By December 23, 2009

Motorola Milestone review

By now you’ve probably seen my Motorola Milestone unboxing video and Milestone demonstration video (if not why not?!) so you will perhaps know that I have been using it quite a lot over the past week or so and many of you have already been asking me questions on the Milestone Forum pages.


The Motorola Milestone


The Motorola Milestone was launched in the USA as the Motorola Droid back in October of this year and has been hugely popular. According to some sources we’ve read, Verizon have sold over one million Droid handsets since launch which really isn’t too shabby. So the Milestone (I don’t know why it’s called that in Europe and not Droid) launched here in the UK officially on the 7th December but it was a few days later that the handset started shipping. At the moment eXpansys have the UK exclusive on the Milestone but we’ve also heard that this might be temporary and that it is likely that other retailers will have the Milestone in the new year.

Also, according to eXpansys and Engadget the milestone became the UK’s fastest selling gadget apparently selling out within three hours of going on sale on the 10th December. With statistics like that it’s hard to argue the popularity of the Motorola Milestone BUT what did I think of it? Read on to find out!


The 10 second review:

  • Device: Motorola Milestone
  • Price: Around £449.00
  • Summary: I well built Android 2.0 handset with QWERTY keyboard and decent camera.
  • Best of: Excellent screen and QWERTY keyboard. First device to have Android 2.0
  • Worst of: Some stability issues with our test unit. Battery life could be better and the keyboard keys are too small for my fat-thumbs!



What’s in the box?

  • The Motorola Milestone handset
  • Battery (1420 mAh)
  • MicroUSB sync/charge cable
  • Getting Started Guide and CD-rom
  • Wired Headset
  • 8GB MicroSD memory card
  • USB style mains charger

Don’t forget to check out the Milestone Unboxing video for a more detailed tour of the hardware.

Motorola Milestone specification:

  • Dimensions: 115.8 x 60 x 13.7mm
  • Weight: 165g
  • Battery:
    – Talk Time: 6.5 hrs
    – Standby Time: 380 hrs
    – Capacity: 1400 mAh
  • Display: 480 x 854 pixels/3.7" /  Touch Sensitive(Capacitive) / MultiTouch
  • Network: 2G: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band) / 3G: 900/2100 (Dual-Band)
  • Camera: 5 mega-pixels (auto-focus)
  • Dual LED Flash
  • GeoTagging
  • Video: DVD Quality Video Recording 24fps Video Recording (720 x 480)
  • Music: Supported formats: MP3, AAC, eAAC+, OGG & WMA
  • 550MHz TI OMAP 3430 CPU
  • Memory: RAM 256MB, FLASH ROM 512MB, USER STORAGE 256MB
  • microSDHC (external)
  • microUSB
  • Accelerometer/G-meter
  • 3.5mm Audio Connector
  • Bluetooth (2.1)
  • Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11g)
  • Navigation: AGPS / Digital Compass



Let’s just take a quick look around the Milestone to see where everything is;

Starting at the front we have a 3.7″ transflective, capacitive touchscreen display which is capable of 16.7 million scales which explains why the image on-screen looks so good. There’s also some conflicting information about the overall res of the screen I’m sure (based on the screen grabs I’ve taken) it’s 480×854 but other sources claim 480×800. Below the screen there’s a couple of touch-sensitive ‘buttons’. From left to right these are: Back, Menu, Home and Search. These buttons are not physical but there’s haptic feedback when pressed as there is when you touch the screen. Directly under the screen area is the ‘chin’ as we call it. For some reason there is a step between what is the front screen and the back portion of the handset. What the purpose of this is, if indeed it has a purpose beyond a design feature, I don’t know but I find it a bit ugly.


Motorola Milestone front view


Moving on to the left side of the handset you’ll find the MicroUSB sync/charge connector. Nothing out of the ordinary about this but there’s no cover over it. There’s nothing else on the left face.

Motorola Milestone left side

Motorola Milestone left side


The bottom of the handset it totally barren.

