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Appeared on: Thursday, September 07, 2006
Motorla Q


1. Introduction

Motorola logoWe heard the hype…."the coolest, slimmest Smartphone ever." But, how true was all that? Is the new Motorola Q the Smartphone that you finally put in your pocket? Is it the sexiest, coolest phone on the planet? Read on for our full, detailed hands on review.

I love my Treo 650. The only thing that comes close to making me want to replace my Treo 650 is the 700P I had a chance to test and review a couple of months ago.

I was so excited when the box showed up from Motorola with a shiny, new Q on the inside. If first impressions count, I was blown away when I took this thing out of the box. It feels half as heavy as the Treo. There is no external antenna and it is actually thinner than I thought it would be.

The facts: According to the Motorola press pages, here are the most up to date specs on the “Q.”

The Moto Q: The First no-Compromises QWERTY
Today’s users are looking for mobility to give them the best combination of style, voice, messaging and entertainment and the Motorola Q delivers. The world’s thinnest QWERTY, the Motorola Q changes the playing field for mobile devices by delivering a superior uncompromising mobile experience in one amazing ultra-thin package.

side viewUltra-thin Look & Feel

Fifty percent thinner than its top competitors, the Motorola Q is also lightweight and features electro-luminescent keys, QWERTY keyboard, thumbwheel for single-handed control, and internal antenna. The Motorola Q also provides users the opportunity to balance work and play through additional features such as a large, vibrant, color screen, Web surfing capabilities, a 1.3 mega pixel camera with photo lighting, video and MP3 audio capabilities, and cool compatible Bluetooth®-enabled accessories like the new RAZRWIRE Bluetooth® eyewear.

The Ultimate Voice Experience

Motorola invented the mobile phone so you know we know voice! Leveraging Motorola’s expertise in RF technology, the new Q delivers the best phone experience you can get on a QWERTY. Featuring a high-quality speakerphone, voice-activated dialing and Bluetooth functionality, the Q enables hands-free multitasking for today’s busy work environment.

Your Office Space, Any Place

With the Motorola Q, mobile professionals can be confident they can be productive by having a quality phone and email experience in an innovative and stylish form factor. The Motorola Q leverages Microsoft’s familiar and trusted Windows Mobile software and is among the first devices to run on the new Windows Mobile 5.0 platform which delivers scalable and cost-effective mobile messaging support with Exchange 2003 out of the box.

Summary of Key Features

One of the first devices to run on Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0; Optimized for Microsoft Exchange 2003 and a variety of third party email solutions that enable a broad set of corporate email capabilities.

All that being said, let’s take a look at this baby up close.


2. Contents and Design

contentsWhat's in the Box?

The contents of the box are a little sparser than I would like - but they were adequate. The Q comes with an AC charger, installation CD, Verizon CD, instruction manual and that's about it.

 

 

Design:

The Q clearly takes its design “Q’s” from the very popular RAZR line. When I put the Q next to my son’s RAZR I was amazed to see that it is actually thinner than the RAZR. (look at the Q between a Treo and an Axim).

profiles comparedThe Q is slightly wider than the Treo line of Smartphones, but less than half as thick. The keyboard of the Q is more spread out than the Treo’s, making two finger typing easier.

The Keyboard has black keys for the numbers which are activated by an alt kind of key along the bottom left hand side. At the very bottom of the keyboard are dedicated keys for email, the camera and speakerphone/voice activation.

Above the keyboard sits the green Phone dial button and the red cancel phone button is at the far right. In between are a dedicated “Home” button and a “back” arrow – both surrounding a wonderfully designed D-pad. Sitting on top and to either side of the D-pad are the two “soft” keys which are becoming customary on Windows Mobile 5 phones.

Speaking of Windows Mobile 5 – one of the distinguishing features of the Q is that it is a Smartphone that uses the Windows Mobile Smartphone OS. That means it has no Touch Screen like a PDA or like the Treo or other Pocket PC phones. Navigation (which I will go over in detail) is carried out with hardware buttons.

Speaking of the Screen, the Q uses a 320x240 TFT screen. While this is a lower resolution than Palm’s 320x320, it was gorgeous to behold (more on that later).

