i-mate Phone Edition 2003

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WHAT’S
HOT

It’s the first Phone Edition 2003 device to hit
the market, and it’s also the first Pocket PC with a built in Phone
and Bluetooth that can use a Bluetooth headset. I’ve been using it with
a Nextlink Bluespoon Chameleon and it has been absolutely excellent.
The built-in camera is an added bonus.



The Bluespoon Chameleon works beautifully with the i-mate Phone Edition.


FEATURES

The i-mate Phone Edition 2003 has a nice
compromised form factor.  It’s almost too small to hold in my hand,
but almost small enough to keep comfortably in my front pants pocket
while sitting down.  The actual dimensions are 19mm x 69.9mm x
130mm.  The screen is smaller than a traditional iPAQ and the device
is not as wide.  The rounded edges make it more comfortable to
hold in your hand.  Be forewarned, however, the stylus is very
thin.  I would recommend keeping a fatter stylus in your pocket.
There are two LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) integrated into the top two
corners of the PDA body.  A blinking green light every 3 seconds
on the right means you have reception.  Blinking red means a system
notification.  Steady yellow means the battery is charging.
Solid green means the battery is fully charged.  There is no LED
indicator when you don’t have reception.  The left LED blinks blue
every two seconds when the Bluetooth radio is on.  Since these
LEDs are on the top sides of the PDA they’re less noticeable while looking
at the screen, but they’re also less annoying.  I would prefer
that the Bluetooth light blink less often however. If you want the LEDs
to indicate new SMS messages or missed calls you can set this in the
“Sounds & Notifications” control panel.


The
included cradle is a bit large, however it does charge the PDA through
the USB.  You don’t need to plug the AC adapter into the cradle.
It also includes a slot for charging a second battery, and future versions
may include headset/speakerphone capabilities.


The volume, Record, and Camera buttons are placed nicely on the left
side of the device such that they are easily accessible by your left
thumb.  Two other hardware buttons (Calendar & Contacts) are
located at the top, surrounding the speaker.  Their texture is
smooth and inset with the PDA casing which makes it difficult to find
the buttons simply by touch (for example, while driving.)  It’s
also difficult to reach these buttons as they are not located within
close proximity to any of my fingers while holding the PDA and they
are very far away while it is sitting on the dashboard in my car.
There is a control panel that allows you to lock the buttons from turning
on the device accidentally, but this is practically unnecessary since
the buttons are so recessed that it’s difficult to activate them intentionally.


The i-mate
Phone Edition works nicely in the car, connected to a cassette adapter.
One must-have accessory in this situation is an audio adapter plug from

Pocket PC Techs
.  I detest the rubber flap that covers the
headset jack.  Opening and closing that thing is very annoying.

The
XDA 2 is slightly smaller than a traditional naked iPAQ.  It feels
much smaller due to it’s decreased width and smaller screen.

The
included stereo headset has answer/end buttons and volume control on
the microphone piece.

The
shiny silver parabolic mirror covering the speaker is great for making
sure no one is sneaking up behind you.

There
are answer and end buttons at the bottom surrounding the directional
pad.  The microphone is located in the small slit below with Answer
button.


The Answer and End buttons at the bottom of the PDA include transparent
icons which light up when the PDA’s backlight is on.  This is a
cool effect, bu
t
it’s just eye-candy.  In fact, I really do not care for these buttons
at all since their only imperative functions are starting speakerphone
mode (hold down Answer for 3 seconds) and disconnecting from GPRS (hold
down End for 3 seconds).  Both of these functions are better suited
for a software based command within the Phone program and Connectivity
dialog bubble, however they are disappointingly missing from the software.



Honestly, I have never used the Answer/End buttons for their intended
functions.  I would much rather customize the button commands to
launch other applications, yet this is currently impossible.  Instead,
I always use the Answer/End buttons on my Bluespoon Chameleon Bluetooth
headset.  This set-up works great and I never have to hold the
device up to my head!  Or if the headset is not nearby, I’ll press
the answer button on the screen.  


