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Harrier Pocket PC Phone Edition review

Posted on 22-Nov-2004 16:47 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

Harrier Pocket PC Phone Edition review
Look at the Telecom New Zealand Harrier Pocket PC Phone Edition and you'll probably see no noticeable difference between this model for CDMA networks and its sibling for GPRS networks. They both have a very nice round shape, with a beautiful metal finishing. Both versions come with Bluetooth, a slider keyboard and both have cameras. But similarities stop here. The GPRS version has wireless LAN capability, while the CDMA version comes with a built-in flash for use with its camera.

Telecom New Zealand didn't innovate much in terms of naming the device. HTC Harrier is the codename used by Taiwanese company HTC during the development stages of this new PDA.

The Harrier released by Telecom New Zealand is also the same model announced by Sprint as the PPC-6601 and Verizon as XV6600. For the note, the GPRS version is called HTC Blue Angel and it is known by different brand names depending on what operator is selling the device (O2 XDA IIi, i-mate PDA2k, T-Mobile MDA III).

The Harrier is based on an Intel XScale PXA 263 @ 400MHz. It comes standard with 128MB RAM and around 14MB flash available for permanent storage. By all means this is great news. These 128MB RAM make a big difference when installing programs that will only run from the main memory or programs that will be too slow from a SD card (such as Ilium Software 142855 Newsbreak for example).

Also, 14MB flash gives the space to install those little programs that are mainly read only, can be run from anywhere and you want always available, regardless of having a SD card inserted or not. The screen is the standard QVGA format (320 x 240 pixels) and since this Pocket PC is based on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, the screen can orientation can be changed from portrait to landscape, and Pocket Internet Explorer comes with the new One Column format option, which renders webpages to fit nicely within the screen width.

This Pocket PC Phone Edition is the first model to actually allow Pocket PC users to connect to 3G networks. Third generation networks are a step ahead of current CDMA 1xRTT or GPRS mobile networks in terms of speed. Telecom started the 3G competition locally with the launch of CDMA EV-DO services in New Zealand. This kind of network is already deployed in Korea and some regions in the USA. It provides a fast data connection, and when using the Harrier I have experienced average speeds of 350kbps, with some peaks of 500kbps, with some users reported top speeds of up to 1mbps in other areas.

The good thing about this kind of speeds is really the fact that you can download e-mails and browse the Internet on the fast lane. It's a huge impact in business when you're connected anytime, anywhere. I am using 48295 WebIS Mail for my pop3 based e-mail now, and it's a great combination with the Harrier.

Harrier 500kbps CDMA EV-DO
500kbps on a Pocket PC connected to a mobile network

The Bluetooth implementation is really nice. HTC is no longer using the Microsoft Bluetooth software, and the Widcomm stack is now installed. It provides many services, including File Transfer, Information Exchange, Serial Port, Personal Network Server, Dial-Up Network.

The Dial-Up Network service means that this Pocket PC can be used as a modem connection to the CDMA EV-DO network, providing laptop users with a fast connection. The only drawback is a fault that will disconnect the other device after a few bytes are transferred. Other users found the same problem with the HTC Blue Angel and the HP h6315/h6365. I have contacted Widcomm/Broadcom and apparently there is a fix for this problem on a new version of their software. Let's see if this update finds its way to the Harrier and the other devices too.

[Update: Users of this PDA on Telecom New Zealand can download a ROM update that fixes the Bluetooth problems. Note that this is specific for Telecom New Zealand, and will not work with Verizon or Sprint versions of this Pocket PC].

Harrier Bluetooth stack
Bluetooth services available

Harrier Bluetooth stack
Bluetooth connection to CDMA EV-DO

On the Bluetooth client side, it allows ActiveSync to multiple computers, the ability to join a network (you can share your Internet connection via Bluetooth with Pocket PC Phone Edition now) and a much easier file transfer with a FTP like browser.

If you don't have a Bluetooth enabled laptop or desktop, don't worry. It's possible to use the Harrier to connect to the CDMA EV-DO network using either a USB cable or the cradle, by installing a small driver and a dialer program on your computer. When the Harrier is running the WModem program the laptop will not initiate ActiveSync automaticaly, but instead will treat the Harrier as a high speed USB modem. We have a special page with instructions to use the Pocket PC Phone Edition as a modem.

