So, Motorola has released its Moto Q and it is receiving generally favorable reviews. But just what is it? It is a super-thin Smartphone running Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0.
There is a lot to like about the Q. My favorite part of the phone is the gorgeous display. It is bright, clear and sharp. The processor seems fast enough for typical Smartphone tasks, such as running Laridian’s PocketBible for Smartphone Finally, it is indeed very thin, though its north & south dimensions are closer to a traditional Pocket PC than a phone.
Like most anything, however, there are some flaws. For example, no WiFi. This is to be expected, as the carriers (currently only Verizon) really want the consumer racking up the minutes. Just imagine all the revenue that would vanish if web access was possible via a wireless network. But my biggest non-technical objection to the device has to be that it doesn’t have a touch screen. The thing looks like a PDA and it just begs you to tap the screen. But no, it is just a humble phone and restricts your interaction to the Smartphone way of doing things. Of course, the QWERTY keyboard makes it much easier to input data than its Smartphone predecessors.
Oh, but that full keyboard, what problems it caused for us here at Laridian! Without getting bogged down in the technical details, let me give you an idea of what we faced. First, some background: Microsoft’s original vision for the Smartphone was device which excelled at accessing data, not data entry. To make it as easy on our customers to navigate through Bibles and search them, we offer guesses based on what you have input to this point. For instance, when the T9 input is enabled, typing an “A” in the Go To dialog leads the app to guess that you are perhaps intending to go the the book of Acts. The “guessing” which takes place in the search dialog is even specific to the Bible you are currently looking at, it only offers suggestions based on the words found in that particular Bible.
This seemed to be a nice feature, something liked by the Laridian staff who have a Smartphone and our customers. Then along comes the Q. Suddenly, there is no standard phone keyboard, no “ABC” on the 2 key. However, it is very easy to type an “A” using that snazzy QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, that input looks different from the previous Smartphone input for the letter “A”. But our app has no way of knowing what kind of keyboard the device has – you can thank our friends at Redmond for this! Here is where I skip over lots of technical information to tell you that it isn’t possible to do the suggestions on the Q like we do for all other Microsoft Smartphones.
So what is our solution? We can allow the user to just use the QWERTY keyboard. On the Moto Q that actually works well, since that device has a built in auto-complete facility which learns from your previous input, so that typing “Acts” once means that it will suggest that to you the next time you type an “A”. But even here, PocketBible runs into problems. As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know the type of keyboard the phone has, so we can’t know when it is appropriate to expect QWERTY input. What to do, what to do? We opted for defaulting to our normal helpful behavior of offering our suggestions. Owners of the Q will need to toggle through the input modes until they get the phone into “abc” input mode, which allows use of the QWERTY keyboard but without our suggestions. From now on, this edit box will remember this mode. This seems to us at Laridian to be as close to the best of both worlds that we can get, given the hardware and operating system limitations.
We will be releasing an update to PocketBible for Windows Mobile-based Smartphones soon which includes the changes to accommodate the Q, along with a few other enhancements.
I hope that if you have a Microsoft Smartphone, you will try PocketBible. I use it all the time and believe that, on the Q or other Smartphone, you’ll really like having the Bible with you.