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Motorola has been both public and vocal about its intentions to sell handsets based on the Android software platform, backed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and a consortium of tech stars. But this is the first time we’ve seen honest-to-goodness hardware from Motorola.
The Motorola Cliq will be available from Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE: DT ) T-Mobile later this year. It comes with both a touch-screen interface and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and looks rather clunky next to the svelte Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone or Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry Storm.
But that's such a superficial way to look at it -- the Cliq is very pretty on the inside. It comes with generous support for social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace in addition to the usual bevy of Google services.
There's a five-megapixel camera and performance that makes early reviewers drool, and the Cliq could be the perfect sidekick for a hyper-connected youngster. "Your entire social life in a single stream!" the marketing materials claim. That's a somewhat sad assessment of my social life, but rings true to a lot of people nonetheless.
Motorola is hoping to replace an aging product line that hasn't been hot since the glory days of the RAZR. The Android is co-CEO Sanjay Jha's weapon of choice, and Motorola is clearly a more attractive brand to partner up with than HTC, which often lets T-Mobile and others slap their own brand names on HTC-made phones.
But in the grand scheme of things, from Google's point of view, this particular model is simply one more model in a flood of Android phones that should please every palate. We already have the somewhat clumsy but full-functioned T-Mobile G1 and the more iPhone-esque T-Mobile myTouch, with the literally slick HTC Hero coming soon to a Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) store near you and the complete package arriving in Samsung's upcoming Galaxy. Be still, my beating heart. And Google tells us to expect at least a dozen models to be announced in 2009, presumably ranging from relatively simple and affordable models to ever-more-elaborate smartphones.
Motorola takes a somewhat special place in that universe of Android phones -- it's the only American handset maker on Android's roster of alliance members, and the only proven consumer brand besides Samsung. The Cliq might not quite have the chops to turn Android into a real household name, but Motorola's upcoming slate just might. And that's all Motorola and Google really need. Call me when you see a sexy Motorola 'Droid.