Reviewed July 25, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The summer of 2008 has not been a busy season for Windows Mobile Standard smartphones, perhaps thanks to the iPhone-induced touch screen craze. We haven’t seen anything new from Verizon since the SMT5800 in January 2008, nothing from Sprint since the Samsung Ace and likewise AT&T has focused on touch screen phones since the release of the Samsung BlackJack II that came out in January 2008. So Verizon is going full force with the Motorola MOTO Q9c smartphone. The MOTO Q9 line isn’t new to our smartphone-loving readers: prior to the Verizon Q9c Verizon launched the Q9m, AT&T has the Q9 Global and Sprint has the Q9c. At the moment, Verizon is no longer offering the Q9m and Sprint has run out of the Q9c.
So what’s different between the Q9c and the other Q9 devices? The GSM MOTO Q9 Global (or Q9h) has better specs, though the Q9c/Q9m isn’t terribly far behind. The GSM Q9 flavor has a different processor that runs just a bit faster, 256MB of ROM and 96MB of RAM, and a 2 megapixel camera. The CDMA Q9 flavors have only 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM, and lower-end 1.3 megapixel cameras. Verizon marketed the Moto Q9m as a music phone and granted access to its online music store. The Q9c is marketed as a GPS phone thanks to its built-in aGPS and Verizon’s VZ Navigator support. Mind you, the Q9c has excellent speakers and comes with Windows Media Mobile 10; the only thing missing is the access to Verizon music store. The Motorola Q9c is a digital CDMA phone with EV-DO Rev. 0 for data.
Now with the family tree out of the way, let’s talk about another complicated, sometimes thorny issue: that Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrade. The Motorola MOTO Q9c comes with Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition, and we have no confirmation if or when the device will get the Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrade from Verizon. Sprint announced that it would provide its Q9c customers with the WinMo 6.1 upgrade back in April this year, and it’s still not here (nor is AT&T’s upgrade for the Q9 Global). Why do you want to upgrade from WinMo 6 to WinMo 6.1? Microsoft added some new features in the Windows Mobile 6.1 that enhance the user experience on WinMo devices. Here are a few key improvements in the 6.1 update:
- Threaded SMS- Palm Treo smartphones and the Apple iPhone have made threaded SMS fashionable, and in reality more useable as it helps better organize your conversations.
- Better UI- The first thing users notice on a WinMo 6.1 device is the Today screen plug-in that allows you to see all your most important info (like today’s appointments, voice mail, text messages and more in a sliding panel screen. More useful for power users, in Windows Mobile 6.1 you can smart filter your search and have more options in management your messages.
- Faster data download speeds.
- Live Search- This is one of the best Windows Mobile applications that came out of Microsoft and some Windows Mobile 6.1 devices come with it in the ROM. You can search for restaurants and movie times in any location and check traffic, get directions and find cheap gas prices in Live Search. As a consolation, you can download and install Live Search, it just isn’t pre-installed in ROM.
Horsepower at a Glance
Now that we’ve got the OS and cell bands down let’s look at the device itself. The Motorola Q9c has the same guts as the Moto Q9m: the PXA27x ARM processor running at 312 MHz, which isn’t far behind the 325MHz TI processor in the Moto Q9 Global. The big difference comes in ROM and RAM: the Moto Q9 Global/Q9h has twice the flash ROM and 32 megs more RAM than the CDMA Q9 smartphone. The Moto Q9c has 64MB of RAM, with 17MB free at boot, and 128MB of flash ROM, with 46MB available. Since Windows Mobile doesn’t really “quit” applications when you close them, the Q9c was sluggish in our tests when we had several applications running. Luckily the Moto comes with system tools that let you quit running applications.