Round to the right we can see the dedicated camera button, which is a fetching gold colour. Like the shutter button on a ‘proper’ digital camera, this one has two steps. Press it half way to set the focus and then press it all the way to actually take the picture. Towards the top of the right side is a standard up/down volume rocker, black rather than gold.

Motorola Milestone right side

Motorola Milestone right side


On the top of the device we have the 3.5mm headphone connector that will allow you to use either your own standard headphones or the included wired headset. Next to the headphone socket is the power button. This also doubles as a lock/sleep button.


Motorola Milestone top view


Flip the unit over to look at the back and the design here is pretty straight forward. The back is almost completely flat with the exception of a slight lip at the top and bottom of the handset. These help to protect the 5 megapixel autofocus camera and the dual LED’s from damage when you place the handset on its back on a desk. The battery compartment takes up about three-fifths of the back. The cover is made of metal and slides on and off easily but is also reasonably secure. It’s under this battery cover that you’ll also find the SIM-card slot and MicroSD card socket. The back also has a nice gold-coloured grille which is where the batter cover slides to remove.

Motorola Milestone back view

Motorola Milestone back view


Back to the front of the device and sliding the screen open from left to right reveals the QWERTY keyboard and D-Pad. The Keyboard has 4 rows of keys and 40 keys in total. They are quite small but quite tactile when pressed. Next to the keyboard, unusually to the right of it, is the navigation D-Pad which has a gold-coloured action or ok/enter button in the middle. The keyboard sliding mechanism is solid and positive.

Motorola Milestone front and keyboard view

Motorola Milestone front and keyboard view



  • Good quality capacitive touchscreen
  • QWERTY Keyboard
  • Build Quality
  • 5.0 megapixel camera
  • Good network reception



  • Battery life
  • Small keyboard keys
  • Stability issues



The Motorola Milestone is actually the first Android device that I was looking forward to reviewing. Obviously we’ve looked at other Android handsets in the past and although other members of the team have enjoyed using the Android OS it’s not something that I particularly liked but I was keen to see what, if anything, had changed in Android 2.0 in terms of making at a better user experience. The other thing I wanted to try for myself is the QWERTY keyboard on the Milestone.

The Milestone is physically a pretty large handset. Its proportions are quite deceiving and it’s almost the same size as the HTC Touch HD, just a little thicker. It’s also quite a weighty handset at 165 grams, that does perhaps sound quite heavy but in reality when in your hand it doesn’t seem that bad.

Looking at the handset I am happy with the overall design. Judging by the comments on the forum it’s one of those handsets that, just like Marmite, you either love or hate. Some thinking the design is blocky or retro. I quite like it but the step below the screen and between the front and rear part of the screen handset is, I think, a horrible design choice. I’ve been told that this is something to do with the location of the antennas but I cant really say that I buy it whilst that may be where the antennas are located I cant see when the front half of the device could not be as big as the back!

Milestone-step1 Milestone-step2


Overall the build quality of the device seems great, the sliding keyboard mechanism is solid and positive and feels like it will last. There’s also a satisfying click when you open or close it fully.

On the back you have a metal battery cover which, as I mentioned here earlier, takes up about three-fifths of the back of the handset. The battery cover on my review model is quite secure. It’s made of metal and the lugs that hold it in place are also metal. There have been reports that the battery cover on the Motorola Droid comes loose over time and needs securing with sticky tape. I’ve had no such problems as yet so whether or not this has been addressed on the Milestone or if my handset is not old enough to demonstrate the problem I am unsure.

You have to open the battery compartment and remove the battery to gain access to the SIM-card which is pretty standard but you have to remove the battery cover in order to get to the MicroSD slot too. If you are a frequent card-swapper then this could get annoying and maybe this is what makes the battery cover work lose?



Also on the back is the 5MP camera and Dual LED flash. There’s no lens cover for the camera so remember to wipe it on your shirt before you take a picture! Fortunately the design of the back should help to prevent the lens from being scratched.

