for unlocking the screen and bringing up a specific screen’s menu, the back button for going back one screen or one action and the home button for returning you to the last viewed home screen.  Every other interaction with the device is done through the touch screen.

The only problem that I had with this setup is due to the implementation of BLUR.  The lag placed on the OS and the device was enough, at times, to delay the device’s response to touches.   The device’s response should be better than it is.

The build quality of the device is so-so. For the cost of the device, it really should have a metal casing. Instead, the device is wrapped in either black (titanium) or white plastic. While this isn’t a major sin, it really is very disappointing. Compared to the Tilt, which does have somewhat of a metal case, its really very noticeable, and disappointing.

The keyboard is a little on the stiff side; but usable.  There are times when the keys are difficult to press, especially when texting with any speed or purpose. This again isn’t a major sin, but can make things a bit difficult if you’re trying to type or text anything of length.  When you’ve got statuses to update and tweets to, well…tweet, this can take the fun out of BLUR.  You need to spend a little bit of time with the device, if possible, and make certain that you can really make use of the keyboard.  I’m not to crazy about this feature on the device, but at the same time, wouldn’t want to use another type of Android device (like the MyTouch 3G) without a keyboard.

The Motorola CLIQ is running Android 1.5 (Donut). I’m not going to go nuts and review Android here.  You can see a number of different reviews available around the internet if you’re interested in an Android only review (Gizmodo, Phandroid, C|Net).  However, I will say this about the mobile OS:

Android is very similar to Windows Mobile/Windows Phone, and I found it both very easy to get used to and at times, alien and unknown.  However, the more time I spent with it, the more used to it I got, and the more alien and unknown Windows Phone seemed.  Having used Windows Phone, iPhone, PalmOS as well as Android now; and as a utility OS, one that can do more, much more than simply PIM and phone calls, Android is a lot better than I thought it would be. I’m actually very impressed.  Google seems to have done a very good job at getting the mobile operating system right.

What bothers me the most about this device is that the operating system is 2-3 versions behind as of this writing.  The device should be running Cupcake or better yet, Éclair. If and how the device will be updated to the next version of the OS, and not the next version of MotoBLUR, is not entirely clear.  Will it come from T-Mobile?  Will it come from Motorola?  Which will it be; and if it comes, WHEN will it come? 

Personally, I’m very interested in the CLIQ on T-Mobile; but won’t jump on it until I understand the life cycle of this device.  I’m not going to enter into a new contract with a new carrier on a device that has an unclear end of life time frame.

T-Mobile Service
Ok.  I admit it and I totally apologize to Catherine Zeta-Jones for ever doubting the strength of the T-Mobile signal (at least in Chicago-land, anyway).  In a word… wow!

I’ve been an AT&T customer since 2004. The coverage in Nashville, TN, where I initially got my AT&T account was excellent, at least compared to T-Mo and Sprint.  Verizon is too expensive, no matter where you are; but the AT&T coverage, combined with it being an early 3G market, convinced me that it was the way to go when I left VzW in late 2003. What a contrast to the coverage here in Chicago.

You would think that coverage for any of the 4 major wireless carriers here in Chicago would be excellent.  No so. The coverage and signal strength for AT&T is, in my experience, ABYSMAL. I often have substandard signal (2 bars or less) and often drop calls, and go without any signal on the BNSF Metra commuter rail line. 

Interestingly enough, I can carry a T-Mobile 3G signal through the entire length of the track UNDERNEATH the old Post Office at Chicago’s Union Station (about 4 floors of concrete and steel) and lose my AT&T signal before we’ve gone 1/4 of the way in or out of the station.  So TOTALLY sucks.

I have always been reluctant to go with T-Mobile service ANYWHERE in the US, because they tend to have rotten coverage outside of any major metropolitan area. However, I really don’t travel as much as I used to, and we haven’t been outside of Chicago AND away from a major interstate highway for the last three years.  With the best pricing plans available on a major wireless carrier, T-Mobile with this device is an excellent choice.

So again, Catherine, I apologize for, uh-hem… keeping us apart, as it were. I’ve seen the light, and will be “getting more” as soon as I can shed some weight off my AT&T ETF.

I’m really out to lunch on the whole MotoBLUR thing.  The device is still VERY much Android powered, and its difficult to see the difference between a regular Android widget and what MotoBLUR provides.  This really indicates that MotoBLUR is really nothing more than widgets that sit on an Android home page.  However, while reviewing the device, Motorola shot out an OTA update, indicating that BLUR is a bit more than the widgets it appears to be.

BLUR is all about Facebook, Twitter, MySpace… i.e. your social networking circle and consolidating it into one central place.  The device does a decent job of this, but as with everything, for you to make it work, you have to embrace the paradigm… no, I mean REALLY embrace the paradigm.  I have found it really hard at times to NOT pull up Twitdroid instead of using BLUR’s Happening widget.  While Happenings is very much like Seesmic Desktop (in that it combines your networks into a single interface), I even have trouble with Seesmic.  I’m just an old fashioned guy at times.

The CLIQ’s main Home page with the Happenings Widget

Price: While writing this review, the Motorola CLIQ’s price dropped from $199 to $99 with 2 year agreement on T-Mobile; and then later returned to $199.  Wal-Mart’s Cell Phone kiosk and have the device at $99. With such disparity in price, I suspect that T-Mobile will soon lower the price of the device to match or beat that of Wal-Mart and other retailers at a near point in the future.

What I liked: The form factor, light weight design, and device feel.  After the OTA update that the CLIQ got, its performance was much improved. The battery life was also a lot better after the update; but still not something that I’d write home about.

What Needs Improvement: The build quality of the device is only so-so.  The body is made of plastic; and for as much as the device’s introduction cost was, it should have a metal body.

As far as AT&T is concerned, unless they come up with some serious changes in their rate plans (like unlimited plans that don’t cost “one of these and one of these”) me and my business are going to be making a change later next year.    T-Mobile service in Chicago is just as good, if not WAY better than AT&T’s. The CLIQ is a very compelling device; but honestly, at $199, I don’t think its the right device for me.  This is the right form factor – a cross between touch and non-touch – at least for me; but while the device itself isn’t a bad device, its got a number of minor issues that when you add them up, make it a bit difficult for me. 

This however, shouldn’t deter you from taking a serious look at the device, as always, your mileage may vary. The CLIQ is a decent device that is clearly signaling a pulse in Motorola’s mobile device division.  With it and the introduction of the Moto Droid on Verizon, there’s a great deal of life left in them; and I’m looking forward to seeing more from Motorola’s Android line in the IMMEDIATE future.

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