Motorola Milestone UK: First Impressions

002bDespite selling out in 3 hours, I was lucky enough to receive a new Android 2.0-powered Motorola Milestone (aka the Motorola Droid) on the day of its release here in the UK. This replaces my  T-Mobile (HTC) G1 which I’ve had since the beginning of the year. Here are some first impressions of the Milestone, with an emphasis on how it’s different from the G1 and from the Verizon Droid as seen in the USA.

I ordered an unlocked Motorola Milestone from Expansys on Thursday and they delivered it the very next day. Unboxing, my first impression was how solid the phone seemed: it was like holding one giant slab of silicon chip. After wiping the drool off the screen I plugged in the charger and an hour or so later was good to go. It took a few attempts to log in to my Google account, but after a reset and a walk to an area with a strong 3G signal it connected and I was good to go.

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What’s Good about the Milestone

  • The screen. The screen is so good I nearly cried. It’s bright, pin-sharp, and WIDE: with a resolution of 480 by 854 pixels, it’s bigger than the G1, the iPhone, any other phone you can think of. Watching a YouTube clip (the Avatar trailer) via WiFi was spectacular, the Milestone’s widescreen screen makes this particularly impressive.
  • The speed. After the G1, the speed of the Milestone is incredible. This baby’s fast. Initially I suspected it had somehow cached the entire internet in its Droidy brain somewhere it was so fast. Jumping between apps has no noticeable lag, scrolling through lists or webpages no longer stutters and sticks like on the G1, and it boots faster too. Whether it remains this speedy once I’ve loaded it up with apps and widgets remains to be seen but for now: OMG look at her go!
  • The battery. The battery life on the Milestone is unbelievable (but bear in mind that I’m used to a G1). It charges quickly and with light use won’t need another charge until the next day. I’d gotten so used to keeping my G1 on permanent charge that the Milestone’s 1400mHa battery is like a revelation.
  • Android 2.0. The UK Milestone comes with Android 2.0 pre-installed, making it the first (and currently only) device in the UK to run Eclair. I had Android 1.6 on my G1 so it’s no great quantum leap, but there are several instantly noticeable differences. All the icons have been tweaked: some look better, some don’t, but it’s obvious from the moment you switch the device on that it’s new and shiny. The bookmarks section of the web browser now has thumbnail icons, and text message threads now also have little thumbnail pics from your contacts. You can read Gizmodo’s review of Android 2.0 for all the juicy details.
  • Multitouch. Finally, pinch-and-zoom (possibly trademark Apple Empire USA) makes it to Android out-of-the-box. It works brilliantly in the browser and picture viewer, although strangely not at all on Google Maps and now on Google Maps too. Many US tech sites when comparing the Droid to the iPhone say that the the Droid’s lack of multitouch is the only reason it’s not a “better” device than the iPhone, but personally I just think that’s one (minor) feature of many 😉
  • The camera. With its 5 Megapixel camera, dual LED flash, image stabilization and 4X digital zoom the Milestone’s camera is way way better than the G1’s. I’ve yet to test it out fully, but it may finally be time the leave my Sony Cybershot at home now. The Milestone’s camera is a bit laggy between photos but Android 2.0.1 apparently fixes that.
  • Sound quality. Voice calls sound much clearer compared with the G1, and music via Spotify sounds brighter and deeper.
  • USB charging and standard headphone socket. Coming from the HTC phone, it’s good to finally have a phone that I can just plug my Bose headphones into directly. This frees up the standard micro USB socket for charging. Note though that this is micro USB i.e. it’s smaller than mini USB (PSP, older phones).
  • It’s cooler than the iPhone :p

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The new Bookmark tab in Android 2.0’s browser

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Milestone Vs. Droid

Before I get to what’s not so good, here’s a quick overview of the differences between the Droid (USA) and the Milestone (UK):

What you get on the Droid but not on the Milestone:

  • Amazon MP3 Store
  • Google Maps Navigation
  • Facebook (install on the Milestone from the Market, but not does note have contact sync)
  • 16 GB microSD card (the Milestone comes with an 8 GB card)
  • Car mount mode

What you get on the Milestone but not on the Droid:

  • Multitouch pinch and zoom
  • A pair of earbuds

Hacked but then annoyingly blocked, the turn-based navigation is often cited as the Droid’s “killer feature” so it’s a real shame Google couldn’t sort this out for the European market at launch. And for some reason the hyped Android 2.0 Facebook app is missing from the pre-installed apps and the Market. We get half the storage space on microSD but that doesn’t really bother me as I already have a 16GB card from my G1.

So, that was all the goodness. Now here’s some of the not-so-good..

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What’s Not so Good about the Milestone

  • The keyboard is good but not quite as good as the G1’s. There’s no physical number row which I miss and all the keys are shifted to the left thanks to the no-one-will-ever-use-it D-pad. The slider does open with a satisfying feel and a nice click though (unlike the slightly sideways opening technique of the G1), and with the Milestone you don’t think you’re going to break the phone every time you open the keyboard.
  • The weight. At 165g it’s a tad heavier than my G1 (158g) and heavier than an iPhone (135g). It’s thinner than the G1 however so feels snugger in my pocket.
  • The name and the marketing. Compared with the macho Hollywood blockbuster scf-fi style campaigns in the US, the Milestone’s marketing is limp and reserved here in the UK. Compare US: “Fast as a racehourse strapped to a scud missile!” to the UK: “Milestone is the phone without compromise.”

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Bugz

  • The browser doesn’t resize to fit. This is a MAJOR bug and makes browsing web pages with the standard web browser very frustrating. Whenever a new page loads you can double-tap to zoom in but the page refuses to wrap properly. You need to zig-zag right-left, left-right, right-left to read the text. I downloaded an alternative browser (Dolphin) and that seems to wrap fine so at least there’s a workaround.
  • Don’t update Voice Search yet as it crashes every time you try to use it. Fortunately you can roll back the update to the pre-installed version of Voice Search which works fine.
  • The included Motonav app requires the shipped 8GB MicroSD card before it will start up. If you change your card, go to Settings >Applications >Manage Applications; press the Menu hard-key, then select filter all. Select Motonav, press Force Stop then Clear Data.

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Spotify works superbly on the Milestone!

So those are my initial impressions. Of course the first app I downloaded from the Market was the most essential app for any music fan: Spotify. I’ll post an update once I’ve had more time to play about with the Milestone. Let me know if you have any questions!

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UPDATES

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