Reviewed September 19, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Editor's note: The Motorola Q9c with GPS replaced the Q9m in June 2008.
The Motorola Q, released more than a year ago on Verizon, was a decent Windows Mobile smartphone whose downfall was excessive hype and release delays. The more quiet and timely release of the Q9m bodes well, as do a much improved look and feel. The bad news is that the Q9m is out-spec-d by its GSM sibling, the Q9h which is currently available from importers unlocked and from AT&T as the Motorola Q9 Global. While the Q9h increased flash memory and camera megapixel rating over the original Motorola Q, the Verizon Q9m sticks with the past and the same 128 megs of flash memory and 1.3 megapixel camera found on the first Q. Verizon markets the phone as the "Motorola Q music 9m".
The Motorola Q9m is a Windows Mobile 6 Standard smartphone (no touch screen) with a QWERTY thumb keyboard and EVDO Rev. 0 for fast data. Verizon offers the phone in the US for $199 with a 2 year contract. Like the Q, the Q9m runs on a 312MHz processor with 64 megs of RAM and 128 megs of flash memory. The "m" stands for music, though the hardware and music playback software are standard Q9 with Verizon's multimedia home screen added. Ironically, unlike most Windows Mobile phones, a stereo headset isn't included with the Verizon Q9m (in fact, there's no headset at all, in typical Verizon fashion).
Two Thumbs Up for the Keyboard
The Q9's makeover is most apparent in the keyboard department. We weren't fans of the original Q's narrow, slippery keys but the new design is among the best we've used. The keys are large, domed and textured: run your finger over them and you can't hear the raspy sound courtesy of the slightly rough finish. Even large-fingered thumb typers should have little trouble with the large keys, arranged in a vague smile pattern for better ergonomics. The surface texture prevents fingertip slippage and greatly increases tactile feedback. Good going, Motorola! We prefer the Q9m's keyboard to the Treo 700wx and 700p, BlackBerry 8830 and Samsung BlackJack's.
The Fn key switches to number entry, and the Q9 automatically switches to numeric entry when in the phone dialer screen. The bottom row has quick launch buttons for email, voice dialing and Verizon's multimedia home screen. The call send and end buttons are large and easy to press, and standard softkeys along with the Home and back button surround the easy-to-operate oblong d-pad.
Things have improved in the appearance department: the Q9m looks elegant, modern and expensive. It makes the first Q and the BlackJack look plasticy in comparison. In fact the phone has a good deal of heft, weighing in at 4.76 ounces. The Q started the thin smartphone phenomenon, and the Q9m follows the anorexic trend at 0.47". The phone is predominantly black, gloss on the front and matte soft-touch on the back with a shiny red line wrapping around the edges. Color is subjective, but we like the red and black look.
The Moto has a jog wheel and a camera launcher button on the right side. The jog wheel does different things depending on context (scrolling or volume change). The miniSD and standard mini USB sync/charge connector are on the left side and the 2.5mm stereo headset jack is up top. As you'd expect, the camera lens and flash are on the rear near the top, the battery lives under a door on the back and the stereo speakers are on the back near the bottom.
Top to bottom: RAZR V3m, Treo 700p, Moto Q9m and the BlackBerry 8800.
Phone Features and Data
The Motorola Q9m is a CDMA phone that works only on Verizon's network. Sprint may come out with this phone, but as of now, only Verizon offers it in the US. This is a digital dual band 800/1900MHz phone with EVDO Rev. 0 and 1xRTT for data. The phone has excellent voice quality and more than adequate volume, even with a low signal. In fact, the earpiece sounds more like a speakerphone when set to higher volumes. Reception in terms of the signal strength indicator was below average but actual reception as measured by call quality and lack of dropped calls was average.
Moto and Verizon include VoiceSignal's very good voice recognition software for voice dialing and command. This is true speech recognition and doesn't require recording of voice tags. It's accurate and works over Bluetooth headsets.
Like the Q, the Q9m has EVDO Rev. 0 for data, and not the faster Rev. A. Unless you'll be tethering the phone as a wireless modem for a notebook, Rev. 0 is more than adequate in terms of speed. The phone averaged 350k to 650k on DSLReports.com mobile speed test. The Q9m, like all Windows Mobile 6 smartphones comes with Internet Explorer Mobile for web browsing and Messaging (the mobile version of Outlook) for email, including push email via MS Direct Push and Exchange 2003SP 2 or newer. The phone can be used as a wireless modem for a computer, though Verizon charges extra for tethering.
