After a span of silence, we're finally seeing the first in what is expected to be a surge of Android phones at the end of this year and early 2010. Dubbed the Motorola CLIQ, this smartphone uses a custom Android build, and, while a competent phone in many regards, the most notable features of the phone concern its deep social networking integration.
As the rate and usage of social networks has exploded, many third-party applications have emerged, such as TweetDeck, with the ability to manage multiple platforms at once. The CLIQ takes a similar concept, allowing you to import your accounts from virtually any popular social networking site, and having all of these platforms aggregate with sortable, searchable updates. You can quickly update your Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace accounts with one message. If you click on one of your contacts, you can choose to send him/her a direct message from Twitter, write on his/her wall on Facebook, or send a SMS text messages.
Obviously, these features aren't for everyone. And while cynics might think the sole market for the CLIQ is teenage girls, I beg to differ. The CLIQ is well-suited for the types of business users that are likely to use smartphones in the first place--sales staff, managers, executives, journalists, etc. With the social networking interface, these business professionals can update and monitor their social networking profiles at a more efficient rate. And with the CLIQ's slide-out keyboard, typing these short messages should be a breeze.
Smart Strategy for a Smartphone
Motorola's strategy for the CLIQ is spot on. Given Motorola's struggling handset sales (and its lack of a reputation yet in the smartphone market), creating a device that targets a logical niche is the way to go. What I like is that the CLIQ doesn't claim to be all things to all people: if you don't use social networking sites, it's not worth your time. Simple enough.
That being said, it's not as if the CLIQ is incompetent in other respects. It sports a slide-out keyboard, 5 megapixel camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, and Exchange support. One of the more innovative features on the CLIQ is that it offers five separate desktop screens that you can pan between, allowing you to logically organize your interface as you see fit. You can have one screen devoted to RSS/news, another to social networks, and so on.
Given its Android backend, it's little surprise that the CLIQ comes packaged with a host of Google applications: Gmail, Gtalk, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Search/Voice Search, and Google Marketplace. The CLIQ is expected to come to the United States in October or November. No price has been announced yet.
Below is a video from the GigaOM Mobilize 2009 conference previewing the CLIQ:
CLIQ May Not Make Waves, Should Make Splash
Motorola can't expect to reinvent the wheel with smartphones, but it has created a competent device that should appeal to a niche crowd. I'd be interested to hear what Pre users think of the CLIQ, given that one of the Pre's defining features is also social networking integration. Feel free to continue the conversation on Twitter @breinholz.