The Motorola Cliq XT is the only MotoBlur phone that lacks a full QWERTY keyboard. We missed a physical keyboard, but the Cliq XT made up for its absence with the full-featured Connected Music Player, which combines a handful of excellent music services in a single seamless interface.

Motorola Cliq XT: Pocketable Design

The Motorola Cliq XT's drab gray and chrome color scheme doesn't make it the most eye-catching phone on the block, but it is very comfortable to hold, thanks to a slim, light body; rounded corners; and a textured rubber back. Measuring 58x117x13mm and weighing just 130g, the Cliq XT is certainly the most pocketable of the MotoBlur phones (chiefly because it lacks a physical QWERTY keyboard).

The 3.1-inch display is a bit small by today's smartphone standards, though it matches the size (and at 320 by 480 pixels, the resolution) of the other MotoBlur phones' screens. Colours looked bright and accurate, but the display falls short of those on top smartphones such as the Droid.

Unfortunately, the Motorola Cliq XT's responsiveness was hit-or-miss. Tapping on an icon usually prompted immediate action, but scrolling was a bit sticky. In long lists, such as my contacts and my media files, the screen sometimes stuttered.

Motorola has been experimenting with different styles of navigational controls on its MotoBlur phones. The Backflip uses a behind-the-display touchpad. With the Devour, you get a small optical mouse oddly located in the lower left corner. But the Motorola Cliq XT has the best control arrangement of the three: a large, centrally located touchpad. You can use this touchpad to flip through multiple homepages or to navigate within a homepage. We found the touchpad responsive overall, and we liked how easy it was to use with one hand.

The handset's four standard Google Android hardware buttons - Menu, Search, Home, and Back - lie below the display. Occupying the left spine are a microUSB port and a tactile volume rocker. On the right, you'll find a Power/Lock button and a dedicated camera key. A standard 3.5-mm headphone jack sits at the top of the Motorola Cliq XT.

We're usually not a fan of Android phones that lack physical keyboards, because the native Android keyboard isn't especially user-friendly. But Motorola tweaked the Motorola Cliq XT's keyboard, spacing the keys out and making them a bit wider for easier, more-accurate pressing. In addition, haptic feedback helps make the keyboard feel more natural in your hand. You also get a nice visual confirmation of your keystrokes via magnified versions of the letters that you press (as with the iPhone's keyboard). Our one gripe is that the keyboard felt a bit slow, introducing a slight delay between when we typed and when it appeared on the display.

The Motorola Cliq XT's keyboard uses Swype, a feature that is quickly taking over full touchscreen phones. Using Swype requires a bit of practice; but once you get the hang of it, it's a useful alternative to tap typing. Swype technology lets you type faster and more easily with a continuous finger or stylus motion across the screen keyboard.

Motorola Cliq XT: MotoBlur Simplifies Social Networking

Like its brother, the Motorola Cliq XT runs Android 1.5 (the Devour, on the other hand, runs 1.6) with MotoBlur running over that.

MotoBlur in essence aggregates all of your social networks and delivers them within a seamless interface. It supports contact syncing across social networks, a unified inbox for your various email accounts, and live widgets for social networking. Another cool feature is its ability to track your phone via assisted GPS if the Motorola Cliq XT device gets lost. You can wipe it remotely, and all of your information will be saved on the MotoBlur's servers.

Aesthetically, MotoBlur feels a bit cluttered. Icons and font don't have the pop or the prettiness of the iPhone OS or WebOS alternatives. But if you're an avid social networker and you find the out-of-box Android interface a bit uninspiring (as many people do), MotoBlur makes a solid alternative.

Like all Android phones, the Motorola Cliq XT gives you access to the many useful Google applications (Gmail, Google Maps with Navigation, YouTube, Google Search, and so on). You can set up and sync your Yahoo account with the device and get full Outlook sync support, too.

The Android browser supports Flash Lite, enabling you to view certain video content and websites that likewise support that content. Full Flash Player 10.1 for Android is coming later this year.

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The Motorola Cliq XT is the only MotoBlur phone that lacks a full QWERTY keyboard. We missed a physical keyboard, but the Cliq XT made up for its absence with the full-featured Connected Music Player, which combines a handful of excellent music services in a single seamless interface.

Motorola Cliq XT: Connected Music Player Rocks

Found only on the Motorola Cliq XT, the Connected Music Player - a hybrid of popular music applications - is something we'd like to see become a feature of all MotoBlur phones. Bored with your own music collection? Tune into Shoutcast radio or Last.FM. Looking for videos? Find them on GoTV or YouTube. The Connected music player also has TuneWiki, which gives you access to song lyrics, a community of like-minded listeners, and Top 10 charts. And you get Soundhound - a name-that-tune sort of program that can identify an artist and song from a hummed rendition of the music. And like all Android phones, the Cliq XT lets you shop for new music via the Amazon MP3 store. Sound quality through my own earbuds was good, though a bit hollow. Audio piped through the external speakers, though weaker, was still listenable.

Motorola Cliq XT: Good, But Slow Camera

Following my disappointment with the Devour's mediocre camera, we were pleased to see that the Motorola Cliq XT has both a 5-megapixel camera (slowly becoming the norm for midlevel to high-level smartphones) and a flash. Overall, we were pleased with image quality both indoors and out. On indoor shots, the flash highlighted details and colour without blowing them out. Outdoor shots looked even better. Unfortunately, the camera did suffer from slow shutter speed. Taking pictures of a fast-moving cat was a frustrating experience because we could never quite capture the shot we wanted.

The camera captures video at 24 frames per second. The output, though slightly fuzzier than video from the iPhone 3GS (captured at 30 fps), was good enough for posting on YouTube. Android and MotoBlur simplify sharing your video or photos with you social networks or uploading them directly to Picasa or YouTube.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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Motorola Cliq XT: Specs

  • GSM Quad-band phone capable of global roaming (850/900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS tri-band global 3G (2100/1700/900MHz)
  • EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA 7.2 Mbit/s
  • 116.7x59.4x12.3mm
  • 124g
  • Li - Ion, 1420 mAh battery
  • 3.1in, 320x480 pixel TFT screen
  • 5 megapixel camera
  • H.263, H.264
  • MP3, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WAV, AMR, MIDI
  • microSD/microSDHC
  • Android 1.5
  • internet
  • USB/WiFi/Bluetooth/3.5mm jack
  • PhoneBook
  • PIM
  • Email IMAP/POP3/SMTP
  • A-GPS
  • GSM Quad-band phone capable of global roaming (850/900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS tri-band global 3G (2100/1700/900MHz)
  • EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA 7.2 Mbit/s
  • 116.7x59.4x12.3mm
  • 124g
  • Li - Ion, 1420 mAh battery
  • 3.1in, 320x480 pixel TFT screen
  • 5 megapixel camera
  • H.263, H.264
  • MP3, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WAV, AMR, MIDI
  • microSD/microSDHC
  • Android 1.5
  • internet
  • USB/WiFi/Bluetooth/3.5mm jack
  • PhoneBook
  • PIM
  • Email IMAP/POP3/SMTP
  • A-GPS

OUR VERDICT

The Cliq XT handled web browsing without a hitch. Media-heavy pages loaded quickly over 3G as well as via Wi-Fi. Though it hasn't yet announced a price, Motorola has said that the Motorola Cliq XT will be less expensive than the Cliq. So if you're interested in hopping on the Android wave, but don't want to burn a hole through your wallet, the XT is a solid choice. We do wish that the display were larger and the performance were snappier, but you'll get a lot of great features for the money.

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