As mentioned above, the sliding mechanism is really good and moving the screen reveals the physical QWERTY keyboard. It’s a 4-row keyboard with a total of 40 keys, there is room for two more keys but the space isn’t used. My appreciation of the keyboard has been up and down. Initially I liked it, the keys are nicely tactile and positive, I expected to get used to the keyboard, as I have done with countless other devices in the past, and to eventually enjoy using it. The reality is though that I simply find the keys are too small and with no space between them I continually mash 2-3 keys at a time. Now I do have fairly large thumbs but you will either need slender digits or a lot of practice/patience to really get to grips with the QWERTY. For me, anything but a quick message then the keyboard became frustrating and I went back to the on-screen keyboard.

Next to the keyboard is the D-pad. I don’t find that I use this very much but it’s there is you need it, perhaps more useful if editing text and moving the cursor round.



So that’s about all for the Milestone, physically. It’s time to power up and have a look at the handset in use. A word of warning to anyone using the Milestone for the first time. Initial setup takes quite a while and the handset will not work without a SIM-card so if you did choose to use the handset without a mobile contract you will have to at least use an old SIM to make it work, minus a SIM and you are only able to make emergency calls and you’ll be unable to go further than that.

When you turn on or take the handset out of sleep mode you’ll see a screen showing the date and time and carrier name. Above in the menu bar the battery indicator, signal strength and WiFi status are also shown. On the lower portion of the screen you’ll see the Milestone’s version of the ‘swipe to unlock’, here you have to move the lock icon in an arc from left to right. In reality a quick left to right will suffice, no need to trace the curve.

Unlock Screen

Unlock Screen


Once unlocked you are initially presented with the ‘home screen’.  This is the uncustomised view of the screen with the default background image and the standard 6 icons on the ‘desktop’. These shortcut icons can be moved or deleted and you can add new shortcuts as you see fit. You can also add widgets to the screen. Widgets include an analogue clock, calendar view, media player controls and power controls.

Home screen

Home screen


If you are not familiar with Android, the grey button at the bottom of the screen is like the Android version of the Start Menu in windows. When you press it, or slide it upwards you’ll see a list of installed applications. This lets us go in to things like the web browser, maps and email.

Applications Menu

Applications Menu


Here in the application menu you’ll find many apps that are standard on all Android devices as well as a few that are Milestone specific. For example the Motonav app and Phone Portal that we’ll look at later.

Getting in to the Settings Menu is simple a matter of pressing the Menu button on the front of the unit, this is the button just below the screen. The menu button is also used in many other applications to alter settings in there too. From the settings menu we have options to alter the Wireless and Network options, Call settings, Sound & Display options etc. It’s here that we can set up Bluetooth and WiFi settings.

Settings menu wireless settings

Settings and Wireless Settings menus


Setting up a WiFi connection is a very straightforward affair. All you need to do is go in to the wireless settings menu and enable WiFi. It’ll then scan for available wireless networks and show you which ones you can connect to. The WiFi reception in the Milestone seems very good. Not only can I see my own wireless network throughout the house but I can see two other wireless networks, that belong to my neighbours which is quite some distance away.

Whilst on the subject of reception. I tested the Milestone with Orange and T-mobile SIM cards. Both networks perform quite badly in this area, in fact I don’t get any mobile reception to speak of at all at home, but the Milestone does in fact manage two bars of reception on T-Mobile and one on Orange which is pretty much unheard of here! My iPhone by comparison says ‘No Service’ almost permanently and even with the two handsets side-by-side the Milestone gets reception where other handsets, such as Tracy’s HTC Touch Pro2, do not.  A definite plus for the Motorola then.


The phone dialer


Call quality is also very good. I’ve had no issues with echo or sound problems in-calls on the Milestone and I’ve not experienced any dropped calls which I am sure has a lot to do with the good reception.

