Telecom New Zealand is bringing into the country the Apache Pocket PC Phone Edition, the successor to its Harrier Pocket PC. This new Windows Mobile device is based on the recently announced Windows Mobile 5.0 OS, which incorporates changes in the user interface, enhancements to mobile versions of its office applications, better contacts, email and phone integration and a new memory model.
Just to make it clear to our readers from overseas, following the tradition of its Taiwan-based HTC manuacturer, the TNZ Apache is sold in other markets with different brand names. In the USA it is known as the Sprint PPC 6700 (confused yet? Check our device database).
Like its predecessor, the Apache Pocket PC Phone Edition connects to Telecom’s 3G CDMA network for voice, being compatible with data on both CDMA 1x RTT and CDMA 1x EVDO.
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When connected to CDMA 1x EVDO the Apache can reach download speeds of up to 2Mbps (megabits per second), but more realistic measurements in normal conditions show an average of 500kbps through 600kbps (kilobits per second), which is faster than most current broadband connections in this country.
Also like the Harrier, the Apache Pocket PC comes with a built-in keyboard. But this time it’s a much more usable and comfortable keyboard. The device slides out in landscape revealing the keyboard, with an automatic screen orientation change from portrait to landscape – and vice-versa when closed.
In terms of size, it measures 10.8cm x 5.8cm x 2.55cm (4.25” x 2.3” x 1.0”). It is approximately the same size as the i-mate Jam, but a little thicker, to accommodate the keyboard. And it weighs only 186g.
The backlit keyboard is nice to touch and easy to get used to. It does not have a number row though, so you have to use the Function key and one of the keys in the top row. It does have dedicated keys for the Start menu, OK button and arrow keys (up, down, left, right). It also has two soft keys in each side of the top row, corresponding to the new Soft Key Menu introduced with Windows Mobile 5.0 into the Pocket PC world (these are already present on Smartphone for some time now).
When the Apache is closed you have access to soft keys, Start menu and OK buttons, plus dedicated Asnwer and End Call buttons for the phone application. There is also a small joystick like directional button.
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The Apache runs on a 416MHz Intel Bulverde CPU, but it felt more responsive and faster when compared to other Windows Mobile device running on slightly faster processors.
The memory configuration is 64MB RAM and 128MB flash ROM. Under the new operating system the RAM is used for memory execution only, while data and programs are stored on the flash ROM.
This way, if the device runs out of battery no data will be lost. Also, since there’s no need for larger amounts of RAM the battery requirements are lower. On the other hand files are now stored on flash memory, which is usually slower than RAM.
Interesting I didn’t notice much of impact when using applications that store some data (such as RSS readers). I am sure though some other user profile will feel some impact – but for the time being, and as commented before, this device seemed faster than similar first generation Windows Mobile 5.0 devices.
MiniSD cards can be used if the user needs to store more data (for example users with an extensive media library) and programs.
For users who love multimedia, the TNZ Apache comes with stereo headsets (with microphone for phone calls).
The screen is a QVGA (240x320 pixels) TFT, but not very visible outdoor under the sunlight.
As part of the new OS there is a better integration of Contacts, Inbox and Phone applications. The Contacts application can now store a picture for each entry in the address book and synchronise these images with Outlook or Exchange. This picture will then be used when announcing an incoming call, or when showing an email from a known contact.
On the email front users can now tap on a name in the To:, Cc: or Bcc: fields and if the email is not in the Contacts database the user will be given the option to add this new entry.
Also enhanced are the Mobile version of Office applications. For example Excel Mobile (the new name for Pocket Excel) can now manipulate charts, while Word Mobile (new name of Pocket Word) is better at treating tables and files with images.
These applications even warn when a feature is not available on the Pocket PC, but in my tests I managed to keep file formatting, tables and most features between PC and mobile versions.
New is the PowerPoint viewer, a native application that will allow users to see PowerPoint files – no editing in this version yet.
The Phone application is quite similar to the previous version, with a better looking skin. It does not have (at least on this test version I have) the predictive search for contacts where users can tap on letters on the keypad and automatically filter the contact list by name. Sound is very good for both sides of the call though.
MSN Messenger and MSN Hotmail users will like the new MSN Mobile application, fully integrated in the device. There is a Today screen plugin showing the current MSN Messenger status, and direct access to the MSN Hotmail inbox (including a from the Pocket Outlook application
The phone comes with a built-in 1.3 megapixel digital camera, with a (very) bright flash light. It is possible to capture still pictures and movies, but there is no support for MMS either on the device or the mobile network. But with such a fast device it makes more sense to send large images via email.
Picture quality from digital camera (click image for a larger version)
In the data communications front the TNZ Apache can connect to the CDMA network, and in addition to that also to Wireless LAN (Wi-Fi) networks, such as public hotspots and home or office networks.
It also comes with built-in Bluetooth, in this case Microsoft’s own software stack. This means it can be used with headsets, serial devices (such as GPS, serial printers) and even as a wireless modem for a Bluetooth equipped PC.
Another options is to connect the Apache via USB and use it as a modem. To prevent it connecting to ActiveSync (the synchronisation program running on a PC) users will execute the WMODEM application that will emulate a modem.
The USB connection is through a cable with a mini USB adapter, the same one used on the i-mate Jam and other new devices. This is a welcome move, making it easier to connect the Apache to a PC without the need of special cables.
The box comes with a leather holster, mini USB cable, wall charger with mini USB plug and a cradle. The cradle can also charge a spare battery, but there’s no need for it, since the Apache will charge and synchronise directly from the USB port with the provided mini USB cable.
The Telecom New Zealand Apache does feel like a good replacement for the Harrier, and users looking for a smart mobile device will enjoy its small size. With support for the main Microsoft Office applications (Outlook, Exchange, Word, Excel) this business tool is a vey interesting option. Also, because of its small size, users will not have that "nerd" look if speaking directly on the handset.
Fast 3G data speed.
voice (CDMA) and data (1xRTT, 1xEVDO) roaming to Australia.
Good PIM integration with Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Exchange.
Very usable keyboard.
Two batteries in the box.
Cons (bearing in mind this was a test version being used).
Bluetooth DUN (data) caused problems a couple of times, requiring soft reset.