Milestone is a viable iPhone challenger
Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business
in Vancouver April 27 - May 3, 2010 issue #1070
When Rogers/Fido had an exclusive Canadian franchise for Apple’s
iPhone, other mobile providers scrambled to offer touch-screen
Now, although Bell and Telus offer their customers iPhones, they’re
also offering alternatives. Last year, I quite liked Bell’s Palm Pre,
but a scarcity of third-party apps has helped limit its popularity.
Telus is the first Canadian mobile service to offer Motorola’s
Milestone ($199 with a three-year plan; $599 with no plan).
The Milestone – sold in the U.S. as the Droid – is powered by Google’s
Android mobile operating system, which is evolving into a potent
challenger to the iPhone.
Like the iPhone and most iPhone wannabes, Motorola’s Milestone is a
touch screen phone, with still and video camera, media player, GPS,
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, web browsing, e-mail and the seemingly
compulsory YouTube icon.
Like the iPhone – and unlike its U.S.-equivalent Motorola Droid – the
Milestone has multi-touch features: finger motions to zoom in and out,
Four icons below the screen give quick access to basic functions: back,
menu, home and search.
Unlike the iPhone, there’s also a slide-out physical keyboard (complete
with mini-trackpad), if you prefer. While the iPhone has fixed storage,
the Milestone uses external memory
cards. Telus includes a relatively hefty 16-gigabyte card in the
Also unlike the iPhone: a removable battery, letting you keep a
charged-up spare one handy. (As with most smartphones – including the
iPhone – battery life isn’t great.)
Apple recently demoed a next generation of its iPhone operating system,
promising multitasking for third-party apps.
That capability isn’t here yet for iPhone users, but it’s something
Milestone and other Android phone users (and Palm Pre users) take for
granted. Like Apple, Android doesn’t offer Flash support.
Telus and Motorola promise Exchange support, something needed by many
business users. I was unable to test that, but my Google-based e-mail,
calendars worked fine as soon as I entered log-in information. Other
standard e-mail providers should work as well.
Like the iPhone, “there’s an app for that.” Milestone and other Android
phone users can pick and choose from a large number of free or paid
add-on apps. While the Android market has perhaps a tenth the number of
apps as Apple offers, users should be able to find most of what they
want and download apps directly onto their phones.
Welcome, and not on the iPhone, is the ability to add widgets – small
panels offering various functions – right on the home screens. I added
a weather widget and one to easily turn functions like Wi-Fi and the
speaker on and off with a finger tap. Less nice: you’re limited to
three panels of icons and widgets. Nicer: you can set a photo as
home-screen wallpaper running across the three panels.
I also liked the bar along the top: pulling it down lists new e-mail
messages and other notifications, offering quick response capability.
Click a tab at the bottom of the screen for access to all installed
applications, not just the ones with icons on the home-screen panels.
Plugging into a Windows system opened a driver installation utility –
after running that, it was easy to drag music, photos, etc., from the
computer to the phone and (apparently) to use the phone as a modem.
There’s no similar built-in Mac or Linux support, however.
Motorola adds a few of its own apps. A Moto Car Home app gives quick
access to the GPS/Map feature, voice dialling, Bluetooth options and
music. A Motonav app gives real- time driving, walking or biking
directions – free for 60 days. (A car mount is available.)
Open the Moto Phone Portal and you can connect to the phone from a
computer via USB or Wi-Fi and have access to contacts, photos, settings
With its fast processor, usable web browser, customizable interface and
selection of apps, Telus and Motorola have a potential winner here. At
least if there are enough users looking for a smartphone that isn’t