The Milestone, like just about every other handset that you’ll find on the market today it would seem, has built in GPS. Again as with the WiFi and mobile network reception, the GPS seems to work very well. Firing up Google maps takes just a few seconds for the app to load and despite me sitting indoors and not particularly near to any windows or anything that might help, Google Maps will pick up my position in around a minute from cold which is really quite impressive. Using Google maps in-car the accuracy seems good too and whilst not moving the GPS  ‘drift’ is not terrible.

map map2

Google Map Screens


The Google Maps application installed is the box standard version of Google Maps with the ability to view Satellite, Traffic and Latitude layers, search for an address and navigate between two points.


Motorola have also bundles Motonav with the Milestone. Motonav is a half decent SatNav application. It looks similar to CoPilot, allows you to set up preference such as home location, colour settings for the maps etc. One cool feature is that you can pick 3D vehicles to be displayed on the map rather than a simple arrow showing your heading and 3D buildings can be enabled. Motonav is a 60 trial version that can be activated later if you so choose. I’ve not spent much time testing Motonav, that would be a whole review in itself I think but it seems to do a decent job.

motonav1 motonav2



So to the web browser. The Motorola Milestone comes with the standard Android WebKit web browser, Motorola choosing not to install any kind of custom browser. The browser itself seems to work well, pages load and render quite rapidly, faster than the iPhone 3GS at loading our site. If you have a look at the two screen grabs below of T&M rendered on the Milestone you should see how well the text, even the really small stuff, is rendered and just as with the iPhone and the HD2, and thanks to the multi-touch screen, one can use two fingers on the screen to pinch or pull and zoom in and out of the page and double tapping the screen will enlarge a portion of the web page.

The search button below the screen launches the google home pages for searches, which is exactly what you would expect, but remember the Home button will take you back to the main home screen and not the browser home page!

The browser has an extensive settings menu allowing you to adjust such things as text size, zoom, image loading, pop-ups and JavaScript to name just a few so there is quite a bit of control!


browser-portrait browser-landscape

Web browser screen grabs


Like so many other smart-devices hitting the market now, the Milestone has it’s own YouTube client. This allows you to browse through or search for videos and then plays them back full-screen for you. The other thing about the YouTube client is that when you see embedded YouTube videos on a web page in the browser you can click on play and this will launch the video for playback within the YouTube app. Videos do not play in-place on a web page.

The YouTube client works pretty well, more or less the same as the iPhone and the Windows Mobile version.

YouTube client

YouTube client


So I’ve mentioned that I am not a huge fan of the hardware keyboard, the jury’s still out as to whether I’ll get used to it, there’s the on-screen QWERTY that can be used to text entry and I am finding that I can type faster and more accurately on that than the physical keyboard. The capacitive screen means that typing a joy and the keyboard is pretty similar to the one on the iPhone. As with many other on-screen keyboards the letters appear as you release the key, not as you press so if you put your finger down in the wrong place you can move and release it to get the correct one.

Some of you already spotted the deliberate mistake(!) in my demo video. You can indeed use the on-screen keyboard in landscape mode simply by rotating the handset, the accelerometer will rotate the display and then the keyboard can be turned back on in landscape. The mistake I made when recording the video was in leaving the hardware keyboard out, when you have the device open you are not able to turn on the on-screen keyboard in landscape mode. Also not all apps seem to support screen rotation.

portrait-keyboard landscape-keyboard

On-screen QWERTY keyboards


Email is very simple to set up. There’s options for Gmail, Exchange and POP3/Imap email accounts. I set up my Exchange account in less than a minute, only needing to provide my Name and Email address, Username, Password and email server address. After entering these details the Milestone begins to sync your email and contacts and as I was connecting over WiFi the whole process took only a few minutes.

