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iPhone v. Q – War in the backwoods of Mississippi

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Register Hardware reader Brett Brennan recently joined good friend Pat Coggins, the CTO of CATs Communications – a company that specializes in using wireless networks and GPS for real-time tracking applications - for a hunting trip of sorts. Here's the report from the field.

iPhone vs. Q: a shoot-off

The pair of technophiles started out in Memphis, Tennessee and then made their way to rural Mississippi with the hopes of finding Pat some real estate for a new home. They were armed with an iPhone, a Motorola Q running on Sprint's network and Pat's own CATTRAX software.

OK, the short list.

Both devices handled the internet connectivity well, although the iPhone was easier to navigate than Opera on the Q. That's not really Opera's fault. Rather, it just the small Q screen and the need to zoom in and out to read the small print that caused problems.

Due to poor cellular coverage, both devices were in and out of service throughout the drive. The Q, however, exhausted its battery after about an hour of continuous use in marginal radio coverage. The iPhone was barely 20 per cent down. Both were fully charged overnight and had near equal time using voice and data. You can score a major plus for the iPhone battery life; it pretty much eliminates the need for a swappable battery.

The UI (user interface) on the iPhone, while difficult to use initially (too many ways to touch the wrong thing on the screen), becomes easier with experience. After about 15 minutes I was getting around fine, with only occasional gaffes. Zoom and scroll were smooth and pretty easy after I learned where not to put my thumbs.

Typing was also a bit quirky initially with "fat-fingering" the keyboard (in landscape mode) frustrating at first. After about an hour of typing, though, I achieved the same accuracy as with the Q's QWERTY keyboard. It still required more thought and using both hands, but was nothing I couldn't live with.

As a phone, the iPhone worked just fine. Voice quality was as good on the GSM network, as it was on Sprint PCS, although PCS is still a bit crisper than GSM. My Bluetooth headset (Plantronics Voyager 510) worked fine, although I didn't test all the hands-free profile features, the connect and hang-up worked fine. The address book is fairly intuitive and straight-forward to use, so no surprises there. And the iPod headset worked fine as well, although plugging it in does not disable Bluetooth automatically.

The Safari browser was a pleasure to use, especially on the larger landscape screen. The integration of Google search with Safari makes searching for stuff like restaurants and directions easy to use, much more so than on the Q. Again, this is not an iPhone-specific feature, but it is much nicer than the OEM applications from Sprint and better than Google by itself. (This feature has been a hobby horse for me since I got my first Blackberry years ago: the time it takes to get a useful result from a search while navigating in a car (not driving!) is usually too slow to do unless you stop until a result is produced. The iPhone actually does this quickly enough to be useful in real time.)

And now to the networks.

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Next page: EDGE vs. EVDO

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