Best known for its line of wireless modems, Sierra Wireless enters the smart phone market with its first handset running the Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 platform. Business users will appreciate the Voq (pronounced voke) Professional Phone's extensive feature list, support for VPN connections to corporate servers and e-mail, and innovative flip-open QWERTY keypad. But a chunky design and a couple of curiously missing features make this seem more like a trial run for a much better second-generation product. At $400 without a carrier, the cost can be a bit high, but you should be able to find it for as little as $200 with a service plan. First, the downside: At 5.2 by 2.1 by 0.8 inches and 5 ounces, the Voq Professional Phone is rather large. The candy bar-style handset looks and feels more like a cordless phone for the home than a mobile, so forget about casually slipping this unit into a shirt pocket. Still, it was comfortable to hold while talking, and the two-tone brown color gives it a unique look. Outside controls were few, a simple power button and an expandable SD/MMC memory slot were on the top right side, while a volume rocker and a headset jack were on the mobile's left spine.
The Windows Mobile menus were vibrant and colorful on the 2.2-inch-diagonal, 64,000-color screen, which is easy to see in sunlight. At the top of the screen, you'll find icons for the most recently used programs, which you can click for quick access. It also displays the date and time, signal strength, battery life, upcoming appointments, profile status, and messages. We were somewhat divided on the multitude of buttons, as they were a bit squashed together and took some getting used to. For example, while one of the two soft keys provides one-touch access to the main menu, it also takes you out of the menus if pressed twice. On the upside, you get a Home key, a five-way joystick for easy menu navigation, and a MyVoq button (see below). Also, when the mobile is in standby mode, you can return to the most recent application by pressing the joystick or the Back button.
The slightly raised keypad buttons are well sized and spaced far enough apart, but the dim backlighting doesn't cover all the keys. The Voq scores points, however, with the foldout QWERTY keypad located behind the dial pad. Granted, the buttons are minuscule, and typing with your thumbs can be tedious, but it's better than double- or triple-tapping a letter on the dial pad. The hinge feels sturdy enough to handle consistent use by heavy e-mailers, and the keypad gives the handset a distinct advantage over in terms of PDA functionality. Flipping open the keypad also automatically starts the MyVoq application, from which you can access your contacts, notes, a calculator, a list of your favorite Web sites, and a history of previous actions. The Voq Professional Phone boasts a features list similar to that of , including conference calling for up to 10 participants, voice dialing, a speakerphone, MMS and instant messaging via MSN Messenger, and a phone book limited only by available memory. You can associate six phone numbers, two fax numbers, three e-mail addresses, company and home address information, and personal data such as birthdays and children's names with each contact. There's also a calculator, a calendar that syncs with all the fields in the desktop version of Outlook's calendar, a task list, voice memo, Java (J2ME) support, three games (Jawbreaker, Mount Voq, and Solitaire), and Internet Explorer for surfing the Web. You can personalize the phone with different display colors, themes, and profiles, as well as choose from a selection of 48 polyphonic (64-chord) ring tones or a vibrate mode.
The Voq runs on a 200MHz Intel XScale processor and comes with 48MB of ROM and 32MB of RAM, so storage is ample and performance is swift. You can view Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF attachments, but you can't edit them on the handset. The phone accepts standard SD/MMC media, the ideal method for storing and playing files. Speaking of which, you can play MP3 and WMA files with Windows Media Player, though you'll need to purchase an adapter to accommodate standard music headphones. You also can save the files as ring tones.
We had no trouble synchronizing all of our Outlook information from our desktop to the Voq using the bundled cable, including contacts, scheduled appointments and tasks, and e-mail messages. You can set up the VoqMail (a nice addition not found in previous Microsoft-based smart phones) program to send and receive e-mail from IMAP4 accounts and establish an ActiveSync account to retrieve e-mail from your desktop remotely, provided your PC is running. You can schedule the phone to sync at intervals ranging from every five minutes to every four hours during peak and nonpeak times and when roaming. Strangely, however, the VoqMail doesn't support POP3 accounts, so you must have separate in-boxes for each kind of e-mail. You can move saved messages from a POP3 account to the phone through ActiveSync, but we hope the company includes direct POP3 support in the next version of the Voq.
The unit comes with an IR port and a USB cable to sync with your PC, but Bluetooth would have been nice. We hope it will be included in a future release. We also had a complaint with the speakerphone; you can't turn it on until after you make a call. We tested the triband (GSM/GPRS 900/1800/1900) Voq Professional Phone in the Chicago area on AT&T Wireless's network. Call quality for this world phone was generally good, albeit with a bit of background hiss. But callers never said they had trouble hearing us, and the volume is quite loud, so holding a conversation outdoors or on the speakerphone won't be a problem. While the is sometimes sluggish in providing caller ID information, the Voq instantly recognized incoming calls from contacts stored in memory.
We reached a bit more than five hours of talk time on a fully charged battery, within the range of the maximum rating of six hours, but the phone fell just short of its standby rating. We managed 3.5 days hours on a single charge, compared with the rated time of a little more than 4 days.