Review: AT&T’s Full-Keyboard, Touch-Screen Quickfire

Textaholics will be mostly pleased, but the Quickfire isn’t for business users

The AT&T Quickfire in orange
The AT&T Quickfire in orange. Image © Personal Communications Devices

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Guide Result: Mostly Recommended
Recommended For: Heavy messaging consumers
Not Recommended For: Business users

For those of us who want to fire off text messages quickly, AT&T’s full-keyboard Quickfire with a touch screen is ideal for fast text, picture, video and instant messaging.

Texters using traditional cell phones designed primarily for talking know too well the angst of having to tap the “7” key four times just to text the letter “S”.

Even with predictive T9 typing, which sometimes correctly guesstimates the rest of a word for you, many heavy texters really feel they’re born for a full QWERTY keyboard.

Developed by Personal Communications Devices (PCD) for AT&T under the name GTX75, the release of the Quickfire in time for the 2008 holidays rounds out a foursome of newly released quick-messaging cell phones for AT&T.

But the Quickfire isn’t for everyone.

Its touch screen isn’t as responsive or accurate as the touch screens on the iPhone and Instinct nor are the Quickfire’s software applications nearly as robust.

While the fact that this non-smartphone cell phone has a touch screen at all merely serves as a differentiator, the Quickfire’s true selling point is that it’s a device for textaholics.

The slider competes in the same vein as the highly popular Sidekick handsets with the full keyboard standing out as the most important perk in its feature arsenal.

Quickfire Caters to Consumers, Not Businesses

While the Quickfire could be for new and experienced texters alike, it should not be confused in the same vein as a BlackBerry when it comes to email. The Quickfire clearly knows what it is and what it isn’t.

Though the Quickfire affords consumers access to personal email such as with Yahoo!, Hotmail and Gmail, an important distinction is that it’s not a business phone and it doesn’t support corporate email.

“The Quickfire is perfect for texting fans who let their thumbs do the talking and want the benefit of a full keypad but don’t need corporate email access or other business features,” said AT&T vice president Mark Collins in a statement.

Full Feature Set

While the Quickfire’s most prominent features are its full keypad and touch screen, it doesn’t fall short with other necessary features.

The handset is viewable in portrait and landscape mode and automatically shifts to the correct one for you based on your function. If you slide out the keyboard, for example, the Quickfire automatically swaps to horizontal viewing.

It’s also a 3G world phone, which means high-speed Internet access can be yours.

In addition, the Quickfire has a 1.3-megapixel camera with digital zoom and an integrated camcorder. The camera, though, should only be thought of as a feature that “gets the job done”. It certainly isn’t one that’d make a professional photographer happy.

The Quickfire also has Bluetooth for short-range wireless communications (i.e. for a wireless headset), GPS for turn-by-turn directions and maps, Web access, ringtones, fireware updates over the air, flight mode, games, graphics, mobile music capabilities and cellular video for streamed news, sports and TV shows.

Consumers should heed an important warning about the way AT&T has bundled GPS on the Quickfire. The service, which is branded as AT&T Navigator, comes standard on the Quickfire and is free only for the first 30 days. You’ll then be charged $9.99 per month for the service thereafter if you don’t proactively cancel it.

Its tool set should be considered quite standard and not nearly as expansive as the wide-ranging applications coming out every day for the iPhone. The Quickfire features an alarm clock, calendar, calculator, to-do list, notepad, stopwatch and currency converter.

The Quickfire also features speech recognition, a speakerphone, voice memos up to 4 minutes long and international dialing. Napster Music and eMusic Mobile are available on the Quickfire and do cost extra. The Quickfire comes in orange, lime and silver.

Battery: Low Talk-Time Warning

For a touch screen phone designed for heavy texting, talking, music listening, video and Web access, a mere 3 hours of rated talk time may fall short for some people. While up to 300 hours of standby talk time is plenty, it’s the 3 hours of talk time that could potentially become a regular nuisance.

Height, Weight: Clunky Warning

The Quickfire isn’t an insignificant piece of hardware. Measuring in at a height of 4.3 inches, 2.2 inches wide and 0.7 of an inch in diameter, it’ll create a visual bulge in your pocket.

At a weight of 4.8 ounces, you’ll feel it in your pocket, too. This isn’t a phone that’s designed to be small and slim. If you’re looking for one that disappears in your pocket until you’re ready to use it, the Quickfire isn’t it.

On the other hand, the Quickfire’s screen size of 2.8 inches is just right to be visually significant without being more cumbersome than necessary.

By comparison, though, the Quickfire’s screen is smaller than the iPhone from Apple and the Instinct from Samsung. The iPhone features a 3.5-inch touch screen while the Instinct has a 3.1-inch touch screen.

Storage: Memory Card Warning

The Quickfire’s internal memory only holds 29.3 megabytes of storage. That’ll quickly become inadequate if you want to store more than a few songs.

If you’d want the Quickfire to be your iPod, you’d need to spend more money on removable microSD memory. Since the Quickfire comes with such low internal memory, it offers a surprising external storage amount of up to 32 gigabytes of memory.

Touch Screen: Sensitivity, Accuracy Warning

Once you’ve touched an iPhone, you’ll almost certainly notice less accuracy with the Quickfire’s touch screen. In testing, we too often had to tap a command more than once because the screen didn’t correctly interpret it. Continue reading on page two...

Your Two Cents: Have a comment or question related to this Quickfire cell phone review? Chime in on this forum thread!

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In addition, keys toward the bottom of the screen appeared even less responsive and error prone.

While the iPhone, Instinct and many other phones with touch screens offer you the ability to tweak the software to your specific sensitivity, the Quickfire doesn’t.

Pricing, Service Plans

With no-commitment pricing all the way up at $329.99, a two-year contract brings the Quickfire down to $179.99.

An online discount of $150 further brings the cost down to $29.99.

The Quickfire is compatible with AT&T’s messaging plans that offer 200, 1,500 and unlimited texting for an additional monthly fee of $5, $15 and $20 respectively.

Customers on an AT&T FamilyTalk shared plan can pay $30 for unlimited messaging on all lines. The full listing of all AT&T service plans currently on the market can be found here.

The Bottom Line

For a phone that sort of falls under the $100 price barrier (depending on how you interpret the value of AT&T’s unusual mail-in rebate situation), the Quickfire is a powerful messaging device for non-business users at an affordable cost.

The Quickfire, though, should not be considered for business customers. Non-business users should also take into consideration the handset’s battery, size, weight and touch-screen accuracy.

Your Two Cents: Have a comment or question related to this Quickfire cell phone review?

Chime in on this forum thread!

Update: When the Quickfire was released, AT&T released three other quick-messaging cell phones: the Pantech Matrix C740, Pantech Slate C530 and Samsung A767 Propel.

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