Touted as an alternative to Motorola's Dext and Backflip smartphones, the Motorola Quench offers all the features and benefits of the Google Android operating system and Motorola's MotoBlur software in a handset that doesn't have a physical keyboard. Although MotoBlur's limitations are still evident in this smartphone, the Quench possesses a better design and some nifty included features and represents excellent value at this price.
We were fairly happy with the build quality of the Motorola DEXT, and the Motorola Quench also impresses. Though we would have appreciated a larger screen considering the handset's size, the Quench's combination of tough-feeling rubber and dark chrome add a touch of class. The lack of physical QWERTY keyboard also means the Quench is a much thinner device than both the Backflip and the DEXT — it has similar dimensions to the Apple iPhone 3GS.
The Motorola Quench smartphone is controlled largely via its 3.1in capacitive touchscreen, but there are also five navigational buttons below the display. The home, menu, search and back buttons are regular Android fare, but the large, optical trackpad is a highlight. Similar to the trackpad on the new range of BlackBerry smartphones, you can swipe your finger across it to move throughout menus and press it down to select. The navigational keys on the Quench to require a rather firm press though, and the unlock/power button on the top left side is awkwardly positioned.
The Motorola Quench's screen is responsive, bright and clear and this makes for a reasonable typing experience. In addition to haptic feedback, the Quench has Swype capabilities built into the device — this feature allows you to slide your fingers over the letters you want to type in a single motion, letting the software attempt to spell the word you're trying to type. Though it sounds rather hit and miss, Swype is very easy to pick up and get used to and it was fairly accurate during testing. As with most on-screen keyboards, the software will learn as you type and add words you use regularly to its database. Our only complaint is that the keys are rather small in regular portrait mode — this can be solved by tilting the phone sideways to bring up the more spacious landscape keyboard.
Like the DEXT and Backflip smartphones, the Motorola Quench runs an older version of Android (1.5), and Motorola hasn't announced any plans to update to the newer version (2.2). All the features and benefits of Android are present, but it's Motorola's MotoBlur service that the company is touting as a key feature. MotoBlur is a widget-based system that combines multiple social networking and communications accounts into one portal. For example, you can view Facebook status updates, read tweets, check your Gmail and update your MySpace profile without the need to log into separate applications. You'll need to create a MotoBlur account to use the service, but it's free and all content and data is pushed live to the handset.
Though the idea certainly has its merits, we feel Motorola's execution isn't perfect. Setting up Facebook, Twitter and Google log-ins for MotoBlur resulted in a very cluttered phone book — and that's with only three out of a possible 10 services selected (others include MySpace, LastFM, e-mail, Picasa, Photobucket and Yahoo Mail). MotoBlur automatically synchronises your contacts, but the problem is that it adds every contact from every social-networking service you use, including Twitter. Though you can sort by regular contacts, it's still overwhelming; we can't think of anyone who would want Twitter contacts in their mobile phone book. The MotoBlur service also quickly becomes hard to follow if you have a large number of Facebook friends or followers on Twitter — it's not as advanced as many Twitter iPhone apps, for example.
Among the more positive features of MotoBlur on the Motorola Quench is the unified "happenings" menu, where you can see at a glance updates from all connected social-networking services, and a universal message inbox that displays SMS, Facebook messages, direct Twitter messages and e-mails. We were particularly impressed with the last of these, although it can become cluttered if you are using more than one e-mail address.
The Motorola Quench also has an upgraded music player, placing it ahead of most other Android smartphones. The Quench's music player integrates TuneWiki, an application that displays lyrics for currently playing tracks, and you can also search quickly for the artist or track title on YouTube in the music player menu. A 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash doubles as a video recorder but photos taken are only good enough for the odd happy snap. A microSD slot handles memory cards up to 32GB in capacity.
The rest of the Motorola Quench is mostly standard Android fare and that is good news, with access to the Android Market for third-party applications a highlight. We also felt the Quench was slightly zippier than the DEXT during general use, but there is still a slight pause when applications open and close, so it's not as fast as more expensive smartphones on the market.
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