"Back in Black" - Sprint Moto Q
A few months ago, I had the privilege of reviewing the Motorola Q from Verizon. I concluded that I was ready to dump my Treo for this beautiful Smartphone. Since then, I have tested other Windows Mobile beauties, most notably, the Samsung Blackjack. Now the Q gets an update and a migration to Sprint's PowerVision Network. So, how does the new Q fare in what is becoming a "crowded" field of contenders for the title "Best SmartPhone available?"
The facts: According to the Sprint press pages, here are the most up to date specs on the “Black Q.”
Slim and stylish, the Moto Q offered from Sprint operates on the Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Platform with the Messaging and Security Feature Pack and gives customers easy access to mobile email*, Web*, calendar, music, video and phone functionality in one pocket-sized device. Exclusive features available only from Sprint include:
- Sprint Mobile Broadband Service on the Sprint Power Vision(SM) Network.
- Customized Sprint Powerdeck - The NEW Sprint Powerdeck Located in the Internet Explorer Favorites Menu will provide users with Featured Content, optimized content links and an online searchable User Guide for convenient access to tips, troubleshooting techniques and how-to instructions.
- NFL Mobile – available exclusively from Sprint, this application brings the world of NFL to your handset. Access team content, check real-time scores and stats, and shop for NFL downloads. NFL Mobile is included with any Sprint Power Vision data pack starting as low as $15 a month.
- On Demand – retrieve customized, up-to-date web content such as sports, weather, news, money and movie information with the push of a button.
"Life today goes beyond the home or office. The Motorola Q operating on the Sprint Power Vision Network gives our customers the power of information that moves with them in a sleek, ultra-thin form factor," said Danny Bowman, vice president of customer equipment for Sprint. "And with a Sprint Power Vision Access pack, available for as low as $15 per month, Sprint customers have the power do more for less each month."
In addition to the exclusive Sprint offerings, customers can benefit from the following advanced features:
- Enhanced email capabilities with Good Mobile Messaging – provides secure, real-time access to email and corporate data with familiar, Outlook-like interface. Available directly from the Sprint Powerdeck allowing for convenient and easy installation*
- QWERTY keyboard for easy, accurate messaging
- Flexible push e-mail capabilities including support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and Good Mobile Messaging, as well as consumer email solutions such as POP3, IMAP4 and (SM)TP protocols*
- Wireless synchronization with Microsoft Outlook e-mail, calendar, tasks and contacts
- Windows Media Player 10 Mobile for playback and streaming of music, video and audio
- Large, high-resolution display
- Integrated version 1.2 Bluetooth wireless technology 1.2
- 1.3 MP camera with flash and 6x digital zoom, video capture with sound and playback
- Externally accessible mini SD card slot for additional storage
- Five-way navigation button and thumb wheel for single-handed operation
Sprint is enabling the MOTO Q with flexible connectivity options including phone-as–modem functionality to allow customers to use the device with a laptop for high-speed data access via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network.*
While much of the inner workings of the Sprint Q are similar, there are some significant differences that I will highlight throughout this review.
2. Design and Use
The Sprint Q is identical in layout and dimensions as the Motorola Q. What is different is the exterior housing. Sprint chose to go with a "rubberized" feel and a deep, charcoal gray color. I find this combination to be vastly superior to the Verizon Q.
The Q feels beautiful in the hand. The rubbery feel is nice and the build quality seems very solid.
The Q is slightly wider than the Treo line of Smartphones, but less than half as thick. The Q is also wider than the Samsung Blackjack - but the keys are more spread out and I found them more useable than both the Treo and Blackjack keys.
The Keyboard has light silver 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. I really think that this is where the Smartphone industry will go (despite the iPhone and its total touchscreen design.) Navigation (which I will go over in detail) is carried out with hardware buttons.
Speaking of the Screen, the Q uses a 320 x240 TFT screen. While this is a lower resolution than Palm’s 320 x 320, it was gorgeous to behold. I wrote in the Blackjack review that it was the most beautiful screen to date and I still stand by that - but the Q screen is very crisp and should meet all of your needs.
Along the right hand side of the Q you will find a wonderfully executed Jog dial, reminiscent of the side of most BlackBerry Phones. The helps make the Q “blackberry-esque.” Below the Jog Dial is a dedicated “back” button which proved to be quite useful.
There is absolutely nothing along the bottom of the Q(with the exception of the very nice looking Sprint Logo). 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.
How is it as a Phone?
I 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. It is a little wider to hold - but it is so thin that it was very comfortable to hold and use.
