In 2009 Motorola launched the Cliq -- an entry-level slider -- debuting Motorola’s social networking centric Motoblur user interface. Unfortunately, the original Cliq was plagued by complaints of a poorly designed keyboard, cheap plastic build quality, slow processor, and a less than polished Motoblur UI.

A couple years have now gone by. Does the Motorola Cliq 2 make up for these shortcomings? Check out our full review after the break.

The Hardware

The Cliq 2 weighs 6.17 ounces and measures 4.57 x 2.35 x .57 inches. It feels solid and hits the sweet spot between too light and too heavy. The bottom half is made of a soft-touch durable plastic with an aesthetically pleasing copper brown color. The bottom curves inward at both ends and contours comfortably in the hands. A shiny, silver colored, plastic frame encompasses the upper half. Personally, I found the upper half a tad overbearing.

The 3.7-inch TFT LCD screen is sharp, crisp, and vibrant. I was particularly impressed by the crisp graphics and text while surfing the web and reading e-mails. Swiping through home screens, scrolling through the app drawer, opening applications, web browsing, and flipping through pictures in the gallery was surprisingly speedy. There are four capacitive buttons below the screen that were all responsive and accurate. Unfortunately there were no settings to disable capacitive button haptic feedback.

On the right side there’s a volume rocker, volume on/off switch, and a dedicated camera button. The volume switch was a pleasant surprise, as was the physical camera button. There's nothing worse than having to poke the screen to take a picture. Both the power button and 3.5mm jack are on top. The camera button feels solid and clicks well; however, the volume rocker and power buttons feel unnaturally flat and stiff. 

On the left side there's a microUSB port for charging and transferring files between the Cliq 2’s microSDHC card and a computer. An LED indicator, just to the right of the USB port, illuminates while charging. An LED in the upper right corner illuminates when you receive a new notification. There’s also a multipurpose light sensor that controls backlight intensity triggered by varying light conditions, face detection, and pocket detection.

On the backside you’ll find a 5mp camera, LED flash, and speaker for calls and media playback. Underneath the battery cover you'll find a 1420 mAh battery, SIM card, and 2GB microSDHC card. It's unlikely that 2GB will store much in the way of pictures, videos and music, so I would have liked to see an 8 or even 16GB microSDHC card. There's a tab atop the battery cover that made it particularly frustrating to snap into place.

    

The Cliq 2 has a four-row horizontal slider keyboard with a unique honeycomb shaped layout. I found the uniquely shaped keys enabled me to type faster than the typical square, flat, and poorly spaced keys found on other Android sliders I’ve used in the past. The sliding mechanism is solid, stable, and will likely fare well over time. The bottom ends curve inward, making the Cliq 2 feel comfortable in the hands while pounding out emails and text messages.  

Battery life on the Cliq 2 wasn't stellar. In particular, the constant polling of various social networking accounts proved to be a battery hog. Add web browsing, GPS, Bluetooth, or other CPU intensive apps and you'll be lucky if a full charge gets you through the day. That said, the Cliq 2 has a battery management feature that allows you to maximize battery life according to your needs.

Here’s a full breakdown of what’s under the hood:

  • 4.57 x 2.35 x .57 inches
  • 6.17 ounces
  • Android 2.2
  • 1 GHz OMAP TI processor
  • 512 MB RAM, 1GB ROM
  • 3.7-inch TFT FWVGA 854x480 Display
  • 1420 mAh Lithium-ion battery
  • 5MP camera with dual LED flash and video recording capabilities
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n WiFi
  • AGPS, Standalone GPS, aGPS, and eCompass
  • Quad-band GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • 3G 850/1700/2100

Performance

Overall performance was snappy and responsive. During the initial setup and download of  email and social networking data, the Cliq 2 suffered a noticeable lag, a phenomena I've also noticed on other Motorola phones like the Droid X. Once the Cliq 2 finished this task things were running smoothly again. In Quadrant benchmarking tests, the Cliq 2 slightly underperformed the Galaxy S but held its own against the Nexus S.

Phone and Network Quality

I tested the Cliq 2 in the metro Seattle area, where coverage is relatively strong. Conversations were clear and volume levels were more than adequate. With the Cliq 2, you can also place and receive calls over Wi-Fi if you happen to be in one of T-Mobiles weak coverage areas. A nice bonus is the ability to select from a variety of voice settings that enhance voice quality to your liking. 

Although the Cliq 2 lacks support for T-Mobile's "4G" HSPA+ network; data speeds were adequate and web pages loaded quickly. You can also turn the Cliq 2 into a Wi-Fi hotspot and share it's data connection with up to five devices. 

Motoblur

The first time you boot the Cliq 2, you’ll be prompted (actually required) to create a Motoblur account. Next, you’ll be prompted to enter login and password information for one or more of the following services: MySpace, Facebook, Last.fm, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, POP e-mail, Corporate Sync for Exchange, Picasa, Photobucket, and Yahoo! Mail.

Once you've signed into one or more services, Motoblur downloads and syncs contact pictures, messages, and updates. Account login, password, and contact updates are backed up to your Motoblur account. In theory, this sounds pretty good. However, the idea of storing this information on a Motoblur server doesn't quite sit well with me.

The contacts application links contacts from multiple accounts and display them as a single entry. The downside is that a contact may have conflicting addresses or phone numbers if they do not keep all of their social networking accounts current. For example: Several of my friends had two or more work addresses, and I had no way of knowing which of the addresses was correct.

