With tethered modem support and a performance boost over the original, is the Sprint version of the Q the one to buy, or should you wait for the next model?
Review summary of the Motorola Q (Sprint):
The firmware version on the Q we tested for this review is markedly improved over the previous version. In addition to improvements in performance, the tethered modem support is something we definitely missed in the older Q. Though the Sprint version has a couple of extra software features over the Verizon Wireless version, both phones still suffer for the flaws of Windows Mobile 5, mainly a lack of editing in Office documents and a scheduling app that is a little basic for our tastes. Though we assume the Q, like the T-Mobile Dash, could be upgraded to Windows Mobile 6, until the carriers make an announcement, we're not counting on it. As it stands, however, the Motorola Q remains a competitive device, even compared to more recent phones like the Samsung BlackJack. For CDMA customers looking for a slim smartphone, this is probably your best choice. Release: January 2007. Price: $100.
Pros: Slim design in an attractive shell; better performance and tethered modem support thanks to the firmware upgrade; On Demand is a useful tool.
Cons: No Power Vision support; Internet Explorer can't handle some larger pages; Windows Mobile 6 upgrade still up in the air.
Full Motorola Q (Sprint) Review:
The iconic Q has remained mostly unchanged in its Sprint iteration (read our original review here). Internally, the hardware is identical, including the 1.3-megapixel camera and the Q's processor. Instead of the shiny silver or black shell, the Sprint version comes in a soft-touch grey. Menus come in Sprint's yellow theme, though you change themes in the Settings menu. The Motorola Q is still thinner than the Samsung BlackJack, but only by a millimeter or less. It is still an attractive smartphone, with a large, 2.5-inch QVGA screen, though with the new Motorola Q q9 on the horizon, it is hard not to lament the sharp edges and slab-like look.
Our favorite: Still thin and sleek, and we like the grippy new paint job.
Our request: Have you seen the Q q9? It's very pretty.
Calling - Very good
Like the Verizon Wireless version of the Motorola Q, we found call quality on the phone to be above average. Some callers told us our voices sounded a bit digitized, and could easily tell we were talking on a cell phone, but most calls were clear. Sprint has not added 3-way calling, a feature we missed on the Verizon Wireless version, but the phone still includes features like speaker-independent voice dialing, Bluetooth, and a speakerphone, as well as Outlook's excellent address book, with its live, while-you-type searching.
Our favorite: Outlook's contact list maintains its spot at the head of the class
Our request: Conference calling is a key business feature
Messaging - Very good
The Sprint Motorola Q comes pre-loaded with Outlook for mobile e-mail, as well as Good's Mobile Messaging. We tested the phone using Outlook with our Exchange servers, and found the interaction to be brisk. Though we still wish that Outlook would download attachments automatically, the phone handled large attachments quickly; certainly its performance was comparable to other advance Windows Mobile smartphones we've tested. We also wish Microsoft wasn't so stingy about instant messaging clients other than MSN, we'd like to see AIM and Yahoo support at least, if not ICQ. Finally, we're looking forward to the version of Outlook that will ship with Windows Mobile 6, which will be able to handle HTML-formatted e-mails.
Our favorite: The mobile Outlook is very similar to our desktop version
Our request: More instant messaging client support
Scheduling - Very good
The calendar is completely unchanged from other versions of Windows Mobile 5.0. The next version of Windows Mobile will offer some cosmetic improvements over the current Outlook calendar, including a top-level ribbon that will let you see appointments for the day, and some more detail on the weekly view. Otherwise, Outlook is a competent scheduling app, akin to the desktop version. We would like to be able to invite attendees from our address book to meetings scheduled from our Q, but the mobile Outlook doesn't provide that capability.
