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Motorola's Photon Q to push the keyboard phone envelope

If you crave an advanced Android QWERTY slider, the Photon Q could seriously satisfy.

Motorola Photon Q

Editors' note: This article was originally published on July 26, 2012, and updated August 10 with more details.

When we first heard of Motorola's upcoming Motorola Photon Q, we thought that the keyboarded Android smartphone would serve as a nice lifeline for disillusioned and disenfranchised BlackBerry refugees fleeing the sinking ship.

Running Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and driven by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, the Motorola Photon Q will certainly surpass Motorola's Droid 4.

While the Droid 4 proved that a QWERTY slider could indeed pack in a swift 4G LTE radio, nimble components, and an excellent physical keyboard, it also suffers from a few shortcomings. First, at half an inch thick and weighing a hefty 6.31 ounces, the phone is big and heavy. Second, the Droid 4 still lives in a time warp, mired by the outdated Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS.

Thankfully, the Motorola Photon Q boasts fresher features. There's the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, joined by access to Sprint's growing 4G LTE network and NFC to support mobile tricks such as Android Beam and Google Wallet.

It'll also get a 4.3-inch LCD screen with a 540x960-pixel resolution that uses the company's ColorBoost enhancements. The new Atrix HD has a display like this, which is both bright and has nice, wide viewing angles, though an HD display of 1,280x720 pixels would likely look sharper and clearer on a screen of this size.

In terms of camera prowess, Motorola reaches for its usual 8-megapixel camera, and also adds a 1.3-megapixel HD "Web cam" in the front. The front-facing camera gets its name from the 720p HD video capture support, and of course the rear-facing camera has a 1080p HD camcorder.

Motorola has also announced that the Photon Q will flaunt a five-row, LED backlit keyboard similar to the one Brian loved on the Droid 4, plus "edge lighting" for a PClike experience.

Newly revealed specs point to a fairly standard embedded 1,785mAh battery that promises up to 7.5 hours of talk time and 9.2 days of standby time. This is no big, fat battery to rival its Verizon sibling, the Droid Razr Maxx, which is a disappointment.

At 6 ounces, it'll already be a heavy phone, battery aside, and the keyboard will give it a 0.54-inch depth, so this won't be the slimmest thing around. Other measurements bring the full size to just under 5 inches tall and 2.6 inches wide.

Memory hounds will be interested to note the 1GB RAM, 8GB ROM, and up to 32GB removable microSD card. There's also support for Bluetooth 4.0 (which promises to change your life).

So far, the specs sound very promising, but not quite as sky-high as we'd think Motorola would want for a flagship phone, which means it could be reserving some features for another model. We just hope the Photon Q will come with a reasonable sticker price far below the Razr Maxx's $299 cost.