Motorola Cliq Gallery and Impressions

We saw the Cliq this morning but we just got a chance to really play around with Motorola's Android-based, social-networking-focused smartphone, and we have to say, we're pretty impressed. Read on for our impressions.

Hardware

The phone is significantly smaller in person than it looked in photos—it's thinner than the T-Mobile G1 and feels very comfortable in the hand. It's got an interesting array of buttons, some nice additions and some mysteriously absent. There's no dedicated call button on the front of the phone, replaced instead by a soft button on the homescreen. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top of the device (when the keyboard is closed) and the right side holds the power button and the camera button. The left side holds the volume rocker, silent switch and microUSB charging slot.

On the front of the phone are three hardware buttons: Menu, Home, and Back. A long press on the Menu button, or navigating into any text-input area, brings up a soft keyboard, a nice option for when you just want to jot a few words down (or want one-handed operation). The Cliq's screen was pretty good, and is capacitive, and bright and responsive. It's as good as the other HTC Android phones, as a reference.

But the slide-out keyboard, which feels very sturdy and types quite nicely, is packing a D-pad that'll let you navigate through the cards, contacts, and more, like a D-Pad, and should come in very handy for future gaming. The keyboard is really nice-feeling: The keys are large and well-spaced, and there's no awkward hump to navigate around like on the G1. It's very HTC-like in that it's generous, but rises up higher than most HTC phones that we've seen.

This clip shows the home screen's functionality: I tap the Happenings widget, browse through a few new status updates, tap one Facebook friend's name, and up comes his entire, aggregated contact info. Stalking ahoy!

Software

The Motorola Blur isn't a skin like HTC's Sense UI, but more of a collection of widgets and ways to use them. It places social networking front and center, with most of the homescreen taken up with the two main cards, Happenings and Messages. Happenings aggregates all updates from Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, and while those three are the extent of the Cliq's supported networks, Motorola confirmed that it's extremely easy to add more social networking protocols. Messages just aggregates all your messages from every social network you're signed up for—Facebook, Email, SMS, IMs, whatever.

The social networking is very deeply integrated into the phone. For example, if you click on a contact anywhere under any social network, it'll give you the full contact information for every social network that guy belongs to. From there, you communicate with him through any network.

As for speed, it's pretty similar to other Android phones on the market now, like the Ion or the Hero. It's not faster, and it's not as smooth as say, the iPhone or the Pre, but the transitions are nice and it's not sluggish by any means. The accelerometer was slower than the iPhone's, but it wasn't that much slower.

It's definitely an Android phone, and can run all the Android apps you're accustomed to. You can still take the Android apps and drop them onto the Home screen, alongside all the fancy social networking widgets. It's pretty cool that manufacturers can take an Android phone and target it towards certain markets, like people who REALLY love social networking. There could be a business one later, that's focused on harassing people to join your LinkedIn list. Or email. Or whatever they come up with.

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