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The Milestone has been one of the more anticipated handsets for our sector. In fact after poking around a bit into the gray market and other the international as well I found that the handset is selling quite well and Motorola is back! Razer be damned. But the Milestone may be getting great ratings across the bar but it is far from being the perfect handset, take a closer look.
Amongst the large number of Android handsets that are available to the Indian audience, I have to say the Milestone is by far the most sophisticated, at least in the looks department. Its rugged-like metal casing gives it sense of maturity and elegance. This is in no way a handset for the average social networking, media loving mobile user although even they would get a kick out of using it. It’s designed to look and feel intimidating.
The large 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen display sports a 480 x 854 pixel resolution with 16 million colours making it one of the most comfortable and vibrant displays to stare into for whatever reason. Even in bright sunlit conditions you’ll get by without a hassle. Everything is clearly legible.
The proximity sensor and accelerometer are responsive and work flawlessly but that’s slight micro-second delay in having the display turning makes it perfect so it’s not very sensitive and won’t just seem like its change orientation on it’s own whims and fancy. The touch-sensitive keys at the bottom of the display are also designed to be just perfectly receptive. You’ll find even a hand slip won’t just change the screen. These keys won’t activate unless you really want them too, or so it seems. The volume/zoom keys are placed on the side and the gold tint given to the camera key adds just a hint of elegance to the other wise hardcore handset. The 3.5mm handsfree port (very comfy handsfree kit included) is placed on the top right next to the power/screen lock soft key and the micro USB slot for the charger and PC connectivity is located on the side.
The rear panel has a slightly rubberized consistency that makes it easy to grip in your hand since it’s a pretty heavy handset at 165g, that’s just one more thing you’ll never let you forget. That same weight is also quite well displaced over the handset’s body making it heavy, yes, but still comfortable to use even for long periods.
Now for the stuff I didn’t like about the Milestone’s otherwise rock solid design. The QWERTY keypad takes a bit of effort to slide up and that seems a bit old fashioned to me. I didn’t like that too much, but you can get by. However I wasn’t satisfied with Motorola’s explanation of why the Milestone doesn’t have a pop sliding keypad like the rest of the handsets out there. The reason behind this older style being incorporated was to prevent it from becoming loose after awhile.
It’s true that kick sliders like the Nokia N97 just might get a little loose after constant usage and I can see that could be an issue, but only after a really really long time. Even an iPhone user will want to upgrade to the next-gen model which is usually an annual release. The keys themselves are very comfy and make for quick typing however the placement of the oversized d-pad at the side was a bad idea. If you have small fingers it’s going to be quite a stretch for your right hand. This is the chink in the Milestone’s armour. The lack of a hot swap slot for the memory card would have been an issue if the handset wasn’t bundled with an 8GB card.
Features and Performance
The Milestone runs on Android 2.1 which gives the OS a slight boost in terms of usability. Multitasking was very efficiently handled. I found that even with music playing in the background, surfing the internet, downloading emails, Social Networking and messaging there didn’t seem to be an issue with speed. Keeping the ‘Home’ key pressed pulls up a box that shows all of your running apps making multitasking even easier.
The ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz processor with PowerVR SGX530 graphics is a serious enhancement over some of the other handsets in its class and it manages its usage very effectively. You have a choice of choosing how many panels you’d like to have active. The minimum is three and the max is 9. The Milestone also supports Live Wallpapers similar to the Nexus One. The handset could have used more preloaded widgets though and this is where Sense UI makes a very significant difference.
Multi-touch is also incorporated into the Milestone however the fluidity and spread of the feature through out the handset is limited. It wasn’t as smooth or responsive as the Legend’s. Motorola’s Crystal Talk technology is definitely evident in the Milestone as calls from the handsfree, speakerphone or earpiece were always ‘crystal’ clear. The same function also comes with four settings. The virtual keypads are well spaced out and you’ll find yourself using the onscreen QWERTY rather than the slide out option which is far less of an effort and as responsive. The predictive text remembers your frequently used spellings and offers them up for speedier typing.
At last there’s an Android handset that has the capability to actually take Android’s native music player up a notch. Motorola has included an Audio effect feature that allows you a limited yet useful option of customizing the way you listen to audio. There’s a separate setting for the handsfree and the speaker phone each with EQ presets but with the addition of a surround sound setting available only for the handsfree kit. Music quality is brilliant. Tones are very well balanced and there is a resounding thump in the bass that will undoubtedly have you tapping your feet and swaying your head irrespective of where you are. The Android player is also designed to easily create playlists on the go.
