The Cliq XT is T-Mobile's fifth Android phone, and it's one of its strongest -- but while Motorola improved on the original Cliq's multimedia features, it failed to upgrade the software, among other things.
The XT is a subtle upgrade from the older version, so we're not sure it's worth paying extra when the Cliq is just as functional. The only reason we could see justifying that decision would be if you really loved the Cliq but wanted a lighter phone.
The XT resembles a slimmed-down version of its predecessor, weighting a third less at a svelte four and a half ounces. And since it said sayonara to the keyboard on the original, it's significantly sleeker too, measuring 4.6-inches tall, 2.3-inches wide and less than half an inch thick. The plastic front is unimpressive but not a negative, and the textured back cover is pleasant to grip. If you'd prefer a smoother back, Motorola throws in an alternate cover with a soft touch finish, so you can always mix it up, and having options is nice.
The 3.1-inch capacitive touch screen hasn't changed from the original either, but the 320-by-480 resolution boosts the clarity, even though images often look squished and cramped. The display isn't dazzling, but it's very responsive and gets the job done. Your hands will cramp up typing on the virtual keyboard, but once you learn to accurately tap away, things will improve -- and you won't need to keep your eyes on the screen. There's Swype if you'd rather slide your way across the screen, it's much more convenient that tapping on the overcrowded screen, plus, there's a coating to keep the screen smudge-free.
The 5-megapixel camera is almost identical to the one on the Cliq, but the XT added an LED flash, which makes it easier to take shots in dim lighting. With the help of auto-focus and a variety of setting and editing options, the lens takes rock-solid pictures -- it's one of the most impressive features. Really, the only problem is the mild shutter lag, which is fine as long as you're not trying to capture an action shot.
Another good feature: the high-quality music player and 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. Plug in your favorite headphones and experience an integrated, smooth audio experience. If you want to know what song you're listening to, you can access SoundHound through the player itself, as well as several other music-related apps.
But it runs on Android 1.5 software with a MotoBlur interface that fails to impress. The WebKit browser does work with Flash, if you want to watch YouTube, but it's slow. In addition, it's hard to see webpages clearly on the screen if you're outside. Depending on where you live, T-Mobile's often spotty 3G coverage will largely determine the time it takes to access webpages. But the 1,450 mAh battery will last longer if you eschew 3G.
Overall, the Cliq XT is a solid phone, but the lack of improvements over the original makes it a hard choice to recommend. ♦
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