Motorola CLIQ: best Android phone ever *

* …Considering this is only the third-ever Android phone and that we only got an hour to play with the phone under the tutelage of some Motorola reps.

The CLIQ is a heavy phone. I don't just mean physically — it makes a weighty impression after using it for just an hour. Besides some nice convenience features (like a headphone jack), the phone's real secret weapon is the MOTOBLUR software, which leverages the Android OS to better organize everything on your phone that doesn't involve calls. Which these days is a lot.

More after the jump.

Physically, at 5.7 ounces, the CLIQ (see more photos here) is surprisingly heavy, but it was hard to figure out why. You get Android's pop-up touch QWERTY as well as a three-line slide-out QWERTY keypad, which is easier to handle with easier-to-read keys than the keyboard on the first-ever Android phone, the HTC-made G1, but tougher to type on. The keys are packed tight and require a solid press to register. Along with a 5MP camera, there's a headphone jack, annoyingly missing from both the G1 and the MyTouch 3G. The rear has a sure-grip texturized rubber surface.

To minimize the number of hard buttons on the front panel and thereby create more room for the touchscreen, Motorola has removed the physical Send and End keys and moved them to the touchscreen, along with a Contacts touch key. To make the screen more readable and to save power, the display has an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust brightness. The battery savings goes to talk time — CLIQ is rated to get an impressive 7.5 hours

Even if CLIQ's physical amenities were awful, its exploitation and expansion of Android alone make it the new Android standard, setting a new paradigm for organizing the ever-increasing number of a cellphone's non-verbal communications. The philosophy behind the CLIQ and Motorola's MOTOBLUR Android-plus interface is that there's no reason to keep track of multiple social networking, messaging and e-mail accounts. When you initially set-up the CLIQ, it prompts you for all your e-mail and social-network information. It aggregates all the data from all these sources — all contacts with phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. (but maintains the original data within their individual applications) to create on big, super-meta file. For instance, you can choose one picture of yourself from all your accounts to be your caller ID photo to others.

You now get three onscreen dialog bubbles (at least that's what they look like to me). "Messages" collects all your incoming one-to-one messages, "Happenings" collects all social networking feeds, and "Social Status" aggregates all your personal status messages. Tap on one dialog bubble and you can swipe through all categories of communications, regardless of source, and you can reply easily via any source. For instance, if you get an e-mail, you can respond via text simply by choosing this option from a list in the message window. If someone writes on your Facebook wall, you can reply via e-mail. You can broadcast a blast to all your peeps on multiple networks, or just one. You can update your status on all your social networks at one time.

You also can opt to display dialog bubbles for individual Yahoo Widget RSS feeds. If you don't like swiping through sequential dialog bubbles — and you will — you can simply view them listed in a more convenient swipe-scrollable list.

All of these dialog bubbles can really crowd the home screen panels on the 3.1-inch screen, so Motorola has expanded Android's three home panels to five. Even still, any shortcuts you've dragged from the app menu silo to the home screen are apt to get buried underneath the multiple dialog bubbles.

MOTOBLUR also replaces Android's photo gallery with a far superior swipeable gallery with cool 3D transitions, not only from photo-to-photo but even as the accelerometer turns a photo to fill the screen. And of course you can broadcast one or multiple photos to some or all of your social networks.

Since MOTOBLUR's reorganization of the CLIQ's non-verbal communications is so radically different, it took almost the full allotted hour to grok it. But once we did, it was clear its radical efficiencies render mere talking an annoying inconvenience.