I do like how email is displayed on Android devices, I prefer the email views to the one you have on the iPhone, I find the layout much more useful.

gmail mail-view

Email preview and email views


The calendar will also Sync with your Exchange server but you actually have to go in to the calendar on the Milestone for this to work initially. The first time you enter the calendar after setting up exchange email you are asked if you wish to allow synchronisation. Assuming that you pick yes then it’ll start sucking down all of your appointments and calendar events. I don’t have 100’s of calendar entries so for me the sync process took only a few minutes. Once complete the calendar opens up and shows upcoming events. There are options for 1 day, 7 day and 1 month views. You can also add the calendar widget to the homescreen and that will display your next appointment on the screen and when you tap it that will go ahead and open the calendar for you.

Calendar-one-day Calendar-month

One day and one month calendar views


Setting up a GMail account is also easy but I set up a new Google account purely for the review and to see how easy this would be to do on the device itself, wondering it it could be done without having to resort to using the desktop computer. The answer here is that yes you can set up a new Google account. Perhaps the easiest way to set one up though is through using the Android Market App.

In order to access Android Market, the Android version of the AppStore, you have to have a Google account. So launching Android Market for the first time you will be asked to either enter your Google account credentials or to create a new Google account. Choosing the later you are asked to enter your name and pick an email address. If you pick an address that’s already taken, as I did, Google will make some suggestions that you can either accept or else try again. I took the first suggestion, entered a password and away I went. You are taken in to the Market and you can browse through all of the available apps and games. There are around 20,000 apps, some of which you have to pay for and some of which are free. There are some very good free apps and games there to play with!

Android Market

Android Market


My must-have apps are Palringo and Twitter. If you’ve not tried it before Palringo is available on just about every single platform from PC and Mac to Windows Mobile and now Android. It’s essentially an IM application that allows you to have all of your IM account in one place and supports Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, iChat, MobileMe and Facebook Chat. It definitely worth checking out and the best bit is that it’s a free application!

As for the TwitterTweet – There are several free Twitter clients for Android that you will find in the Market but this is the one I like best.

palringo TwitterTweet

Palringo IM application and TwitterTweet Twitter client


If you want to connect the Motorola Milestone up to your PC it has its own PC-Suite application called Moto Phone Portal. This works in a rather unusual way. When you connect your PC via USB a network connection is established, the Milestone is given its own IP address and then the PC launches a web browser window that connects to the handset using that IP address, the Milestone effectively becoming a mini web server.

This allows you to view your call history and read SMS messages from the PC as well as manages contacts, photos and other phone settings. This seems to work really well actually and allowed me to transfer the photos I needed for this review to show off the camera!

Moto Phone Portal Phoneportal1

Moto Phone Portal on the Milestone and on the PC


So the camera on the Milestone is a 5 megapixel autofocus shooter with dual LED flash. 5mp may not sound like a lot with some phone cameras beginning to exceed the 12mp mark but it’s not all about the CMOS sensor. Optics also play a big part in camera quality. Motorola seem to have done a reasonable job with the camera.

The dedicated camera button works just like a ‘proper’ digital camera with a two stage press. ‘Half press’ to auto focus and full press to take the picture. Disappointingly, pressing the camera button does not automatically launch the camera app. which is a little annoying so you have to go in to programs and find the camera app to get started.

When you launch the app, if you listen carefully, you can hear the camera making a few squeaks as the autofocus comes to life. With the flash set to auto, naturally it only fires if required.

 Camera Interface

Camera Interface

Overall the pictures are ok, mostly usable for a quick snap and passable for Facebook on an evening out. I did have one issue with the flash though, for some reason the flash only seems to illuminate half of the picture. Have a look at the photo below to see what I mean. At first I thought I had my finger over the flash but after taking a few more snaps, making sure the fingers were well clear I wonder if only one of the LED’s is firing. If anyone else has this issue please let me know!

 2009-12-22(2) 2009-12-22

Camera samples: Left showing the flash issue and right with the flash forced to OFF


Just a quick bit on the Milestone as an MP3 player as I am aware that this is already looking like a long review!

In the programs menu you’ll find ‘Music’ note that’s music and not media player. When you launch the app you are presented with Artist, Album, Song and playlist views. In much the same way as any MP3 player out there, you can sort and show your media, in this case music in those three ways.

