Saturday, September 29, 2007

Moto Q9m Review (Verizon Wireless)


Verizon recently released Motorola's Moto Q9m smartphone, a long-awaited update to the original Q. I purchased the Q9m and have used it for two weeks. Here’s a detailed review that I hope will help anyone looking to buy this smartphone.

Ground Rules:

At the outset, I promise to the reader to refrain from using the term "iPhone-Killer" for the duration of this review. Every damn professional technology reviewer throws this term around like they are waiting for a messiah. I’ll also refrain from using the term because the Q9m does not qualify.

Choosing Verizon:

The single most important factor in choosing any phone is choosing the underlying network.

I have had Verizon Wireless since early 2000 and I have always been happy with my service. The Q9m, however, is my first smartphone, so I cannot really give you a comprehensive assessment of how fast Verizon is to other data networks.

I was seriously considering a number of other service providers. I had bad luck with AT&T in the past, so I wanted to stay away from them. And from the myriad of iPhone reviews lamenting AT&T’s slow data network, I just didn’t want to get involved. T-Mobile is a good option, but all of my family and close friends are on Verizon, so free IN-Network calling was a selling point for me personally.

A quick word about Sprint’s SERO (Sprint Employee Referral Offer). This is a heavily discounted voice and data plan that offers unlimited data for a very good price. You can Google search “Sprint Sero” and find a referral e-mail address to sign yourself up. But for me, I’ve heard enough horror stories about Sprint and its service in New York and Boston that I was scared away. My friend just signed up for Sprint’s SERO plan and has said that in Long Island at least, the service has been good without any dropped calls. For more info, visit Sprint SERO.

Verizon offers a “New Every Two” plan, which is another big selling point for me. Basically it means they’ll give you $100 off any new phone when you resign with them. Apart from the $100 credit, the real advantage is that Verizon offers you the upgrade three months before your original contract expires. Why is this important? Let me throw some numbers at you.

My original contract was signed on December 15, 2005. At the time I purchased a Motorola RAZR V3c, the first RAZR offered by Verizon. Technically I am under contract until December 15, 2007, but Verizon let me upgrade on September 15, 2007 (three months early). So not only do I have a new phone at a $100.00 discount three months early, my resigning date is now September 15, 2007, which means I can upgrade again as early as June 15, 2009.

The point of all of this is that in the long run, I can upgrade more often and also shorten the duration of my contracts without having to pay any penalties. Do yourself a favor, mark your calendars right now when you’re eligible to upgrade. I know a lot of people that wait indefinitely; all you’re doing by waiting on upgrading is prolonging how long (in the future) you are going to be held captive by the contract.

Verizon’s services for smartphones are divided into two major groups: (1) Blackberry and (2) non-Blackberry. I obviously chose the non-Blackberry group. Within this group, there are a number of options for how many anytime minutes you want. Like any regular Verizon voice plan, it includes nights and weekends (9:00pm) and IN Network calling (quite useful).


The other major option is if you want unlimited text messaging. I don’t really text all that often. On a heavy month, I’ll probably only use 20 text messages, so I’d much rather pay per message than fork over an extra $20.00 a month. Thus, the plan I signed up for was “PDA/Smartphone America’s Choice Email.” This plan starts at $79.99 with 450 minutes. I estimate that with working full-time, I will be using my phone more often. So I opted instead for 900 minutes at $99.99. Unlimited data is included. This includes dial-up networking, but does NOT include using your phone as a broadband modem (please see the “Tethering” section later on).

Selecting a Phone:


Verizon offers a few smartphones, and I was deciding between the original Q, the Q9m, and Blackberry’s 8830 Worldphone. I think worldwide usage is not that important to me anymore because I tend to visit the Middle East and Pakistan a lot. I just returned from there and realized that I could buy a basic phone with a month’s worth of minutes for a total of 15 dollars. So why would I even want to bother with any American company’s international billing rates?

So in reality, the fact that Verizon generally only has CDMA phones doesn’t worry me all that much. While it would be nice to just pick up a SIM card in Pakistan and pop it into my phone, Verizon’s site is quite vague in detailing what kinds of SIM cards you could use in the Blackberry worldphone. It is just not worth the headache for me.

This left the Q and the Q9m. They’ve very similar, except the original Q sports Windows Mobile 5.0 versus the Q9m’s Windows Mobile 6.0. The major issue for me was the price difference.

Price:

Fortunately, Verizon has heavily subsidized the Q9m. The base 2-year contract price is $299.99 not including a $50.00 mail-in rebate and a standard $100.00 online discount. This means DO NOT BUY YOUR PHONE AT A LOCAL VERIZON STORE; they charge more for the phones, don’t offer online discounts, and often include smaller mail-in rebates.