The Q9m lacks WiFi, though we didn't find ourselves hankering for it given Verizon's speedy and near-ubiquitous EVDO service. But for those who hope to buy this phone and use it without Verizon's $45/month data plan, there is hope. The Moto's miniSD card slot is side-loading (not under the battery or back door) and it supports SDIO, so you can use Spectec's miniSD WiFi card with the phone (if your card didn't ship with a Q9 driver, you can download it from Spectec's web site here).
The Spectec miniSD WiFi card in the Q 9m.
Horsepower and Performance
The Q9m has usual standard 64 megs of RAM and 128 megs of flash memory. Storage space would seem acceptable were it not for the GSM version (Q9h) and its 256 megs which leaves us feeling gypped. The 64 megs of RAM is used like RAM in your computer and flash memory is for storage (~64 megs are free for your use). CPU specs are unchanged from the Q: a 312MHz Intel XScale processor. There are several 200MHz Windows Mobile smartphones on the market, so the Q9m should be one of the leaders. It does indeed feel faster than the T-Mobile Dash, but not as much as we expected. This isn't to say the Moto is a slug; in fact we found its performance absolutely acceptable. But we did hope for faster performance given the CPU speed and the resulting battery life reduction. We found ourselves saying the same thing about the original Q when we first reviewed it, and to Motorola's credit, the Q9m feels faster than the Q. Compared to the Dash and other 200MHz Windows Mobile devices, video playback is smoother and faster.
Display and Multimedia
The Motorola Q9m has a sharp, bright and colorful QVGA display. The landscape oriented display's 320 x 240 resolution is viewable outdoors, and advantage non-touch screen smartphones have over their bigger Windows Mobile Pocket PC brethren. The phone has a smart backlight setting which should adjust display brightness relative to ambient lighting, though we found it stayed consistently bright, even in a dimly lit room.
The Samsung BlackJack and the Motorola Q 9m
With its music moniker, you'd expect this to be a full-fledged ipod-hating multimedia phone. Music is indeed decent on the phone but its more like a Q in a red dress pretending to be an iPod Classic. Stereo speakers on the back give very good sound by cell phone standards, and that's about the only nod to music-centric hardware design. Windows Mobile phones have strong multimedia features out of the box, including Windows Media Player Mobile, a memory expansion slot and a good selection of 3rd party audio and video players on the market. The Q9m has all this, and that's great, though it means there's nothing phenomenally different between it and several other competing Windows Mobile phones currently on the market. Verizon has added two things, one bad and one good: access to their online music store, a first for a Verizon PDA or smartphone (that's the good thing); and a customized home screen that's not terribly attractive, isn't easy to navigate or see and gets in the way of the usual useful business stuff we see on the regular home screen (you guessed it, this is the bad thing). Happily, you can switch back to a standard Microsoft or Verizon home screen and escape the wacky red multimedia home screen.
Sound quality through Motorola's wired stereo headphones (sadly not included) is excellent. And no surprise that the Motorola S9 stereo Bluetooth headphones performed better with the Moto Q9m than any other brand of phone. Sound through these headphones was excellent, though bass isn't their strong point (small in-the-ear drivers lack the punch of over-the-ear designs). Likely you won't be disappointed by the phone's sound quality via wired or Bluetooth wireless stereo headphones.
Video playback is a bit better than average for Windows Mobile smartphones, which generally have trouble with anything more than low bitrate files. The phone does not support Verizon's VCast service, so you'll have to get a hold of video content other ways.
The Motorola Q9m has a 1.3 megapixel camera, which is a bit last year in terms of specs. Worse yet, the GSM version has a 2 megapixel camera, leaving us feeling like second class citizens once again. Image quality is typical Moto 1.3MP smartphone: strongly lacking in color indoors and overexposed outdoors. Outdoors, color cast is variable: sometimes adding too much magenta and other times over-warming photos (the warm tones in the photo below should be much cooler and closer to light gray).
