i-mate JAQ Pocket PC Phone

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WHAT’S HOT

    When we’re evaluating new handheld devices, we try to 1. consider the intent of the manufacturer when releasing this device and 2. compare the device with similar handhelds on the market. In regards to number 1 – this device is intended as a "Heavy-duty" messaging device – and I’m taking this directly from the i-mate website. So – bulky, yes. Rugged,yes.

    In regards to number 2, the i-mate JAQ is actually a rarity: there aren’t many candy-bar GSM Pocket PC phones with a full keyboard available today. The HP hw65xx and hw69xx messenger would fit this description. The Palm 750v also comes to mind, which is not yet available in the US. If you want to be even more particular, you can exclude the 750v and HP devices as a basis of comparison because the JAQ has a rectangular screen, not square. That, in my mind, makes the JAQ the only "GSM Pocket PC candy-bar Phone with a rectangular screen and full keyboard." Try saying that 10 times in one breath.

    Let’s talk specs. The JAQ is running Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC phone addition with AKU 2.5, features a 200MHz TI IMAP processor, 2.8" landscape QVGA touchscreen, 128MB ROM, 64MB RAM, Quad band GSM/EDGE, Bluetooth 1.2, a 1440mAh battery (with 4 hours talk/120 hours standby), and has a full QWERTY keyboard.

Device (no cover)
Size (inches)
Weight (grams |
ounces)
i-mate JAQ
4.80" x 2.79" x 0.86"
160 |6.40
4.37" x 2.28" x 0.86"
154 | 5.40
4.18" x 2.31" x 0.68"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.30" x 0.90"
180 | 6.40
4.80" x 2.88" x 0.76"
186 | 6.56
4.60" x 2.79" x 0.82"

165 | 5.82

4.25" x 2.28" x 0.93"
160 | 5.64
4.92" x 2.81" x
0.71"
210 | 7.40
4.18" x 2.31" x 0.68"

150 | 5.30

4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"
175 | 6.20
4.60" x 3.21" x 0.58"

138 | 4.80

5.17" x 3.03" x 0.59"
187 | 6.60
4.50" x 2.80" x 0.64"
158 | 5.57

    It’s interesting that the JAQ weighs less than the 700w, but appears to be much larger. Also note that the JAQ and the new Treo 750v are the same height.


BOX CONTENTS

(all images link to higher resolution)

Here’s the typical i-mate box, with pictures of business people smiling and the blue i-mate logo.

Box contents include: user manual, warranty, software, headphones with microphone (for use on calls), plastic leather-textured case, power adapter, USB cable, and the device itself.

PRODUCT FEATURES

The JAQ’s body is silver-metallic in color, and is entirely plastic.

    In hand the device feels comfortable, and is actually quite light. This light-weight-but-bulky-exterior makes the device "feel" empty…perhaps a bit cheap.

    Back into the shooting studio, let’s take a closer look at the keyboard. One of the advantages of the JAQ being large in size is that its keys are spread out nicely and are quite tall, so typing is easy and fast – probably the best I’ve ever felt on a device of this nature. The space bar is also well sized, and placed in the center, where it should be. There’s a "fn" key that is used to access the symbols in orange. The trouble is that the fn function won’t turn off unless you press the button it again, so inserting 1 character effectively requires three key presses.

    Notice that the number buttons aren’t set off by a different key color, as you’d expect from a Windows Mobile device with a full keyboard and no dedicated number pad. That was a bit annoying.

    Also notice a factory error on my unit – I’ve got two Windows hardware buttons! This confused the heck out of me as I wondered why the device didn’t have dedicated buttons for the softkeys. In fact, the second Windows logo on the right should actually look the same as the button just to the left of the jog dial, which is the dedicated softkey button.

    Did I mention the keyboard was backlit? Indeed it is, in a warm orange color. You can adjust the brightness of the keyboard, which is helpful to curb battery usage. Unfortunately, the device doesn’t have a light sensor, so the keyboard backlight is active whenever you use the device. You can shut off the keyboard backlight altogether.

