A new Q from Motorola

Hot on the heels of its multimedia-friendly Q 9m, Motorola now delivers a Q smart phone intended for business travelers. The new Motorola Q 9h (more informally called the Q Global), which AT&T Wireless is slated to put on sale Friday, is the first Q to support international roaming via quad-band GSM.

It also throws in Bluetooth, a GPS receiver, and a slew of software extras including the Opera browser, the Documents to Go productivity suite, and one of three add-on software bundles (more about this later).

But the Q Global is not always as travel-friendly as you’d wish. While it supports AT&T Wireless’s 3G HSDPA/UMTS network, data speeds when roaming overseas slow to pokier EDGE rates. (Wi-Fi support would have been nice, too.)

And the TeleNav GPS navigation software (which you must download to install and pay for as a service) doesn’t work when you’re abroad. While you can still use the Q Global with GPS-enabled mapping apps such as Google Maps to see where you are and find nearby businesses, you don’t get routing help or turn-by-turn directions when you presumably might need them most.

Then there’s the pricing, which at first looks reasonable enough: AT&T Wireless says it is offering the Moto Q 9h at an introductory price of US$200 (with a two-year contract, after a mail-in rebate) for the holidays. That’s not bad for what you get hardware-wise.

But an all-you-can-eat data plan goes for a steep $45 a month — and you must tack on an additional $25 a month if you want unlimited data overseas. (AT&T also offers a $30 plan that tops out at 20MB of data per month and does not support corporate e-mail.) TeleNav service runs another $6 per month for 10 trips, or $10 a month for unlimited trips. In other words, taking full advantage of the Q’s data features will cost a bundle.

Looks like a BlackBerry — or a Blackjack
Mostly black with silver accents, the Q Global’s design appears sleeker and more BlackBerry-like than ever. Weighing in at a mere 4.6 ounces and measuring 4.6 inches high, 2.6 inches wide, and just under half an inch thick, it sports a landscape-format 320-by-240-pixel screen that also brings the Samsung Blackjack to mind.

I found thumb typing on its keyboard — which has undergone a complete overhaul from that of the original Q — quite comfortable and certainly easier than it was on older versions. The familiar navigation pad and keys (seven in all) between the screen and the keyboard are augmented by BlackBerry-like controls on the side of the device, for up and down scrolling, selecting, and going back through menus

But when trying to access features or programs that weren’t accessible via the hardware buttons, I found navigation surprisingly complicated. For example, there was no quick way to get to the settings, which on many Windows Mobile smart phones appear on the main Start menu.

I found the Q 9h fine as a phone. In my informal tests, voice calls sounded good, and Web browsing and e-mail access was a pleasure on the speedy 3G network.

The Q has a built-in 2-megapixel camera with lots of menu controls, including image resolution, brightness, white balance, flash, and up to 8X digital zoom. But I was disappointed in the high-res images I captured: They were grainy and fuzzy on my PC, even those that looked good on the Q’s much smaller screen.

On the other hand, I was impressed by the multimedia playback. A video of Enya’s May It Be, which included a fair amount of Lord of the Rings film footage, looked terrific and sounded great, when run in full-screen mode on the mobile version of Windows Media Player. The video was stored on a Micro SD card that slipped easily into a slot on the Q’s left-hand side, a big plus over the slots that sit under the battery (and therefore require opening the case) on some smart phones.

One-year trialware bundles
The Q Global runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard  (meaning it has no touch screen), but Motorola has not contented itself with the software that comes with Microsoft’s increasingly ubiquitous OS for mobile devices. The included Opera mobile browser and Documents to Go programs are both superior to Microsoft’s bundled browser and office apps. I was unable to try out TeleNav’s service on the Q Global.

But under a new program called My Q Paks, people who buy a Q from AT&T Wireless can download one of three application bundles that essentially pack one-year trialware versions of commercial applications (after that time, you must pay to use them). You must download the bundle you choose within 90 days of buying your Q, and the offer ends April 30.

These bundles target different types of users. The Road Warrior bundle, for example, includes WorldMate, an application for tracking flight status, performing currency conversions, and accessing other travel info; QuoteStream, a stock market tracker; the Zagat to Go restaurant guide; Splash ID, which helps you organize passwords and other personal info; and a handheld version of the game 3D Pool.

The Household CEO bundle includes a recipe organizer and other home-oriented apps; and the Fun Seeker bundle consists mostly of games. Yes, QPaks is basically a marketing ploy, but a year is a long time in the life of a smart phone, and some users should find these extended trials worthwhile.

Bottom line
Overall, the Moto Q Global might appeal to travelers seeking a Windows Mobile smart phone with a good keyboard, 3G data, and solid multimedia support. Perhaps its major shortcoming is also its selling point: Worldwide data support is horribly pricey, but, as the major GSM carrier in the United States, AT&T Wireless has something of a captive audience for this service. Moto Q is supported in Canada by Rogers.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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