The Best QWERTY in Town
Compared to the T-Mobile Dash and the Samsung BlackJack II for AT&T, The Moto Q9 is heavier and wider, affording it a wider keyboard and larger keys. We find that the Q9 series phones have the best keyboard experience among current QWERTY keyboard phones on the market; even better than the BlackBerry Curve and the BlackBerry 8830. The Q9c is no exception thanks to the very useable keyboard and sensible layout. The other side of the coin is the device is wide, measuring 2.6 inches, which is 0.2 inches wider than the iPhone and .3 inches wider than the BlackJack. Those with smaller hands might find the device too wide to handle one-handed.
The 2.4” QVGA displaying is the same 65K TFT found on the MOTO Q9m and the Q9h, and it looks bright and color saturated. Thanks to the shortcut keys on the QWERTY keyboard (like the Voice Command and media keys), the Q9c has very few ports and buttons on its sides. There’s just a thumb wheel, back button, mini-USB charging port and the MiniSD card slot on the phone’s sides. That’s right, the Q9c still has a MiniSD card slot, not a microSD card slot, and it does support high capacity cards. The upside is that you can add Wi-Fi to the Q9c, via a MiniSD Wi-Fi card such as Spectec’s. Like the Q9m, the Q9c has dual speakers on the back under the battery door.
Can You Hear Me Now
Unlike many Moto phones with their monstrously good reception, the Moto Q9c’s RF is below average. It can pull in 2/3 of full signal strength in well-covered areas and 1 bar in spotty areas. On a bright note, even at half a bar, we could still make phone calls. The voice quality however is excellent: sound is clear with good volume. The built-in speakers are loud and have full sound-- great for conference calls. The Moto Q9c supports common call management features and comes with VoiceSignal’s VSuite software that offers speaker independent voice dialing and voice commands. The software worked very well, even with Bluetooth headsets. We tested the Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth headset and the phone sounded great with it. Both incoming and outgoing calls were very clear and loud. The DSP worked wonders using the Discovery 925, and range was an impressive 25-30 footer. We also tested the Moto Q9c with the Jabra BT8040: the incoming call quality was decent but outgoing voice wasn’t very clear with muddied sound and some low-level digital distortion. The DSP worked well however, and the range was also quite impressive.
EVDO sometimes dropped out in weaker coverage areas, but was strong in well-covered areas. We could get 450 kbit/sec using the dslreports mobile speed tests and that’s decent for an EVDO Rev. 0 phone. Applications downloaded speedily and web pages downloaded reasonably quickly.
Run VZ Navigator with an Extra Step
Yes, there’s a GPS inside, but first you’ll need to turn it on. To do this, go into Settings -> Phone Settings - > Network. The Moto Q9c works with Verizon’s VZ Navigator, though if you’re coming from a Verizon feature phone, you should know that it isn’t as simple as downloading VZ Navigator over the air and activating it right on your phone. You will need to call into Verizon to add that service before you can use the software. You also should know that the VZ Navigator running on the Moto Q9c isn’t the newest version 4.x but is the older 3.x build.
The Motorola Q9c has a jogwheel.
Let the Music Play
Even though the Moto Q9m was billed as the Moto Q9 series’ music phone, the Q9c has all the hardware and software to do the same. So what’s missing in this Q9 version? No built-in plug to Verizon V CAST music store which is now powered by Rhapsody with over 5 million tunes. A shame really, that smartphones don’t get the same multimedia treatment as feature phones. The Moto Q9c has very good audio quality and good sounding stereo speakers. Windows Media Player Mobile 10 is there for your music and video playback needs, and there are 3rd party media players should you want something more. The Q9c has a MiniSD card slot, and it supports high capacity cards which is handy for large music libraries. There’s also A2DP and AVRC for stereo headsets and headphones over Bluetooth. We tested the Moto Q9c with the Samsung SBH500 Bluetooth stereo headset and the sound quality was very good with strong bass and plenty of volume.
