Motorola's Milestone XT720: Is This The Next Droid?

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Motorola's poppin' out Android phones Kate Gosselin-style this month. Just days after announcing its new Motorola Flipout, Moto has taken the wraps off the Milestone XT720, dubbed as "one of the most powerful phones" in the company's current Android lineup.

Milestone, you may remember, is Motorola's branding for what we in the States know as Droid. The original Milestone is the European and Canadian equivalent of the Motorola Droid; the Droid name itself is licensed specifically by Verizon and can't be used by other companies.

So for all practical purposes, the new Motorola Milestone XT720 is a cousin of the Droid smartphone family. Here's the lowdown on what the device is all about and how it might fit into America's Android future.

The Motorola Milestone XT720

The Motorola Milestone XT720's standout feature is its flash -- and no, not that kind of Flash (though it should eventually support that, too). The XT720's flash is part of its hardware: The phone features an 8-megapixel camera with built-in Xenon flashing capabilities.

A Xenon flash is comparable to what you'd find in a regular digital camera: As opposed to simply shining an LED, as most smartphone cameras do, the Xenon flash uses actual gas to generate a short, bright burst of light when you snap a photo. It's more powerful than an LED flash, meaning you can get photos in darker situations and from farther distances. The XT720 is the first Android phone to use it.

That aside, Motorola's Milestone XT720 boasts the ability to record high-def video and view it directly on an HDTV, thanks to its built-in HDMI port. And, unlike Sprint's recent HTC EVO 4G release, the XT720 even comes with its own HDMI cable -- a nice little perk in the purchasing process.

Some other noteworthy specs for the Milestone XT720:

• The XT720 has a 3.7-inch, 480-by-854-pixel FWVGA screen. That should sound familiar: It's the same size and resolution as the original Droid's display.

• The phone is similar in overall size to the Droid, too, though it's slightly thinner -- by about a tenth of an inch -- due to its lack of physical keyboard. It also weighs 9 grams less.

• The new Milestone ships with Android 2.1 and, from the looks of it, some form of Motorola's Motoblur interface. The XT720 supports five home screen panels and, in Motorola's first video advertisement, appears to be running a custom skin.

• Though Motorola's official spec sheet conspicuously leaves the "processor" field blank, unofficial reports suggest the Milestone XT720 runs on a 550MHz ARM Cortex A8 CPU -- the same chip the Motorola Droid uses. Like the Droid, the XT720 also has 256MB of RAM.

• The Milestone XT720 ships with an 8GB storage card. It supports cards as high as 32GB.

The Milestone XT720 and America's Droids

So will Motorola's new Milestone XT720 be America's next Droid? Not necessarily. For now, the phone is launching only in the UK. And it may or may not ever reach our shores. The XT720, after all, is basically a slightly tweaked version of Motorola's Motoroi, which launched in South Korea early this year. Motorola frequently experiments with different models in different countries.

That's not to say Motorola won't be bringing new Droids to the States soon -- quite the contrary. The company is expected to launch two new Droid-branded smartphones on Verizon sometime this summer. A recent report in The Wall Street Journal says Motorola even struck a deal with Verizon to make sure the devices will be "heavily promoted."

Plenty of people are expecting one of those summer Droids to be the long-rumored Motorola Droid Xtreme (also sometimes called the Droid 2, Droid Shadow, and that phone some dude lost in a gym). The Droid Xtreme, according to unofficially leaked info, will feature a 4.3-inch TFT FWVGA screen, a 720MHz processor, and a mini-HDMI-out port. The phone is believed to have an 8-megapixel camera, either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, and support for up to 32GB of external storage. It's rumored to run on Android 2.1 or 2.2.

Especially given the fact that the Xtreme may have a physical keyboard -- notice the slider-like ridge in the alleged photo above? -- everything about it looks and feels like a natural successor to the original Moto Droid. The leaked info suggests it could land on Verizon around July or August, which would make it a perfect fit for one of those two mysterious summer launches. As far as rumors go, this one's looking more and more like it might have merit.

As for Verizon's second new summer Droid, guess away. It could be an American edition of the Milestone XT720; it could be a lower-end version of the Motorola Xtreme. Or it could be some other device altogether -- one that has yet to be lost at a bar, a gym, or in Lady Gaga's hair.

Stay tuned.

Author JR Raphael writes the new Android Power blog at Computerworld. You can find him on Facebook:

This story, "Motorola's Milestone XT720: Is This The Next Droid?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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