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Hardware par Excellence

Despite its diminutive size and light weight, the Q is loaded with a combination of sweet components that isn’t found in any other phone today. There’s a jog wheel for fast scrolling through e-mail messages and Web pages–I wish my Treo had one! The stereo speakers are loud and have great fidelity. The camera, with a maxi­mum resolution of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels, takes remarkably good pictures when the light is bright. It also has a bright white LED for taking photographs in low light. Once you’ve taken a photo, you can send it off via Bluetooth or infrared, e-mail it to somebody as an attachment, attach it to an entry in your address book, or save it on a flash memory card. When you’re taking a picture, the jog wheel controls the camera’s zoom.

The hardware is awesome–and underexploited by the Windows Mobile software. For example, I found that you can also use the LED illuminator as a flashlight even when you aren’t taking a photo. This is so useful that you can now download a third-party program to turn on the illuminator at the press of a button.

I’ve owned more than a dozen PDAs and smart phones since I bought my first Palm back in the mid-1990s, and every one of them–including all my Treos–has required a special dock or proprie­tary cable for synching and charging. Not so with the Q: it has a socket for a standard “mini USB” cable that charges and syncs. And the Q’s headphone jack is on top–so you can use headphones with the Q in your pocket.

I have only two complaints about the Q’s hardware: the screen and the phone’s internal charger. The Q’s screen is strictly for inside use. Indoors, the color is saturated, and the text is easy to read. But go into the sunlight and it’s nearly impossible. Other phones, like my Sharp GX15, have a more expensive screen that becomes reflective in direct sunlight, which improves legibility. Worse, the Q’s screen is not a touch screen: Motorola’s designers told me they didn’t want the extra thickness and didn’t want a cell phone that required a stylus. Alas, while a touch screen might have required an extra millimeter or two, it would have made the phone much easier to use. And besides, a good touch screen doesn’t require a stylus: I do most of the clicking on my Treo with my finger.

The second design flaw is that the phone won’t charge from a computer USB port if the battery is drained; from a cold start, you must use the charger that Motorola provides.

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Tagged: Communications

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