In addition to the rebates, Verizon gave me a $100.00 credit for the “New Every Two” bonus, which makes the Q9m a total of $49.99. I don’t have to tell you this, but that price is impressive.
On to the phone itself!

Integration:

Everyone has different needs in a phone. I need mine primarily for work, but also to be able to check my e-mail on a regular basis. For work, we use an Exchange server for contact management, e-mail, tasks, and most importantly, calendars/scheduling. So, compatibility and integration with Exchange is the number one priority for me.


Decent battery life is a must. Moreover, I wanted a phone that didn’t force me to use some proprietary connectors, forcing me to purchase all new adapters and such. The Q9m has a simple mini-USB interface, which is the same as my previous RAZR. This means I can keep all of my existing wall/auto chargers. I will talk more on battery life below.

I will also be reusing my Bluetooth headset, Motorola’s HS850. The headset is a few years old, but works well. Money saved.

The Q9m supports Bluetooth stereo-headsets, but I’m not sure why I want an expensive set of headphones that I need to charge, drain my battery, and have poor sound quality. Yawwwn.

Document Management:

Another major requirement is that my phone must be able to download, view, and EDIT Microsoft Office documents. I don’t need to edit PDFs, but viewing them is essential as well. The two main contenders here is Microsoft’s Mobile Office and DataViz’s Documents To Go, which I used on my Palm Pilot in high school.

Motorola decided to go with Documents To Go, so that satisfies my needs – well, sort of.


Only Documents To Go version 3.0 supports viewing and editing Office 2007 documents. Motorola, cheaped out and shipped the Q9m with version 2.0 (build 243), which will not open or edit Office 2007 documents. You can upgrade to Documents to Go Premium version 3.0, which costs $29.99.

This upgrade might be a good investment depending on your workflow. However, I am going to wait because most people who use Office 2007 save their documents in the legacy “Office 97-2003 Document” format. So for now, I’m going to sit tight.

Let There Be Mediocre Multimedia Features!

Now apparently the “m” in “Q9m” stands for multimedia; or at least that is the way it is being marketed. This is shortsighted for two reasons: (1) business users get the impression that this is a lightweight device; and (2) this device offers little advances in terms of multimedia.

V-Cast Music:

The Q9m has all the basic multimedia features that most PDAs have, including some form of media player. Verizon is touting V-Cast Music, its horrendous music service. The Q9m supports V-Cast Music, but will not support the upcoming TV services offered by Verizon. But to be fair, I don’t really care about either service because I’m not paying for music I already own, especially not at $2.00 a track.

Unprotected MP3s:

Fortunately I can easily drag any of my pre-existing MP3 collection onto the phone using Windows Media Player. The sync process for MP3s, videos, and pictures is fairly seamless and uneventful, and Windows Media Player converted video files automatically when necessary. I am generally not a fan of Windows Media Player, but the experience was not terrible and everything seemed to work as it should.


I especially like how the phone shows up as a “Mobile Device” in Windows Explorer. I can manually navigate the phone’s directory structure and drop files according to my own needs.


And it gets even better, the Q9m is supported by my media player of choice: MediaMonkey (www.mediamonkey.com). I can simply drag and drop all of my MP3s and playlists with ease.

Subscription-Based MP3s:

The Q9m does not support subscription-based protected music. I tried to upload a track from Yahoo! Music, my subscription service. Yahoo!’s service uses Microsoft’s platform called “PlayForSure.” This is a bummer, but a slight bummer.

Streaming Media:

So all the rage these days is getting streaming TV, music videos, and music. But at $4.00 for one music video? Verizon can kiss my ass.

Want a good free solution? Use Orb. I’ve been using it for a few years and it is generally useful, though a bit buggy at times. Orb installs a utility on your desktop or laptop. All you do is select what media you’d like to share (movies, music videos, TV tuners, music, photos, documents) and you can simply log in via your PDA or laptop to stream your content. You also have the choice to share this media with other users, but I prefer to keep access limited.

Unfortunately, live television through my TV tuner cards is quite buggy and re-buffers constantly. On the other hand, streaming pre-recorded media on my hard drive works very well. I was impressed with the sound quality of the streamed music too, which I think is Orb’s best feature. The only catch is that you need one computer that is on all the time. Definitely give it a try even if you don’t have a PDA and just want to access the media on your home computer at work.

Removable Storage:

The Q9m has miniSD slot that supports up to 4GB of memory. I purchased the 4GB card from Sandisk from Verizon for 79.99.

Verizon does not have it’s nomenclature straight. On the box it refers to a “miniSD” slot, but the main piece of storage is an absolutely tiny (1/4 of a postage stamp) “MicroSD HC” card that comes with an adapter for “MicroSD.” There is also an adapter that says “MicroSD to SD Adapter” but it’s actually a “MicroSD HC to SD Adapter.” It’s not terribly difficult to figure it out once you see the adapters, but what genius named this stuff? Is MiniSD and MicroSD the same thing technically?

