As some of you folks know, I bought myself a Sprint Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE when it became available.
As I've done before, I'm going to just write about my experiences with this device as I learn about it.
(A little background would probably help: I'm a retired communication engineer who spent a quarter century working in the old Bell System, primarily at Pacific Northwest Bell and Bell Telephone Laboratories.)
For a good while now I've been hoping that my carrier-of-choice, Sprint, would offer a "Droid 4" equivalent device, because that smartphone had an ideal match of overall size, screen size, and physical keyboard for my needs. The physical keyboard, for me, is almost a necessity, as I do not get along well with touch-screen virtual keyboards since my stroke.
While at first glance the new Photon Q ("PQ") looks like a Droid 4 ("D4") clone, there are substantial differences in detail that make the PQ by far the better device.
When I stopped in to my local Sprint corporate store to look at the new PQ, I'd already done a lot of research into the technical details of PQ, and was already familiar with the D4.
I knew, for example, that neither had a user replaceable battery, and that neither the LTE nor the GSM SIMs in the PQ were user replaceable.
Even though there are a number of devices on the market today that do not have user replaceable batteries, I still do not like that trend and would prefer either user replaceable or at least much larger capacity batteries in my devices.
In my first handling of the PQ at the store, it was almost immediately obvious that this was not just a clone of the D4, but a newer, better design. First thing I noticed is the PQ is noticeably faster than the D4 in just about everything it does, next was that it seemed to weigh a little less, and the screen was noticeably larger.
The slide mechanism was smooth, and seemed very well built, which is typical of Motorola, and the physical buttons were all solid feeling - not loose at all.
I played with one of the demo PQs, even took some pictures, and decided I'd go ahead and buy it. I flagged down Willanna, the floor manager (I bought my last phone from her), and told her I'd like one of the PQs.
She verified my account status, then got a tiny box out of the back room.
The box the Photon Q came in would quite honestly have fit into the battery compartment of my first Motorola cellphone...
To be continued...
Hmmmmm... Before I go much further, I suppose I should explain why I got the Photon Q instead of any other device.
I'm sure that Sprint has other devices available that are faster, more powerful, flashier, bigger, smaller, cuter, bolder, more colorful, less colorful, with replaceable batteries, with larger batteries, with longer battery life, better cameras, or a kickstand, or thinner, or... well, you get the idea.
Each of us have certain criteria we personally use when choosing a new device.
For me, here's the shortlist:
First three on the list are critical, and if a device misses any one of those it is dropped from consideration. This time 'round, functionality included LTE capabilities, which was a new requirement, at least for me.
So, while there are indeed faster, more powerful, bigger screen, cheaper devices readily available, they don't have physical keyboards.
I chose the absolute best device (in my humble opinion) that met my criteria.
OK, back to Willanna and the smartphone she is selling me...
To be continued...
When Willanna brought out the box, she asked if I needed anything else to go with the new phone, and I said that I doubted it would fit in my current leather horizontal belt holster, so she went off to find a proper horizontal holster for the PQ.
To make a long story short, one for an HTC phone (EVO 3D) fit absolutely perfectly, and that's what I got. I hope my Motorola isn't too embarrassed being in that HTC holster...
Next thing Willanna checked is to see if my current plan would support the new LTE smartphone - of course it wouldn't. *sigh*
That meant trying to find new codes, which her sales terminal steadfastly refused to divulge. After a few quick calls to the mothership, she had the proper codes to enter, but then her terminal refused to accept them anyway.
This is to be expected with newly released equipment and really odd, rare service plans.
She resorted to setting me up with a totally different plan, then called her contact back at the mothership and had them change it to the correct SOC using a terminal with more permissions there.
All in all, other than a few expected glitches and delays because of my odd service plan, everything went smoothly and I was soon on my way home with a brand new LTE smartphone that had already been tested making a voice call, sending a text, and using some data.
Now I just have to learn how to use this new device.
Not only is it a new and different hardware layout from my old Motorola XPRT, it is on the new-to-me Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) 4.0.4 release.
I'll have to relearn where everything is and how it works...
To be continued...
One of the first things I wanted to try out, because it was so difficult on my previous smartphone, was taking a screenshot.
