It's been a lo-o-o-ng time coming, but we finally have our GSM version of the Motorola Q. Almost a year and a half after the original CDMA Moto Q debuted, the Motorola Q9h Global has landed on AT&T's doorstep. Was it worth the wait? We think so.
Like the Motorola Q9m for Verizon Wireless, the Q9h doesn't boast the same sexy, slim form factor of its predecessor. It's slightly wider and heavier, but in return, you get a better QWERTY keyboard and more features, such as built-in GPS, HSDPA, and a 2-megapixel camera. The Windows Mobile 6 smartphone also excels at messaging and offers solid call quality and multimedia performance. That said, all these capabilities seem to take a toll on battery life, and the system can sometimes get bogged down. Overall, however, we think the pros outweigh the cons, and when you factor in the $199.99 price tag (with a two-year contract), the Q9h is a pretty sweet deal. The Motorola Q9h will be available starting November 2.
Breaking from the sleek-and-sexy trend that the company set with the original Q, the Motorola Q9h features a more robust body that has both perks and downfalls. At 4.6 inches high by 2.6 inches wide by 0.4 inch deep and 4.7 ounces, the smartphone is still relatively thin overall but wider than the first Q (4.5 inches high by 2.5 inches wide by 0.4 inch deep; 4 ounces)--you can notice the difference when you hold it in your hand. Admittedly, the extra width makes it's slightly awkward to use as phone, but the Q9h is comfortable to use as a messaging device, and the handset features a nice soft-touch finish for a better grip. For comparison, the Samsung BlackJack measures 4.4 inches high by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and 3.5 ounces, while the RIM BlackBerry 8800 comes in at 4.4 inches high by 2.6 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and 4.7 ounces. You should be able to slip the Q9h smartphone into a pants pocket, though it may make for a tight fit.
On the front, you will find the same 2.5-inch QVGA screen (nontouch) of the original Q and Q9m. Given the larger size of the phone, we think Motorola could have increased the display size just a wee bit, as it seems engulfed by the rest of the device. Still, with a 65,536-color output and 320x240-pixel resolution, images and text looked sharp and vibrant. In addition, it features an adaptive technology that adjusts the backlighting of the screen depending on your environment (for instance, outdoors, in a dark room, and so forth). The feature worked well, as we didn't have any difficulties reading the display even under bright sunlight, but the screen does have the tendency to hold smudges and fingerprints.
Beneath the display, you have a revamped navigation array that consists of two soft keys; the Talk and End buttons; shortcuts to the Web browser, your message in-box, and Home page; a back button; and a five-way navigation toggle with a central select key. This last key is raised above the phone's surface and is easy to use, although we still struggle with the other keys, since they're flat and stiff to press.
The Motorola Q9h's full QWERTY keyboard is one of the best we've seen and used to date. Although there isn't much spacing between the individual buttons, they're large enough that even users with larger thumbs shouldn't have too much of a problem. The bubbly keys are tactile and brightly backlit for typing in darker environments. For easier dialing, the number keys are highlighted in blue, and there are also new shortcut keys on the bottom row to quick-launch various apps, such as the camera, the calendar, and your contacts.
Replacing the scroll wheel found on previous Q models, there are up and down keys, as well as select and back buttons, on the right side of the smartphone that you can use to navigate through the various menu items. It's certainly not as smooth as the jog dial, and those who are used to the wheel may take issue with it. In the end, however, the new controls achieve what they're supposed to do. On the left spine, there's a sole micro USB port, which is a slight annoyance since this format isn't widely used. Finally, the camera lens and flash are located on the back along with the microSD expansion slot, which can accept cards as large as 32GB (when available).
The Motorola Q9h comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 3.5mm headset adapter, a desktop software companion CD, and a reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Unlike the Motorola Q9m, which focused on multimedia, the Motorola Q9h is more about messaging and productivity. The smartphone still runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition, so you get Microsoft's Direct Push Technology out of the box for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. The Q9h also works with other e-mail solutions, including AT&T Xpress Mail and Good Mobile Messaging. (BlackBerry Connect will be available as a downloadable client later this year.) You can access POP3 and IMAP accounts as well; a handy wizard is on board to walk you through the process, and it really just requires entering your user name and password. You also have the option of choosing how frequently you want the device to retrieve messages. We configured our review unit to access our Yahoo Plus and Gmail accounts, and the setup process was a snap--we were up and running within a matter of a few minutes. Finally, we're happy to see that several of the popular instant-messaging clients, including Yahoo, AIM, and Windows Live, are preinstalled on the Q9h.
As for productivity apps, interestingly, Motorola opted to forgo the Microsoft Office Mobile Suite in favor of Dataviz's Documents to Go. We really have no complaints about this decision, as it's a great suite for not only viewing and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, but creating them as well. This should be a huge boon for those constantly working from the road. In addition, you get a PDF viewer and a Zip manager. Other personal information management tools on the Motorola Q9h include a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a voice recorder, and a calculator. With the purchase of the Q9h, you will be able to download a "My Q Pak" bundle, which includes various apps. Of course, you can download more programs to personalize the device to your needs; in fact, the Q9h comes with downloadable versions of MySpace Mobile and McAfee VirusScan Mobile already on the handset. For more ideas, check out the mobile software section of Download.com.