Motorola's Milestone Android coming to XT

 Slowly but surely, Google's Android mobile operating system - already ahead of Apple's iPhone in the US, by one count - is gaining ground in New Zealand.READ ALSO: World's smallest Android landing in NZ

 Slowly but surely, Google's Android mobile operating system - already ahead of Apple's iPhone in the US, by one count - is gaining ground in New Zealand.

READ ALSO: World's smallest Android landing in NZ

Right now, Telecom (with the LG GW620) and Vodafone (with the Sony Ericsson Xperia 10i*) have one Android phone apiece.

And today, Telecom added a fourth Android handset to the local mix in the form of the Motorola Milestone (known in the US as the Motorola Droid). The Milestone will be released for XT on July 1, priced off-contract at $999.

The first cellphone based on version 2.0 of Google’s Android operating system at of its original release in the US (November last year), the Milestone earned rave reviews (see capsule summaries below).

Turn-by-turn navigation instructions
A signature feature of Android 2.0 is a new version of Google Maps with voice-enabled turn-by-turn directions, known as Google Navigation.

Google navigation will not be part of the Milestone's initial release locally - but it will come with a free 60-day license to Motorola's MotoNav turn-by-turn mapping.

Motorola builds on this feature by supplying a car mount kit, which allows the Droid to sit on your dashboard like a conventional GPS unit. Telecom confirms the car mount will be included in the local bundle.

Initially the Milestone will be released in NZ with Android 2.1; a welcome climb on the Xperia's 1.6. The most up-to-date version is 2.2; Telecom promises a software upgrade to catch up.

Combining a roomy 3.7-inch touchscreen with a slide-down Qwerty keyboard, the Milestone is one big phone (the iPhone's touchscreen is 3.5 inches).

But it's also been one of the best received Androids, and beyond the free GPS voice mapping, features include Google Latitude, a DVD quality video camera, a 5mP still camera and tight Facebook integration (see full tech specs here).

Gen-i boss Chris Quin has already been spied totting a Milestone; look for his Telecom division to start pushing it along side the (cough) iPhone offer.

THE FIRST DROID (AKA MILESTONE) REVIEWS

PC World (90 out of 100)
Pros: Snappy web browsing, strong sutie of web features, amazing 3.7-inch display
Cons: Shallow keyboard can make it hard to type, some camera images come out grainy.

CNet (4 out of 5)
The good: The Motorola Droid boasts a gorgeous display and the benefits of Android 2.0, including a faster Web browser, Google Maps Navigation app, and better messaging and contact management. It also offers excellent call quality and improved speed over previous Android devices.

The bad: The qwerty keyboard feels flat and the dialpad control is restricted to the home screen. Music and video capabilities still trail behind the competition.

"We'll refrain from using the dreaded "iPhone killer" expression, but comparisons between the two devices are obvious, and we see the Droid as a real competitor to Apple's device."

Gizmodo (no rating)
"Not to mix droid metaphors here, but I feel like it's the phone Darth Vader would use ... I'm still excited about it.

"Universal search - thank god. It's amazing to me that the phone OS from the search company fell behind Palm and Apple on this. It's here now, and it can search your contacts, browser history and bookmarks, contacts, apps, your music and YouTube. (Why you have to separately search SMS and email, I don't know.)"

Engadget (no rating)
- That big screen is killer. Bright, crisp, and tons of room for your icons and widgets.

- Speed is noticeably improved -- particularly when moving from app to app. We did notice that some of the home screen scrolling looked laggy.

- Android 2.0 is definitely cleaned up -- but it's most definitely still Android

- The browser seems significantly improved -- pages now load up in a fully zoomed-out mode, and the load times and scrolling are way snappier.

- The keyboard takes some getting used to, and it suffers from a similar hand-position issue as the G1, but it's fairly usable. We think it'll be second nature once we spend some time with it.

- Facebook is integrated into accounts, which means some of that BLUR functionality is here (though now it's part of Android 2.0 natively). The good news is that when you add a Facebook account you can choose to pull all Facebook info and contacts, or just info related to your existing contacts - a real clutter buster.

* The X10i should also shortly be available for Telecom, and will be followed by three more models from the Sony Ericsson stable. Vodafone has now phased out its original Android handset, the HTC Magic. 

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