The memory cards work just fine. Loading pictures, music, and video was effortless, maybe just slightly slower than my USB 2.0 hard drives. Once loaded onto the Q9m, the songs and videos played immediately and without much lag. However, if I am listening to a song or watching a video while I surf the web, the content in Windows Media Player 10 Mobile tends to skip. This is more indicative of an underpowered processor than slow memory.

The unit in general does seem slightly sluggish when you’re playing media, but for me, the media performance isn’t exactly top priority. So although cNET is right in suggesting that the machine is slightly underpowered, I actually would trade off a more powerful processor for more battery life.

What Headphone Jack?

A major drawback for a phone that touts itself as a “multimedia” phone is that it does not have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. So now I have to lug around a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter to listen to music with my headphones. It would be a good idea to keep one adapter ($9.99 from Verizon) in your car so you can play MP3s through the car stereo.

One of the most annoying things about the 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter is that one side is a male 2.5mm connector (which goes into the phone) and the other is a male 3.5mm connector. So, if you want to use your headphones, cassette modulators, or FM modulators you’ll also need a coupler that has two-3.5mm female connectors.

This isn’t a giant disappointment because phones have always had 2.5mm connectors, but it is an example of how this so-called multimedia phone is just a regular smartphone with a crappy advertising campaign.

Sound Quality:

The Q9m’s integrated dual stereo speakers are surprisingly robust (for a phone anyway). The speakers is loud but don’t distort the sound the way most phones do. And despite the 2.5mm to 3.5mm headphone converter and the coupler, sound through my headphones matches my iPod Nano, although the volume is slightly lower with the Q9m.

The Q9m sounds phenomenal on my car stereo using a cheap cassette tape modulator. The high and mid ranges are reproduced crisply, although the lower frequencies are a little too strong (so I had to turn down my subwoofer). The Q9m sounds significantly better than my Nano in my car. I’m quite impressed.

Cameraphones:

A number of reviewers on the net have complained that the Q9m has a 1.3 megapixel camera, which wasn’t upgraded from the original Q.

Pardon me but I’m going to go on a mini rant. . . I can’t care less about how many megapixels this built-in camera has. In fact, I’d rather that my phone did not have a built-in camera at all because all they do is waste space and suck power.

I am continually astounded when someone pulls out a cell phone and goes, “Check out this 2 megapixel camera!”

Three responses: (1) the camera still takes piece of shit pictures because it is a CAMERAPHONE; (2) The 2-megapixel FujiFilm FinePix I bought in 1999 is infinitely better than any of these pieces of junk; and (3) who in their right minds think that a 2-megapixel camera is going to make obsolete the need for a standalone camera? Did anyone at Motorola read news about how the market for dSLRs is flourishing and will hit record highs next year? Listen up, ditch the cameraphones and give me a little more internal memory and battery life.

Accessories In the Box:

The Q9m comes with standard accessories. There is a useless sleeve so tight that you’ll miss your call by the time you get the phone out.

There is a standard AC wall adapter that has a mini-USB connector. As noted earlier, this is the same unit shipped with my RAZR. The unit also comes with one storage media card, though I am sure it is a paltry 32mb.

Also included is a standard USB to mini-USB cable. A few reviewers have stated that you cannot charge your phone using this cable, but this is not true. I use my laptop to charge my phone regularly. There is also one useless quickstart guide, and two CD-ROMS. One CD is for VZAccess Manager and another is for Microsoft ActiveSync. More on these applications later.

Battery Power and Performance:


The standard battery (Model BT61) is 1170 mAh. I purchased the extended battery (Model BT91, $49.99) which is 1840 mAh and comes with a battery door because the battery protrudes from the unit. The battery does make the phone a bit thicker, but I actually like it because it makes the Q9m a lot easier to hold.


With normal usage (checking email automatically every 10 minutes, mild surfing for directions, checking hotmail four or five times a day, 60 minutes of calling per day, Bluetooth on, and vibrate and ring on), I got four and a half days without having to recharge the extended battery. I highly recommend this extended battery to anyone purchasing this phone.

I am not sure how long the standard battery lasts because I haven’t used it yet. I would venture a guess that it would last 3 days with the same usage.

Device Design:

The Q9m has stunning build-quality. It does not feel flimsy or cheaply put together. The red accents are fine, but don’t really sway me one way or another. In fact, all “cool” colors really do is date your phone more quickly.

The Q9m looks a lot like the original Q except a few of the buttons have been rearranged. With the standard battery, the unit measures 4.6" (H) x 2.6" (W) x 0.47" (D) and 4.76 ounces. The phone feels light and is ultra thin, but feels a little awkward in my hand. However, with the extended battery, the backside of the phone grows by 5/16”. This added thickness makes the phone quite comfortable to hold in the palm of my hand. In addition, it makes it less tiring to type on the enhanced QWERTY keyboard.