I'd read that it should be possible with a simple button press, so before I even started my car in the Sprint store parking lot, I pressed those two keys and •ZAP• it flashed the screen, emitted the shutter sound, and displayed the screenshot I'd just taken.
I was a happy camper.
When I got home, I connected the phone to a charger (it only had about 30% charge when I got it) and started playing with all the menus.
There's new stuff in there, and new ways of doing some of the same old things, but what bothered me with this massive upgrade in operating system version (2.3 to 4.0) was that some things I was used to were simply no longer there.
What this meant to me was that I was going to have to learn new methods to manage my battery use, but that could come later - right now it was time to PLAY!
Obviously one of the first things I noticed was the "three coins" on the home screen...
Not knowing how they worked or what they could do I of course started poking, prodding, and swiping at them.
If one swipes at the clock circle it flips between analog and digital display of time. Neat!
If one taps that same circle, one can set alarms and other clock settings.
The weather circle is similar: Swiping allows one to change settings or add locations and moves from location to location, while tapping takes one to the full Accuweather screen.
The battery circle can take you to "Settings" when swiped, or to detailed battery use information when tapped.
The whole works can be moved to any of the up to seven home pages, or simply gotten rid of, just like any other home page icon or widget.
Trust me, it makes more sense with your finger on the screen, and the learning curve is super short - no instruction needed.
Plus one for the new circles!
To be continued...
I'm amazed, truly amazed.
I actually watched an hour forty minute movie on the PQ this afternoon, a full HD MP4 version I'd downloaded to my computer then side-loaded onto the SD card in the PQ.
Quality was quite nice, excellent clarity and color, audio was fed to an external portable JBL/Motorola Bluetooth speaker set (EQ7) that I've had for quite a while, and it came out quite nicely, too.
What amazed me is that when I was through it had used less than 20% of my PQ's battery. To my mind, that is pretty efficient.
I used to laugh at folks for watching movies on what I referred to as "postage stamp size screens" but the screen on this phone is actually sufficiently large to be enjoyable.
In fact, I'm downloading another movie to watch tomorrow while I'm at a car event, during the "dead times."
The more I use this device the more I'm impressed with the engineering that went into it.
It may not be the fastest, it may not be the fanciest, and it is certainly not the thinnest, but it certainly is well thought out and built.
That's it for today, after all, it is the weekend.
To be continued...
I had the Multi Media Station (Dock) for my Motorola XPRT, in fact I had two of 'em.
I learned to really like docks with my first Sprint phone, a Samsung N200 a decade ago, and got docks (or made them) for all my devices since.
My Sprint store has the PQ docks in stock. Part number appears to be: EVM8951Q (on the box), and it says SJYN0791B and Model CSD-8109 on the bottom of the dock unit.
Comes with the HD dock, an HDMI cable, AC wall-wart charger, a couple of adapters for fitting tablets or phones with protective cases.
The stock number on the box is 760492022088.
I bought one - works great. USB, HDMI, and Audio jacks on the back of the dock, and the dock has built-in plugs pre-spaced to fit right into the device.Looks like this:
A nicely designed dock even if it is a bit expensive, BUT it is supposed to fit current Motorola smartphones and tablets, and allegedly will fit future devices also, since it is adjustable.
I was curious how well it worked with the keyboard extended, so I of course had to try it.
Very stable, one can type on it without the device or dock shifting around (the dock appears to be powder-coated metal, and it quite solid and heavy).
It puts the keyboard at an odd angle, but it is solidly mounted and easily usable.
For me, it will allow it to me my alarm clock / phone on my nightstand.
To be continued...
Whoa! That was exciting!
When I connected my new Motorola HD dock to my headboard sound system last night (it's really simple: Built-in powered speakers that simply plug into the 3.5mm headset jack of any device that has one) it had a big surprise...
The Dock has but two sound levels from it's headphone jack: Silence or Flat Out Full Volume.
Needless to say I got "FULL VOLUME" and the Photon Q's volume control has no effect until one gets to the very bottom and the sound mercifully shuts off.
One can watch the pleasant little volume indicator on the PQ's screen going up and down, just don't expect it to have any effect on the actual volume.