The camera can take photos at a maximum 1280 x 1024 resolution and video at a smallish 176 x 144 resolution. The full-screen viewfinder option is nice, and there are options for white balance, resolution and save location. The camera software runs out of Microsoft's Pictures and Videos application. Image saving times to a card at the highest resolution is fairly fast and the built-in flash helps just a bit for subjects close at hand.
The Q9m has Bluetooth 2.0 and supports a good set of profiles by Verizon standards. It works with headsets over headset and handsfree profiles, as well as car kits. A2DP and AVRC are there for stereo Bluetooth headphones and headsets, such as the Moto S9. The phone can be used as a wireless modem for a PC (Verizon charges extra for this), and it uses the Bluetooth PAN profile. The Q also supports the HID profile (external Bluetooth keyboards being the most common HID device) and ActiveSync over Bluetooth. Motorola includes a Bluetooth file transfer application, that allows you to select from various categories of files to send (voice notes, ringtones, audio files and more). Should you prefer to choose from any and all files on the device, use the File Manager to browse to the file and select Send->Bluetooth. Motorola also includes a Bluetooth PC Remote Control program, which is fairly uncommon on phones (there are 3rd party apps for Nokia and Sony Ericsson but not factory software on most). This application allows you to control a Bluetooth enabled PC to do things like give a PowerPoint presentation or control music playback on the PC.
Nothing to brag about here: battery life isn't the Q9m's strong point, nor was it the original Q's. The 1170 mAh Lithium Ion battery lasted us 1.5 days on a charge with moderate use, and 3 days with light use. If you spend quite a bit of time on the phone each day (1 hour or more) and use EVDO for an hour per day and turn on push email, charge it nightly. The faster CPU eats power (even though it doesn't propel the Q9 forward in performance) and the slim design means no space for a large battery. Such is life in the (semi) fast and slim lane. MP3 playback with the screen off won't use much power, and we found the Q good for 6 hours of music playback (with no other use).
A definite improvement over the original Moto Q. The Q music 9m is attractive, slim and looks like an expensive, well made piece of electronics-- it definitely outshines the BlackBerry Curve and Samsung BlackJack in the high-class gear department. Responsiveness and overall CPU performance are average for a smartphone (better than the Q which was a bit slow), memory is adequate even though the Q9m's GSM cousin shows it up, and the screen is luscious and legible. We love the keyboard, which raises the bar for QWERTY candy bar phones: key size, doming and texture are excellent. The 1.3MP camera isn't the smartphone's strong point, and again the GSM version beats it. Though the music marketing overstates the case, the Music 9m as Verizon calls it does have a great set of stereo speakers (by phone standards), plays well with Bluetooth stereo headsets and supports high capacity miniSD cards for carrying lots of tunes.
Pro: Great looks and excellent build quality. Nice display, wonderful keyboard. The more capable Documents To Go is included rather than the standard Windows Mobile Office apps.
Con: Battery life is so-so. less flash memory and lower resolution camera compared to the GSM version.
Display:65K color transflective
TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.4". Resolution:
240 x 320, landscape orientation.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Performance:Intel XScale PXA270 312 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in RAM
, 128 megs flash ROM with ~64 megs free to store programs and files.
Size:4.6" (H) x 2.6" (W) x 0.47" (D). Weight: 4.76 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with 1xRTT and EVDO Rev 0 for data.
Camera:1.3MP with LED flash.
in stereo speakers, mic and 2.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Media Player 10 Mobile included.
Networking:Bluetooth 2.0. Profiles include handsfree, headset, A2DP profiles, HID and PAN profiles.
Mobile 6.0 Standard Edition operating system (aka Smartphone edition).
Microsoft Mobile versions of Internet
Explorer, Outlook and Windows Media Player. other MS standard software includes Pictures and Videos, Modem Link, Voice Notes, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game) and Calculator. Additional applications:
VoiceSignal voice recognition, Camera, Wireless Manager, Converter, Memopad (since there's no Notes app in smartphone edition), Verizon VCast music service, Documents to Go (view, edit and create MS Office documents, view PDFs and unzip files). Though usually standard on Windows Mobile 6, Mobile versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel are omitted since Docs To Go does the same things and more.
ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 trial for PCs included.