It's like a bionic Q. Although the latest version for Verizon was more of a multimedia makeover, the Moto Q 9h global ($199 through the holidays, $299 after that) has been rebuilt from the ground up to make it one of the most compelling Windows Mobile phones yet. We're not just talking about a new processor and extra RAM. Motorola has replaced Mobile IE with Opera as the default browser (faster and better formatting), kicked Office Mobile to the curb in favor of Documents to Go (for editing and creating documents) and added GPS. You also get a sharper two-megapixel camera and one of the best keyboards we've used. It's a bit large, but when you add in fast HSDPA data and very good call quality, the Moto Q global looks like a steal.
Big, But Killer QWERTY
There's a reason why the Moto Q global has a stellar keyboard: It has a lot of room for one. In fact, at 4.7 x 2.6 x 0.5 inches and 4.7 ounces, this smart phone is significantly taller, wider, and heavier than the BlackBerry Curve (4.2 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches and 3.9 ounces). It's also slightly taller than the Verizon Wireless Q music 9m but a hair lighter. The Moto Q global is still thin and relatively pocket-friendly, but you certainly won't forget that it's in your pocket. As soon as we started typing, however, we nearly forgot about those extra ounces and inches. This QWERTY layout has large, raised keys that are easy to press. Plus, Motorola throws in several launch buttons along the bottom (calendar, contacts, music, camera, and voice recognition) to minimize menu digging.
The Moto Q global offers a fairly standard 2.4-inch screen, but an ambient light sensor above it automatically adjusts the brightness. Navigating menus was a cinch using the large D-pad above the keyboard. You can also use the Up and Down controls on the right spine; a selected button is located between them. These same Up and Down keys double as volume controls during phone calls and music playback, but you have to press and hold down that center select button when you're doing anything else to adjust the volume, which was annoying. Plus, doing so emits a loud beep.
The left side of the Moto Q global houses a MicroUSB port for the supplied charger, sync cable, and 3.5mm audio adapter. We like the soft touch feel of this phone's back side, which makes it easy to grip. This is where you'll also find the microSD Card slot and 2-MP camera with flash. There are twin speakers on the back of the device.
Not Your Standard Windows Mobile Fare
Like many of its competitors, the Moto Q global runs Windows Mobile 6, which means you can use this smart phone to sync your contacts, calendar, and more with Outlook and enjoy such perks as the ability to easily search your Inbox. But what Motorola adds to this smart phone is what makes it such a good value.
It starts with Opera Mobile, which is set as the default Web browser instead of Internet Explorer Mobile. It's not only faster than IE Mobile, but it offers tabbed browsing, better formatting of sites, and allows you to easily send links via e-mail or SMS. On our tests, Opera did a superb job leveraging AT&T's HSDPA network, loading the NYTimes.com in 6 seconds, ESPN.com in 11 seconds, and CNN.com Mobile in 7 seconds. The Moto Q global loaded the image-heavy Gizmodo.com homepage in 29 seconds, compared with 48 seconds for IE Mobile. And the latter page was basically unreadable.
The second major value-add is Documents To Go, which is much more versatile than the Office Mobile suite typically included on Windows Mobile 6 Standard devices. You can you view, edit, and create Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files and view Adobe PDF files, all while faithfully maintaining the original formatting. You can even unzip files on your device. In general, this suite worked very well with the push-enabled Xpress Mail client, which made setting up our Gmail account easy.
We prefer the bundled Thumbspeed Instant Messaging program, which supports AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo, to the OZ Communications client found on most Windows Mobile smart phones. Thumbspeed loaded our contacts faster and let us toggle among those clients with ease. Business users will appreciate this device's support for Good Mobile Messaging 5, which adds welcome features like an RSS reader and the ability to prioritize e-mail messages. It's also compatible with Microsoft's upcoming System Center Mobile Device Manager product when that rolls out in the second quarter of 2008.
Other welcome features include GPS for turn-by-turn directions (assuming you're willing to spring for the $9.99 TeleNav GPS Navigator monthly subscription) and My Q Paks. These bundles of applications, which are free to use for one year and can be downloaded over the air, are designed to appeal to the different types of users who might be Moto Q global owners. The Road Warrior Pak, for example, includes WorldMate 2007 for keeping track of flight status and weather forecasts, QuoteStream for stock info management, and Zagat for restaurant ratings.
Meh Multimedia, Stellar Call Quality
The Moto Q global can tap into all sorts of music and video services on the go. When we watched a CNN clip using AT&T's streaming Cellular Video service, we were impressed with the brief buffering time but were annoyed that selecting full-screen mode didn't enlarge the video window. XM Radio Mobile sounded pretty good when we had 3G data, but we experienced frustrating drop-outs when we roamed into EDGE coverage areas. We say skip these services and just have fun with your own content using Windows Media Player Mobile. The Moto Q global's dual speakers delivered good volume when we plugged in a microSD Card filled with tunes; both an AVI Heroes episode and MPEG-4 home video played smoothly.
Don't expect too much from the 2-MP camera. Although it captures sharper images than the Q music's 1.3-MP camera--and did so with very little shutter delay--they're not exactly print-worthy. On the plus side, the short range-flash came in pretty handy when we snapped some photos at a Halloween party. A 176 x 144-pixel video clip we recorded of moving traffic looked grainy and pixelated during playback on the Moto Q global's screen, nevermind a bigger monitor.
We were most impressed with the Moto Q global's call quality. Other callers said our voice sounded nearly as good as a landline, and conversations on our end were clear and cloud, even in noisy Times Square. And unlike the Q music 9m, travelers can take this phone abroad and get e-mail and data coverage in more than 135 countries and voice coverage in more than 190 countries. However, at least based on our tests in New Jersey and Manhattan, Verizon offers broader 3G coverage. There were several sections of the NJ Turnpike where the Moto Q global dropped back to EDGE.
Overall performance from the 330-MHz processor was strong, as we didn't notice much of a lag when loading apps or multitasking. Just be sure to pack that included extended battery if you're a heavy talker or data user. On our tests this smart phone lasted just over a full day with moderate use. The extended battery is supposed to extend the straight talk time from 5 hours to 9 hours (and standby time to 30 days), but it adds bulk to an already large device.
The Motorola Q 9h global is one of the best smart phones money can buy, especially at its limited-time price of $199 with a two-year contract. It offers very solid call quality, and unlike with the BlackBerry Curve, you get 3G data speeds and the ability to edit attachments out of the box. Although we still prefer the Curve for its smaller size and longer battery life, power users will love what this versatile device has to offer.
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