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Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: Sprint
Manufacturer: Motorola
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What's hot: High end specs plus a hardware QWERTY keyboard, fast with sharp display.

What's not: Not a stunning looking piece, Sprint 3G falls behind other carriers and LTE coverage is currently limited.


Reviewed September 25, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

It's hard to find a smartphone with a hardware QWERTY keyboard these days. Happily, Motorola still invests in that form factor, from the Droid line on Verizon to the new Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE on Sprint. Though the Photon Q isn't quite as sleek as the Droid, it packs top-notch features like a 1.5GHz Qualcomm S4 CPU (currently the top performing smartphone CPU in US Android phones), a gig of RAM, an 8 megapixel rear camera plus front video chat camera and Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Motorola Photon Q

The Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE has NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, single band WiFi, a GPS and 1785 mAh battery that's sealed inside. The Photon Q is available now for $199 with contract on Sprint. Like the Motorola Atrix HD and Droid RAZR M, it runs a very pleasing and clean version of Android with Moto's handy Smart Actions and few unnecessary UI frills.

The phone won't win any design awards. QWERTY phones aren't among the most attractive handsets, though Motorola's own Droid cut a sexy figure in its day. This a chunky gray plastic phone with a slightly (visually) bizarre back that's grippy. I'm not saying the phone looks or feels cheap, because it most certainly does not. It's just not a pretty piece.

The slider is perfect: silky but not wishy-washy. It feels like it will last through your two year contract. The Photon Q has both micro HDMI and micro USB ports side-by-side on the left. The microSD card slot is under a cover on the right, and the volume and dedicated camera buttons are on that side as well. The SIM card is unfortunately permanently embedded under the sealed back, and the battery is likewise inaccessible.

Motorola Photon Q


The qHD 4.3" "Color Boost" display might seem like a disappointment in terms of resolution, but 540 x 960 works well for the smaller (by recent standards) display size. Since horizontal QWERTY sliders are thicker and heavier than their slate counterparts, Motorola didn't go with a bigger display. The screen is sharp and colorful, though not hugely bright.


The QWERTY hardware keyboard is excellent. It's large enough for fellas with big hands and it's not a stretch for this female's fingers when typing (though I do have very long fingers). The keys have an ever so slightly rough texture that's just right: not slippery but not sticky. The keyboard has adjustable backlighting and 5 rows of keys with oversized enter, tab and caps lock keys. The slider is smooth but sturdy with no unwanted play, so typing is a stable affair.

Motorola Photon Q


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Motorola Photon Q Video Review

Performance and Horsepower

Thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon fourth generation CPU with Adreno 225 graphics, the phone is fast. Motorola's light customization of Android doesn't bog down the device. The Photon Q 4G LTE scored 5015 on Quadrant, right up there with the US Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC EVO 4G LTE. It scored an impressive 1366 on the Sunspider JavaScript test; one of the best results we've seen on a smartphone. We expect the Photon Q to get Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, though we haven't heard a date.

The phone has 1 gig of RAM and 8 gigs of internal storage plus a microSD card slot.


  Quadrant GLBenchmark 2.1Egypt Offscreen AnTuTu Sunspider JavaScript Test
Motorola Photon Q 5015 54 fps 6748 1366
Samsung Galaxy S III 5009 53 fps 6826 2027
HTC One X 5001 56 fps 7074 1617
Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2753 N/A 5985 2175

* higher numbers are better except Sunspider.

Calling and Data

The Photon Q is a Sprint CDMA phone with EV-DO Rev. A 3 G and LTE on Sprint's 1900MHz band. Though we're in the Dallas area, one of Sprint's first LTE markets, we've yet to capture an LTE signal, so we had to make do with Sprint 3G that severely underperforms in our area vs. other major carriers. Download speeds averaged 350kbps, which is similar to other Sprint phones. Therein lies the problem: Sprint has a slow 3G network, and they've only just begun rolling out 4G LTE. If you're an existing Sprint customer who's OK with that, then fine. But we can't see anyone jumping ship from one of the other big US carriers for Sprint unless you're captivated by their no-overage affordable voice and data plans and have frequent access to WiFi.

Voice quality on the Photon Q is good, and we had no trouble carrying on clear conversations. Typical of Moto, the speakerphone is quite loud. This is a world phone that also has a quad band GSM radio and HSPA 3G for international roaming: really it's amazing that Motorola managed to get GSM with 3G, CDMA with 3G and LTE in one phone.

Battery Life

The Photon Q's 1785 mAh Lithium Ion battery is sealed inside. Our battery life tests were conducted on 3G and WiFi since our area of Dallas isn't blessed with Sprint LTE. The phone managed to make it through a 12 hour day with moderate use, which obviously isn't as long as the Droid RAZR MAXX with its huge capacity battery, but it's also about an hour less than the Samsung Galaxy S III on Verizon.


Sprint users, you're the lucky ones. These days QWERTY phones tend to be low end texters for the budget minded. With the Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE you get a top notch phone with premium features like the latest and fastest CPU, a sharp and colorful display (granted not 720p), LTE and a decent 8 megapixel shooter. Motorola's handling of Android is top notch with thoughtful additions but not over the top skins or wanton mangling of the OS.

Price: $199 with contract, $549 without contract



Motorola Photon Q

Motorola Photon Q

Motorola Photon Q

Motorola Photon Q


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Display: 4.3" capacitive multi-touch "ColorBoost"display. Resolution: qHD, 960 x 540, supports both portrait and landscape modes.

Battery: 1785 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. Claimed talk time: up to 7.5 hours.

Performance: 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual core CPU. 1 gig RAM, 8 gigs internal storage.

Size: 4.98 x 2.0 x 0.54 inches. Weight: 6.0 ounces.

Phone: CDMA dual band digital with EV-DO Rev. A 3G and 4G LTE on Sprint's 1900MHz band. GSMwith HSPA 3G for world roaming. SIM card is sealed inside.

Camera: 1.3MP front camera and rear 8 megapixel camera with LED flash that can shoot 1080p video.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 LE + EDR.

Software: Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot.


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