This week we will see the launch of Okta Mobile, a new company Telecom New Zealand created to bring custom handsets to the local market. In this review we look at the company's first release, the Okta Agent Windows Mobile Smartphone.
The Okta Agent is particularly interesting because it is the first Windows Mobile Smartphone released by Telecom New Zealand. It is also an affordable device, when compared with other Windows Mobile offerings currently avaialble from the company, the HTC Titan CDMA and the Palm Treo 700wx.
In fact you will find out the Okta Agent is a rebranded Pantech PN820. The branding is well done, and it includes the fascia, documentation, even the installation screens.
It is a small clamshell handset, measuring 98 x 53 x 20mm and weighing 112 grams, which makes it quite a light and small phone. But because of its antenna (oh, CDMA) I was a bit afraid of putting it in my jeans pocket.
There's a small external LCD that will display some status information such as CDMA coverage, Bluetooth activation, battery level. It also shows an animation when new e-mails and SMS arrive, making a fun little thing to look at sometimes.
The specifications say you should be able to get up to 200 hours standdy in normal conditions or 35 hours standby if using Microsoft Direct Push, the feature that will push your e-mails to the handsets as soon as they arrive on a connected Exchange Server. In reality I saw the battery go flat overnight when Direct Push was active.
The keypad is quite comfortable to use and the directional pad has a good feedbak and it is use to work around the menu options - either using the directional pad or accesing the menu items by number. The screen is nice and bright and easy to read, even under sunlight.
The Okta Agent is running Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone, instead of the newer Windows Mobile 6 Standard. This is not a big deal, except that some newer features enabled by Exchange Server 2007 are only available with the more recent OS version. If you are not using - or don't plan to use - these features or if you are not connected to an Exchange Server then this shouldn't be something to stop you contemplating this model.
You will be able to actually browse some standard websites with an Okta Agent, thanks to the combination of Pocket Internet Explorer and its fast CDMA EVDO Rev 0 speeds. This works ok on the device itself, and I felt it was really fast - probably because of plenty of memory available: 128 MB RAM for program execution and 64 MB flash ROM for storage. You can also add storage with miniSD cards.
If you are thinking of using the Okta Agent as a tethered modem make sure you look on the User Guide CD, not on the Install CD. It took me some time to find this - and actually a comment here on this review. When using the "Modem Link" function you can use it as a USB modem. Never mind the Bluetooth connection which is flaky at least. When I was able to connect I was getting terrible times - something from 300ms to 2000ms to the Geekzone server, while a Telecom CDMA EVDO card was showing consistently about 100ms.
Microsoft Direct Push worked really well, and this is one technology that is rock solid on Windows Mobile. It connects to an Exchange Server and provides instant e-mail, appointments and contacts updates on your device, as they happen on the server. You will read the e-mails on Pocket Outlook, which will work pretty much like you are used to if you are an Outlook desktop user.
Even if you don't use an Exchange Server you will be able to access POP and IMAP accounts with the Okta Agent. And like other Windows Mobile devices you will be able to synchronise to Microsoft Outlook on your desktop through ActiveSync if you want to do so. Just have in mind that like all other Windows Mobile devices now it will come with a 60-day trial version of Microsoft Outlook, instead of the fully licensed copy we used to get with older versions.
If you want extra security, such as a SSL encrypted connection to your Exchange Server, make sure your server is using a standard certificate because by default Windows Mobile Smartphones won't accept self-issued certificates. However it can be unlocked by using some tools available around - you will need to search for those.
The built-in 1.3 megapixel digital camera comes with flash, and it's not bad for its resolution. You can take pictures and store on a miniSD card or send those via e-mail. If you want to take a self-portrait, simply close the clamshell and the external LCD changes into a viewfinder so you can see yourself and surroundings for that perfect selfish picture.
Talking about multimedia you will find a Windows Media Player so all those pictures, WMV, MP3 and WMA files will be available at the touch of a button. And for those moments when you are driving, count on Voice Command to be able to dial contacts by name, get date and time, battery and signal levels and more. Voice Command is a great voice activated program and there's no need for "training": just use your normal voice, even over a Bluetooth headset.
But what's this about not using standard USB adapters? You can't use any of the USB cables you probably have around because the Okta Mobile uses a special plug, so you have to use the proprietary cable to charge and connect to your PC.
The Okta Agent comes in a small box with a standard Lithium-Ion battery, wrist strap, sterep headset, USB cable, wall charger, install CD and manual CD.
Voice quality is good and I had no problem during test calls. One good feature is the ability to "filter" contacts. From the home screen, simply spell the contact's name using the keypad and you will see a list that is filtered to match the keys entered.
For what it's worth, the Okta Agent is not a bad business handset, and it's a good start for Telecom New Zealand and its company Okta Mobile. I just hope they work on those connectivity issues.
Small and light but with good keypad
Push e-mail works really well with Exchange Server
Windows Media Player
Giant applications library available
Short battery life when push e-mail is active
Connectivity problems when using as a tethered modem via Bluetooth