While viewing a contact you can swipe right for social networking updates and left for a list of recent emails, text messages, and phone calls.

There's a social networking application that displays status updates for each of your contacts. You can update your own status; reply and retweet Twitter updates; comment on and like Facebook updates; and open up mobile web versions of each site. If the social networking application doesn’t meet your needs, there are alternatives in the Market for Facebook, Twitter, and other types of accounts, that will provide a much richer experience.

        

Motoblur includes several widgets that allow you to pick and choose which accounts and contact status updates you want to display on one or more of the Cliq 2's seven homescreens. There's also a widget that allows you to quickly email, send text messages, or call your favorite contacts. One major gripe is that the majority of my contacts pictures were blurry.

    

Applications

The Cliq2 comes preloaded with office, media, navigation, and instant messaging applications:

  • Quickoffice: Allows you to view and edit office documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Quickoffice also includes a PDF viewer.
  • Telenav: A GPS based application that displays and speaks turn-by-turn driving directions, calculates routes based on traffic conditions, and provides intelligent rerouting.
  • Blockbuster: Provides account access; movie downloads; searching by title, director and actors; and GPS integration to help you finding the nearest Blockbuster stores and kiosks.
  • Kindle: An Android-optimized Kindle application enables you to browse, purchase and download books, newspapers, and magazines.
  • Slacker Radio: a streaming radio application with access to over 120 stations from a variety of Genre’s.
  • Instant Messaging: an integrated app that allows you to chat with your AIM, Windows Live Messenger, My Space, and Yahoo buddies.
  • DLNA: enables playback and media sharing over a Wi-Fi network.

Unfortunately these apps cannot be uninstalled if you don't plan on using them, or if you'd rather use a suitable replacement from the market. 

       

Additional applications include a file manager, news app, task manager, 3G Wi-Fi hotspot, Wi-Fi calling, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Gmail, Gtalk, Maps, Nav, search, and a voice dialer. There's a universal messaging inbox that collectively displays text messages, email, and social networking messages. The calendar application is robust and will meet the needs of both casual and business users alike.

Camera

The 5MP camera on the Cliq 2 was a mixed bag. Close-up shots fared well, but distant shots looked terrible regardless of which settings I used. The camera app includes options for zooming and controlling the dual-LED flash. You can crop, rotate, add geo-tags, and share your photos. You can also adjust brightness, contrast, and color saturation. The Cliq 2's video camera shoots 480p (720 x 480) videos at 30fps. Recorded video and audio quality were above average.

     

     

Hackability

One of the fundamental advantages of Android is the premise of it being an open platform. Its openness enables application developers to interface with, and modify the way Android behaves, without modifying the original Android source code. The Cliq 2 layers Motoblur, carrier selected applications, custom widgets, and other unique features atop Android 2.2. Collectively this is bundled up and flashed to the phones ROM.

On the Cliq 2, Motorola has locked and encrypted something called a bootloader which throws up a virtual roadblock to hackers and ROM developers interested in removing some of the additional customizations that Motorola provides. For example, ROM developers might be interested in building a custom ROM that eliminates Motoblur. Not having access to the bootloader prevents this from happening.

That said, the Cliq 2 is a purpose-built device targeted towards consumers looking for the social networking features that Motoblur provides. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that not being able to load custom ROM's on the Cliq 2 is not going to be a detriment to its success. 

There’s another thing us hackers like to do called rooting. Rooting enables access to files and folders that are normally locked and hidden. For example, I mentioned earlier that it would be nice to uninstall some of the preloaded apps. Rooting enables you to access the files associated with these programs and move them off of the phone. This is considered an advanced and somewhat risky process, so if you choose to do this, you should proceed with caution. There are also apps in the marketplace, such as screenshot apps, that require root access. Luckily, rooting the Cliq 2 took a matter of seconds using an application called z4root.

Summary

What I liked:

  • Web pages loaded and rendered quickly.
  • Clear crisp calls with a superior speakerphone and earpiece.
  • Dedicated volume on/off switch.
  • Build quality, weight, and form factor.
  • Synchronization of contact pictures, addresses, phone numbers, and social networking updates within the contacts application.
  • Overall performance.
  • Crisp, clear, and vibrant graphics.
  • Keyboard with well-spaced keys.
  • Settings to adjust bass/treble levels for voice calls, battery management, and in pocket detection.
  • Video camera quality
  • Wi-Fi hotspot and Wi-Fi calling features.

What I didn’t like:

  • Motoblur account and backup requirements.
  • Blurry contact pictures in Motoblur widgets.
  • Camera performance.
  • Mediocre battery life. 
  • Minuscule 2GB Micro SDHC card.
  • Capacitive button haptic feedback cannot be disabled.
  • Difficult battery cover.
  • Stiff volume and power buttons.

Overall, the Motorola Cliq 2 met and in some cases exceeded my expectations. In particular, the keyboard, overall performance, and build quality were impressive. Business and casual users alike will appreciate the ability to integrate contact information, emails, and status updates from a variety of accounts. Connecting to corporate email and calendars is simple and reliable and will meet the needs of on the go business users. Web browsing was fast and pages rendered smoothly. Voice calls were clear and loud. 3G data speeds were good but your results will vary depending on signal strength and coverage. My main complaint about the Cliq 2 was its battery life, but overall I would say the Cliq 2 has overcome many of the weaknesses of its predecessor.