The Motorola Dext is currently available from Orange. It’s the
first ever QWERTY Android handset to cross our desk and initial
impressions are good. It seems well build, although the sliding
mechanism is perhaps less snappy than the sliding QWERTY HTC phones
we’ve reviewed. Inside there’s a good range of specs including a 5
megapixel camera (which is actually very good indeed), 3G and WiFi
connectivity, 3.5mm audio jack, GPS, digital compass, voice dialing,
accelerometer, proximity sensor, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR plus a microUSB
connector for hooking up to your computer. You can also add up to 32GB
of storage through the microSD slot (although there’s a 2GB one with
this device) and the whole thing runs on Android 1.5.
The screen is a 320×480 touch display with the Motorola “BLUR”
interface at the heart. Like the “Sense” interface that HTC generated,
this is Motorola making the Android OS into their own experience. It
brings all your social networking feeds together on one screen or one
bank of screens and pulls your friends into one place.
As usual we like to start the review with a video overview of the
The video above gives you a good look at the outside of the handset,
however we’ve also recorded an up-close video to show you the MotoBLUE
interface in action. This can be seen below. The interface lets you
drag-and-drop icons and widgets around the main screen and there’s
several screens to choose from..
The back of the phone and the area around the control keys at the front
is a matt black colour. The rear also has a pattern of indents – it’s
almost like inverted braille. The battery cover pops off easily by
sliding it down. That hole at the bottom is actually a gap for the
external speaker which, I have to say, is possibly the loudest and
greatest speaker I’ve ever heard on a phone.
At the top is the 5 megapixel camera. No flash, but the shots it
produces are lovely, even in low light.
At the top, slap-bang in the centre is the 3.5mm audio port. Stick the
headphones / hands-free in here and listen to your favourite
keep those funny YouTube clips to yourself.
Down the left side is something we’re a big fan of – a “kill switch” as
we like to call it. On this handset it doesn’t lock the phone but
instantly silents it. No more embarassing moments in those work
meetings when your funny ringtone blasts our across the desks. Flick it
down and an orange mark indicates that the phone is on silent along
with a screen prompt, then all goes quiet.
Below this, the volume up and down keys. These will adjust your call
volume or media volume depending what app you’re using. Again, I have
to point out how LOUD and FANTASTIC the external speaker is. Forget
tinny sound, this gives a lot more oomph.
Below and near the bottom is the microUSB hole – you can charge and
sync your device from here. Use the phone as a mass-storage device if
On the right side is your power button – you’ll be tapping this to wake
the device from it’s slumber (aka standby). Just above it you can see a
little picture describing what it does. When you press it with the
screen off it’ll show you the time and your chosen backdrop, then you
need to press the key with the small squares on to de-activate the lock
system that comes on automatically when the screen turns off.
Incidentally, we noticed that out-of-the-box the screen blanked out all
too quickly. Sometimes, for example, whilst waiting for a web page to
load in the browser it went blank. Annoying.
Below is the camera button. Pressing and holding this will fire up the
rather wonderful camera application. It’ll detect which way up you’re
holding the phone and change the picture orientation to suit. I did
find that, just sometimes, it was easy to get the phone the wrong way
up and I’d be manically pressing the “volume” button to try and take a
photo. This didn’t happen too often, but when it did you’d find that
the “all important” shot you were about to take had just vanished.
The camera interface is brilliant and, as you’ll see in these example
photos, the pictures produced by the camera were very nice indeed.
Low-light shots faired a lot better than the HTC camera we review, and
I found that there wasn’t such a big need to hold the phone
stock-steady in lower-light situations. Your GPS location gets added to
shots and it’ll alter the file-name to show where you took a shot. The
whole interface is really nice – checkout the smooth rotation of the
on-screen icons when you flip the phone around. Little things like this
add to the polished feel of the device.
A zoom function is shown on-screen, plus there’s fast access into
pictures you’ve already taken. You can also crop pictures once they’ve
them to get the straight-from-the-phone shot..
On the bottom of the screen you’ll find your three main control keys.
Pressing the four squares will wake the device and unlock it..
Now, to open that keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard is always a must to
those of you who still don’t gel with the on-screen variety and the
keyboard slides open easily. I won’t say it’s loose, but it did have a
slightly less snappy feel than the HTC-built handsets we’ve reviewed
over the months.
The main keys are domed and easy to locate – they’re
very easy to type on and you can get up to a good pace with your
thumbs. The problem I quickly found however, was the space bar. For
some obscure reason this and other keys on the bottom row are concave
instead of convex like the lettered keys. This means that it’s a little
harder to push down and you have to adopt a press purely for the
regularly-used space key. I found myself using my nail for the most
part, which was a little awkward when the other keys were so much
easier to press. You can see the concave keys in black at the bottom
here. Pressing the “ALT” key lets you click those other symbols on the
keys. The “shift” key is at either end of the grey section and is the
same size as the other keys.
