This Windows smart phone makes a fashion statement, but it lacks the software found on competing models.
Like the Razr before it, the Motorola Q clearly aims to make a fashion - and technophile - statement. Slim and stylish, this silver-hued PDA/phone is just 11.5mm thick - thinner than the Razr, and significantly more compact than competing smart phones from HP, Palm, Research in Motion, and T-Mobile. Unfortunately, the unit lacks some of the features found on the competition, such as a selection of office productivity apps.
The Q is not yet available in the UK, but can be pre-ordered from the usual sites. In the US, it costs $300 with a two-year contract. In the land of PDA phones, that's a bargain, but it comes with some trade-offs. In particular, I found the limitations of the Windows Mobile operating system (the same problems that I and others have experienced with the T-Mobile SDA, for example) constraining. These constraints are more noticeable on the Q than they are on the SDA (which we categorise as a standard cell phone), perhaps because I wanted this PDA/phone to be more capable out of the box - more like the Treo 700w, for example. The Q's bundled software includes only a document viewer, so you'll need to purchase another application if you want to edit office documents. It also lacks a notepad.
With the design of the Windows Mobile 5-based Q, Motorola seems to be attempting to create a new hybrid that draws on the best elements of the latest smart phones from Palm (maker of the Treo 700 series, see our reviews of the 700w and 700p) and RIM (maker of the BlackBerry 8700 series - see our review). On the upper-right corner of the phone, a BlackBerry-like click wheel let's you scroll through content. The device also has a five-way navigational control, a QWERTY keyboard, and six menu navigation buttons in the center, just like the Palm Treo series. The menu navigation buttons here are pressure-sensitive and soft, however--a design touch reminiscent of, though not identical to, the flat buttons on the Razr.
As appealing as I found the overall look of the Q - and as impressed as I am with what this phone packs inside its streamlined chassis - I was disappointed by its design in several respects. The keyboard's lack of a backspace button among the QWERTY keys proved problematic. I also found the click wheel a bit stiff, and the soft-key panel surprisingly tough for my fingers to navigate - in part because of the unit's width (it's wider than the more palm-friendly Palm Treo 700). Given the unit's lack of a touch screen, how your hand responds to the feel of the buttons will determine how much you enjoy using the Q.
Another gripe concerns the position of the mini-USB port. I know I've often used a cell phone while it's tethered to an outlet charging. However, Motorola locates the mini-USB port--which doubles as the power port--in an awkward position on the lower left of the Q. This is inconvenient if you try to use the device in your hands - either for reading content, or putting it up to your ear.
The good bits
Some things I really liked: I found the keyboard, with its slanted, oblong keys, roomy compared to the Treo's, and easier to handle than the keyboard on the much-wider BlackBerry 8700 series. The Q has a bright, clear QVGA 320-by-240-resolution display, a miniSD Card slot on the side, and a top-mounted headphone jack. The unit's 1.3-megapixel digital camera has a reasonably effective 6X digital zoom. The camera has a dedicated access button (lower row of the keyboard, along with dedicated email and speakerphone buttons), but I found saving and changing functions within the camera mode unintuitive. For example, the image preview only occupies the middle section of the roomy screen.
In day-to-day use, I had mixed feelings about the Q. The unit takes longer to start up than I liked, though it wasn't any worse than T-Mobile SDA. Ostensibly you can use the unit with one hand, but I found the unit much better suited to two-handed operation.
Despite access to Verizon's high-speed EvDO wireless network, the Q seemed sluggish on the Internet. In our lab tests, the Q's talk-time battery life scored only Fair, lasting 5 hours and 38 minutes - better than battery life of the Treo 700p and 700w, but worse than most PDA/phones we've tested recently.
If you need a slimline, large-screened companion at a comparatively low price, the Q deserves consideration. But if looks and size aren't paramount, it may be worth the extra bucks to step up to another device, and gain more functionality.
If you need a thin big-screened smartphone at a comparatively low price, consider the Q. If looks and size aren't important, think about other devices with more functionality.