RealTime IT News

Cliq: Motorola Finally Makes Its Android Play

Motorola Cliq
Source: Motorola
SAN FRANCISCO -- The wait is over. Motorola today unwrapped its first of a new generation of Android-based smartphones that emphasize social networking connections and customization.

Available in time for the holiday season from network partner T-Mobile, the new Motorola Cliq will incorporate Motorola's (NYSE: MOT) new Motoblur software that syncs contacts, posts, messages and photos into a single stream.

"You can focus on what your friends say instead of how they say it" or where it comes from, Motorola's co-CEO Sanjay Jha said in a presentation here at the GigaOM Mobilize conference.

He also noted that Motoblur includes regular backups, so contacts, e-mail and other personal information is readily restored if the phone is lost or stolen.

The device -- which outside the U.S. will go by the name Motorola Dext -- marks the company's first foray into using Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) mobile, open source Android OS, which has already made its debut on devices from Samsung and HTC.

Motorola's Sanjay Jha
Motorola's Sanjay Jha
Photo: David Needle

Since it's free, open, and backed by some of the biggest names in mobile and Internet technology, Android is expected to spawn a raft of different mobile designs and experiences. Motorola is aiming to separate itself from the early adopters with Motoblur, which will exist as a proprietary layer built on top of Android.

Jha also noted that the company will be announcing a second Motoblur device in the next few weeks.

The feature "syncs your content, Gmail, Yahoo, corporate e-mail, Twitter and serves it up to your home page the way you want it front and center," Jha said. "The home screen is customizable with a swipe of your finger."

Motoblur includes widgets for updating your status with one click. Another widget, dubbed "Happenings," gives you live feeds of what friends or contacts on various social networks are doing.

"All the messages are organized for you," Jha said.

T-Mobile, which debuted the first Android-powered mobile phone -- the HTC G1 -- sees Cliq as a natural extension to its lineup, which has since grown to incorporate HTC's second Android phone. For one thing, T-Mobile users text more than any other carrier, according to Cole Brodman, the company's chief technology and innovation officer.

A make-or-break bet for Motorola?

"The open, customizable platform goes way beyond proprietary mobile phones. You can make your own experience," Brodman said, perhaps in reference to Apple's iPhone. He and Jha also noted the Cliq's ability to multitask and run applications in the background, which the iPhone doesn't offer.

Analyst Maribel Lopez said her first impression is that Motorola and T-Mobile have a winner.

"It really advances the [user interface] beyond where the iPhone and Palm Pre are today, Lopez, principal of Lopez Research," told Internetnews.com. "What it does that's cool is take a critical problem that consumers have, which is all these disparate sources of messages and social networks, and gives you the ability to see a single stream of updates. "

"The challenge I see is that lets say this gives Motorola a six month lead on the competition, but they need to continue to innovate because the other guys won't sit still."

Jha was careful to note the Motoblur debut is the first of several steps to boost Motorola's fortunes, as the company has been buffeted by financial woes.

"It's a start," he said. "Over the next six to 18 months we'll evolve our service. Is this a make-or-break phone? No, but it sets our technology in the right way. It's the first step in a long journey."

"The way I look at this is that mobile may be the biggest technology opportunity out there and there's room for a lot of players -- it's not a zero-sum game," he added. "In the next year, there are forecasts of 285 to 300 million smartphone shipments. I think that way underestimates what it will be."

Close look at the Cliq

The T-Mobile Cliq includes a 3.1-inch HVGA touch-screen display, 5-megapixel auto focus camera with video capture and playback at 24 frames per second. It also sports a 3.5mm headset jack, a music player with pre-loaded Amazon MP3 store application, Shazam and iMeem Mobile.

It also boasts a pre-installed 2GB microSD memory card with support for up to 32 GB of removable memory.

Services available on the Cliq through its one-touch access include Google Search by voice, Google Maps with Street View, YouTube and Picasa. Motorola said users will also be able to connect to Microsoft Exchange Server and Gmail and Yahoo Mail and Microsoft Hotmail as well as other POP3 and IMAP e-mail services.

Pricing has not yet been announced. The Cliq will be available in either "Winter White" or Titanium models, Motorola said.