Along the right hand side of the Q you will find a wonderfully executed Jog dial, reminiscent of Sony Clie days. The helps make the Q “blackberry-esque.” Below the Jog Dial is a dedicated “back” button which proved to be quite usefull.


There is absolutely nothing along the bottom of the Q. Along the left side is the port for charging and connecting to the PC (a mini-USB port) and an opening (covered with a rubber covering) for a mini-SD card. The IR port sits above that.
Along the top is a covered jack for headphones. Sadly. Motorola, like Palm, included a mini-jack so you need an adapter (not provided) for plugging in “real” headphones.

Lastly, on the back is the 1.3 mega pixel camera with flash and 6x zoom.


3. Using the Q

The Q as a “Phone.”

front viewI have always felt a little funny putting my Treo up to my face and making phone calls. It is bulky and must look silly. The Q is so slender that I didn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable.

The Q is astounding as a phone – light-years ahead of the Smartphone competition when it comes to call quality, volume and ease of use. The right hand “soft” key brings up your contacts (synced from Outlook.) just type in a letter of the name you are looking for and the list adjusts to the letters you type.

I found this feature to be very similar to making calls on the Treo but better implemented. Once the correct number is highlighted, just press the left soft key or the center of the D-pad for dialing. The Q supports call waiting, call forwarding, three way calling and the like.

One of the hidden gems to this phone is voice dialing (which the Palm OS Treos still don’t support out of the box.) This is a full featured voice command program. Say “launch” and the name of a program, and it asks you to confirm your selection – say yes and it launches. Say “Call” and then add a name, and the voice recognition software kicks in and displays two or three names. Just confirm with a “yes” and the phone dials.

I cannot emphasize how clear calls were on both ends with the Q. The Q can store speed dials, add specific ring tones and pictures for callers and offers lots of mapable fields in the contacts directory, making choosing the right number to dial even easier.

In short, the Q is an outstanding phone.

The Q as a PDA:

This may be the make or break issue for some. Since the Q has no touch screen, you can only view Microsoft Office and Adobe pdf files –you cannot edit them like you can on your Treo or Pocket PC phone.

That being said, the viewer was quite good. Simply drag a Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Pdf file to the My Documents directory and then use the file manager application to find it. Once opened you can use the soft keys to either zoon in or pan the file. While it took a little getting used to, it became quite easy to manipulate the view of the document in order to read it.

Viewing documents did require an extra step to find them and then open them – but they looked so nice on the Q’s screen.

The Q sync all your data from Outlook, so you have easy access to all your contacts, calendar and notes and memos. The contact program is far more robust than Palm’s counterpart with many more user definable fields in which to enter data.

TheCalendar program took a little getting used to since I am so accustomed to a touch screen. Once the date was selected, I really like all the options for scheduling appointments – separate fields for location, status, sensitivity, notes as well as the normal information made for a highly customizable appointment calendar.

I did miss the lack of being to edit documents in Documents to Go, but I realize that I have only actually “edited” documents a hand full of times in years – most of my use is for reading documents and the Q handled that fine.

The Q as a portable media player:

The Q comes with Windows Media 10 Player for Windows Mobile. It supports most Audio formats and most video formats right out of the box. Using Windows XP Media edition I could easily transfer media. I could also just drag and drop to the appropriate folder using the “explore” command in Active Sync.

The Q excels as a media player. The screen is gorgeous. It may be technically a lower resolution, but it is so much clearer than any other Smartphone screen I have seen. The screen rivals the Ipod Video and the PSP for clarity and color. (look at the Gadgetnutz web site on the Q, the Treo and the Axim.)

Video played beautifully with nary a quiver or stutter. Music was loud and clear thanks to two stereo speakers on the back. With third party software, the Q was also able to stream Sirius Satellite radio beautifully. If I wanted to listen to my own music, I just loaded MP3’s onto the mini-SD card.

Streaming video on the web was also clear, except the default video size was quite small. Some videos would not play full screen – but in more of a widescreen format – acceptable, but not ideal.

Speaking of Media, the camera on the Q is top notch. This is a 1.3 mega pixel camera with six levels of zoom. Predictably, as the zoom increased, picture quality decreased. One nice feature is that this camera has a “burst” feature that allows for rappid picture taking so you capture that “perfect” shot. The Flash and White balance can be set to automatic or can be user adjusted. All in all, this was an excellent camera for a Phone.

