The Motorola XT720 runs Android 2.1 so isn’t quite up to date with the latest version but for the most part it’s the full Android experience. Motorola has dropped its custom Motoblur interface, which we actually found rather impressive at the time. Instead it’s a standard version of Android. As such there’s plenty on offer with an excellent web browser, email access, mapping services, and social networking all onboard. And if there’s anything else you’d want to add you will probably be able to find it in amongst the 100,000 or so apps in the Android MarketPlace.
Browsing around the interface, the phone’s 728Mhz ARM Cortex A8 processor feels a little sluggish as menu transitions and other animations stutter across screen rather than flowing seamlessly. This is certainly annoying if you’re used to the fastest handsets out there, and iPhone owners will positively baulk at the sluggishness, but with a modicum of patience it is still perfectly usable. As always Android is a bit menu heavy so it can take quite a while to learn the whereabouts of everything, and what everything does, but once learnt it’s then a very powerful and capable operating system that you can setup as you please.
Extras from Motorola include Moto Car (see what they did there) which is a car-friendly interface for accessing your music, the contacts, GoogleMaps, the voice dialler, Bluetooth settings and going back to the Home Screen. It’s a neat idea except that once you’ve tapped through to the apps, they just revert to their standard interfaces, which can be more fiddly. Also available is Phone Portal which lets you connect to your phone through Wi-Fi or USB then manage it through your PCs web browser. This is a very nice addition though it’s not really compelling enough to swing our decision one way or the other.
The big seller with this phone is of course its camera and while it certainly lives up to expectations in some ways, it also falls short.
We love the addition of the shutter button as it makes simply taking your shots that much easier, while the hardware button for switching between camera, video, and viewing modes is a nice addition. Even more impressive is the presence of a red focus lamp for aiding focussing in dark situations. Its range is limited but it’s certainly a damn site better than a conventional white LED. Combined with the proper Xenon flash and you have a camera the vastly outperforms those on most other smartphones. However, it’s not all rosy.
While 720p video is onboard, there is no LED to light up dark scenes. Also, neither mode has the ability to touch the touchscreen to choose where to focus, like on some rivals. Most of all, though, it’s simply the quality of the pictures that lets the side down. By all means they’re better than what you get from most smartphones but crucially they don’t make the leap into competing with dedicated compacts so enthusiasts still need not apply.
The Motorola XT720 certainly isn’t perfect. Its shiny plastic screen isn’t a patch on the best out there, its design is an acquired taste, and its performance isn’t exactly stellar. However, it still a very capable smartphone with a higher than usual resolution screen, and a camera that beats most of the competition. It’s also a tad cheaper than much of the competition now. So, if your priority for your next phone is for it to have a good camera then it’s well worth considering.