Our favorite: Easy to scroll through appointments quickly
Our request: Make the calendars easier on the eyes with some color and more detail
Productivity - Good
Because Windows Mobile 6 will feature a complete version of Office, with full editing features, it is hard not to fault the current Sprint Motorola Q for a lack of editing capabilities. Instead, the Sprint Q features the same Picsel viewer we saw on the Verizon Wireless Q. Picsel is a great viewer, with smooth panning and zooming attached to the clickwheel. Still, our original review of Verizon's Q faulted the device for a complete lack of editing, and we still feel the feature is necessary on a smartphone aimed at business users. For us, this is the most compelling reason to update to Windows Mobile 6, or even wait until the phone has been updated before buying. T-Mobile has already announced an update for current Dash owners, so, potentially, the Q could be updated, but until Sprint gives us an official word, we wouldn't expect anything. If you're in a hurry, DataViz is now offering their Documents to Go program for Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition, and the extra software costs $30, but gives you editing capabilities for Word, Excel, and even PowerPoint files. That software is included on the Motorola Q Pro, which is available to enterprise customers directly from Motorola.
Our favorite: Picsel does an excellent job panning and scrolling through documents
Our request: Bundle DataViz's software for editing Office docs, like we've seen on the Motorola Q Pro
Laptop Sidekick - Very Good
Since our original review of the Q, Motorola released a firmware update which enables dial-up networking. We had no problems using the Q as a tethered modem with our laptop via USB. Speeds were generally in the 600kbps range, which is about what we get from our Palm Treo 700p, also browsing on Sprint's EV-DO network. With the Treo, we've seen speeds reach into the megabit range, but haven't achieved quite that level with the Q. We also appreciate the Q's ability to charge over USB, unchanged since the Verizon version.
Multimedia - Good
Neither the Sprint version nor the Verizon Wireless version of the Motorola Q can access their respective carrier's 3G multimedia network, Power Vision and V Cast respectively. In fact, most Windows Mobile 5.0 phones we've seen lack many 3G capabilities on their carrier's network. The Samsung BlackJack was a notable exception, with its ability to browse Cingular Video and play Napster and Yahoo tracks through Cingular Music. The Sprint Q does include Handmark's On Demand software, which is a useful suite of tools for news, weather, and information like 411 listings and movie times. The application is graphically rich, and here is the first time we saw the Q struggle while opening a program. Overall, the most recent firmware update for the Q seems to have improved the lagging performance we saw on the Verizon Wireless unit we tested last June. Menu browsing runs smoothly, and programs open quickly, without an appearance by the spinning circle of waiting.
Web browsing was a mixed bag on the Q. Most pages loaded quickly, quicker than we've seen on other Windows Mobile devices. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer crashed every time we attempted to load The New York Times homepage. We've seen lesser phones load the long, complicated page without a hitch, so we were surprised that the Q had issues, especially when our own graphically rich infoSync World site loaded quickly without any layout problems. Otherwise, we like the A2DP support for stereo Bluetooth headphones, though Windows Media Player lacks the grace and intuitiveness of iTunes when it comes to syncing our tunes. The media player on the phone is basic, but competent, handling MP3s, PlaysForSure WMA files (are those still around?), and a variety of video formats, including MPEG-4 and WMV. Still, its lack of visual appeal and advanced options, like an equalizer or easy playlist creation, keep Windows Mobile phones from being true multimedia powerhouses.
Our favorite: On Demand is easier to use than Internet Explorer for basic info, like weather and movie times
Our request: Power Vision support for Sprint TV and movies
Odds and ends:
As we've said, since both the Sprint and Verizon Wireless versions of the Motorola Q contain the same hardware, and received the same firmware upgrade, we expect that performance should be the same across the carriers. Though the Verizon version ships with a case for the phone, neither carrier ships the phone with a memory card or headphones, a disappointing omission. At print time, Verizon is also offering an extra $50 mail-in rebate, which brings the cost of the Q to $150, $50 cheaper than on Sprint. Though Sprint's cheapest data plan is only $15, keeping a total month's bill as low as $55, Verizon Wireless' inclusive data plan allows unlimited laptop tethering for $80. The same feature, which we find very useful for business travelers, on Sprint will run you $40 over a $40 calling plan, making the total monthly bill for the two carriers about equal. The real competition for both carriers will be the new Motorola Q q9, which will feature high-speed networking on (presumably) AT&T's HSDPA network. Motorola has yet to announce a CDMA version of the Q q9.