These days, choosing a smart phone feels a lot like walking through the halls of high school (cue John Mayer's "No Such Thing.")
The super popular iPhones hang out together in the season's hottest fashions, toying with their tailored apps; the Blackberry valedictorian candidates concern themselves with taking care of business; the old school flip phones blast '60s and '70s rock and wonder why the cell phone world isn't as simple as it used to be.
And then, in late 2008, the Android phones entered the scene. No one's quite sure where they fit in.
This year, Motorola has embraced the GoogleAndroid operating system and is trying to create its own cool-kids tables in the cafeteria.
Much of the hype leading up to the holiday season has been dominated by the company's recently released Droid on Verizon, a business-centric powerhouse that sports Android 2.0. However, once the dust settles, people will also remember the Droid's less flashy cousin, the Cliq, over at T-Mobile.
The Cliq also runs on Android (albeit 1.5 not 2.0) and can best be described as an adolescent Android phone, one that has been made simpler by Motorola to have a more "ready right from the box" feel that the iPhone has done so much to create.
Some of Cliq's successes come courtesy of Motorola's MOTOBLUR interface. The point is to push all your various social networking content to the phone and to your homescreen so you always feel connected.
At first blush, I loved this feature. It allowed me to Tweet and Facebook with one hand while wiping away the tears caused by no longer having real friends with the other.
But quickly, I grew tired of the constant barrage of status updates. Even worse, the poor battery life of the phone meant that I had to choose whether to be connected during the day or night, not both -- unless I wanted to lug around a charger all day, which feels way Web 1.0.
Hardware-wise, the phone sports all of the typical features you would expect from a smartphone. 3G, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, touchscreen, full browser, camera and others are all standard. (You can also upgrade to the sports package that comes with a roof rack and moonroof, although it makes typing a little dicey.)
The phone features a slide-out keyboard, like many of the Android phones offered today, but also offers a touchscreen keyboard in both landscape and portrait modes. The virtual keyboard is usable and the predictive text is acceptable, but admittedly it still does not compete with the iPhone's much-hyped typewriter style touchscreen.
Where the Cliq truly shines is its integration with Google and the availability of tons of apps in the Android Market. Within minutes of logging into my Gmail account on the phone, every e-mail, contact, and calendar event I had was synced to the Cliq. For those of us already thriving in the virtual Google world, this synchronization lets us get up and running on a new device before we can nuke a Hot Pocket and proceed to spill bubbling cheese on our T-shirts.
The screen is bright and videos look lucid, but the camera and keyboard were both standard for smartphones, neither disappointing nor overly impressive.
Overall the device felt like that summer after freshman year of college -- looking back on it, you might remember having a good time, but you can't really recall anything that really stood out from those few months. The Cliq, likewise, is a solid Android-based phone that gets the job done and integrates nicely with Google's services, but lacks the panache that will coax you to give up your lunch money for it.