License to thrill?

Motorola's new Q smartphone has tons of features and a great price, but we can't bond with it.

PETER LEWIS

(FORTUNE Magazine) -- There's a scene in the movie Goldfinger in which James Bond, assessing the passenger-ejection seat in his sleek new Aston Martin sports car, says to the gadget master known as Q, "You must be joking." To which Q replies, "I never joke about my work, 007."

And that's the problem with the new Q smartphone from Motorola: The phone itself is the sleekest QWERTY-keyboard phone yet invented, slimmer even than Motorola's popular RAZR phone, but it's based on an operating system, Windows Mobile, that is stodgy enough to appeal to Q the technocrat.

The Q (destined to be nicknamed the RAZRberry for its ability to retrieve and send corporate e-mail) does offer bang for the buck. Or, more accurately, 200 bucks from Verizon, with a two-year service contract.

That's half the price of the Palm Treo 700p smartphone, which I reviewed favorably last month. Though the Q is the more stylish of the two, in my opinion the Treo 700p is the better smartphone and worth the extra money.

Anyone who has used the Palm operating system will probably be dismayed by the ungainliness of Windows Mobile.

It's just easier to accomplish common tasks on the Palm Treo, in part because the Treo has a touchscreen while the Q does not, relying instead on hardware buttons and a scroll wheel.

If you're trying to delete a piece of spam e-mail - the phone equivalent of ejecting the bad guy from the passenger seat - it's a two-button process on the Q, vs. one tap on the Treo. (Imagine Agent 007 fiddling with the buttons while bullets are flying: MENU ... SCROLL DOWN ... EJECT BAD GUY ... click! ... ARE YOU SURE (Y/N)? Yes, dammit!)

Similar frustrations arise when dealing with Microsoft Office files, which are more difficult to open and edit on the Q than on the Treo.

Otherwise the Q does almost all the things a good smartphone should do.

For starters, it's a very good mobile phone. Sound quality is excellent. Web browsing is very much improved from other Windows smartphones, thanks to Verizon's EV-DO high-speed data network.

Too bad the Q can't be used as a Bluetooth modem for your laptop, as the Treo can.

Web pages reveal the weakness of the Q's display screen, which is bright and crisp for most applications, but at 2.4 inches it's a tad small compared with the Treo 700p's screen, and it has lower resolution, 320 by 240 pixels compared with the Treo's 320 by 320.

Assuming your corporation uses Microsoft Exchange Server, the Q handles corporate e-mail, plus as many as eight different POP and IMAP accounts for e-mail, including AOL or MSN Hotmail.

The keyboard makes it easy to compose e-mail or, for instant-messaging fans, qwk txt msgs using Pocket MSN Messenger.

Receiving mail with attachments seems to work most of the time, but not as reliably as on the Treo. Synchronizing information with a desktop or laptop PC is fairly painless.

Motorola's Q comes with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, which, along with the Mini SD card expansion slot, transforms the Q phone into a very handy MP3 and WMA music player.

It also handles videoclips and digital still pictures, with a built-in 1.3 megapixel camera.

The Q is the best-looking Windows Mobile smartphone and a very good value. Too bad it doesn't thrill.  Top of page