Another key selling point of the Milestone is the fact it’s the first phone to run Android version 2.0. This new version adds native support for Exchange email and also lets you set up multiple different email accounts. There have also been some updates to the web browser interface and you can now search through SMS messages. However, the UK version of this handset doesn’t come with the Google Maps Navigation software found on the US version, and also lacks the drive mode interface where large onscreen icons give you quick access to the phone's main features. Instead Motorola has added its own MotoNav software. This stores maps locally on the 8GB microSD card that’s supplied with the handset and although it works reasonably well it’s not all that easy to use as the menus could do with a bit of streamlining.
Unlike HTC’s Hero, the Milestone never really feels like it’s overloading the processor as everything keeps rollicking along at a lightning quick pace. The phone really does feel very responsive to the touch and menus appear and disappear with speedy precision. Even 3D games like the Raging Thunder racing game downloaded from the Android Market run at a blistering speed.
In fact the handset is a good all round performer when it comes to multimedia. Video looks great on the big bright screen and the built-in speaker is surprisingly loud so you can watch videos without always having to plug in your headphones. Like most of the latest smartphones the handset also has a standard headphone jack at the top of the phone and music playback from the updated Android music player sounds crisp and clean. However, the supplied headphones are very poor, so a new pair of cans will be a must for those who do opt for this phone. And while the five megapixel camera sounds good on paper as it has a twin LED Flash and autofocus the shots it takes are a bit of a mixed affair. There’s an awful lot of shutter lag and the autofocus is pretty ineffectual with the result that shots often come out looking either soft or downright blurry.
Unfortunately call quality isn’t quite as good as we expected form a Motorola handset. Although it holds a signal well and the ear piece is nice and loud, callers tend to sound a little bit clipped, as if the phone was using slightly over aggressive noise cancelling. You get used to it, but speech certainly doesn’t sound as natural as on other handsets we’ve used. The phone’s battery life is also a bit lacking. All those features obviously place quite a strain on the power pack because we only managed to get a day and a half out of it from a full charge, so really you can expect to have to put it on charge at the end of each day.
The Milestone is a much more accomplished handset than the Dext, Motorola’s previous Android offering. It’s faster, has a much better screen, supports multi-touch input and is laden down with features. In most respects it’s also a better handset than the HTC Hero, but we’re not sure it’s going to do quite as well as that phone, mainly because we can see the styling putting a lot of people off. But the Milestone certainly shows that if Motorola could come up with a decent looking design for its next Android handset it would have a real peach on its hands.