The Motorola QUENCH is a logical addition to the Motoblur family of devices and sees Motorola offer its first Motoblur device without a keyboard. It will be called the CLIQ XT in the US. We got our hands on the new device at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and this is what we thought.
It might be using the Android platform, but Motorola were insistent that this was a "Motoblur device" when we asked about the version of Android it was running. Perhaps that's because it is Android 1.5, rather than the 2.1 version that many of the recent releases are.
We picked Motorola up on this point and they confirmed that an update would be coming to the handset, but dependent on region and carrier. If firmware version is important to you, then this grey area might be something of a deterrent, for the short-term at least.
But that aside, the Motorola QUENCH looks like a serious handset. Moto are calling it a "tablet" which is potentially confusing, because the rest of us would call it a touchscreen phone. Rather than taking the svelte lines of something like the HTC Desire, the QUENCH is altogether chunkier.
It measures 59.4 x 116.7 x 12.3mm, weighs in at 123.5g, and offers a 3.1-inch screen, which is a little smaller than some of the more recent rivals. It has a 320 x 480 pixel resolution, so again, it doesn't pack the greatest punch here either.
Beneath the screen you get the usual four controls for home, menu, search and back. These sit either-side of a central four-way controller. We didn't find any problem with the buttons, they are easy enough to hit when you need them and need a firm enough press to prevent accidental operation.
The rear of the QUENCH is rubberised, so it sits nicely in the hand, with a dab of texture that will stop it slipping out of your sweaty palm. There is perhaps an excess of bezel and looking into the screen feels a bit like peering into a hole in the ground - it doesn't have the wow-pop-punch that some screens do.
Sitting on top of the Android OS is Motorola's Motoblur, a comprehensive platform that pulls together your virtual identities and integrates them into the handset. It's a nice idea, perhaps a little overwhelming at times with one full fat stream of "Happenings" pouring out the front of the phone, but in principle it's a system we like. If you want to know more about MotoBlur, check out our review of the Motorola DEXT.
The QUENCH is a fully-featured smartphone however, and packs in all the connectivity you'd expect with HSDPA/CDMA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, compass, accelerometer, etc. You get a 5-megapixel autofocus camera around the back with an LED flash; video capture is present, but doesn't step into the realms of HD, offering HVGA at 24fps.
You get that important 3.5mm headphone jack too, as well as a dedicated camera button.
With any touch phone, the success is going to hang on the touch response and the everyday detail like how efficient text entry is. Motorola has turned to Swype to enhance their text input offering. Swype uses a system that lets you keep your finger in contact with the screen and move it around, effectively drawing a trace through the characters you want, rather than tapping each individual letter.
It's a system that you will have to master, as during our time with the phone we found that more difficult entries didn't work too well, but you also have to consider that these were demo units, the firmware might not be finalised and god knows how many other people had been fingering them. When we get the QUENCH in for a full review we'll be looking at this in detail.
From what we could tell though, the response from the screen was good enough in general use, and didn't seem to have any problem dealing with the normal application loading and switching, although is no comparison to having a device packed full of your own data and apps.
There is something of an elegance about the QUENCH. We don't find it as easy on the eye as the HTC Legend, but the design is interesting and will turn heads. We like Motoblur for the most part too, but it's the details of the touch experience that is going to define whether or not the Motorola QUENCH is a hot Android number, or gets lost at sea.
We will bring you a full review in the very near future.