- ✓High-quality mini-keyboard
- ✓Windows Mobile 6
- ✓3G and HSDPA support
- ✓Some useful software extras
- ✕Lacks Wi-Fi
- ✕Rather large compared to other similar smartphones
A smartphone with the name ‘Motorola Q’ is not exactly new — ran a preview of a device with this name back in August 2005, which launched in the US last year. But the Motorola Q9 is the first Q-branded handset to make it to the UK, and one of the first smartphones to run Windows Mobile 6 Standard (the version of the OS for devices lacking a touch-sensitive screen). And as if one Q is not enough, Motorola has launched another at the same time — rather unimaginatively named the Q8 — with less advanced specifications. At the time of writing, it's not clear which network operators will take the Q9, or what the final pricing will be. We'll update this review with that information as soon as we get it.
The Motorola Q9 isn't the smallest of BlackBerry-style smartphones — that is, a handset with a large non-touch-sensitive screen and a QWERTY keyboard beneath it. The Q9 weighs 134g and we measured it at 67mm wide by 117mm deep by 11.8mm thick. All round, it's just a shade larger and heavier than the recently released Samsung SGH-i600.
The main benefit resulting from this large size is the fact that the keyboard can be relatively big. The individual keys measure 6mm wide by 8mm tall. They are arranged in a shallow u-shaped arc in similar fashion to the BlackBerry Curve.
The keys are contiguous rather than individually spaced, have a somewhat rubbery feel and deliver a faint click when pressed. Consequently, it's fairly easy to use the keyboard at a reasonable speed. Beneath the bottom row is a double-width space bar and several function keys. These launch the Calendar, Contacts, music library, camera, voice control and phone dialer. When you're in a phone call, the button that normally launches the voice control utility starts and stops the speakerphone.
Above the keyboard are the obligatory Windows Mobile smartphone controls. A navigation pad provides for directional movement while its central button allows you to make selections. The remainder of the buttons are, in typical Motorola style, arranged on a flat area and separated by raised ridges.
Each of these buttons occupies a reasonably large space. There are two softmenu buttons, a button that takes you to the Windows Mobile today screen, a back button, Call and End buttons, a button that opens the Windows Mobile messaging software and one that starts the Web browser. Although some BlackBerry-style devices are a little fiddly to use, we found these buttons to be both straightforward to use and responsive. Motorola has certainly had enough practice at this approach to be expected to get it right by now.
The display measures 2.5in. from corner to corner, and delivers the standard for Windows Mobile resolution of 320 by 240 pixels. The LCD is sharp and bright, and benefits from a sensor that adjusts its brightness depending on the ambient lighting conditions. This sensor also automatically provides a blue background glow to the markings on the keys, the surround of the navigation pad and the separators for the flat Windows Mobile shortcut buttons. You can disable this feature, which will prove useful when you don't want you handset to glow in the dark.
Side buttons are few and far between, with just the right edge offering any controls. A pair of scroll buttons is divided by a small select button which, when held down, allows you to use the scroll buttons for volume control. Beneath these, a back button cycles through opened applications and previous actions.The power connector is on the bottom left edge. It's not the standard mini-USB variety but a new, slightly smaller type. This means you won’t be able to use a standard mini-USB cable to charge the Motorola Q9 and several other devices.
The Motorola Q9 is a quad-band GSM smartphone with GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSDPA support. It lacks a front-facing camera for video calling, but there's a 2Mpixel camera at the back that can capture stills at up to 1,600 by 1,200 pixels. You can adjust the white balance and image brightness, and there's a flash unit — although the latter is only useful where you're pretty close to the subject.
With 256MB of ROM and 96MB of RAM the Motorola Q9 is well placed to function as a mobile email system and to store documents that mobile professionals may need when on the move. After a hard reset, our review sample reported 133MB of free storage. You can augment this readily using MicroSD cards in the slot on the upper back left of the casing, protected by a cover. For such an otherwise well-specified smartphone, it's irritating that Motorola has not been able to include Wi-Fi connectivity — Bluetooth 2.0 is present, though.
As already noted, the Motorola Q9 runs the Standard edition of Windows Mobile 6. Motorola has made some less than standard software choices, though, eschewing Mobile Internet Explorer in favour of the Opera browser. Perhaps more interestingly, Motorola has also decided not to include Office Mobile. Available for the first time for non-touch-screen smartphones running Windows Mobile 6, Office Mobile allows you to edit, but not create, documents in Microsoft Word and Excel formats, and read PowerPoint presentations. Motorola has chosen Documents To Go instead, which allows you to create Word documents, edit Excel documents, read PowerPoint and PDF files and open Zipped archives.
Motorola has also included McAfee’s VirusScan Mobile software, even though there are, as yet, no known viruses affecting the Windows Mobile platform. Motorola told ZDNet UK that this is a precautionary measure designed to instill confidence in Motorola Q9 owners, as well as providing some degree of future proofing.
The voice control software allows you to place calls to named people or by number dialing, initiate text messages and emails, look up contacts and run applications. It worked better than we expected, but we probably wouldn’t use it in most circumstances.
Performance & battery life
The Motorola Q9's bulk makes it a bit awkward to carry around, but the trade-off is a large and responsive QWERTY keyboard. It's a pity that Wi-Fi is not built in though. The battery in our review sample refused to fully charge, the indicator only making it to 80 percent. Our battery rundown test, playing music continuously with the screen forced to stay on, delivered 4.5 hours of music before giving up. Had the battery retained a full charge, we’d have expected at least another 30 minutes, which is reasonable but not outstanding for an up-to-date smartphone.