Using a Bluetooth headset with the i-mate Phone Edition 2003 is, in
my opinion, the best feature in this device.  Once you’ve made
a bond with a Bluetooth Headset, the Bluetooth manager asks if you’d
like to use this device as your headset.  Tap “Yes” and
Phone Edition will automatically forward calls to the headset provided
Headset Mode is enabled via the Today Screen Profile plug-in.
Oddly, there is no other application that will allow you to enable/disable
the headset mode nor are there any other configuration settings for
selecting which Bluetooth headset you’d like to set as the default.
After the initial bonding of a Bluetooth headset is done, you don’t
even have to touch your Pocket PC to answer incoming calls.  Simply
press the answer button on your Bluetooth headset and begin talking.
The Phone Edition device keeps the Bluetooth radio on during suspend
mode such that incoming call notifications (ringing in the headset)
are instantly forwarded and phone calls can quickly connect to the Bluetooth
headset.  Something to make note of; if you answer an incoming
call with the PDA’s hardware or software buttons, the call will not
automatically be forwarded to the Bluetooth headset.  However,
if you press the answer button on the headset, then the call will be
transferred to it.  When you’re making a call via the Pocket PC
Phone application, a pop-up bubble and icon in the title bar will tell
you that the call is being transferred to the headset.  You can
tap a link in this bubble at any time during the call in case you want
to receive the call on the PDA.  I like to tell people that this
little plastic thing slightly larger than my thumb, is my phone even
though the actual phone is built into my PDA.  When a friend asked
me how to dial, I took out the PDA, said “Call Frank Dwyer on Mobile.”
and his cell phone started to ring. 


If you’re used to carrying a Bluetooth cell phone and Bluetooth PDA
and Bluetooth headset, having a single Phone/PDA offers so much more.
First of all, Voice Command only works for calling people on Phone Edition
2003 devices.  Pressing a button and saying “Call Chris Arden
on Mobile” is a lot easier than searching through 1000 contacts
on those tiny cell phone menus.  Second, Bluetooth phones don’t
wake your separate PDA when an incoming call or message is received.
Instead you have to turn the PDA on, connect to the phone and download
the messages you want to reply to.  This can be very tedious.
Furthermore, your internet connection isn’t always on and you can’t
schedule over-the-air syncing or periodic email checking. Plus, I don’t
like having all of my pockets filled at all times.  If you’re worried
about your PDA breaking and not having a phone, all you have to do is
take the SIM card out and put it in that practically-free backup phone
you keep at home.


Bluetooth also works great with ActiveSync.  There aren’t any hung
connections like my iPAQ H3970 had.  You can also bond with Bluetooth
mobile phones, though there’s really no need to and the XDA 2 probably
has better reception than your Sony Ericsson T610.  I created a
bond with my Bluetooth
Landline modem
and was able to set up a landline dial-up connection
easily.  This will come in handy when visiting reception-lacking
areas. 

Here
you can see the built in camera on the back of the PDA.  Below
the lens is also a mirror for use in taking self portraits.

The
included leather case has an extruded magnetic enclosure and a plastic
rimmed hole such that the camera can be used while in the case.

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to pocketnow.com
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Discuss
this Review

Device
(no cover)
Size
(inches)
Weight
(grams | ounces)
i-mate
PE2003
5.12″
x 2.39″ x 0.72″
190
| 6.69
HP
iPAQ 2215
4.57″
x 2.95″ x 0.63″
142
| 5.01
HP
iPAQ 1910
4.46″
x 2.75″ x 0.50″
120
| 4.23
HP
iPAQ 5450
5.43″
x 3.30″ x 0.63″
206
| 7.26
Compaq
iPAQ 39xx
5.28″
x 3.30″ x 0.63″
184
| 6.49
Toshiba
e740
4.90″
x 3.10″ x 0.60″
190
| 6.70
Toshiba
e310
4.90″
x 3.10″ x 0.40″
138
| 4.90
Toshiba
e570 Series
4.90″
x 3.00″ x 0.70″
181
| 6.40
HP
Jornada 560 Series
5.20″
x 3.01″ x 0.68″
173
| 6.10

DEVICE
SPEED

These benchmark results come from the Pocket PC application VOBenchmark
from Virtual Office
Systems
. Each number represents how many times within a given unit
of time the specific operation was able to be performed. Higher numbers
are better.

