- Built-in keyboard
- strong software bundle
- Lacks Bluetooth
- bulky and heavy for a phone
Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones hasn't exactly taken the UK mobile phone market by storm. Nevertheless, Sierra Wireless has just entered the fray with its Voq Professional, a handset that claims to provide the apparently impossible -- a usable keyboard.
The Voq Professional is large -- a comment we often make about smartphones. Granted, it accommodates an appropriately sized screen, usable keys and a battery that furnishes enough power for a realistic out-of-office lifespan needs a bit of bulk. But this is a phone you'll notice in your pocket or bag: measurements of 53mm wide by 133mm tall by 23mm deep and 145g put the Voq Professional on a par with Sony Ericsson’s P900 and Motorola’s A920 3G phone.
Our review unit was a pre-production model, and so we can’t say too much about the materials used in the casing. However the overall look and feel of the Voq Professional won’t change in final production models. The right-hand side provides a slot for an SD card (not SDIO), a shortcut button to the voice notes recorder and the power switch. On the left-hand side is a volume control rocker and the headset connector. The bottom edge contains the wired docking cable connector and a separate slot for a mains power adapter, while the upper edge houses an infrared port.
The screen is the standard 16-bit, 176-by-220-pixel, 2.2in. type that we expect from phones running Windows Mobile 2003, and there's the usual pair of menu buttons at the lower edge, which are activated via softkeys. Each of these keys is on a rocker with the lower part of the left one doubling as the Home key, and the lower part of the right one taking on the ‘back’ function. Between the upper and lower portions of these keys lie the Talk button on the left and the End button on the right. In the centre is a mini-joystick and below that another button dedicated to the myVoq software (of which more later).
Below these keys lies the number pad. The keyboard -- which is the defining characteristic of this phone -- sits on the underside of the number pad, and is accessed by lifting the pad and swivelling it around a hinge on its left. In this configuration, the idea is that you hold the phone across both hands and tap at the keys with your thumbs.
Processing power is provided by an Intel XScale PXA262 running at 200MHz. Our unit sometimes displayed the waits between keypress and screen activity that are characteristic of Windows-based smartphones, but we can’t say whether or not this will translate into final production models.
There is a fairly generous 16MB of memory available for applications and data, and a separate 16MB portion in which applications run. With an increasing number of third-party tools becoming available for Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones, it seems likely that the call on storage memory will be high, and the SD card slot allows for expansion.
Telephony features are as one would expect from this class of phone -- tri-band GSM with GPRS, plus all the usual features such as call forwarding, barring, waiting and caller ID. Windows Mobile 2003 includes a copy of Internet Explorer, so you can, if you wish, browse the Web on the tiny screen.
Given that the Voq Professional is aimed at business users rather than consumers, it's odd that Bluetooth is absent. Professionals wanting to use the phone with a notebook to send and receive data while on the move will need a wired solution, and the same applies to PC synchronisation via ActiveSync.
There's also no camera, which is probably less of a concern for many professional users. However, with no SDIO support, there's no prospect of adding a camera via the SD card slot if you find you need one.
Where Sierra Wireless has come up trumps, though, is in its software provision. There are two key applications provided over and above the Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone bundle: VoqMail and myVoq.
VoqMail is designed for those needing access to IMAP4 corporate email -- POP3 email is already catered for by the Windows Mobile Inbox. myVoq is a multi-purpose utility designed to make using certain aspects of the Voq Professional as easy as possible. It runs automatically when the keyboard is revealed, or can be started by pressing the aforementioned dedicated key.
If you want to find a contact, you simply start tapping out something on the keyboard -- name, phone number or employer, for example. The Contacts, Favourites and Notes applications are searched simultaneously, and matches are displayed on-screen. When you’ve typed enough to have narrowed the field down to one, a tap of a softkey starts SMS or email creation. Alternatively, you can type and then choose Note to save your typing as a quick note for later use.
The Voq Professional functions well enough as a phone, and handles PC-synchronised calendar, contact and to-do information to the usual Windows-based smartphone standards. The arrangement of softkeys is fine, although we prefer separated keys to rocker types as they make it easier to use without having to look at the phone.
The keyboard is relatively easy to use considering its size. The keys are small but well spread out, and smallish hands can hit the right target most of the time. The ergonomics of holding the phone in both hands and tapping with thumbs is also easy enough. However, we found one-handed use -- as required when you're standing on public transport, for example -- to be out of the question.
myVoq is an stunning little application, which enhances the potential of the keyboard no end. Without it, the Voq Professional would be a much less appealing phone.
We can't comment on battery life as there were issues with our pre-production model that precluded a proper test. However Sierra Wireless suggests you should get up to 6 hours' talk time and 100 hours on standby.
|Application Software||Calculator, Java MIDP2 engine, Voice Notes, VoqMail, Windows Media Player, myVoq navigator, Jawbreaker, MSN Messenger, Microsoft ActiveSync, Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer, Microsoft Pocket Outlook, Mount Voq, Solitaire, Voice Dialer|
|Phone Navigation Buttons||joystick|
|Integrated Components||voice recorder|
|Phone Form Factor||bar|
|Service Provider||not specified|
|Input Device||Touch screen, keyboard|
|Integrated Components||Voice recorder|
|Messaging & Internet|
|Cellular Messaging Services||MMS, SMS|
|Messaging Services||MMS, SMS|
|Wireless Interface||Infrared (IrDA)|
|Clock Speed||200 MHz|
|Display Indicators||digital clock|
|Display Resolution||176 x 220 pixels|
|Color Depth||16-bit (65000 colors)|
|Diagonal Size||2.2 in|
|Diagonal Size (metric)||5.6 cm|
|Smartphone Diagonal Size||2.2 in|
|Supported Digital Audio Standards||WAV, MIDI|
|Supported Flash Memory Cards||SD Memory Card|
|Standby Time||Up to 100 h|
|Talk Time||Up to 360 min|
|Run Time Details||
Talk: up to 360 min
Standby: up to 100 hrs
|Type||Keyboard, 4-way directional button|
|SIM Card Lock||Yes|
|Product Line||Sierra Wireless Voq|
|CE Input Device|
|Type||keyboard, touch sensitive screen|
|Additional Features||QWERTY keyboard|
|Digital Player (Recorder)|
|Supported Digital Audio Standards||MIDI, WAV|
|Installed Size||32 MB|
|Supported Flash Memory Cards||SD Memory Card|