Motorola back from the dead with Android

Having virtually disappeared from the mobile phone market for the better part of two years, Motorola is now back in the game with two new Android-based handsets.

But it’s really Motoblur that the company wants you to take notice of. As software that integrates into the Android operating system to let you take control of social networking, Motorola’s Motoblur has been designed to make it easier for you to link your life together via the web.

The idea is this: many of us use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or some other form of social networking, and Motoblur works to link these services together by putting them all in the one place. For example, when you look up a contact in your phone you will also see your past conversations with that contact, through whatever network – social or SMS – that you used.

As for Motoblur handsets, Motorola launched two today, with more to come.

The first is the Dext (not to be confused with TV’s “Dexter”) and is intended as an all-around social networking phone. It provides a nicely responsive slider-style QWERTY keypad, capacitive touchscreen and upgradeable storage. The look and feel of the device makes us think of a Motorola Sidekick, the phone geared towards teenagers.

As the second Motoblur handset, the Backflip is orientated more towards business users and frequent travellers and presents an interesting take on the conventional clamshell design. For the most part, it operates like any other touchscreen phone, but open the handset (on its long side) so that the touchscreen is in line with the rear-side of the phone, and the thin keypad embedded here automatically activates, giving you access to full QWERTY-style touch-type communications.

The Backflip can also be configured to function like a display device, with the touchscreen angled backwards against the rear of the handset. In this orientation it switches to an internet appliance mode (like a Chumby) and becomes a content viewer, showing clock, alarm clock, weather and photos. It even has the ability to display movies.

Motorola Backflip
With the Backflip, Motorola has created a design that allows the handset to double as a kickstand for content viewing.

Motorola is also providing a feature similar to Apple’s mobile service, MobileMe. If your phone is stolen or lost, Motorola’s website can track your phone via GPS for free. If you choose, you can download the contents of your lost phone for transfer to a new phone, as well as wipe all contents from the stolen handset.

Conceivably, this information could be passed onto the police (you know, if they cared enough to find it), but Motorola hasn’t yet devised the remote GPS lookup for this purpose. It looks like you’re still going to have to call the local constabulary if you need help here.

It does, however, make us wonder if the GPS tracking would be useful for those parents who want to keep a constant eye on their kids.

Motorola Dext
Motorola’s Backflip and Dext are equipped with 5 megapixel cameras, QWERTY keyboards, GPS, and optional iTunes connectivity to easily transfer music from a PC to each device.

Motorola’s Motoblur application is currently built atop Android 1.5, but devices emerging from the labs of other brands are increasingly using the newer 2.x platform. Like Apple’s upgrade to the iPhone OS, this version provides faster speed and more features and, in Android’s case, one of these features is support for Flash.

These days, Flash exists on many of the websites you visit. From news to reviews to clothing labels, it’s everywhere, and if your phone doesn’t support it, chances are any Flash content on the sites you visit will display as a question mark or a blank box. While Apple doesn’t approve of Flash (and hence doesn’t support it), Android 2.x does, which means it provides far greater compatibility with a far greater number of websites than older versions.

There’s no doubt that Motorola is bringing some interesting stuff to the table, but without support for the 2.x upgrade, Motorola’s new series may end up behind the competition before it even leaps out of the gates.