from The Guardian World News by Richard Wray
US firm that created first mobile phone unveils handset using Google's Android software that will be known as Dext in Europe
The struggling American technology firm Motorola, which made the world's first mobile phone, has taken an important step in its attempt to regain its lost grandeur by unveiling its first handset that uses Google's Android software.
The Cliq – which will be called the Dext when it is launched in the UK next month – will compete with Apple's iPhone and the Pre, upon which rival American group Palm has pinned its own hopes of revival, in the key Christmas market.
The touchscreen Cliq has a slide-out keyboard, like the Pre; a better camera than both the Palm device and the iPhone, at 5 megapixels; and supports fast mobile broadband and wi-fi. But it is the way the phone integrates a host of social networking services – from Facebook and Twitter to the music-sharing service Last.fm – that shows how Motorola hopes to differentiate itself from the host of touchscreen phones available.
Motorola has taken Google's Android operating system – designed to compete with Palm's WebOS, Apple's iPhone OS, Windows Mobile and Nokia's Symbian platform – and built a new system it calls MotoBlur out of it. It allows users to synchronise their contacts, posts, feeds, messages, e-mails and photos from sources as diverse as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Gmail, corporate e-mail and even Last.fm and have them appear on the device's screen. As a result, the phone gives users an instant snapshot of all their communication services – unlike the iPhone, which relies on users downloading and flicking between a host of applications.
The Palm Pre has similar functionality for email and Facebook to the Cliq, while the low-cost INQ1 handset, from the Hutchison Whampoa-owned INQ, also allowed easy integration with the social networking site, email, internet telephone service Skype and numerous instant messaging services. But the Cliq is more integrated than any of its rivals.
The phone's home screen acts almost like a window on to the user's different applications. All conversation threads, friend updates, stories, links, photos and more are automatically delivered to live widgets on the home screen. Messages are relayed through a single message hub giving an instant snapshot of emails, texts and instant messages. Even news items can be amalgamated into one feed alongside friend's postings on Facebook.
The Cliq is the first of what will be many handsets from the American firm to include MotoBlur, which will become Motorola's smartphone platform of choice, though it will continue to make handsets using Windows Mobile aimed primarily at business users.
"Is this phone the make-or-break phone?" Motorola's chief executive Sanjay Jha asked the GigaOM conference in San Francisco. "No, but it is a very important starting point, it points the direction ... it is the first step in a long journey."
The Cliq is also an important step for Google's Android platform. There are already touchscreen phones in the market using Android, produced by Taiwan's HTC, but the Cliq is the first from a "big name" manufacturer. Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson are all expected to produce Android phones in the coming months, leaving Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer, as the only one of the top five handset makers not experimenting with the Google platform