Keyboard and Thumbwheel:


The keyboard is fantastic. The original Q’s keyboard seemed a little slippery to me, but the Q9m features a textured keyboard. I feel sure that I am pressing the key I intended. The keys offer great tactile feedback, with enough tension when you press a button and enough spring when you let go. The keys are also easy to read with the backlit keys.

The 9Qm features a smart backlighting feature that uses a light sensor to determine whether to turn the backlight on or off. I disabled this feature because I found the feature too sensitive in general. I’m sure I could adjust it, but with great battery life, I opted to just have the backlighting turn off automatically after 10 seconds.

The phone features a thumbwheel, though I hardly use it. I find myself using the five-way keypad in the center of the phone instead. Like the keyboard, the keypad is responsive as opposed to the thumbwheel, which has an awkward click movement similar to the scroll wheel on some computer mice. I cannot find any settings to make the wheel more or less sensitive. For people who want a thumbwheel, the option is there, so I can’t fault Motorola for giving consumers options on how to navigate (i.e., it did not commit Apple’s cardinal sin).

One mild annoyance is that the number keys are mixed in with the letter keys, so it takes some getting used to. I noticed that none of the number keys have the standard letters that show up on most telephone buttons. That means if someone tells you to call 1-800-Go-Fedex, you’re out of luck. I actually recall a passenger a few weeks back who had a Blackberry who asked me to if he could see the keys on my regular cell phone so that he could call the airline that had cancelled his flight.

Anyone know how to dial using letters? Very mild annoyance.

Display:

The unit features a 2.4” color TFT display at 320x240 pixels. The screen is bright and the text is legible, with several options to increase text size (including uber-large characters for people with visual disabilities). Most importantly, the screen is easily viewable in direct sunlight, even with ultra-dark sunglasses. The display isn’t stunning, but it does exactly what it is supposed to do. No huge surprises here.

Activation:

If you are upgrading from an existing contract, Verizon lets you activate your phone online, which is a huge time-saver. Out of the box, it took me about seven minutes to activate the phone.

Bluetooth Setup:

Setting up my Bluetooth headset was simple. I just enabled Bluetooth on the Q9m and hit “search.” It recognized the headset and I typed in a pairing code, which I had to look up on the manufacturer’s support page (hint, it’s probably 0000).


Getting the unit connected to my notebook (HP DV2000t) was a tad trickier, but not impossible. It is relatively easy to drag MP3s into the “My Ringtones” folder on the phone and transfer media. However, this only connects to the phone’s paltry 52.36MB internal memory. I can’t access the phone’s 4GB media card via Bluetooth, unfortunately.

I also cannot use ActiveSync with Bluetooth. There is theoretically support for it, but it has been a nightmare of trial and error, and I still cannot get the COM ports set up properly. For the meantime, I’m using the USB cable to sync my calendar, contacts, tasks, and files.

ActiveSync:


For a flaghship synchronization utility, Microsoft’s ActiveSync 4.5.0 (build 5096) is lacking in features and support. The program is generally unresponsive, and hangs from time to time. But after you get all the setup kinks worked out, it all I do is plug the phone in and a little while later, everything is synchronized.

You have the option to sync email, contacts, tasks, calendars, and files (there is support for Microsoft OneNote as well). One annoyance is that when AutoSync searches for changes, it causes Outlook to stall for about 10 seconds every few minutes.

My friend is using ActiveSync for Windows Vista and says a number of features available in XP are missing on Vista. This seems odd because the software itself doesn’t have many features to start out with.

Navigation and Interface:


We will dispense first with the Q9m’s highly advertised “Exclusive Multimedia Home Screen.” This is, without a doubt, the most ill-conceived home screen I have ever seen. The iPod Shuffle has a better visual interface than the Q9m.

For starters, none of the buttons are labeled properly and there are not descriptions on the screen (tooltips, etc.) of what any of the buttons do. The icons are arranged in a circle, which makes navigating using a directional pad an adventure because nothing is intuitive. It took me a total of two minutes to fully appreciate just how bad the home screen was. Fortunately, the phone (unlike earlier Verizon cell phones) allows you to turn off the terrible interface and switch to the standard Windows Mobile interface.


The Q9m comes with Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0, so the basic interface should be familiar to most of you. Like most Microsoft products, the interface is fairly simple, but has the standard number of annoying quirks. Fortunately, there are alternate ways of navigating, third-party hacks, or registry tweaks so that overcome most problems.

One of the most glaring oversights is the absence of a command to erase multiple contacts at the same time. This was a major problem for me when ActiveSync decided to duplicate all of my contacts, one with “Last Name, First Name” and the other “First Name Last Name.” Erasing 250 contacts by hand took 50 minutes and when ActiveSync duplicated all of my contacts a second time, I simply hard-reset the phone, which erased all of my settings. Beware, get all of your shit in order before you sync your phone for the first time. Once your contacts are properly loaded onto the phone, the integration between the phone book, call log, email, and SMS are intuitive and well thought out.

