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Has Motorola made a BlackBerry killer
Los Angeles Times
Is the Motorola Q phone a BlackBerry killer? Or just a pretty face?
The Q, which went on sale Wednesday from Verizon Wireless for about $200, has a full-sized keyboard for composing e-mail and text messages. So does Research in Motion's BlackBerry, which has become a fixture of business culture.
The Q has a bright, color screen. Ditto the comparably priced, newer BlackBerry models.
And both have the ability to receive e-mail on the fly.
Price: $199.99 with two-year contract
Pros: Easier to handle than previous full-keyboard phones, slips into pockets, bright color screen, good PDA functions.
Cons: E-mail functions work best only with Microsoft Exchange 2003 software; limited music- and video-playing capabilities.
Source: Los Angeles Times research
So what's that different about the Q? Its ergonomics and looks — no small matters given that many of us now use cellphones throughout the day.
Motorola's Q is the first full-keyboard cellphone that could be called sleek — it's less than half an inch thick.
By comparison, the BlackBerry 8700c, which came out this year, is about three-quarters of an inch thick, and older models in the line are close to a full inch.
Palm's Treo, which has a full keyboard, too, also bulks up to almost an inch at its thickest point.
Furthermore, whereas the nearly 3-inch width of the traditional BlackBerry makes it feel like a sandwich slapped against your head while you're making a phone call, the Q is a slimmer 2 ½ inches.
Those cutbacks in dimensions make a big difference in ergonomics.
The smaller size makes the phone easier to balance between your hands while using the keyboard. And although the Q can easily slip into a shirt pocket, BlackBerrys and Treos are often carried in obtrusive belt pouches that scream "nerd."
Indeed, the silver Q is the first cellphone that could be called — dare I say — elegant. It reminded me of an old-fashioned cigarette case, except not as deadly — unless it turns out to be true that cellphones are doing terrible things to our brains.
So how well does Q work in sending and receiving e-mail — its dominant function in this era of ever-specialized cellphones?
That depends to a large extent on how your e-mail is processed.
If your company uses Microsoft's Exchange Server 2003 software, complete with Service Pack 2, you're probably a good candidate for the Q.
The Windows Mobile operating system aboard the phone, along with another Microsoft program, Autosync, allows for the instant-arrival e-mail functionality that made the BlackBerry famous. Companies that deploy BlackBerry devices have to install special software on their mail servers.
Not so for the Q — as long as the designated Microsoft server is used.
I did find, however, the instant-arrival functionality on the Q was not as reliable as on the BlackBerry. Sometimes e-mails arrived instantly, other times it could take up to a half-hour.
Far more reliable was a setting on the Q that had it automatically check the server for e-mails at regular intervals ranging from once every five minutes to once every four hours. It could also be set to manual retrieval for those not wanting to be bothered by random arrivals.
Can you get instant-arrival e-mail on the Q if your company uses different server software? Or if you have an individual account with an Internet provider, such as Earthlink or AT&T? Technically, yes. But take my advice and forget about it, at least at this stage of development.
Better you should settle for manually retrieving e-mail or having the phone fetch it at designated times.
Aside from phone and e-mail applications, the Q also can handle PDA tasks using the Windows Mobile program. (It does not, at this point, work with Macintosh computers.)
The sharing can be done wirelessly using the designated Exchange software, but can most reliably be accomplished with an old-fashioned, hard-wire sync.
The Q also allows for instant messaging on MSN Messenger. And it has a 1.3 megapixel camera.
As for other functions now found on cellphones — downloading music and video, for example — there are models that do them better.
The Q can't even use Verizon's own V Cast music and video service.
But if you're looking for a phone that can handle e-mails deftly, if not always instantly, without the use of BlackBerry server software, the Q is certainly worth consideration.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company