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.
call quality, reception, and battery life
Whether it's a virtue of CDMA technology or the local network in particular, call quality on the Q 9c is strictly average and compares closely to other CDMA phones I've tested. There's a slight muffled sound, but calls are always intelligible and there were no dead spots in testing. Recipients said incoming calls were clear, though louder background noises could still filter through.
There are concerns for the Q's signal strength. In testing around various spots in Ottawa, the new Q often registered lower reception than other regular phones and smartphones on the same network. Places where other phones were known to reach a steady four bars periodically dropped to three or two. This may also have played into a recurring Internet connection problem where Windows Live Messenger would disconnect without warning. Before buying, it would be a good idea to check the coverage areas to make sure you're not on the fringes where you live or work, since the connection may be slightly less stable than on other devices.
Battery life is at least on the better side of average. Perfectly accurate results are difficult to measure, but in light but consistent use of the phone and data, the Q lasts for roughly two to three days before needing a recharge; this is a blessing in an era when some phones need a recharge if they're used at all. Motorola's target audience of mobile professionals will likely still want to plug the device in every day, especially since the phone's official 4.5 hours of continuous talk could leave the phone short on heavy use. It does, however, give the phone about half an hour of extra life than the early Q.
Windows Mobile 6 on the Q 9c
While some might criticize Microsoft for the interface behind Windows Mobile 6 (and not without merit), the operating system as a whole works well with the controls provided by the updated Q. The HTC Touch tested last year unfairly soured the experience of the software through an attempt to shoehorn an iPhone-like finger touch experience into an OS that was originally designed years ago for a PDA's stylus. Motorola's take is at least honest and makes it relatively easy to hop between calls, e-mail, and the web, even if the execution isn't as slick as on some newer platforms.
That said, it quickly becomes evident that Motorola's focus on messaging and work over entertainment quickly becomes clear: there's very little preloaded on the Q besides what Microsoft offers, and the expectation is that you'll download more. There are a few key additions that Motorola has made beyond stock: the most notable is DocumentsToGo, which wasn't normally included with the first Q and serves as an alternative to Microsoft's own Office Mobile. It's simple, but it's enough to create basic workable Office documents and is definitely up to the task of opening attached documents. Handmark Pocket Express is also a useful extra which, though not completely free, makes for a much quicker way of pulling down news, weather, and other info than would be possible by visiting websites one by one.
Out of the box, the combination of the Q 9c's solid keyboard and Microsoft's messaging apps does work well. It was quick to setup and manage an ordinary home e-mail account, and Windows Live Messenger works well. All the same, hopefully future carrier launches bring non-Microsoft instant messaging clients, since it's unfortunate that users either have to find an alternative themselves or else trust their live chat to Microsoft's service.