Motorola PHOTON Q 4G LTE First Impressions

Aaron Baker
member from Dallas, TX
Published: August 22, 2012

The Motorola PHOTON Q 4G LTE is another attempt to bring a QWERTY keyboard to the high-end smartphone market, and in most respects, it's a great option to consider on Sprint.  It's a well-designed phone that fits in with Motorola's current design scheme, and brings 4G LTE, throwing it well ahead of other QWERTY offerings such as the HTC Arrive and Motorola Admiral.

It's available now at Sprint for $199.99.  Is it worth considering over the HTC EVO 4G LTE and Samsung Galaxy S III, both of which are at the same price point?  It completely depends on what you need.  My thoughts:

  • PHOTON Q 4G LTE is powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, so like the recent high-end launches on the market, it performs very well.  Despite my attempts to throw everything at it, there's little to no lag system-wide. 
  • I'm bummed to see that the 4.3-inch display isn't HD, despite offering Motorola's ColorBoost technology.  After working with the similarly equipped Motorola Atrix HD for a few weeks, the difference between HD and non-HD is noticeable.  I'd be a bit more lenient here if the phone were cheaper, but at $199.99, it's competing with two high-end smartphones that offer HD displays (and are larger, to boot).

  • The PHOTON Q's physical QWERTY closely mimics the one found on Verizon's DROID 4, and for my personal use, is the current physical keyboard to beat.  The keys are tactile and offer a near-perfect amount of play, making it easy to type out a long note.  Dedicated rows for numbers and commonly used symbols are nice touches as well. 
  • Packing an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p recording capabilities, PHOTON Q shoots stills relatively well.  I've been mostly impressed with the images, and I'm a big fan of the physical camera button on the right side of the unit - though it doesn't offer the half-press focus step that I prefer.
  • It brings to the table a 1,785 mAh battery, and so far, longevity has been decent.  I've gotten 8-10 hours out of it with moderate use.  The downside is the lack of a removable battery; road warriors will want to carry an additional charger.
  • Sprint's 4G LTE isn't available in the Charlotte metro area just yet, and unfortunately, their 3G network is still abysmal.  If the recent market rollouts are any indicator, Network Vision looks to be alleviating some of this issue, but if you're in a market that hasn't received the update, expect terrible speeds.

  • When comparing the PHOTON Q 4G LTE to older Motorola devices, some of the most impressive improvements come in the software.  Over the years, Motorola has received quite a reputation - good or bad, depending on which side of the fence you fall on - for their user interface.  Formerly called MOTOBLUR, it was perhaps the most intrusive user interface on the market.  Compare that to Motorola's new user interface (still called Motorola Applications Platform), which has been drastically improved and presents a minimalistic appearance that's shockingly close to stock Android.  Plain Ice Cream Sandwich fans will no doubt be impressed.

All things considered, I'm very impressed with the PHOTON Q 4G LTE.  It offers a great balance of features, including a dual-core processor, decent camera, and great physical QWERTY keyboard that's sure to appeal to email and text message addicts.  It goes against two of the most popular smartphones on the market, though, so it will be a tough call for prospective buyers.  If a QWERTY keyboard is a requirement for you, choose the PHOTON Q 4G LTE.  If specifications matter more to you, the lack of an HD display would lead me to suggest the EVO 4G LTE or Galaxy S III. 

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