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Motorola Dext review

Barry de la Rosa
15 Dec 2009
Motorola Dext
Our Rating 
Free on £29-per-month, 18-month contract

A large, heavy phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, the Dext isn't as slick as HTC's Hero.

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Specifications

Android 1.5, 3.1in 320x480 display

Motorola's Dext is a chunky phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that runs a customised version of the Android 1.5 operating system, and includes Motorola's Motoblur software.

Like Vodafone's 360 and HTC's Sense software, Motoblur attempts to pull together your contacts and messaging options from a number of online services, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. This is fast becoming a key feature on new smartphone handsets, as users struggle to match up traditional mobile phone contacts with ever-growing friends lists from numerous online services.

Contact aggregation isn't as clever as on some handsets, with no automatic attempt to reconcile the various accounts, forcing you to merge them manually yourself. Once this is done, though, it works pretty well. You can see all your contacts' status updates, Twitter posts and Last.fm updates via the Happenings application. For emails, texts, Twitter messages and Facebook mails, you can check your Universal Inbox. Note that Google Mail won't show up in your Universal Inbox unless you add it via the standard Email application and not the dedicated Gmail app.

Although Motoblur supports a wide variety of social contact data, the service isn't quite as ambitious as some of its competitors. Unlike Vodafone's 360 service, Motoblur's web interface contains only basic information about your phone and its location. You can use it to delete your phone's data if it's been lost or stolen, but you can't use the interface for easier management of contacts or data backup.

Widgets for Happenings and Messages are shown on the Android home screen by default, along with a widget showing your current status. These don't use the space efficiently, however, as they use the visual metaphor of a speech bubble to contain each individual message. Although seeing all your messages in one place is convenient, we found that we wanted more control in each service than Motoblur provided - a decent Twitter client would offer the ability to re-tweet, for example, whereas Motoblur allowed us only to reply.

As far as hardware is concerned, the Dext is a mixed bag. Navigating the interface feels sluggish compared to HTC's Hero. We were pleased to see a sensible number of hardware buttons, including a screen lock, a dedicated camera button and a silent mode switch. Unlike HTC's phones, however, these buttons are spread around the phone rather than being at the bottom, where your thumb can reach them for one-handed use. There's also a 3.5mm jack for standard headphones, plus the usual microUSB port for data transfers and charging.

There's a cursor control, but it's on the keyboard panel rather than under the screen where it would be most useful. The keyboard itself is comfortable to use, with raised keys that are set far enough apart for use with your thumbs. Our only complaint is that the space bar could have been made larger by reducing the size of the less-used keys on its row.

We were unable to complete our battery test as Android's music player inexplicably stopped playing our test MP3 file even though the phone was still charged. It lasted for just under 12 hours in one test but still had a bit of charge left, so we'd estimate around 15 hours of continuous playback. This is better than we've seen from other Android phones, but with 3G data, WiFi and GPS use you'll probably need to charge the Dext every night.

The 3.1in display is bright and colourful, but seems oddly small. There's a lot of space around the screen, which makes us think that a 3?in, 480x800 display could easily have been fitted into the Dext instead.

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