So the music player does not handle video at all, I thought this quite unusual as on most devices you would expect to see music and video handled by the same app. Not so on the Milestone the. There is another app, ‘Media Gallery’ which allows you to view photos, wallpaper and folders etc. and there is an option in there to play video that has been recorded on the built in camera but not anything that seems to deal with media that you have transferred, such as films in MP4 format. I’m sure that there are apps on the Android Market that handle this but it’s surprising that there’s nothing pre-installed!

Audio playback itself is good, nothing spectacular but nothing bad either. Fortunately there’s the 3.5mm headphone socket that allows you to use any standard headphones which I always prefer to do given the choice. For those of you that like it loud the volume level is good too.


The Music app view


Overall the Milestone performs very well. The 550MHz CPU might sound like it could be a little under-powered but in practice this seems not to be the case. In using a variety of different applications both those bundled with the handset and those downloaded from Android Market, I’ve not come across anything that makes me feel that they handset needs more horsepower.


The Motorola Milestone has a great screen. It’s a good size and being capacitive, as almost all Android devices are, it’s very responsive. Even in direct light (not sunlight as I haven’t seen any of that in weeks!) the screen is still readable. The colours are bright and vivid.

Much was made of the fact that the Milestone has a multi-touch screen where the Droid did not and while this is pretty handy when using the web browser, being able to zoom etc. I’ve not seen anywhere else on the handset that this works. I cant zoom using two fingers in Google Maps and I cant use two fingers on the on-screen keyboard, pressing shift and another key for example, that just doesn’t work at all. So I’m not sure how the multi-touch on the Milestone is the holy grail? Am I missing something?


I wonder if the good WiFi and mobile network reception comes at a price. The reason I say this is that the battery life on the Milestone is really poor! Whilst reviewing the handset I have been charging it fully and then using it throughout the day. I have not been making many calls and have had the WiFi OFF most of the time. Still I can only get about one days use from the battery and as soon as you start using it for something like GPS or you turn on the WiFi then the battery life is drastically reduced. So I wonder is the radio is working a little too hard? I cant imagine that the 550MHz CPU would be drawing all of the battery power when you consider other devices out there with 1GHz CPUs are getting longer battery life.

We appear not to be alone with the poor battery performance either as several other people have mentioned this over on the forum.


The other issue that I’ve come across with the Milestone, apart from the camera flash, is that a few times the handset has rebooted itself. While writing the review I’ve had it sitting on the desk beside me and I’ve been poking away at it periodically where I’ve needed to check my facts on something etc. Despite not touching it, on two separate occasions with no outside prompting I have noticed the phone switch of and reboot.

The first time this happened I put it down to a one-off and thought that perhaps it might have something to do with one of the many applications that I had left running on the device. However the second time was just a few minutes after I had turned it on. I’m not sure what is causing it, again if anyone else has seen this behaviour I would like to hear from you please.





I’ve not been a huge fan of Android in the past, preferring Windows Mobile or the iPhone to Android but I have to say that the Motorola Milestone is definitely the best Android powered device that I have used to date. There are some nice refinements in Android 2.0 and the Milestone itself is very well made and a good all round contender.

There are a few niggles with the handset that I have mentioned above, probably the worst being the battery life and the couple of un-prompted reboots are a bit of a worry but I suspect that these can and will be both addressed with a future ROM update.

The keyboard isn’t ideal for me but my hands are probably larger than average and you still have the option of reverting to the on-screen QWERTY if you need to.

So if you really need a device with a hardware keyboard then the Motorola Milestone is surely worth considering but if a hardware QWERTY isn’t your thing then it might be worth looking elsewhere, Acer Liquid perhaps?

Don’t forget you can aske questions and post comments about the Milestone and my review on the Milestone forum thread.


Review by: Matt

[ Post Tags: Motorola Milestone, unboxing video, Android, Eclair, ]

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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