Announced at Mobile World Congress 2010, the Motorola Cliq XT is Moto's fifth Android offering in the United States and T-Mobile's fifth overall. Some might be quick to dismiss the XT as a slight revamp of the Motorola Cliq, but we think that's a bit of a disservice to the device. After all, it offers a sleeker design with a capable onscreen keyboard courtesy of Swype, a more full-featured and connected media player, and thankfully better performance than the Motorola Backflip. That's not to say that the Cliq XT doesn't have issues. The screen size is on the smaller side and it only runs Android 1.5, but we found much more to like than dislike about the Cliq XT. It's a nice alternative for customers who want something sleeker than the Cliq and can do without a physical keyboard, but this is all contingent on pricing.
As of this writing, T-Mobile has not released pricing or a specific availability date for the Motorola Cliq XT, though we do know it will be sometime in March. The Moto Cliq currently goes for $149.99 with a two-year contract, so if the XT is similarly priced or lower ($99.99 would be the sweet spot), we think it'll be a good choice for social networking and music fans. We'll update this review as soon as we receive official details about price and availability.
Some have described the Motorola Cliq XT as the Cliq without the physical keyboard, but it's not quite that simple. In fact, we'd say there are more differences than similarities between the two models in terms of design. For one, the XT is taller, wider, thinner, and lighter than the Cliq at 4.59 inches tall by 2.33 inches wide by 0.48 inch thick and 4.4 ounces. Without the slide-out keyboard, the XT's slimmer profile makes it easier to slide the smartphone into a pants pocket and is lightweight while still feeling solid.
In addition, the back of the phone has a textured pattern that feels a bit like the leatherette backplate on the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000 to give it that extra bit of durability. However, if that doesn't suit you, T-Mobile and Moto throw in an extra back cover in the box that has a smoother, soft-touch finish and comes in a metallic purple color.
The Cliq XT shares the same 3.1-inch HVGA (320x480 pixels) capacitive touch screen as the Cliq and Motorola Backflip. It's sufficiently bright and clear, but doesn't have the sharpness and vibrancy as some of the higher-end devices, such as the Motorola Droid and Nexus One. We understand the Cliq XT isn't in the same class as those devices and there will be trade-offs, but that said, we wish the screen was bigger. At 3.1 inches diagonally, content on the screen appears squished and condensed and text can look tiny.
The onscreen keyboard is also pretty cramped, so composing even the quickest text message required extra time and more concentration. Fortunately, there is an alternative to the standard Android keyboard and that's Swype. We first saw Swype on the Samsung Omnia II and the software basically allows you to spell out words by dragging your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard. If you're skeptical, we totally understand; we were, too. However, Swype works surprisingly well and is quite accurate. It gets a little tricky when you're spelling out longer words, and we wish there was a dedicated .com button when entering URLs or e-mail addresses; otherwise, we much favored Swype over the standard Android keyboard and switched it to our default keyboard.
On the upside of things, the Cliq XT offers multitouch capabilities, so you can use the pinch-to-zoom gesture in the browser and picture gallery. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in Google Maps, so you'll have to use the onscreen magnifying glass icon if you want to get a closer look at anything. The display also has a built-in accelerometer and proximity sensor, and a small LED above the screen glows intermittently to alert you to notifications for missed calls, calendar appointments, updates, news messages, and so forth.
Below the screen, you get the usual home, menu, search, and back buttons found on most Android smartphones but the Cliq XT also offers a navigational touch pad. With it, you can scroll through lists and menus and switch home screen panels and press on it to select an item. It works perfectly fine, but we often just ended up using the touch screen. One helpful tip: if you hold down the Home key, it will bring up a small window of all your running apps so you can easily switch between them.