Testi-mate
PE2003
HP
iPAQ h2215
HP
iPAQ h5450
Toshiba
e740
CPU:
Floating Point
12.69

12.68

12.6412.65
CPU:
Integer
26.89

26.96

26.8926.95
Graphics:
Bitmaps – BitBlt
132.15

78.25

56.6277.81
Graphics:
Bitmaps – StretchBlt
28.40

28.60

18.130.25
Graphics:
Filled – Ellipse | Rectangle | Rounded Rectangle
5.89
| 29.58 | 3.81

4.68
| 12.94 | 3.82

2.16
| 6.64 | 1.55
0.53
| 5.34 | 0.48
Memory:
Allocation
11.3511.23

11.73

11.47
Memory:
Fill
2.02

1.97

0.910.95
Memory:
Move
1.311.240.370.39
Text27.80

5.20

4.631.48
Testi-mate
PE2003
HP
iPAQ h2215
HP
iPAQ h5450
Toshiba
e740
CPU:
Floating Point
12.69

12.68

12.6412.65
CPU:
Integer
26.89

26.96

26.8926.95
Graphics:
Bitmaps – BitBlt
132.15

78.25

56.6277.81
Graphics:
Bitmaps – StretchBlt
28.40

28.60

18.130.25
Graphics:
Filled – Ellipse | Rectangle | Rounded Rectangle
5.89
| 29.58 | 3.81

4.68
| 12.94 | 3.82

2.16
| 6.64 | 1.55
0.53
| 5.34 | 0.48
Memory:
Allocation
11.3511.23

11.73

11.47
Memory:
Fill
2.02

1.97

0.910.95
Memory:
Move
1.311.240.370.39
Text27.80

5.20

4.631.48
Testi-mate
PE2003
HP
iPAQ h2215
HP
iPAQ h5450
Toshiba
e740
CPU:
Floating Point
12.69

12.68

12.6412.65
CPU:
Integer
26.89

26.96

26.8926.95
Graphics:
Bitmaps – BitBlt
132.15

78.25

56.6277.81
Graphics:
Bitmaps – StretchBlt
28.40

28.60

18.130.25
Graphics:
Filled – Ellipse | Rectangle | Rounded Rectangle
5.89
| 29.58 | 3.81

4.68
| 12.94 | 3.82

2.16
| 6.64 | 1.55
0.53
| 5.34 | 0.48
Memory:
Allocation
11.3511.23

11.73

11.47
Memory:
Fill
2.02

1.97

0.910.95
Memory:
Move
1.311.240.370.39
Text27.80

5.20

4.631.48


SOFTWARE

 


The i-mate Phone Edition 2003 comes with a number of nice functionality-enhancing
software programs that add features like caller picture ID, MMS sending/receiving,
and still/video camera capabilities.  Versions from other carriers
might offer other additional software applications included in ROM.

CAMERA

The built in VGA camera is also quite feature-rich.

The
Camera application can be started with a hardware button on the left.

Pressing the button again will take a picture and save it automatically.


The
application uses the full screen for the viewfinder. Above you can see
the number of pictures you can take, zoom level, and option buttons.


In
the settings dialog, you can change the capture mode from still to video
while also adjusting the size of the image.  The Ambience pop-up
menu lets you control the white balance settings. The Dim setting increases
the light sensitivity of the camera for better results in low-light
situations. The Effects item lets you apply things like grayscale, sepia,
cool, and negative tones to the image.



The album application lets you browse thumbnails of images.
It also integrates with the Camera and Photo Contacts applications.



You can also view the images in a slide show, zoom in, rotate, etc.



Here’s an example photo from the camera shot at 640×480 on the Dim setting
(click to enlarge).

PHOTO
CONTACTS
The
IA Style Caller ID software that comes in the ROM of this Phone Edition
device allows you to assign photos and animated templates that appear
in the notification bubble of incoming calls.  The Templates are
customizable and you can download numerous animated templates from the

IA Style
website.

