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 phones), a gig of RAM, an 8 megapixel rear camera plus front video chat camera and Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.
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 backlighting and 5 rows of keys with oversized enter, tab and caps lock keys. The slider is sturdy with no unwanted play.
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. This is a world phone that also has a quad band GSM radio and HSPA for international roaming.
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.