I believe the root of this is the audio output jack at the back of the dock - the one you would leave connected to external devices so they are "live" as soon as you plop the phone into the dock - gets it's audio from the PQ's HDMI connector, and that is a fixed output set at maximum volume. It depends on whatever it is connected to to have a volume control to tone things down a bit.
I'm having to re-think this minor disaster, as while the Pandora app is nice about delivering music I like to my Photon Q, I really do not need it blasting forth at full volume out of my headboard speakers.
To be continued...
One of the "features" of the PQ that seriously worried me was the small capacity non-user-replaceable battery built into it.
Because of this one of the things I've been doing during this "getting to know you" period is purposely seeing how the battery responds to differing levels of use.
To be honest, it surprised me.
In my "normal" usage, the new PQ actually has longer battery life than the Motorola XPRT, with a larger battery and smaller screen, that it replaced.
This makes me think that not only is the new hardware more efficient, but the software power management must work pretty well.
So far, I've only run the battery down to automatic shutdown once (this is a good idea to do after the battery has been through maybe half a dozen normal cycles. It allows the built-in power management software to accurately calibrate itself to the individual battery's actual performance rather than a factory average).
On the "average" day, I end the day with the battery in the PQ at anywhere from 25% to 50% capacity, which IMHO is pretty decent performance.
Here's the battery log from several several typical days:
(One hour divisions, 12 hour major divisions.)
One other thing I've very definitely noticed is that the software/hardware combination in the PQ actually manages to get better average upload and download speeds than my XPRT while using 3G.
Must be some better "stuff" in there somewhere that does this. (I've even heard that from some other PQ owners, so I know it's not just something strange with me.)
Overall, I'm still very pleased with the Photon Q. Best physical keyboard 4G LTE phone out there.
I'm typing this from my PQ, using the Dolphin browser.
I've tried the basic Android browser, and the Chrome browser, but for me the Dolphin works best of the three - especially when in "desktop" mode.
One of the most difficult tests is actually this Sprint forum - the "advanced editor" here flat does not work right in the other two browsers. In Dolphin it does,right down to inserting an image...
(That was dinner.)
Recently I've been playing with the video capabilities of my Photon Q, including the ability to play movies on it's screen, play movies on a large flatscreen via HDMI, and it's ability to record 1080 video with it's HD camera.
I've been impressed with it's capabilities to display videos on it's 4.3 inch screen, but it is even more impressive to simply walk up to most any large flatscreen, plug in a short HDMI cable and show quite credible video with very good sound.
One of the videos I was experimenting with was a commercially made live performance music video, and the audio from the phone, passed to my home theater system via a simple HDMI cable, was nothing short of excellent.
One caution, though, might be how rapidly such playing around can deplete the battery unless the phone is being fed at least some power via it's micro-USB connector. Luckily both my Blu-Ray player and TV have ample USB jacks, and simply connecting both HDMI and USB cables to the TV allowed me to play the videos and keep the phone charged.
This did hint to me, though, that I just may want another of the Motorola HD Docks for this device so I can just drop it in the dock associated with the home theater gear and have all the connections made and ready to fly.
(I also may need a whole lot more SD card memory than I originally thought - HD movies take a lot of memory. I just used the 16GB SD card from my Motorola XPRT smartphone in my PQ. I will probably want to double that...)
The HD video from the PQ's main camera was better than I expected, and while not as good as one would expect from an actual dedicated video camera, it has the distinct advantage to already being in one's pocket and ready to do it's job at a moment's notice.
Having a dedicated camera button on the PQ (right side, near the bottom, which becomes top right when held in the usual landscape mode for most pictures and all videos using the rear camera) is fantastic compared with trying to hold the device steady and "on target" while trying to hit a virtual button on the screen.
Something tells me, though, that I need to play more with the front-facing camera on the PQ to see how it does.
For a rather simple "picturephone" camera, with only basic specs, the front facing camera on the PQ does a credible job with its ultra-wide-angle lens. (I was also surprised that it was smart enough to recognize camera position and lock onto either horizontal or vertical (landscape or portrait) recording.
BTW, two weeks into owning this device I'm still very pleased with it - which is probably a good thing, as today was the last day to return it without penalty.