One of the things I really like about the phonebook is that it pulls my contacts from Outlook. Normally I use “Categories” in Outlook to make manageable groups of contacts, but for some reason, the phonebook on the Q9m will not sort by Category. Instead, it can only sort by “Company,” so I was forced to manually enter in the name of the Category into the Company field. Again, this is a pain in the ass that could have been solved by a programmer with half a brain (who uses that half a brain).

Adding pictures to my contacts adds a great touch. I first add a picture to a contact in Outlook. This can be quite daunting, but it is very manageable since many of my contacts are on social networks like Facebook. There is one application called “Fonebook” that compares your Outlook and Facebook contacts, and pulls their Facebook photos, Facebook URLs, and birthdays, updating your address book in Outlook automatically. The interface is kind of clunky, but I really only had to use it once. I also took the time to enter in small pictures for the businesses I call, which adds a nice professional touch. Google image search is invaluable for this task.

The phone comes with a decent number of themes, though most are fairly boring and don’t offer great contrast. I don’t know what programmers are thinking when they load default wallpapers that are so busy that there is no way in hell anyone can read anything on the screen with it. Use your head you tools!

Call Quality:

Like every Verizon phone I have had for the past 6 years, the call quality is fantastic. The people I call report that I come in with a clear voice and with decent volume. And all of my incoming calls can be heard clearly. I thought that holding this PDA during calls would feel awkward, but I actually find it more comfortable to use than my RAZR, which was very thin.

The incoming volume is a little low on my Bluetooth headset, but this is a headset problem, not a problem with the phone.

The integrated speakerphone is pleasantly sensitive, so I don’t need to hold the phone up near my mouth nor do I need to scream into my phone (like someone riding the Long Island Rail Road).

One of the drawbacks with having your entire contact list in your phone is that—for the purposes of voice activated dialing—you must say the full name of the contact. I thought saying full names would be a problem, but the built in voice recognition engine is very accurate.

There is also voice-activated digit dialing, which can be enabled after a two-minute training session where you repeat a set of numbers. Voice-activated dialing is a life-saver when I’m driving and using my Bluetooth headset. Most Bluetooth phones have it, so if you haven’t given it a chance, try it out.

Mobile Internet:

The Q9m comes bundled with Internet Explorer Mobile, which is generally regarded as sluggish. At least from my own experience, most of the speed problems were related to the strength of my signal, not the browser.

Navigation is pretty rudimentary, but functional. I think the main factor in whether someone likes a mobile browser is what one’s personal needs are. A lot of people are up in arms that a browser doesn’t completely recreate a real webpage with fully functional Java, etc. etc. I really don’t care all that much because I’m not using the device to surf the web. Instead, I want the device for basic searching, e-mail access, mapping, traffic, discovering local points of interest, movie times, sports scores, and weather.

I gave Opera Mobile Beta a try, but it says my login information for Hotmail is incorrect. I haven’t really noticed any major differences in load times, except that Opera crashed my phone when trying to load up a picture on my blog. I haven’t used Opera enough to give you an opinion on it, however, so I’ll be testing it out for a few more weeks. I will say that IE seems to work fine.


I highly recommend Microsoft’s Live Search, which is a free bundle of small search utilities that are very well integrated. I think it has a better interface than Yahoo! and Google’s offerings. I especially like Microsoft’s LiveMaps, which is easy to navigate and is legible at all zoom levels.

While I am on the subject of mapping, be aware that the Q9m does NOT have built-in GPS. This is a bit of a disappointment because turn-by-turn directions might be useful from time to time. But looking at what Verizon charges for this basic service, I’ll stick to the GPS unit in my car or just do a quick mobile search from time to time. No big deal.

Tethering:

Tethering is the ability to use your mobile phone as a broadband modem for your laptop. Verizon has generally been stingy with devices capable of tethering, so it astounds me that Verizon is not pushing the tethering features for the Q9m more. Tethering is my main answer to the limits of mobile web browsing. If I want to surf the web, I’d be much happier just plugging in my Q9m to my laptop and enjoying a proper experience.

What seems almost inexplicable is that Verizon’s website makes no mention of how much tethering costs. From the way it is laid out, it suggests that you must sign up for something called “BroadBand Access,” which is one of those PCMCIA cards for your laptop. The problem is that “BroadBand Access” costs around $70.00/month.

Wouldn’t it be a no-brainer for Verizon to advertise that tethering the Q9m is an additional $15.00 a month? That is a huge selling point and something that a lot of business users would love to know. But because of Verizon’s carelessness and lack of attention to detail (giant details), a lot of people just won’t know.