Email and Text Messaging:

The Q is not a Blackberry – that being said, for most of us, the Q will handle our email needs just fine. The Keyboard is great. The keys have a nice, solid feel. They are also more separated than the Treo keys making two finger typing much easier. They light up in a nice Blue tint for use in the dark.

The Q syncs with your Outlook email, it also allows you to set up POP 3 and IMAP email accounts. Set up was very easy. I let the Q try to automatically adjust the settings for my various email accounts and it did so with ease.

My only bone with the Email program is that it is slow – much slower than retrieving email on the Treo. For whatever reason, the Q just took forever to log on and retrieve the mail. The default is to just get the header, so if it is an email you really need – you have to log on again to get the body.

It also takes one extra step - one extra menu and button push to get email than it does on the Treo. That being said, the beautiful screen and default text display made reading email a joy. The jog dial on the right hand side was great for one-handed viewing and scrolling.

Text messaging was also very easy and enjoyable. While it doesn’t have the “chat” set-up of the Treo that I prefer, it was very easy to select contacts and text them. The great keyboard made texting a joy.

Web Browsing on the Q:

The Q’s screen is set up in a sort of landscape mode. This makes viewing web pages very nice with less scrolling necessary. Since the Q is EvDO enabled, web sites loaded in a snap. While not quite “broadband” speed – there was little waiting involved in web surfing. Most sites automatically loaded their “mobile” sites. Colors were beautiful and much more like what we see on our PC screens than most Smartphone screens.

It was very easy to set up and return to favorites. The jog dial and the back button on the side were very useful when surfing the web. All in all, the Q was the most satisfying web experience I have had to date on a Smartphone.

Bluetooth:

The Q is equipped with a Bluetooth 1.2 radio on board. Pairing Bluetooth headsets was a breeze. I was also able to Bluetooth Sync with my PC.

One of the coolest features of the Q’s Bluetooth implementation is that is supports Bluetooth Stereo. I have yet to try this out – but I would love to get a set of Bluetooth headphones and see how they sound.

One important item of note – headsets that sounded horrible with the Treo sounded clear and amazing with the Q. I may need to go and update a few headset reviews after listening to them with the Q.

So, what’s not to love:

Given that the Q is less than half the thickness of the Treo, it goes to say that the battery is less than half the thickness as well. That translates into terrible battery life. With little to moderate use, I was unable to get through a typical day without charging.

If I didn’t charge the battery at night, the phone would invariably be “dead” by morning. Video watching and Music listening were not as taxing as web browsing, email retrieving and game playing.

There is an extended battery which was offered at a promotional price of $19.99 last month, but now seems to be almost $60.00. Still, it is well worth it to invest in longer battery life.

What is also not to love, and no fault of Motorola, is Verizon. In my personal experience, Verizon is the absolute worst at customer service and support. Their coverage is great – but that’s where it stops.

Also, Verizon’s all you can eat data plan is over forty bucks compared to fifteen for Sprint. The good news is that the Q is coming to Sprint very soon and a GSM model seems to be in the works as well.


4. Conclusion

Overall Conclusions:

The Q is the sleekest, sexiest and coolest gadget I have ever had the privilege of playing with….I mean testing. If you want a gadget that will get noticed – this is the one.

First and foremost, the Q is a great phone – one of the best cell phones I have ever used. I don’t know about you, but I use and rely on the “phone” part of my converged device more than the “Smart” part.

The Q feels very solid, but when you take off the battery cover it is almost as flimsy as paper. This leaves me wondering what would happen if the Q were to fall.

The screen is the best that you will find on a smartphone, the keyboard is great to use, call quality is top notch, surfing the web was fun and looked great and the Q is two to three hundred dollars less than any competing Smartphone!

Verizon lists the Q for $199.00 with a two year activation, but I found it on Amazon for only $99.00 with activation. At either of those prices, the Q is a steal.

Sprint just announced that it would be releasing the Q in the fall. Cingulair seems to have a Q in the works with spy photos appearing on the web. If pricing is similar to Verizon’s, the Q will truly be a Treo slayer.

The Motorola Q is available for $199.00 at www.verizonwireless.com or any Verizon store. It is US$99.00 on www.amazon.com

Pricing for Sprint has yet to be announced.

Pros:


Cons:

 



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