28 Dec. 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Catch 20-Q

I got my Motorola Q.  I was planning to do a "review" after I had played with it for a while, but this isn't it.  I came this close to returning it instead...  I'm a "fair and balanced" guy, so let me tell you the whole story.

I explained why I had to change my "plan" earlier.  It seems that Verizon wanted to "streamline" their billing and discontinue my "plan."  Being a better sport than I knew I should have been, I went along with them even though my ideal cellphone doesn't quite exist yet.  I ordered a Motorola Q, largely because it seemed to be almost what I wanted, and after the usual rebate nonsense ended up fairly inexpensive at $100.  (That's for the silver one; a black one would have been $150.  I'm sure there's a good reason why black is extra.  Maybe it's an environmental tax on black paint at $5 per square inch.)

There's good news and bad news:  The good news is that Motorola's customer service reps were all pleasant, knowledgeable, and firm but fair.  Chris and Barbara and Kelly and Lauren and Raphael and Shawn and James, in no particular order.  The bad news is that I had to talk to Chris, Barbara, Kelly, Lauren, Raphael, Shawn and James, in six separate telephone calls, to attempt to resolve my issues.  For anti-telephonic me, a disaster. 

I can't say "pleasant" for the one Verizon store I visited.  The man behind the counter made it clear that he would prefer that I use their web site to find my own steenkin' earphones.  I had to insist that he look up the model number, he was off by a factor of two on the price, and was very eager to go home.  He clearly did want to explain some other things to me, but fortunately he restrained himself.  Not exactly a credit to the company.

So What's the Big Deal Here?

OK, you changed your "plan" and got a new Q.  Millions of people change "plans" and get new phones every year.  Why the problems, and why the babble about them?

Good question.  Maybe it's me.  Maybe I'm too idealistic or too lazy or maybe just have difficulty dealing with things as they are.  Take a look at my old cellphone, the one on the left.  It's called a "Timeport," and I'm used to it.  If I want to call someone, I press a button and speak their name.  If I want to take a picture, I use my camera.  If I want to listen to music, I unlimber my MP3 player.  If I want to pull out the antenna, I grab the piece of duct tape I put at the end since the finial fell off.  (That, by the way, seems to be the only damage the device suffered in about five years in my pocket.  Sturdy and reliable.  The Q, at about half the thickness, gives me concern.)

My hope, of course, was that I could carry the Q and not have to use a camera or MP3 player, since the new gadget would encompass all three functions.  And it does!


Nothing is simple.  The camera isn't very good.  The "flash" doesn't.  The zoom is useless.  I was hoping for a decent camera.

When I tried the MP3 player, I found that my completely standard earphones wouldn't plug in because the Q used a smaller jack.  That I can forgive, given how ridiculously slim the product is, but why not include an adaptor for the 2.5mm jack so that a 3.5mm headphone can plug in?  Cheapness?  Yes, it would cost perhaps $.10 in quantity.  Greed?  Surely, since maybe they'll sell more of their own headphones.  Angry?  You bet!  I bought this thing during the holiday season, and had a 15-day trial period.  The MP3 player was a critical feature, and I couldn't even try it!  Do I have time to go hunting for a $.10 adapter?  No, but I did anyway, and it didn't work.  Apparently it requires a special one.

Oh yes.  What about making telephone calls?  Unlike the "Timeport" with its functional voice recognition feature, there was no way to "train" the Q to recognize my "contacts" and it would persist in guessing that I wanted my "balance" instead of wanting to call someone whose name began with a "B." 

Interminable calls to "customer service" included inquiring about "training" (can't do it), the "flash" (no, my unit isn't broken, it just works stupidly), the cellular modem (oh yes, you have to pay extra to make it work), and the missing headphone adapter (if I had one, I'd send it to you just to get you off the phone, I heard him thinking).

It was at the "you have to pay extra" part that I was all set to return the unit (with all packing material, as they demanded) and just forget about it.  But then I found out about catch 20-Q.  It seems that I no longer had the option to return the Q and re-activate the Timeport.  The older phone has no GPS and can't be located in an emergency, so once it's removed from the network it can't be returned. 

What Were My Options? 

I could return the Q and "purchase" a different phone.  Which one would I like?  After explaining that the one I didn't like was anything that had the word "purchase" associated, it went downhill and uphill from there.  Downhill because I was fuming by then, but uphill because one of the customer representatives pointed out that the "pay extra" feature could be turned on and off at will over the web.  I only wanted the cellular modem for a backup, so I could turn it on when needed and only pay for it then.  I calmed down a bit and decided that since I couldn't have my old phone back, I'd keep working with the Q as long as I could bear to.

This led directly to my trip to the Verizon store and its otiose attendant.  Subsequent to that folly, I did some web research and found a set of Motorola Bluetooth stereo headphones that I thought might work, and was lucky enough to find a demo set at the local Radio Shack.  The salestron was gracious and helpful, and I discovered that the Q's MP3 player, despite the non-standard jack, was at least provisionally acceptable.  

Sadly, I could not purchase the headphones at the Radio Shack; their price was 50% higher than CompUSA and double that of other web vendors and eBay sellers.  I ended up buying it at CompUSA since it was convenient and there would be no shipping charge.  But thank you anyway, Sean.  I think "shopping" must be good training for battle.  From both sides of the counter.

May I stop now?  I've said almost nothing about the Q itself, and it deserves a real review divorced from the "consumer experience" I've just related.  Long after I've forgotten this bizarre and time-wasting purchase extravaganza, I'll still be grooving to the music on the Bluetooth headphones and listening for the Morse Code ringtones I was able to designate for many of my contacts.  At least I will be if I don't break the skinny and fragile-looking little Q in half by accident.

NP:  "Fear Part 2" - Rush

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