The Q is great as a phone – light-years ahead of the Smartphone competition when it comes to call quality, volume and ease of use (with the exception of the Blackjack and the BlackBerry Pearl.) 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.
How "Smart" is the Q as a SmartPhone?
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. However, DataViz has just released their highly acclaimed Documents To Go program which allows users to edit all their Microsoft Office programs. And, Windows Mobile 6 will allow this out of the box for Smartphones.
That being said, the viewer was quite good. Simply drag a Word, Excel, Power Point 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 zoom 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.
The Calendar 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.
Can the Q be a Personal Media Device?
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 very bright and clear. The screen rivals the Ipod Video and the PSP for clarity and color.
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.
Now, here is the amazing thing about this phone; I was able to use SlingPlayer Mobile and connect to my home Cable box with no trouble at all. It was really amazing to stream my own TV from anyplace I happened to be.
Also, with free third party software, I was able to stream Sirius Satellite Radio over my Q. The beauty of the Q is that it supports A2DP - streaming bluetooth wireless stereo - that means that I could wear my Blue Ant X-5 Bluetooth headphones and listen to Satellite radio with no wires - very, very cool.
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 rapid 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 – (next week I will have a review of the BlackBerry Pearl which will illustrate that point.) 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 and Blackjack 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 is possible to schedule email retrieval from every fifteen minutes to twice a day if you don't feel like manually retrieving your email. Also, you can set up Good if you have permission from your IT department to access the corporate server.
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 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.
The Sprint version of the Q adds a couple of web features that were lacking on the Verizon version. Sprint Powerdeck is set up as the first book mark. It has a link to software updates, helpful websites and FAQ's. It also gives a direct link to over the air downloads for software, ringtones, etc.
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 (which I spoke of above.)
One important item of note – headsets that sounded horrible with the Treo sounded clear and amazing with the Q.
So, what’s not to love:
The Battery life on the Sprint Q is terrible - just as bad as the Verizon version. 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 used the Slingbox or listened to Sirius, my battery was dead in no time at all. If I didn’t charge the battery at night, the phone would invariably be “dead” by morning. Video watching and Music listening were more taxing than web browsing, email retrieving and game playing.
There is an extended battery which was available - but it should really be included for free. If not that, I very much preferred the Samsung Blackjack idea of including two batteries and an additional battery charger.
Sprint also skimps on included accessories and software. You get an AC charger, a USB cable and a very basic software disk - that's about it. No headphones for the smaller 2.5 mm jack, no holster (like Verizon) and no real additional software. The BlackJack was much more robust in its included accessories and software.
Lastly, although this is a "PowerVision" phone - it really should be able to take advantage of all the "PowerVision" services like Sprint TV and other video and audio content. I don't know why such a capable phone isn't linked to that system.
The Q is no longer the sleekest, sexiest and coolest SmartPhone that it was when Verizon first launched it. The Blackjack is smaller and thinner and the BlackBerry Pearl is smaller, just as thin and way sexier.
That being said, the fact that I could use this as a GPS with CoPilot Live, watch TV via SlingPlayer Mobile and listen to Sirius Radio makes this pretty cool.
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 "rubberized" feel makes it seem sturdier than the Verizon counterpart.
Speaking of Verizon, I have written in the past about my experiences with Verizon and their customer service. My experience with Sprint is so incredibly superior that it would be unfair not to mention it in this review.
The screen is among 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 many competing Smartphones!
The Q is also (and this seems crazy to say) starting to look "dated" when put next to the Samsung Blackjack and the BlackBerry Pearl. Sprint had a great opportunity to not just offer the same hardware with the same battery issues as Verizon, but to update it. If you are a Sprint subscriber, this is a no-brainer over every other SmartPhone they offer.
Sprint lists the Q for $199.00 with a two year activation after rebates, but I found it on Amazon for only $49.00 after rebates with activation. At either of those prices, the Q is a steal.
- Great form factor
- jog wheel is great for navigating
- screen is Beautiful
- Sound quality is top notch
- EvDO makes web browsing very quick
- feels so nice in your hands
- pricing makes this a great Smartphone for the money
- Competitive Data Plan at only $15.00 a month
- Battery life was terrible
- voice command recognition needs a little work
- Plastic battery cover is very flimsy and easy to break
- Most Sprint PowerVision services are not available on the Q.
The Motorola Q is available for US$199.00 at www.Sprint.com or any Verizon store. It is US$49.00 on www.amazon.com