Sprint Photon Q 4G LTE pairs Android 4.0 with a keyboard

Sprint(s s) is making a valiant effort to convert older Nextel customers to new subscribers and perhaps the best way to that is to tout the company’s unlimited data plans and hot new phones. Apple’s iPhone(s aapl) is likely helping in this case, but Sprint needs more than just the iPhone. The Photon Q 4G LTE, built by Motorola, might be just the key. Literally.
In a world dominated by on-screen software keyboards, Sprint is bucking the trend with the new Photon Q: A powerful Android 4.0(s goog) smartphone paired with a five-row hardware keyboard. The carrier hasn’t yet announced availability or pricing details but plans to do so in the coming weeks.
Most of the handsets with physical keyboards I’ve looked at in the past few years — and there haven’t been many — have generally been low- to mid-range devices.
The new Photon Q 4G LTE, a follow up to last year’s Photon Q, appears to rival many handsets available today (save a few premium models) with these specifications; that is, at least on paper:

  • Google Android 4.0.4
  • 1.5 GHz dual-core processor; likely a Qualcomm Snapdragon(s qcom) due to LTE support, but that’s simply my guess
  • A five-row, slide-out QWERTY keyboard with LED outlined keys
  • 4.3-inch qHD (540 x 960 resolution)¬†Colorboost display
  • 8 GB internal storage, microSD card expansion slot, 1 GB of RAM
  • 8 megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capture; front facing camera for video chat
  • GPS; NFC; Bluetooth 4.0; 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • World phone capabilities with support for CDMA, EVDO, GSM and LTE

Much like the recently announced Motorola Atrix HD, the Photon Q LTE 4G includes Motorola’s Smartactions; software that automates certain activities and phone settings. The device also supports display mirroring though HDMI so that digital media can be shared on the big screen. Aside from the slightly low resolution — a 4.3-inch display would look better at 1280 x 720 resolution in my opinion — there’s not much to dislike here and it could help Sprint transition even more Nextel customers over to Sprint’s new LTE network.