I was thinking of signing up for broadband access, but I am going to save my money right now. I am generally near places with WiFi access, and on the road I only want e-mail and basic web access. Thus, if I need it later on, I’ll sign up for it. Does anyone know if you can add tethering for just a month or if you’re committed to it for the duration of your contract?


The Q9m comes bundled with Verizon’s VZAccess Manager. Because I haven’t used the phone as a modem, I can’t offer a review of the software or of the data speeds. Sorry.

E-mail Solutions:

My world will soon be divided between “Work” e-mail and “Personal” e-mail and I’m not looking forward to it.

At home, I use Microsoft’s subscription service called “Outlook Live!” The service is no longer offered to new users, but it basically gives you a supercharged Hotmail account, the latest version of Outlook (2007), and Outlook Connector. Basically Outlook Live! Lets me make changes to my e-mail, contacts, tasks, and calendar items on one computer and synchronizes them automatically with my webmail and with Outlook on my notebook. So, in reality is it a personal Exchange server. This is a fabulous e-mail solution – but there’s one catch.

I was expecting to be able to have access to my e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks through the Q9m’s e-mail interface. But I am sadly mistaken.

Hotmail is Microsoft’s flagship e-mail solution. You would think that they offer IMAP or POP3 support for such a ubiquitous e-mail solution, but no. You would think that people who PAY FOR A SUBSCRIPTION to Outlook Live would have this option; no again. Does someone want to explain to me how a company that designs the operating system figures out a way to lock out its own e-mail platform? Ridiculous.

For the meantime, I can only check my Hotmail using Hotmail’s mobile website. This doesn’t offer me access to my calendar or tasks or give me the ability to update either on the fly. Also missing is the ability to mark multiple messages as “Read.”

For now, I’m stuck plugging in my phone to sync appointments, tasks, and contacts using ActiveSync. This is a major letdown.

The only thing that doesn’t make me want to return the phone is because I plan on integrating all of my schedule into the Exchange account offered through my firm. In fact, I want the integrated Outlook interface for work e-mail only, not personal email. Thus, in terms of calendars, tasks, and e-mail, most of the disaster is averted. But for those of you who don’t have Exchange-based solutions at your disposal, this could be a major drawback.

The bigger problem here is that this isn’t something you can fix by getting another phone. This is a problem with the lack of consumer-grade solutions for getting internet access to calendars, contacts, and tasks.

Verizon’s Wireless Sync:

Verizon offers its own e-mail solution called “Wireless Sync.” This is a service included in my dataplan, but Verizon doesn’t really do a great job of describing what it is or why you need it. When I discovered the horror of not being able to get my calendar, contacts, and tasks wirelessly, I decided to try Wireless Sync.

The setup process is a disaster because it asks for a password that doesn’t exist. Verizon insists that one exists, and sends you a text message with a temporary password. Except when you enter in the password on your phone, it says it’s incorrect. I must have had at least 6 different passwords texted to me until I tried setting up the account on my laptop instead. This worked.

The Wireless Sync setup first asked me to choose between “Corporate e-mail” or “Internet / POP3 / IMAP e-mail.” I chose the latter, which produced a puzzling set of options:

Option 1: USE OUTLOOK TO RETRIEVE MY EMAIL: Your PC must remain on, connected to the Internet, and in a condition to send/receive email with your ISP. This option also provides wireless synchronization of your Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Notes between your mobile device and your PC. Outlook Monitor currently supports POP3 email sources such as Verizon, Comcast, Gmail, etc.
That sounds like a mediocre option, but one that can work. But wait, Verizon gives you one more small nugget of information. Option 1 does NOT support Outlook 2007. What? Why the hell not? On to Option 2.

Option 2: RETRIEVE MY EMAIL FOR ME: The Wireless Sync server can retrieve your email for you from most POP3/IMAP email accounts. This option does not require you to leave a PC on and connected. You will not have wireless synchronization of your Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Notes with this option, but you can synchronize this data through your cradle or cable. Yahoo! Standard, Hotmail, MSN, and Gmail are not currently supported within this access method.
What kind of e-mail solution is this? It doesn’t support synchronization of anything and it doesn’t support virtually all of the major e-mail platforms. Verizon Wireless Sync is a debacle. Don’t even bother trying it out. It also changes the entire interface of the phone.

By the way, after I ditched the setup process, Verizon kept texting me that my setup was incomplete. It sent me 14 text messages in a matter of a few hours telling me that the setup was incomplete, each of which costs me 15 cents to receive. What a shakedown!