The lack of an FM radio and proper codec support for videos is a harsh reality to face. But if you find the right converter for your video files the large display and great audio still makes it overall, a really good video experience. An image editor is available to make a few adjustments to your pictures, color corrections etc.
The Milestone really comes through in the connectivity department and you’ll want for nothing. It’s a 3G ready handset that can handle both HSDPA (10.2 Mbps) and HSUPA (5.76 Mbps). Since we’re still waiting for that technology to go national in a bigger way you’ll have to settle for EDGE/GPRS or Wi-Fi if you need to connect to the web. Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP and USB 2.0 are other modes of connectivity available. The handset also has a built-in GPS module and with A-GPS support. The latest version of Google Maps and Motorola’s Motonav are both available for getting around. Motonav is a quiet a sophisticated mapping application that comes with quite a few options and settings for customization. The 3D turn by turn navigator for over 401 cities in India, is preloaded onto the bundled SD card and is extremely handy and easy to use.
The Milestone doesn’t immediately come off as a very social networking friendly handset. For one thing this is the first and only Android handset that came without a preloaded Twitter app. Not that that’s an issue seeing as there are plenty of options available via the Android Market. Android for Facebook is on board and a Gtalk is available for chatting. Your address book quiet easily integrates with Facebook and your Google account merging contacts quiet seamlessly. Of course it’s not a 100% as one does tend to store contacts by nicknames etc. but it’ll take a few minutes to sort them out.
Setting up your Gmail or other POP/IMAP accounts account is always easy on an Android handset. You can also easily sync your MS Exchange account with the Milestone as well. It even has a Corporate calendar and Directory that syncs with your Exchange account. Motorola’s Media Phone Portal allows you to connect to your computer via USB or Wi-Fi for transferring your media or other files, another handy application. The Share option for uploading your pictures to various Social Network sites or your Flickr or Picas accounts is still just a couple of clicks away.
If you’re thinking of using the handset as a modem for your laptop or PC, you can’t. The native browser is still one of the better options out there.
The handset features quiet a few extras that Motorola has thrown other than the basic Alarm clock, calculator and calendar. A read only version of QuickOffice is available but there’s no PDF reader. It has a Text-to-speech feature like other Android based handsets. Motocar Home is a simple shortcut based app with extra large icons. It’s just a way to quickly access certain features presumably while you’re driving. The voice dialler would be the handiest. Another shortcut based app is My Sign. On grid like interface you can draw out certain letters that are associated with functions like Samsung’s gesture unlock function.
The 5 megapixel camera comes with a Dual LED flash and supports D1 i.e. 720 x 480 pixels (@24fps) video recording. The interface is simple and easy to get around. Features include quiet a few scene modes including Sports and Macro with a few effects thrown in. There didn’t seem to be any White Balance settings or any others like a timer. Geotagging images were an option though. Image quality on the whole was grainy with a bit of noise being quite evident throughout the pictures. The edges of objects weren’t sharp on most counts. Macro images were a different story as extreme close ups usually came out quite sharp.
Needless to say the camera is not the Milestone’s winning feature. It’s average at best if compared to any other 5MP camera phone on the market.
Battery life was unimpressive. If you’re going to be using the handset for social networking, downloading emails and making a considerable amount of calls and messages regularly, you’re going to have to carry the charger with you all the time. I had to charge the handset daily as it when I left the handset constantly connected to networks and email accounts. However, if my data connection was inactive and taking just talk time into consideration, the Milestone dished out over 4 hours non-stop. Then again, an Android handset is not designed for just talking and messaging is it?
The Bottom Line
The price tag on the Milestone is Rs. 32,990 (MRP) which means the MOP could very well be around Rs. 30,000 putting it in the HTC Hero’s league. While it’s quite a hardcore handset and does have a considerably amount of speed to offer for multitasking, and lets’ not forget the awesome music player, it does have its drawbacks. However, irrespective of its short comings, the Milestone does bring quiet a bit to the table. Like I said, it’s not for the average user but one who’s looking for handset that looks intimidating enough to have onlookers fear or respect you immensely. If you’ve bought it, chances are you’re not going to regret it even if Motorola did leave out a few things here and there.