When I had the original Audiovox Thera for review I wasn't impressed. Poor performance, dim screen and not so good mobile network performance (when browsing on Pocket Internet Explorer) contributed to my lack of enthusiasm with that device. I blame this on slow CPU and small memory on that model.
But Telecom New Zealand is working behind the scenes and we were contacted to have a hands on with their next Pocket PC Phone Edition product. What I've got here is a white box, no brands or anything descriptive outside. Inside a Pocket PC Phone Edition, codenamed HTC Falcon (the FCC ID tag is NM8 Falcon), a very nice and sleeky cradle, charger and a leather holster. According to some sources this is the Audiovox PPC 5050, sucessor to the Audiovox Thera.
But don't worry - this is much better than the original Thera, being a completely different design! It looks much better too. very similar to the QTEK 1010. This model has a white frame around it, and in terms of size it's just smaller than an iPaq H3970.
Device information - note that this device runs a test version of some modules
This Pocket PC comes with an Intel 400MHz Xscale PXA255 and 64MB of RAM. There's a permanent storage area, but not accessible to the user. It can only be used to permanently store contact and appointments records. This is a handy feature: if the device fails and a hard reset is performed, the user can restore this information even if away from a computer. And talking about Backup, a program SD Backup is included, allowing the user to create copies of important information to external memory.
How does it perform on a benchmark against other machines? I've used Spb Benchmark to collect performance information, and if you click in the chart you can have access to our Performance Centre, with other Pocket PC reviews and charts:
The screen is a nice and bright 240x320 TFT capable of showing 65k colours. It also has a SD IO adapter for SD and MMC expansion cards, and a GPS receiver for Location Based Services . Since there's no software on this unit capable of using the GPS receiver, my first guess is that this could be used to send information back to the network and provide information specific to the user's current location. The enclosed software CD came with ActiveSync and Windows drivers for the Pocket PC to be used as modem, so not much more info on this GPS stuff there.
Windows Mobile 2003 came installed, with its much better Pocket Internet Explorer. Pocket Word, Pocket Excel and other standard software, (including Jawbreaker) are there.
Home page on Pocket Internet Explorer - note the Telecom New Zealand and Xtra branding
The phone application is the standard Windows Mobile application, which works well. The sound quality is clear and crisp, but the user might want to have either a screen protector or use a headset if trying to avoid grease or makeup on the screen. The phone buttons for Call and HangUp are backlit, making it easy to use at night. During a voice call the sound can be turned up and down with a buttong on the left side, under the memo recorder button. Any other time this button controls the device's sounds level.
The buttons for Contacts and Appointments are located on the top of the front, in each side of the speaker.
The stylus is housed behind the antenna stub, which is a great idea. This is a data centric PDA with mobile capabilities, a converged device. I think it's appropriate to use it as a data device first and a phone second. This way users can talk and use the PDA to read documents, update information on spreadsheets, etc.
Phone application and SMS notification bubble
In terms of data, this time I'm surprised. In my previous test with the Thera, performance on Telecom New Zealand's CDMA was poor, when compared with the GPRS competition. I blame this on slow CPU and small memory on that model. This time is the opposite. Browsing web sites or downloading large e-mails was faster. For comparison I had the HTC Falcon connected to CDMA at the same time my H3970 was connected to the GPRS network. The Falcon finished the tasks ahead of my H3970.
What's even better: there's a built in modem program, so you can use this device to connect a laptop to the CDMA network. This is an advance from the previous Phone Edition models which lacked this capability. Connections can be made via IR or serial cable, although I'd be happier if Bluetooth were an option.
You might want to have the charger with you if browsing the internet lots or cheking e-mails too frequently. Browsing a few pages and checking e-mails used 50% of the battery charge in one morning.
Connecting to Mobile Jetstream and the modem program
In the picture below (taken during a soft reset), we can see "Pocket PC 2003 with CDMA2000". For sake of clarity, Telecom New Zealand told us this is the short for CDMA2000 1xRTT. You can read this Ericsson page for more information on this.
The soft reset screen with the CDMA identification
The specs include CDMA2000 1x voice or data (maximum speed 153.6kbps), IS-95A/B backward compatible, Quick Paging Channel support, Slotted mode page channel searching, 800Hz fast forward power control, 13 kbps QCELP and 8 kbps EVRC vocoder.
If you have preference for a CDMA network (if already have an account, or prefer the service) and is looking for a mobile device with strong data capabilities, this is for you. And if you need more power, plug in to a laptop and keep connected .
As for release dates, I was told by Telecom New Zealand that this product should be available before the end of this year, but they couldn't confirm a price yet.
Mobile Jetstream is the service brand for Telecom New Zealand CDMA access.