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Q9h vitals

   270 or contract dependant
Available at

   25 December 2007
   Lawrence Latif

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Motorola's Q9h is a capable, fully featured smart phone. The only problem is, you'll be hard pressed to notice it.

Even if you take the iPhone out of the equation, 2007 has been a big year for mobile phones. Handsets have finally grown up, with users wanting real feature laden units instead of meaningless items such as changeable fascias or the ability to store two billion ringtones. Now it's all about a good interface, having a credible camera and above all being able to message others.

This grown up behaviour is starting to show even in mobile messaging. While it's premature to say we'll all receive properly spelt out "msgs" with vowels in the near future, current designs are allowing for greater text entry than ever before. Designs such as the Q9h incorporate a very usable QWERTY thumb-board, which makes writing relatively detailed emails quick and painless. It is the mobile messager market that the Q9h is aiming for and quite frankly, should suceed in.

The phone is based around a now common thumb-board design with Windows Mobile 6 as the operating system. Physically, the Q9h is thin and relatively light with roughly the same dimensions as a 2.5" notebook hard drive. Motorola went with the black on black styling which is fine for executives everywhere, but just how are potential customers going to notice it next to the alternatives from Samsung and Blackberry? Attention grabbing aside, it's still a decent bit of design with some nice touches such as the rubbery feel and the glossy trim along the side.

Initially the lack of WiFi support looks like a howler from Motorola, but then you notice the Q9h is 3G compliant and supports the broadband like HSDPA protocol. This means should your carrier support it, you can get around 2mbit/sec downloads. Having spent the past couple of years downloading email through GPRS, moving onto HSDPA was akin to my ancestors snuffing out their lantern and switching on a light bulb. Thanks to this browsing is fast, although the Q9h does seem slightly sluggish at times.

The downshot of this immense connectivity is that battery life suffers, a lot. If you set it to automatically check email and you to reply to some of those, expect to charge the Q9h up once a day. To be fair it's a problem suffered by most if not all 3G phones and coupled to the fact the Q9h has a big and pretty impressive display, it's hardly surprising. Considering that most users will have to plug their device in to sync up documents, contacts, calendars and email with their workstation, on an almost daily basis it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Click to enlarge As with most phones of this nature, the Q9h has expandable memory in the form of microSD. Thankfully the slot is accessible without having to remove the battery. With ultra high density microSD cards becoming available, there's plenty of room for documents and music. One major source of annoyance is the lack of standard headphone jack. This means you'll have to use the supplied headphones. Thankfully though, the "one for all" connector which is on the device is a standard USB one.

There are areas of disappointment with the Q9h. Although it has a capable 2 megapixel backward facing camera (with a lower resolution front facing one), the interface to use it is clunky. Coming from a touch-screen environment it's clear to see that Windows Mobile works better when you can tap the screen. The use of two preset buttons and a joypad just isn't as quick and crisp. If Motorola made the screen touch-sensitive, the Q9h would sell by the truckload. Someone, somewhere needs to pull their finger out and see that such a heavyweight OS needs more than just a joypad to get the most out of it.

Compared to it's rivals Motorola's Q9h is a perfectly acceptable choice, the only problem it has is that it fails to outshine any of them. The screen is good, the connectivity is good and the operating system, traditionally Motorola Achilles' heel, is good. Make no mistake; the Q9h is a mobile messenger so make sure you look out for it because it's worth considering. or three in order to really make inroads. The iPhone isn't a bad start though.