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i-mate Pocket PC Phone Edition review
Posted on 26-Feb-2004 22:24 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

i-mate Pocket PC Phone Edition review
I am excited about doing this review. The main reason is because this is the third Phone Edition device I'm testing, but the first on a GSM network (the other two were the HTC Falcon/Audiovox PPC 5050 and Audiovox Thera, both on a CDMA network).

The i-mate Pocket PC is being marketed in New Zealand through Vodafone dealers. This is the same XDA II and QTEK 2020 model, rebranded by Carrier Devices as i-mate. The company market this Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC Phone Edition throughout Asia-Pacific and some middle-eastern countries. The i-mate is based on the HTC Himalaya design (FCC ID: NM8 HIMALAYAS).

Carrier Devices also offers a special web site for i-mate users, called Club i-mate, with a download section including some free games, support and download areas.

It's quite a good looking Pocket PC, with a rounded shape. The removable back cover has a metallic look, although obviously plastic. The dialpad is very nice and easy to touch and use, with phone buttons (answer/call and hang up) in either side. These phone buttons are backlit for easy of use at night when you want to answer a call without turning the device on first.

The on-off button is on top of the device, next to the SD IO slot. On the other side is the infrared port. The Contacts and Calendar buttons are on top , on each side of the speaker. On the left side of this device you'll find the camera button, a slider for volume control and the notes recorder button. You can actually disable all button operations when the device is off, to avoid accidental calls.

First thing to notice is the screen. It's very good, with clear images. Dimensions and features are like other Pocket PC models: 3.5" 240 x 320 TFT LCD, capable of showing 65,536 colours.

In terms of size it's not a small Pocket PC: 69.9 mm x 130 mm x 19 mm, weighing 190g. It fits quite comfortably in my hand when using it as a handheld device, and even when using it as a phone. It's a little heavy to carry in a shirt pocket, but it comes with a handy case with a clip to attach to a belt.

Size comparison: h4150 and i-mate

In the back of the phone you can see the camera lens and underneath it a small mirror. The back cover can be removed, to give access to the SIM Card slot and the removable battery. The cradle has a space to charge a spare battery if you want to have a second one for emergencies. The device comes with a built-in backup battery as well.

Camera lens

Back cover removed

The camera takes pictures up to 480 x 640 pixels (VGA), with Auto Light Control and Auto White Balance. The built-in camera application shows the image using the whole screen!You can also capture video, limited to the available storage space or to a certain size established by the user. Videos are recorded in AVI, MPEG4 or H.263 format.

Picture taken with maximum resolution

Default today screen showing the Vodafone bright red colours

The device runs the Windows Mobile 2003 OS, on an Intel XScale @ 400 MHz. It comes with 64MB ROM, and 128MB RAM. It's great to use a Pocket PC with that much memory . There's also a 14.5 MB permanent storage area that can be used. The device comes with an application to automatically backup the Outlook databases to this area and synchronise during a soft reset. It also restores the data after a hard reset if needed. At least your PIM data will not be lost in extreme cases.

The phone part of this device is impressive, and comes with some perks. For example the Caller ID for Pocket PC from IA Style is built-in and automatically installed from ROM after a hard reset. You can associate images to groups or individual entries in your Contact list. The sound is incredibly clear, and I had no problems with it.

Flight mode: acessible from the status bubble

Incoming call with caller id

SMS is present and is part of the Pocket Outlook Inbox application. MMS is implemented through the MMS Composer for Pocket PC, from ArcSoft. Creating and sending MMS is very easy, and you can select images from the Image application (by IA Style) and send directly from there via e-mail or SMS. The program allows the user to select images to create a slideshow and can be used as default player for a variety of file types, including WAV, MIDI, MPEG4, 3GPP, AVI.

Creating an MMS

Image application

The phone has a tri-band (900/1800/1900 MHz) module, which means that you can actually use this phone almost anywhere, including the US. From the Settings application you can configure some GPRS and CSD settings. Note that some will not work with your network! For more information on GPRS speed and slot classes, check this article.

Getting to the GPRS/CSD configuration

So, this is a Class 8/10 device

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:

Performance comparison

Now, for the bad stuff. Yes, the i-mate comes with Bluetooth . But what a shame it's such a bad implementation. First of all it provides only three services: Object Push, Voice Gateway and Dial-Up via serial. As a client it can only be used for ActiveSync and serial applications (like Bluetooth GPS).

Simple Bluetooth manager application?

Where are all the services?

You can copy a file from your computer to the i-mate by drag-and-drop. Find the icon corresponding to your Pocket PC in My Bluetooth Places, and drag a file on top of it. The not so good thing about this is that the Bluetooth software on the i-mate only allows this operation if "Receive all incoming beams" is set. Yes, that's right, the same option that turns on the infrared receiver (and drain you batteries with that) is used to set the Bluetooth File Transfer on. Again, why not have all the Bluetooth options in a single place, instead of scattered in three or four different locations?

Is this infrared or Bluetooth?

Setup of Bluetooth ActiveSync is cumbersome. If you pair with a computer for ActiveSync purposes, and then want to use another one for the same activity then you have to go to Settings | Bluetooth and tap a button that resets the ActiveSync configuration. The next computer you pair will then be your ActiveSync device. In my case I have two computers I always sync with (at home and office) and I use Bluetooth for both. Yes, you can imagine: set and reset for each, which makes it almost impossible to use this way.

Ok, why is this not in the Bluetooth Manager?

The Bluetooth does not offer a DUN (dial-up network) profile, but there's a serial connection that actually communicates to a modem emulator. It's usable, but you have to manually initiate the program on your Pocket PC. I would suggest either implement the DUN profile or at least trigger the modem program when a Bluetooth incoming connection is detected.

No Bluetooth DUN service, but a modem emulator

If this is not the most strange Bluetooth implementation I've seen, you have to know that, at least in my experience, not all headset models work well. I found a problem when using my Jabra BT200, but I'm now blaming it on the headset. I've paired the i-mate with the Jabra BT200 and calls are diverted to the headset as expected. At least until I insert the Jabra headset in its cradle for recharge. It seems that the soft reset causes the Jabra to "forget" the pairing.

I've tested this device with a brand new GN Netcom 6110. It works better with this, and now I'm using it with another brand that works 100% of the time. The Freetop range of headsets and Bluetooth handsfree showed no problem with my i-mate Pocket PC. Very good!

I've contacted Carrier Devices with a couple of questions, including one about this problem, and I haven't received any reply from them yet . At first I thought it was solved with a download from the Club i-mate website, but then I realised it was not the case. Since then I've found that their Club i-mate has now live support over the web, and it works much better.

In reality the device worked well with a wired headset I had here for an opportunity like this. The i-sport headset had no problem with this phone.

i-sport... Not wireless, but an option (stereo too)

In summary: yes I like the device. Voice calls are clear, no problems with reception in bad areas. I'm also currently working on a project that will benefit of having a single device to access web services through GPRS connections, and this will be well used. If you want a GSM Pocket PC Phone Edition, this is certainly a good device. Just don't expect much from the Bluetooth in it - I now know better.

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