The phone is currently running Android 2.0 and an over the air upgrade to 2.1 is on the cards soon. 2.0 in Europe supports multitouch but in reality the screen resolution is so high that when browsing I often didn’t need to zoom, and if I did I was usually happy using the on-screen zoom in/zoom out keys.
Currently the phone does not run Flash but Motorola tells me it will run Flash 10.1 under Android 2.1. When it does, we'll get to see for ourselves whether Flash is unstable, kills the battery and is as unsuitable for mobile devices as Apple claims. My prediction is that it will run fine and will provide Android phones with a key competitive advantage over the iPhone.
The Gmail integration is slick, and in one fell swoop it neatly integrated all of my Gmail email contacts with my phone contacts, a task I have been putting off for years. The Google voice search is eerily accurate, almost unbelievable - who needs a keyboard, soft or hard? And Google Maps with satnav was a recent upgrade which works well, especially considering it's free.
Built-in software included a reader for Microsoft Office docs called Quickoffice, which worked very well and meant I didn’t have to search for an application to do it for me. Exchange support is built in. The WiFi Portal software is brilliant, allowing you to access your Milestone via a PC browser over a WiFi network.
The Android marketplace is expanding rapidly (up 8,000 in the last month to 38,000, according to Admob) and has lots of the most useful stuff. I particularly liked the Tricorder which gave me an opportunity to tell my kids all about Star Trek!
Games are a weak point at the moment compared to the iPhone, but many game developers have announced their intention to support the platform and, given the momentum of Android, they would be mad not to. Tequila Mobile sent me an early look at their version of Battleships, called “Warships – Sea on Fire”. If you (or your kids) like Battleships then this is the game for you. I found a really good version of Asteroids, one of the first arcade games I ever played. It was a faithful rendition and required the direction pad of a hardware keyboard, which luckily the Milestone possesses.
If your gaming interests extend to betting, then try Bet2Go at m.bet2go.com. This portal provides the best odds across five different bookmakers for a very wide variety of sporting events.
Media playback and recording functionality is okay but not outstanding. Getting MP3s or video files is simple. The Milestone handshakes directly via USB and then it is just a matter of drag and drop. The media gallery does what it should. It decodes H.264 videos with ease but will not recognize .avi files encoded in DivX or Xvid. Music organization and playback is good but it lacks a graphic equaliser. My video captures of the Magic Numbers live in London’s China Town came out really well but there is no room for tinkering with the settings.
I dropped into T-mobile and Vodafone to see what they would offer for data only mobile tariffs, on the basis that users often keep a “feature phone” for voice calls and a smart phone for email and web. I was pleasantly surprised at the competitive offers. For £40 T-Mobile will give you six months of “unlimited” data. Vodafone offers “unlimited” data for £7.50 a month, no contract, if you buy a £5.00 SIM.
Overall, the functionality of the Motorola hardware and the Android OS was most impressive. Comparing it side by side with a friend’s iPhone 3GS, it was noticeably quicker and the screen clearer. According to NPD, Android OS phones in aggregate are outselling iPhones in the US (link here: ) and, according to AdMob, web traffic from Android phones is exceeding that from iPhones, again in the US. The Motorola Milestone is contributing heavily to this.
Overall I really got attached to the Milestone and its Android operating system. It works well and does the job it is supposed to do. If you think that having Flash on a mobile phone will be a good thing and if you want a hardware keyboard then this combination is for you.
Paul Flanagan is an Executive-in-Residence at Ariadne Capital and the founder of Real Life.