Harrier as a CDMA modem
The Harrier can be used as a USB modem to connect a laptop to the CDMA network

Harrier as a CDMA modem
Nice speed...

Harrier as a CDMA modem
The Wmodem utility on the Pocket PC

The Harrier comes with an assisted GPS function, but Telecom New Zealand is not currently providing any service that uses this feature. The assisted GPS will give the network the device's current position, so location based services could provide information relevant to the user's location.

The slider keyboard is really nice. First because unlike other solutions it's always there but it's not intrusive. It is responsive and the keys are easy to press. It even comes with a special Pocket Internet Explore key to launch the browser. Another interesting feature is the blue backlight, which is strong enough to allow use in very dark places. And the Harrier is not behind in terms of buttons: it has the Answer and End phone buttons, the Calendar and Contacts buttons, plus an Internet e-mail and Browser buttons. But it also brings a couple of new buttons that will introduce users to a new paradigm on Pocket PC: single handed operations.

Harrier slider keyboard
The keyboard when open

Harrier slider keyboard
The keyboard when open: detail

Harrier slider keyboard backlight
The keyboard when open: backlight

Unlike Windows Mobile Smartphones which are designed for single hand operations, Pocket PC devices rely mostly on touchscreen. It seems this will be changing slowly, since these devices are now coming with specific Start and OK keys. Although the functions can be changed, the default functionality, paired with the built-in keyboard, will in some cases allow users to handle the Pocket PC without the need of a stylus. Since the user interface is still that of of a standard Pocket PC we still need the stylus for normal use.

Harrier slider keys for Inbox, Pocket Internet Explorer
Special keys: Inbox, Pocket Internet Explorer, Start and OK,

In terms of phone capabilities, the Harrier performs well. It comes with a dual band built in phone (800/1900MHz), so it can be used for voice roaming while travelling overseas. The sound is nice and clear, and the Bluetooth headset works really well, with no delays in transferring the call.

The built-in CMOS camera can capture images with a VGA 640x480 resolution and requires a minimum 5 Lux to take a picture. There's a flash (with software on/off) but it's of short range. The camera can also record MPEG-4 (320x240) video clips. The Harrier currently does not have a MMS interface, but these files can be sent via e-mail.

Performance is not the highlight on this Pocket PC. It is not slow as you can see in the chart below, but it's not the fastest Pocket PC available. I can only guess that some subsystems are slower than normal, to help save battery. The 1490mAh rechargeable battery is removable, and the cradle has a slot to charge a spare battery. Believe me you'll need it. I didn't use much of the voice call, but the Harrier needed recharging every evening due to the extended use of the high speed CDMA EV-DO connection.

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

When we review a Pocket PC we pretty much talk about the device's capabilities. But when we talk about a Pocket PC Phone Edition we also have to take in consideration the service provided by mobile operators. As part of the data package available, Telecom New Zealand is also offering the Mobile Email+, a service based on Extended Systems OneBridge that allows push e-mail and content with OTA (over-the-air) synchronisation. This is priced separately from the Pocket PC itself. Another thing to note is that currently Telecom New Zealand does not have data roaming packages available.

Telecom New Zealand had other Pocket PC devices before (the Thera and the Falcon), but the Harrier is the first to connect to the new fast network, provide Bluetooth capabilities, and to have some serious push into the business segment. You can't evaluate the Harrier without looking into Telecom New Zealand data prices. Currently a 200MB data plan would cost you around NZ$99 (US$70). I would like to see this price come down eventually. Remember that local competitors (like Woosh, a WCDMA based data provider), will charge users NZ$40 (US$28) for a 1.2GB allowance. Of course when talking about this cost we have to think of coverage. While Woosh is available in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, Telecom CDMA EV-DO is available in these places, with roll-out for other tourist towns and spots across the country planned for the rest of 2004 and 2005.

Nice shape and finish
Bright screen
Modem software
Keyboard with backligh

Bluetooth dial-up problem (as of Nov 2004)
Data plan cost (at 500kbps you can go over the limit very quickly!)