To the left side of the Dext keyboard is the navigation control, and it
did make me want another one on the bottom of the handset. Despite how
well the screen performed, I did long for a navigation control of some
kind at the base of the screen.
A neat little Apple-esque trick is the Motorola logo on the rear of the
screen – it lights up when the screen lights up. A nice bit of free
You may also just be able to see a small camera-type object by the
earpiece in some of these shots. I mistakingly called this a camera in
the video but it appears to be the proximity sensor and does a great
job of turning the screen back on when you move the phone away from
your ear – this will let you drop a call or use the on-screen numeric
keypad without having to fumble around and reactivate the screen
yourself. Nice touch Moto.
The main selling point of the Dext, for Motorola at least, is the
MotoBLUR interface. It’s a way of bringing all your communication into
one screen or one set of screens. You have a few screens to slide
through – it’s like having one very large widescreen TV and using your
finger to move along it. There’s widgets to choose from and Motorola
have already started you off with Twitter, Facebook and other widgets
to bring all your commumnication streams into one place. A quick glance
at the main screen will show you what everyone is doing, then you can
click on the widget to get more information or to go back through older
updates from others. It’s also possible to post your own update from
this screen too.
The whole interface sits on top of Android 1.5 and, like the HTC
Tattoo, we found that the Android Market was fragmented and certain
apps that were showing on the HTC Hero didn’t appear here. Google
really need to monitor this and take hold of the situation as customers
move through Android devices. Another little concern that I quickly
found was the browser, which is something I use often. It worked
fantastically well and rendered quickly, although not quickly enough
for the screen time-out, which – as I mentioned earlier
– turned off the screen on most pages
before it had finished loading. The lack of multi-touch was a slight
Other little things began to irritate me all too quickly. The MotoBLUR
interface is designed to bring your “world” into one screen, so Twitter
and other social media sites were blended in, however I couldn’t find a
way of uploading images to Twitter – where’s the TwitPic or Twitgoo
integration? I couldn’t snap a picture and upload it, and popular sites
aren’t included in the list of social media systems, which is a real
shame. I did update the Dext whilst reviewing it and the update was
rolled out over-the-air in seamless fashion, though it didn’t fix the
issues I had.
Unlike the HTC Android devices (like the HTC Hero
we reviewed), there’s no real way of sync’ing your contacts from
Outlook. It’s a purely Google-based affair and you have to hook into
the Google grid to start adding names and numbers to your phone easily.
Once you do though it’s simply a matter of logging in online and your
details are magically transferred to the phone.
The main screen is similar to the tap-and-slide affair we’ve seen on
other Android handsets. Each sheet then
has widgets, shortcuts or folders. You get a choice of widgets,
although perhaps not as many as I would’ve liked, and you can drag ‘n
drop them where-ever you like on the screen. The in-built widgets
include Messages, Google Search and Orange map with Google Maps
In addition to Google Maps and Orange Maps there’s a nifty Youtube
viewer which will keep you plugged into the web where-ever you are.
The contacts system is fully integrated with Facebook / Twitter and
Google accounts so pictures are automatically pulled in and you end up
with a totally seamless experience. This is carried across into the
texting / messaging interfce so you can visually see who you’re
interacting with – it means that your contacts are more centralised and
your interactions with them are all grouped together.
Google experience is also available. You can access this online too and
it’ll remind you when something is due. The interface is a pleasure to
Initially the home screen seems a little crowded and, although the idea
of bringing your “life into one place” is good, there seems a little
too much – I quickly removed some or shifted them to other screens. I
loved the flexibility of being able to move widgets around and you can
always keep the less-used programs tucked down at the bottom of the
screen as shown here..
The main dialer screen, shown above, is big and finger-friendly, with
recent numbers popping up when you beging typing. It’ll also guess who
you’re calling based on a number or name lookup – it makes the dialing
experience fast and painless, which is exactly what you want when
calling someone in a hurry.
The on-screen keyboard (should you choose to use it) worked well and
I’m glad – not everyone wants to pop out that sliding keyboard, no
matter how good it may be in comparison to an on-screen one..
The Motorola DEXT has just been reduced in price here in
the UK on Orange and it’s made it a real bargain. I would’ve perhaps
thought twice about recommending it at the higher price but, although
it does have faults, it’s worth picking up on Pay As You Go for less
the US as the “CLIQ”, I’d certainly advise caution. That space bar was
a particular gripe for me, and I didn’t like the fact that my favourite
online social media sites weren’t included in the MotoBLUR experience,
or that multi-touch was missing.
The camera did well, and the MotoBLUR interface is a decent effort, but
for me it fell short in key areas. It’s a very good effort, and at the
right price it’s a very useful, fun and entertaining handset to use.