For a business oriented smartphone, the Moto Q9c works well as a gaming device. The software store link takes you to Handango where you will find applications and games for the Q9c. We tested several simulation, action and puzzle games, and the device’s d-pad and controls worked very well. The sound quality was great also to showcase the in-game music and sound effects.
How about the built-in camera? It’s there and it’s bland. The 1.3 megapixel camera has a flash and it can take photos as well as video at short or long lengths. For a 1.3 megapixel camera, the photos aren’t bad. They have good saturation and as much sharpness as you’d expect from a low-resolution camera, but there’s often a pink to magenta color cast (see pool photo below).
Work and Connect
As a corporate device, the Motorola Q9c is a formidable competitor to the BlackJack II, the Dash and even to BlackBerry smartphones. It supports direct push email as well as Exchange sync, and you can also sync email, contacts and calendar directly with a PC. We’re pleased that Moto went with Documents To Go; a more sophisticated office suite than Microsoft's own mobile version. Docs To Go can created and edit Office documents as well as read them. Strong MS Exchange support with push email, Docs To Go and the excellent keyboard make the Q9c an impressive mobile office. It also has Bluetooth DUN (Dial-Up Network) that allows you to use the phone as a wireless high speed modem for a notebook via Bluetooth.
The Motorola Q9c comes with an 1170 mAh rechargeable battery and the runtime was about the same as the Q9m in our tests. With light use (a few phone calls, playing some tunes, checking email at 30-minute intervals and surfing for 30 minutes each day), the phone lasted us 3 days. With heavy use of GPS navigation, video playback and gaming, the Q9c lasted no more than a day. The standby time was about a week in our tests. Should you need more juice, you can purchase an 1800 mAh extended battery from Verizon.
This Moto Q9 redux is about adding features, namely the GPS. If that was the one thing holding you back from getting the Q9m on Verizon, go for it. This Windows Mobile Smartphone has an excellent QWERTY keyboard, corporate data syncing, push email, a strong Office suite and WiFi’s a possibility thanks to the MiniSD card slot.
Pro: The best QWERTY keyboard experience on a mobile device. The Moto software bundle is great. The phone has great audio quality for voice and multimedia.
Con: No Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrade yet. Reception isn’t very strong, can get sluggish. Camera isn’t impressive.
Price: $149 with 2-year contract after online discount.
Display:65K color TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.4". Resolution: 320 x 240, landscape orientation.
Battery:Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1170 mAh. Claimed talk time: 4.5 hours. Claimed standby time: 8.8 days. Extended battery available for purchase, 1800 mAh.
Performance:PXA27x ARM902T 312 MHz processor. 64MB of RAM, about 17MB free. 128MB of flash ROM, 46MB available for storage.
Size: 4.6 x 2.6 x 0.47 inches. Weight: 4.76 ounces.
Phone:CDMA digital dual band, 800/1900 MHz bands. 1xRTT and EV-DO Rev. 0 for data.
Camera:1.3 megapixel camera with LED flash. Can record video with audio.
Audio:Polyphonic and MP3 ringtones. Supports vibrating alerts and silent mode. Windows Media Player Mobile 10 for music and video playback. Moto blade connector for audio jack.
GPS:Yes. Works with VZ Navigator.
Networking:Bluetooth v2.0. Supported Bluetooth profiles include: Headset, Hands-Free, A2DP, AVRCP, FTP, DUN and OBPP. USB 2.0.
Software:Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 Standard OS. Internet Explorer Mobile and Windows Media Player Mobile 10 included. Documents To Go included for viewing, editing and creating MS Office files and viewing PDF files. Other tools include calculator, converter and memo pad. Microsoft ActiveSync 4.5 for syncing email, contacts and calendars with PC.
Expansion:1 MiniSD card slot with support for SDHC high capacity cards and SDIO (WiFi) cards.
In the box:The MOTO Q9c smartphone with standard battery, travel charger, Mini USB data cable, printed guide and manuals, Microsoft ActiveSync CD and Verizon VZAccess Manage CD.