Motorola Photon Q
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Motorola Photon Q -- Great Keyboard, But Lackluster Performance

The slide-out keyboard is exceptional, but it's a bit underwhelming compared to the Galaxy S3.

CDMA 800 / 1900 / GSM 850 / 900 /1800 / 1900 / LTE 1900 / WCDMA 850 / 1900 / 2100
Form Factor:
Block / Google Android OS v4.0
126 x 66 x 14 mm
Touch Screen / QWERTY Keypad
Battery Type:
1785 mAh Li-Ion
Talk Time:
7.5 hours
Standby Time:
9.2 days
8.0 GB
Radiation (SAR):
Medium Radiation (0.89 W/kg)

Main Screen:
qHD (ColorBoost / Accelerometer / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
16,700,000 colors (540 x 960 px)
Secondary Screen:
8.0 MP / Dual LED Flash / Zoom / 1080p Video Recorder / 1.3 MP / Video Calling

MP3 Player:
Sprint Music Store (MP3 / AAC / AAC+ / eAAC+ / WAV)
FM Radio:

540 x 960 px
Screen Savers:
540 x 960 px
Android Market
Streaming Multimedia:
Sprint TV (MPEG-4 / H.263 / H.264 / WMV9 / YouTube)

POP3 / IMAP4 / SMTP / Gmail
AOL / Google / Windows Live / Yahoo
Predictive Text:
Swype / Handwriting Recognition

Google Calendar (MotoBlur)
To-Do List:
2.0 (Webkit / Google Search)
Voice Commands:

Infrared Port:
High-Speed Data:
802.11 b/g/n / DLNA
Sprint Navigation (Google Maps)
PC Sync:
USB 2.0 (MotoBlur) / HDMI

Product Website

Compare With Similar Phones:

Google Nexus 5 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Apple IPhone 5C Apple IPhone 5S Motorola Moto X
Google Nexus 5 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Apple IPhone 5C Apple IPhone 5S Motorola Moto X

If you want an excellent keyboard on an up-to-date Android device, the Photon Q is a great choice. Sprint's flagship is a true improvement over its predecessor, the Photon 4G. But if keyboards aren't your priority, the rest of the features fail to stand out -- and the high price makes it a bad bargain if you don't love the buttons.

Encased in a soft plastic body with angled corners and a good-looking textured backplate, the Photon is pretty tall at nearly 5-inches long, and on the heavier side at six ounces. But you can hold it easily, thanks to comfortably tapered edges designed for a hassle-free grip.

Motorola devoted 4.3-inches of that length to the qHD ColorBoost display. The oversaturation problem that plagued past ColorBoost phones are fortunately fixed, and the vibrancy is surprisingly great -- you can see in direct sunlight and at wide viewing angles. The 960-by-540 pixel resolution means watching movies and videos is a more pleasant experience, but just take note that rival phones -- like the Galaxy S3 -- have sharper screens.

Oddly, and more importantly, the display runs apps at a smaller 888-by-540 resolution. Why? There's a large "virtual bar" that runs along the bottom of the screen. The apps still run without a problem, but I felt ripped off with the experience of a smaller screen -- and you will too.

A sturdy, yet fluid, slide-out keyboard is to blame for the chunky design. But the QWERTY is well worth the bulk -- it's a gem due to its exceptional layout and build. If you prefer buttons to a touch screen, you'll love it. I loved the feel of the raised keys under my fingers. The five-row keyboard is larger than normal, but that's because Motorola added a separate line just for numbers. I'll happily take a bigger size if that means I don't have to press "alt" all the time I want to type a digit. It's a small, but often overlooked convenience.

For night-typing, the phone automatically adjusts the backlight for the perfect experience. Or you can change it yourself. I found it to be a nice touch. Either day or night, your typing will be much faster and more accurate compared to touch screens. So if you fire off a lot of e-mails or messages, you'll love the keyboard.

Motorola loves to do the same thing. And not much has changed with the 8-megapixel camera -- in a bad way. It's very disappointing. The lens is basically the same one from the old Atrix HD, so photos taken in low light are just plain awful. From the few shots I took, I can barely make out the subjects -- pictures are far too grainy and dark.

Adding insult to injury, the software lacks any post-processing filters to enhance images -- not that it would help. But the settings are bare bones, to say the least: no contrast, no saturation, no HDR -- you can't even turn off the sound. If you're handy with Photoshop, your skills will be put to the test. It doesn't even have a two-step shutter, so you can't lock the focus.

