Motorola Q Smartphone

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Yes, this is yet another review of an eagerly anticipated smartphone. And yes, the Motorola Q is fairly similar to high-powered consumer phones in other parts of the world. (It looks like a Palm Treo that's been flattened with a rolling pin.) But the Q brings the first-ever pairing of Microsoft's Smartphone operating system — which comes with Outlook and Pocket MSN, including Hotmail and messaging, built in — with a QWERTY keyboard that makes text messaging a lot easier.

A hair slimmer than a RAZR, with a beautiful LCD and cool, flat buttons, the Q can play videos and music, and its battery provides an extra hour of talk time. Unlike other Windows Mobile products, it comes with speaker-independent voice recognition from VoiceSignal — a must for anyone who wants to talk and drive. This is also the first U.S. handset to stream stereo Bluetooth to wireless headphones. Once you have loaded up some MP3s or "rented" songs (from MTV's Urge or another Windows-Media-friendly, non-Apple music service), power up Motorola's $80 HT820 Bluetooth headphones. Tap the right ear, and a song starts playing. Tap the left, and the music gets quieter and you hear a prompt for voice-dialing. The headphones let you adjust the volume or skip songs even if the Q is halfway across the room. Unfortunately, the sound, compared to the same music played through typical wired headphones, is pretty bad.

Although the Q satisfied my e-mail needs, I was less happy with its desktop-type instant-messaging options. Unless you use MSN, you have to download a third-party application such as Agile Messenger, which is still buggy. T-Mobile pre-loads a solid messaging application in its newest smartphone, the SDA, and I wish Verizon did the same. For the most part, all third-party products that benefit the SDA, such as ALK's CoPilot Live 6 GPS navigation system, will also benefit the Q.

Although this is not a business phone — the Q lets you view Microsoft Office documents but not edit them and, unlike the new Treo 700p, can't be used as a wireless modem — it's not exactly an entertainment phone either. Verizon has yet to work out a pricing plan that allows the Q to work with its V Cast streaming videos and high-quality music downloads. Stuck in the middle, the Q is for sale at the $200 mark (provided you renew your contract, etc.), just above most V Cast phones and just below Verizon's duo of Treos. But even though it can't do everything the Treos can, it has the same high-priced service plans, starting at $80 per month for 450 anytime talk minutes plus unlimited data use. What this means is that unless you are prepared to do a lot of data-intensive activities with the phone like check e-mail 10 times a day, surf the Web or upload photos, this smartphone may not be a smart buy.