A RAZR-Thin Communicator

The Palm Treo 700P looked so small and stylish only a few months ago. But now the Motorola Q is here, and everything else seems way too large. Leave it to Motorola, designer to some of the sexiest cell phones around, to give us an ultra-thin smartphone that doesn’t skimp on features.

The Q measures 4.6 x 2.5 x 0.5-inches and weighs in at 4.1 ounces., making it much smaller than the Treo 700P (6.4 oz.) or the Sidekick 3 (6.5 oz.). Imagine using a smartphone that slides easily into your pocket, yet has just about everything you’ll want from a smartphone, including good connectivity options, a full QWERTY keyboard, a camera and a memory card slot.

The front of the Q holds the 320 x 240-pixel, 65,000 color TFT screen, which is nice and bright, although it gets easily smudged during phone use. Below that is a simple button layout that will be familiar to anyone who’s used a cell phone before.

We like that Motorola kept the button layout familiar and didn’t feel the need to make it look cutting-edge with an innovative layout. Instead, the buttons are simple and clear. In the top center is a four-way directional pad, surrounded by call, end call, home, back, and soft buttons (which change depending on what’s on the screen).

We found the standard keyboard easy to use for thumb typing. You’ll find dedicated buttons for calling up the camera and voice recorder. A few of the button icons are less than clear, so you may want to consult the manual if you can’t figure them out.

The left side holds the IR port and a rubber flap that covers the miniSD port. You’ll need to supply your own SD card, as the Q doesn’t come with one. The right side holds a BlackBerry-like clickable thumb wheel (or a pointer finger wheel, if you’re left-handed), plus a button that lets you move back one screen. One-handed operation is simple for anything except typing.

The rear holds the 1.3-megapixel camera, which has a 6x digital zoom. We’d rather see a two-megapixel camera, which are so far only found on a few of the better cell phones, but the pictures we took with it were good enough for casual use. They weren’t quite perfectly sharp and showed some motion blur, but did fine with still-life shots. Note that there’s no version without a camera, so if you work in a sensitive environment that doesn’t allow cameras, you’re out of luck.

The Q is an all-in-one communication station, letting you keep in touch with work, friends and family in whatever way you like. It’s a dual mode phone (CDMA 850 / CDMA 1900), and call quality was fairly good in our testing. The Q is currently only offered by Verizon, and so we were using the Verizon CDMA network. We didn’t experience any dropped calls in the New York area, but a few calls had an echo sound to them. It was mildly distracting, but not a huge nuisance.

The Q runs Windows Mobile for Smartphones version 5.0, so you’ll get a familiar Windows interface and familiar online tools. Surf online with a pocket version of Internet Explorer, using Verizon’s EV-DO high-speed network.

It worked fine in our testing, although you would never confuse it with a true broadband network. Pages loaded in 15 to 20 seconds, typically. You don’t realize how many of your frequently visited sites have 500k pages until you start surfing on something with reduced bandwidth.

Setting up an e-mail account is easier with this OS than with previous ones, so you’ll have your mail in only minutes. Accessing e-mail and the Web requires buying an online data plan (starting at $79.99 per month).

The Motorola Q Smartphone
The Motorola Q Smartphone

So far, Verizon hasn’t shipped the on-device client to enable push e-mail support on the Q with Microsoft Exchange, however. So Motorola’s BlackBerry-killer, as of now, can’t deliver the same type of wireless services as RIM’s handhelds and servers.

While the phone has Bluetooth, support is limited. You can use it to connect to Bluetooth accessories, which Verizon will be happy to sell you (including stereo headphones), but you can’t connect it to your notebook to use it as a modem. The Q doesn’t have Wi-Fi, which is a shame since it means you’ll need the costly data plan to go online.

With its Windows OS, the Q should feel familiar the minute you pick it up. Windows pocket operating systems have never been as simple to use as the Palm OS, but this version comes close with lots of quick links on the desktop and simple navigation.

Click the Start menu to see your loaded apps. The Q comes with pocket versions of Windows Media Player and MSN, as well as the standard calendar, contact, task, and memo apps.

If you need to do some serious work on the road, you’ll be better off with a Windows Mobile Pocket PC device, as this OS doesn’t include Office editing capability, only viewing. You can stay in touch with a Windows Smartphone device, but it’s not a notebook-lite, like a Pocket PC handheld.

The Q comes with a quick reference guide, a thick user manual (a bonus, since many devices come with electronic manuals on CDs) and a USB cable for syncing with your Windows PC. There’s no case or belt clip, unfortunately, so you’ll need to shell out for one in order to keep your Q looking pretty.

The Q is rated for 200 minutes of talk time and 200 hours of standby. It held out for several days of frequent use in our testing, and would likely need to be charged every four or five days. While calls occasionally echoed, service was reliable.

You can buy the Q from Verizon Wireless for $199, which includes a $100 instant savings and a two year commitment. That’s a good price for a smartphone with so much going for it.

With its slimmed down design and its impressive feature list, the Q is a beautifully made smartphone for people who want power, convenience and style. The worse thing about it is that it makes the competitors look awfully bulky.

Adapted from pdastreet.com.

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