Photo ID
integrates with the Contacts application, however Photo contacts do
not synchronize with Outlook 2003’s ability to assign photos to Contacts
(but no other PDA/Phone does either). Also, it would be nice if the
above menu items would appear in the Contact’s open view Tools menu. 

The
Photo Contacts application lets you assign photos to the Contacts in
Pocket Outlook.

The
Assign Photo dialog gives you many options for how the notification
bubble should display.



There’s a Photo Speed Dial mode where you can select who you want to
call by
tapping their photo and then the icon of the number you want to call.

 

Once
somebody (who you’ve assigned a photo ID to) calls, a notification bubble
pops up showing the person’s name, number, and assigned photo along
with Answer/Ignore buttons and any template you might have selected.

MMS
COMPOSER

The MMS Composer made by Arcsoft allows you to send multimedia messages
that include pictures, text and sound to email addresses or other mobile
phones that support this feature. 

The
preferences allow you a number of options including connection, and
size limitations.

The
Composer acts as both an MMS creator and Inbox.

Sending
MMS messages on T-Mobile USA worked fine, but I was unable to receive
any properly.

SIM
MANAGER

The SIM manager program lets you edit and add names and numbers to your
SIM card. It’s very simple and limited.  It does not allow you
to select items from your Contacts database nor copy contacts from your
SIM card to Outlook.


BLUETOOTH
MANAGER


The included Bluetooth software is very basic.  In order to create
an ActiveSync connection you must start in the Bluetooth Settings control
panel.


The
Start button does not start ActiveSync, it starts the Bluetooth manager
which you’re
supposed to use to pair with a desktop computer that you’ve got an ActiveSync
partnership with.

The
Bluetooth program uses a very simple user interface.

You
can bond with other Bluetooth devices here, and that’s about it.

After
you do the Bluetooth ActiveSync setup with the Bluetooth Settings control
panel, you’ll be able to use the “Connect via Bluetooth” menu
in ActiveSync.

There’s
also a Wireless Modem application which lets you plug a laptop into
the device with a wire to use it as a modem.  You can also connect
via Bluetooth or infrared.


PHONE

 

The Phone software user interface is still poorly designed and not customizable
enough.  The white area at the top stays white with black text.
The text changes depending what’s going on with the phone, but that’s
about it.  Boring!  The buttons on the lower right change
their functions and labels depending on the current activity.
One problem with this is that a button which may have one function during
one activity will have another function during another… and sometimes
there are not enough functions to fill the button areas, so one is left
blank!  Blank buttons make me think this is an unfinished buggy
program just as it seems no design work was put into the black and white
upper area.  Yet this is the second generation Windows Mobile for
Pocket PC Phone Edition.

Phone
interface still has blank buttons.


The
caller history allows you to call back or SMS people.


At any rate, the Phone software works fine.  I’d rather see “Call
History” and “Speed Dial” accessible from the Tools menu.
There is no speakerphone button.  In order to conference multiple
people, you have to put the current call on hold, make a new call and
when the call is connected, press the Conference button.  That’s
fine, but then you can’t tell who’s in the conference and you can’t
hang up on certain people selectively!  You can either put everyone
on hold or hang up on everyone.  I’m pretty disappointed that this
functionality is missing.  You cannot put a certain person on hold,
remove them from the conference, put the conference on hold and speak
to them individually.  Furthermore, there does not seem to be any
way to archive or even document your call history on the desktop computer
unless you create a note for each call.  This does not keep track
of the call duration and neither does the Call History.  There
is a Call Timer feature, but this only keeps track of the total time
for all calls, not each call individually.


SMS/E-MAIL


The Phone’s SMS account is automatically configured as the SMS account
in Pocket Inbox.  As soon as you receive and SMS a notification
is displayed based on the settings chosen in the Sounds & Notifications
control panel.

There’s
no way to archive, document, or otherwise re-used SMS messages that
were sent or received in your device.  There isn’t even a file
that you can copy to your desktop computer for safe keeping. 


Another neat thing about Pocket PC Phone Edition 2003 is that it can
maintain a GPRS connection at all times.  It’s not really always
on, but it will reconnect automatically whenever it can.  So if
you’re connected to GPRS and you receive a phone call, when the phone
call is through, the internet connection will be reconnected.