The front-facing 1.3-megapixel lens, meanwhile, isn't much better -- it captures photos at a similar shockingly poor quality. The 1080p clips are just as washed out, but the noise-canceling microphone records surprisingly good audio. Simply put, the camera is awful. Even with robust tools, the photo quality is substandard. If you're blind, you'll like taking videos, but if you can actually see, bring along a point-and-shoot.

The Q doesn't really have any glaring weaknesses, but the rest of its features aren't all that memorable either. It runs on Ice Cream Sandwich, for example, with an understated Motorola interface. That's nice since there's no convoluted overlay -- ahem, MotoBlur. But the software looks and works like the Atrix HD -- decent, but unexceptional. It comes with just two pre-loaded apps from Sprint, so bloatware is kept to a minimum. That's important due to the scarce internal storage, which I'll discuss that later.

Motorola continues to improve Smartactions, its fantastic program that lets you set automatic rules for locations and scenarios. Need to change settings when you're at the office? Done. What about when you plug in headphones? Done. Or at bedtime? Done. You can set a large choice of options -- the phone automates them all. That means you can set it to do tasks while you sleep or on vacation. I found it to be a nice convenience to ease the daily grind.

The 8-gigabytes internal storage is a paltry amount. Out of that, only 4.5-gigabytes is usable. You can add a microSD card, and you should, if you want to add any form of multimedia. Meanwhile, the 1,785 mAh battery keeps up with other Sprint phones. You can last through a work day without a problem, but if you'll cut it close near bedtime -- especially with LTE turned on. You won't be able to buy a second battery, since it's non-removable, but if you need a longer-lasting phone, take a look at the Razr Maxx HD, or buy another charger for the car or office.

Overall, there's no reason to buy the Photon Q over, say, the similarly priced Galaxy S3. The display is annoying and the camera is simply horrid. The only saving grace is the exceptional keyboard.

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User Reviews

Rating: 3 of 5 Good Keyboard, Bad Connection

Benny Young on September 08, 2012

I bought the Photon Q because I'm a fan of physical keyboards. And being tied to Sprint, there are limited choices. Rather than list the pros, which you probably already know, I'll run down the few issues I've encountered after using this for a few weeks.

Sprint markets this phone as a 4G LTE device, and it is, but good luck finding 4G LTE coverage. Sprint's footprint isn't as extensive as AT&T or Verizon's network, so be aware before signing on the dotted line. I thought New York City, of all places, would have coverage -- but boy was I wrong. I felt a bit cheated in that regard, but I guess it's too late now. FYI, 3G coverage is mediocre at best, so figure out the coverage strength in your area before buying.

Now, onto the phone itself. There's a glitch with it. Namely, you can't get picture mail unless you're hooked up to Wi-Fi. So if you're not at home, you won't get photos. Sprint knows this issue, but it hasn't bothered to fix it yet. In addition, I've had problems pairing it to my Bluetooth headset. It'll connect, but it randomly disconnects or turns off the ringer. Overall, it's just a hard phone to use. The menu is rather convoluted and if it wasn't for the keyboard, I would have returned it for another device.

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Rating: 5 of 5 Great Phone

Clark Mueller on September 02, 2012

This is a great high-end device. The QWERTY keyboard is exceptional. E-mails and long texts are easy to write, without typos, and the non-MotoBlur interface is clean and wonderful to use. Smart Actions is great too. I can use GPS to set different settings and there are also features to save battery life. I don't have 4G coverage yet, but 3G is plenty fast. The music player is awesome. There's an equalizer to boost the music quality and music comes through loud and clear on my headphones.

The call quality could be better. Incoming voices sound okay, but it doesn't sound like it does on a landline. I guess I've been spoiled by my old phone. The photos this phone takes isn't as great as the iPhone 4S. It's not bad, but it's not as good. It's not a big deal for me because I didn't buy it for the camera. But overall, I can't complain.

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Rating: 5 of 5 Worth It

J. Ulm on August 28, 2012

After using the Photon 4G, which I loved, I decided to stuck with the Photon-line and get the Q. And it's great! Even better than the 4G. The design is great, the built-quality is solid, and the keyboard is easy to type on. It's everything I've come to expect from Motorola. But the best part? Motorola finally got some sense and dumped MotoBlur, so there's a simpler Android interface. Thank God. I also love using Smart Actions. I set it up based on locations, so when I head to the movie theater, it'll automatically send a text to anyone calling me. Fantastic!

I don't really have much to complain about. If I had to nitpick, I'd say the camera quality isn't as great as can be. It's not bad, but in dark environments photos can come out grainy. Also, the charging dock is a bit hard to remove. But overall, it's a great phone.

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