Conclusion

Pros:

1. Exceptional build quality
2. Great price ($49.99 if resigning with Verizon)
3. Robust Verizon data network
4. Stunning keyboard texture; great tactile feedback
5. Good call quality and speakerphone
6. Phenomenal sound quality via 2.5mm jack
7. Well-integrated contact management
8. Tethering available (+$15.00/month)
9. Great battery life (with extended battery)
10. Well-integrated with Windows Media Player (also supports MediaMonkey)
11. Support for manual editing/transfers using Windows Explorer
12. Simple mini-USB interface (allows for charging via laptop)
13. Ample removable storage (up to 4GB)
14. Bluetooth file transfers not crippled by Verizon
15. Outlook compatible (sort of)

Cons:

1. No integrated support for Outlook Live!, Hotmail (i.e., Windows Live Mail)
2. Atrocious “Multimedia Home Screen”
3. Lacks 3.5mm headphone jack
4. No support for Office 2007 documents without Documents to Go 3.0 (+$29.99)
5. No support for PlayForSure, subscription-based music (protected .WMA)
6. No GPS
7. ActiveSync clunky and unresponsive
8. Verizon Wireless Sync is a complete disaster
9. Pricey data/voice plan package
10. CDMA-only

Moto Q9m - Rating 7.0 out of 10

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thorough review! A have to agree that the colors are nothing special, but I do like that it looks different from the first Q. Also, I can't always read the dark red number keys against the black keypad. Not enough contrast.

A few comments:

- Unless I misunderstood you, you might have missed a way to sort e-mail by categories. You use the "Filter" option in the Menu in Contacts.

- I think the Docs2Go for 2007 launched too late to be on the Q9m. I'm hoping Motorola provides an update in a software release.

- To dial a number like "1-800-FLOWERS," dial the 1-800 as usual, and then hit the Fn key and dial using the alpha keypad to spell "FLOWERS." It works great but could be documented better.

- Pocket MSN is a solution for Hotmail (I think) but it costs $20. http://mobile.live.com/ac.aspx?cid=pmsn_market

- I have the S9 stereo headsets and they sound great. I just ordered a 4GB card ($19.95 on buy.com!) and I'm going to start using the Q as my main MP3 player. No wires is the best.

A.H. Rajani said...

Thanks for the great reply!

Re: Filter Contacts: I was using this at first, but it was just too cumbersome to filter on and off. I like how the grouping by "Company" shows each company as a expandable group, which I personally like more.

Re: Docs to Go: I doubt either Verizon or Motorola will provide an update, but that'd be great if they did.

Re: Dialing with Letters: Brilliant! I was trying to get it to work before but for some reason it didn't. Works beautifully now.

Re: PocketMSN: i'm giving it a try, but it seems to work pretty well so far. Thanks a lot for the tip. I'm amazed that Microsoft/MSN is so schizophrenic and careless with its product offerings. Nobody can even get the name of the email client straight anymore (Hotmail, Live Mail, Live Mail Beta, Hotmail Plus, Outlook Live, etc etc) and they never really mention pocket msn as opposed to mobile live.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

No problem. I get a lot of information over at qusers.com and everythingq.com. Like, a great .cab file that let's me watch YouTube on my Q.

Moto has released at least three software updates for the Verizon Q, so I definitely expect one for the 9m in the next few months.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such an honest and thorough review. I've learned many good tips from your writing.

On the side note, such a great review despite of you are not a tech person, rather a law major

From Portland, OR

Anonymous said...

thanks for another great review. i bought hp's dv2000 in large part because of your review and couldn't be happier. i ordered the q9m today, can't wait to get it.

A.H. Rajani said...

correction: the included SD memory card is 128MB, which is not enough for video or music, but is decent for document storage.

Anonymous said...

Thorough review, thank you.

I have a T-mobile hotspot account. Could I use the Q9 to go to a T-mobile hotspot (i.e. Starbucks) and use their router signal to log onto T-mobile without paying Verizon for another data plan?

Thank you.

A.H. Rajani said...

you won't be able to connect to a t-mobile hotspot without a wifi connection. the q9m doesn't have built in wifi, though you could purchase an add on SDIO Wireless Card (fits in the SD slot of the phone and sticks out a little). if you want wifi, i'd really suggest getting a phone with native wifi and not fiddling around with an external card.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate the thoroughness of your review. I'm debating between the Qm or the LG Evn. The idea that I could carry around reading material and access the web for financials and make a trade are my priority uses for a phone, but first a PHONE is the most important. From your review I'm going to test drive the QM, if it has all the annoyances people have posted, will return for the LG. Thanks again, if you have anything to say re: my post please respond.

A.H. Rajani said...

I think you should go to the store first, and find a working Q9M and actually try to get to your broker’s website and see if it even loads up properly. With the way IE formats pages, it MIGHT be an absolute headache to place a trade on the phone; so it can’t hurt to try it out first in the store.

In terms of “reading material” I did notice that if you have documents open (PDF, Word) for a significant amount of time, the battery life starts to decrease significantly since the processor is not only handling the documents, but the screen is at full brightness the whole time. But if you can take it for a test drive, that’s a great idea.

