Motorola has become the butt of many mobile phone industry jokes over the last few years. Not since the RAZR (now available in 18 different versions) has the company seen success with a handset. But at the launch event for the DEXT, something was different - journalists were heard saying that they haven't been this excited about a handset from Motorola in years.
So what's changed? The same thing that changed HTC and is currently changing Samsung - Android. Google's free mobile operating system is enlivening a whole raft of phone manufacturers that have always made great hardware but struggled with user interface design. But how does the DEXT stack up against the G1, Magic, Hero and Galaxy i7500? Read on to find out.
First things first - the DEXT is a QWERTY slider. It's the first QWERTY slider to get Android since the G1. That means two things - it's a joy to input text on compared to the onscreen keyboard of the Magic, Hero and i7500, but it's fatter than Michelle McManus riding a pregnant manatee. Okay, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, but compared to the RAZR, the DEXT is a veritable chunk-o-rama.
That QWERTY seemed, in our brief testing, to be tactile enough to be comfortable. The keys don't quite press down as far as you'd like them to, but it's certainly more pleasant to use than the G1's QWERTY which never felt roomy. The other buttons on the device are well placed and intuitive.
The other headline feature is Motorola's MOTOBLUR software add-ons for Android. It's not a total interface conversion, like HTC's Sense interface for the Hero, but it does add on a few nifty features that aren't found in the default build. The biggest is called "Happenings", which chucks all your friends' Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Last.fm updates into one place.
There's also the option to update all your social network statuses at once, and the very useful ability to get a person's profile picture and latest update to appear on-screen when they phone you. Very handy. It'll also amalgamate contacts that appear to be the same person - so you don't end up with five entries for your friend Linda, for example.
The rest of the UI is the same old Android goodness. It has the app store, the email, the background applications and everything that you already know and love about Google's operating system. It seemed during our brief testing to run reasonably fast, but that was before loading it up with a pile of apps and messages, so it'll be interesting to see how that lasts over time.
The processor is the same as all the other Android handsets - a 528MHz Qualcomm unit. It has a 5-megapixel camera with flash, and the display is a roomy 3.1-inches. There's a welcome 3.5mm headphone jack, and it has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS. It only has 256MB of onboard storage, which might prove a problem when downloading lots of apps, but it's expandable with a microSD card.
The DEXT isn't quite top of the Android pile, thanks to its low onboard storage and chunky profile, but it's still an excellent handset with the best QWERTY of any Android device to date.
If you're an avid texter, emailer or user of social networks on the go then if our first look is anything to go by, you'll find a lot to like.