Editor's note: This review has been updated to include the results of our battery drain testing.
All the carriers (well, except for T-Mobile) are going for their second helping of the Motorola Q. AT&T has its Motorola Q9h; Verizon Wireless has the Motorola Q9m; and now Sprint has its Motorola Q9c. Overall, the smartphone brings some great additions, including Windows Mobile 6 and built-in GPS. It also continues to be a strong messaging device and offers mobile professionals the tools to get work done on the road. It's not perfect, of course, and there are things that bother us. For example, the keyboard feels a bit stiff and speakerphone quality could be better. And you get a bit of that sluggishness that seems to plague Windows Mobile devices, but nothing debilitating or there were no crashes during our review period. That said, we think the pros outweigh the cons, and the Motorola Q9c is a worthy upgrade to the Q, especially at its affordable price of $149.99 (with a two-year contract and after discounts).
From the front, the Motorola Q9c doesn't look much different from other Q models and more closely resembles the Moto Q9m for Verizon Wireless rather than the latest Motorola Q9h for AT&T. The mobile sports a classic black casing with a nice chrome accent along the outer edges to give it a swanky look, though we wish we could say the same about the smartphone's profile. Sprint ships the Q9c with an extended battery, which we love and appreciate--don't get us wrong--but it adds an awkward and bulky bump to the backside of the device. It's not going to easily slip into a pants pocket at 4.6 inches high by 2.6 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and 5.2 ounces, and the wider body and extended battery make the Q9c a bit cumbersome to use as a phone. That said, the soft-touch finish on the back helps when gripping and holding the device, and it's comfortable to use as a messaging machine.
The Q9c has a 2.4-inch diagonal TFT non-touch screen that shows off 65,000 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. Images and text looked vibrant and sharp, and the display features adaptive technology that automatically adjusts the backlighting depending on your environment. As with other Windows Mobile devices, you can customize the Home screen with different background images, themes, and layouts.
Below the display, you'll find the same navigation array and full QWERTY keyboard as the Moto Q9m. You get two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Back key, a home-page shortcut, and a five-way directional keypad with a center select button. Overall, the controls were easy to use, but as we've noted before, they're slick and set flush with the phone's surface so they're not the easiest to press and don't give as much tactile feedback as we typically like.
The Motorola Q9c's keyboard features large buttons that are spacious enough for even larger thumbs. They have a nice texture to them to prevent any slippage, but that said, the keys are stiff and again, there isn't enough tactile feedback, which doesn't make for the best typing experience. The bottom row does include quick-launch buttons to the camera, speakerphone, and in-box.
On the left spine, there's a miniSD expansion slot and a mini USB port, while there's a scroll wheel and customizable launch key on the right side. The jog dial can be used to navigate through the various menu items; to select an app or option, just depress the wheel. You can also use it to adjust the volume but only when you're on a phone call. We should note that the rolling mechanism is a bit stiff, so you have to be forceful when using this control. The top of the unit holds a 2.5mm headset jack and finally, the camera lens and speaker are located on the back.
Sprint packages the Motorola Q9c with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an extended battery, a desktop software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check out cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Though messaging (whether it be e-mail, text, or instant messages) is increasingly becoming the preferred method of communication, you can't underestimate the value of actually talking to a person and the Motorola Q9c is still first and foremost a phone. Voice features include a duplex speakerphone, voice dialing and commands, smart dialing, three-way calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The Q9c's phone book is limited only by the available memory, and each entry can hold as many as 12 phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, addresses for home and work, a job title, and more. For caller-ID purposes, you can assign a contact to a category or pair it with any of 19 polyphonic ringtones or a photo.
All that said, we certainly don't mean to downplay the Q9c's messaging capabilities, as it's one of the main draws of the device. As with all the latest Windows Mobile 6 smartphones, it ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology, so you get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. There's support for other e-mail solutions, as well, including Good Mobile Messaging. There is, of course, continued support for POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you can also view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. Sprint also includes its instant messaging package of AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger clients.