ERIC N. said...

I've been using this phone for the past 3 weeks and so far I'm please with it. As i don't have the need for checking emails at this time, my mainly usages are just for making calls, listening to music and using some PDA features. The only complains that I have are the slow response Window mobile and have to terminate apps via Task Manager to save the battery.

Anyhow I'm thinking about getting a WIFI card just in case I need access to internet at public places. Do you have any experience using WIFI card for this phone? Any thought?

Thanks A.H.

-- Eric

A.H. Rajani said...

i haven't used a wifi card with the q, sorry. i agree that it is annoying to kill tasks to saver battery life. windows mobile does not have a coherent way of "exiting" applications. a few programs have an exit command, some remain on all the time, some remain on until you kill them. pretty lame.

Anonymous said...

rajani these comments and are what we call spot on. It is like you took my brain and thoughts and read it like a book. i should have bought online but I had lost my phone and was desperate.
pls my email is gaiyegbusi@hotmail.com pls update me on new stuff for the phone execellent unbiased objective opinion I have ever seen about a product verizon you better hire him.

A.H. Rajani said...

thanks for the compliment. i will be doing a short review on "Good Mobile Messaging" http://www.good.com, which overall is a fantastic suite of applications that make this a real powerhouse phone.

Anonymous said...

i tried pulling up you tube it gives me an error when trying to view videos any fix on this.

Ron Park said...

You know, the $100 online discount from verizon seems really iffy. When you are not logged into the account it has $100 online discount.

But when I logon to my account, and check my upgradable phone availability, the $100 online discount disappears with 2 every new. So there isn't a $200 discount from verizon, from what I can see.


I never added it to my cart, and tried to check out, so i'm kinda bummed that i wasn't able to get such a good deal on the phone.

But I was able to get to the retention dept, and after all said and done, i was able to get the Q9m for $100 + tax= $134

$300 - ($100 2 every new, 50 rebate, and $50 knocked off cuz i was asking the right dept.)

Can you enlighten me about this extra $100 online discount even when you are a current Verizon customer.

Anonymous said...

Good review. Do you know if the q9m is compatible with MS Outlook 2000?

I cannot find an answer on this.

Tom C.

Arni said...

I am trying to sync up my Q9m with Media Player 11 and the sync will only allow me to save to Main Memory. I can't seem to find a way to get the computer to recognize my removable memory.

Any help?

A.H. Rajani said...

Arni,

I'm not sure why WMP11 doesn't recognize your removable memory. When I plug in my phone to WMP, the main memory of the phone and the removeable memory show up as two different listings. Just make sure there isn't a generic "removeable drive" or something that you're accidentally ignoring. Other than that, I'd try to remove and then reinsert the memory while you are connected via USB.

I wish I could be more helpful, but I use MediaMonkey to transfer music to my Q and to my iPod. This is nice not only because I have one nice, customizable interface for all of my devices, but also because MediaMonkey is miles beyond either of the two other players. The Q showed up (main and removable memory) without any customization.

arni said...

Thanks for the quick Reply. Does mediamonkey also convert video files into the correct format for the q9m?

Anonymous said...

Try downloading PdaNet to bypass the $15 a month for the tethering fee. PdaNet links up your Q with your PC to provide an internet connection. I have noticed that the Moto Q 9M is much faster than the original Q. You can download PdaNet for a 30 day trial at the PdaNet website or you can find the newest version by searching for the torrent. Type "PdaNet torrent" into Google after downloading a bit torrent client. I recommend Azerus.

A.H. Rajani said...

to anonymous at 4/26: thank you very much for the pdanet recommendation. the software works quite seamlessly. in fact the only thing holding it back is the windows mobile device center/activesync base upon which it relies. thanks again.

jncutt said...

I have this Moto Q for two years now. Loved everything about it except that its difficult to get a flash player downloaded on it. My Moto Q is a Mobile Windows 5.0. Is there a way to get flash player downloaded to it? It seems to fail everytime I tried. Anyone out there with luck? Secondly, is there a way to upgrade from Mobile Windows 5.0 to 6.0? Appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I'm considering the Moto Q9M and the Palm Centro for phone and Outlook synch with my personal computer. I may add email/web service in the future. Are you still pleased with your Moto?

Anonymous said...

jncutt... yes bro.. u can install windows mobile 6.1 if you would like.. but it takes to flashing and your phone wont recognize itself by its original name.. althought this shouldnt cause any problems,, make sure you get the update of the Q9c for verizon...but i cant assure that this will work...but it did for me. i went from Q9m windows mobile 6 to windows mobile 6.1.. google for video..google solves all of life wonders ... :D good luck

Anonymous said...

Really great review, loved it helped me find out a lot of tricks about the Q9m
Thanks so much!

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