EXPANSION


The i-mate Phone Edition 2003 was designed with a removable back plate
that covers the internal battery and SIM slot.  It also covers
an expansion interface which can be used for adding “backpack”
style peripherals.  A Compact Flash and video-out adapter with
extended battery backpack has already been announced.  This interface
opens up a variety of possibilities for expansion.


Other accessories planned to be available include a clip on thumb keyboard,
full-sized foldable keyboard, and cradles with a stereo audio jack and
microphone.  Also, the i-mate Phone Edition includes an SDIO slot
for adding peripherals such as WiFi cards, GPS receivers, and more storage
space.


BUGS
AND WISHES

The most annoying problem with the i-mate
Phone Edition is that it appears to be using older memory core settings
which are set to close any unused applications once the used program
memory goes over 16Mb.  That means you can only run about 2 to
4 applications at the same time.  A workaround that lets you run
more applications is to remove unnecessary items from your Startup Folder
in the Windows directory of your Pocket PC. It appears that the 16Mb
memory issue is a problem with Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition.
Hopefully there will be a ROM update or service pack available soon.


The next problem with the i-mate Phone Edition 2003 is the Bluetooth
software.  It uses Microsoft’s own Bluetooth manager, which is
extremely limited and not particularly user-friendly.  It doesn’t
currently work with Bluetooth GPS receivers, nor does it support the
File Transfer Bluetooth Profile or Networking Profile.  Finally,
either the Bluetooth radio or the software only supports one Bluetooth
connection at a time.  So if your Bluetooth Headset mode is enabled
while you are connected to ActiveSync via Bluetooth, then phone calls
will NOT be receivable through your Bluetooth Headset.  You must
disconnect from your other Bluetooth connections before being able to
use the headset again.  This is not a problem if you are connecting
to ActiveSync via the USB cradle however.  Also you can only set
up one Bluetooth ActiveSync connection at a time.  You can’t create
two bonds and switch between them when you’re in the vicinity of the
different computers.  This is not so bad either as it’s pretty
easy to create ActiveSync Bluetooth connections.


I wish it had Consumer Infrared so that it could be used as a universal
remote, but I would prefer different software than the Nevo application
that comes with the iPAQs which include this feature.  Obviously,
it would be nice to have WiFi and GPS built in as well, but I’m sure
those things are not technically possible at this time, size, and price.
I also miss the automatic backlight adjustment in the iPAQ H3970.


PURCHASING


The mmO2 XDA II version of this device can be purchased through
mmO2
or
Expansys
.  T-Mobile Germany also sells a version which they
call the
MDA 2
.  The i-mate Phone Edition 2003 version is being sold
at PPCW.NET,
as well as a number of other online retailers and eBay merchants.


PROS

  • Built
    in GSM/GPRS and Bluetooth
  • You
    can use a Bluetooth headset
  • Built
    in VGA still/video camera
  • Removable
    battery
  • WiFi
    via SDIO support
  • Lots
    of storage space and memory


CONS

  • First
    released versions have buggy software
  • No
    Bluetooth file transfer profile
  • Expensive
    compared to lesser PDAs
  • Software
    bugs in using Bluetooth GPS systems


OVERALL
IMPRESSION

This device is the next step in the evolution
of the personal digital assistant.  Despite a few flaws in the
first of it’s kind, I wouldn’t want any other PDA or Smartphone currently
on the market.  There is still plenty of room for improvement,
yet in seeing this device, I am very excited about the future of integrated
Windows Mobile Phone Edition devices.  Perhaps they’ll all be called
Smartphones in the future, but I hope some devices retain a 3.5-4″
screen.
Anyway, as a Phone, this device is great.  No
other phone includes a screen of this size and quality, a camera this
feature-rich, a processor this fast, nor supports Microsoft’s advanced
Voice Command software and Bluetooth headset functionality.  As
a PDA, this is one of the fastest around and is on par with the best
of the best.  As an MP3 player, when combined with the Voice Command
software, there is nothing else that can compare when playing music
in the car.  All this needs is a few little software updates and
it will be killer

.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!