A very capable phone that offers a budget alternative to BlackBerries. (April 14th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Motorola
Price: $150 (2/3-year contract), $450 (no contract)
- Superb QWERTY keyboard and D-pad.
- Quality fit and finish.
- Good (though not great) battery life.
- DocumentsToGo and Handmark Express out of the box.
- Solid call quality.
- Unusually wide (though not thick) among smartphones.
- Camera is below-average in a world of BlackBerries.
- Not a media phone; no dedicated headphone jack or headphones.
- Potentially below-average signal strength, though it didn't affect tests.
- Relatively spare amount of extra software.
the Q's history and the Q 9
Motorola generated a lot of early buzz with the Q, which was understandably pitched as the bringing the RAZR's still-hot aesthetic to smartphones. At the time, this was nearly the only help the company needed to give the phone a boost: while not the blockbuster hit the RAZR was, many bought it because it promised a cheap entryway into a normally expensive world.
Like the RAZR, though, Motorola let the Q continue in the market for a long time and wasn't as quick to improve on the formula as some would have liked. By 2007, the phone was almost a giveaway item; carriers like Amp'd Mobile turned it into a social networking phone rather than the business phone Motorola originally meant it to be. There were also a number of key flaws, such as cramped keys and limited software.
Despite the name, the Q 9 is Motorola's first real update to the Q since its launch in 2006 and is built to fix flaws and take the Q back upscale. It's already been on the market for a few months as the Moto Q Global at AT&T and the Q 9h at most GSM phone providers; with the Q 9c, it's now time for CDMA providers such as Sprint in the US and Telus in Canada to have their turn at the device.
design and hardware controls
A first hands-on with the Q 9c makes it clear: this phone is large. Holding the phone requires a fairly deliberate, open grip, and will make phones like the BlackBerry Curve or the Samsung BlackJack II (known as the JACK in Canada) feel thin by comparison. It's not uncomfortable, but the sensation of bringing it to your ear isn't quite as intuitive as it is for other phones that provide more room to curl your fingers around the front. Motorola supplies a belt holster for the phone that is seemingly there to accommodate Q owners with narrow pockets as much as it is for workers who want the phone always at the ready.
Thankfully, there are some positive tradeoffs to the added girth -- namely, the keyboard. The width makes for an extremely comfortable and friendly key layout which is flatter and gentler than on the original Q and more accurate than on a lot of narrower devices. While it would be overstating the case to say that other phones are accident prone, there was also no looming sense that each press was about to bring a mistype, which is slightly more likely in the case of the BlackJack II or other designs. If there's a complaint, it's that dedicated media keys aren't as clearly labeled as they ought to be.
The directional pad is an improvement on both the original Q's somewhat crude-feeling pad and also the Q 9h/Global, which uses a circular pad instead of the squarish design of the 9c. The thumbwheel isn't quite as refined as on BlackBerries, however, and feels somewhat simple (if precise); the lack of readily identifiable hardware volume controls is also a minor but noticeable problem.
It must be said that the Q 9c does carry a sense of class that sometimes isn't present for other smartphones. The chrome trim is perhaps flashy, but the phone as a whole looks upscale and feels well-built, even if this does come at the expense of some bulk. Kudos also go to Motorola for a subtler backlight than on some phones: it always glows a dim but visible blue and cuts down on eye strain at night.