Here’s another shot of the screen and keyboard in a darker environment.

    Ah – it’s great to see a mini-USB port for charging and syncing. Some other companies are trying to use proprietary connectors, and it’s good to see i-mate keeping it simple with mini-USB. Notice the reset hole on the left side, and the microphone near the top.

    Yes – that is the stylus, on the BOTTOM LEFT side of the device. If you’re a righty, this is quite an inconvenience. Perhaps this device was made for lefties. To the left of the stylus is the voice note record button, and the volume adjustment buttons.

The top reveals an IR port (does anyone use this technology anymore?).

And near the IR port are some notification lights. From top to bottom: new mail notification, Bluetooth status (I’m unsure why i-mate didn’t use the Bluetooth logo here), and a battery/cell signal status.

On the other side, we have a headphone jack, an external mini-SD slot (bravo to i-mate for keeping the expansion slot where it should be: on the outside and not behind the battery), and the power button.

Onto the rear, we find a small speaker slit near the battery cover. The speakerphone has adequate volume. What’s missing? The camera!

You’re probably not going to keep the JAQ in your pocket because of its size, so i-mate’s included a leather-textured case with a nice metal clasp…

…that features a spring-loaded belt clip on the rear.


COMPARISONS

    Here we have the ever-valuable comparison shot. From left to right: 5G iPod, Qtek 8500, i-mate SP5m, Palm Treo 700w, i-mate JAQ, Dell Axim X51v. Notice the difference in keyboard between the Treo and the JAQ. The JAQ’s keys are spread out much more. Click the image to get a larger view.

    In this shot, the large battery compartment of the JAQ becomes quite obvious. It’s interesting how the keyboard almost "wraps around" an otherwise thin interior section. The body of the JAQ without the keyboard would be about the same thickness and length as the i-mate SP5m Smartphone (third from the bottom).

From the top, we see that the JAQ is considerably wider than the Treo.

INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

    Smartphone users know that if they want to dial a number, they can begin typing on the keypad in T9-like entry format, and have matches show up on the screen. Palm Treo 750v/700w are aware that they can begin typing the name of the contact on the Today Screen, and the device will find the matching contacts. But on the i-mate JAQ, it’s not that easy. It doesn’t have a quick-dial feature. You have to enter the Contacts screen and THEN begin typing. That’s one step too many just to call someone.


    If we enter the dialer, we find some nice 3D looking keys, but no letters on the keys! What if I want to call 1-800-COMCAST or something of the like? It becomes quite difficult.

i-mate added one of their own games into the mix – blackjack.

I’m not much of a blackjack man (I prefer Texas Hold ‘Em), but the graphics of the game seemed nice, and the sound was pretty catchy, too.

    There are a few programs that i-mate adds to their products, including 1-View, Backup, eTrust Antivirus, AutoConfig and an email application. I didn’t do much testing with the eTrust Antivirus. In my opinion, it’s not time to get worried about Windows Mobile viruses, especially for users just using their device for PIM, communication, and messaging. eTrust will download virus definition updates just as Norton Antivirus would.

    The 1-View program lets you access files from a home or work PC. It also lets you playback media files. I prefer Orb for media. The concept is neat, but the price is steep at around $90. The version on the JAQ is a 30 day try. For more info on this program, click here.

To use 1-View or Backup, you’ll need to create an account.

    i-mate Backup automatically backs up most files on your device over-the-air and stores it on i-mate’s servers. You get 100mb of space, which is more than enough for most handhelds. The price is around $100 to buy, plus a monthly fee of $10. I’ll stick to using a storage card for backup.

    The Auto Config utility was a HUGE help. When you first turn on your device, it asks you which carrier you’re using, and will configure your connectivity settings as appropriate. It has settings for carriers in the US and Europe. Very nice!

Ah – this is a refreshing addition: a profile editor! Pocket PC phones don’t usually have profile selection. i-mate includes a basic one. I was a bit disappointed that there was no "automatic" profile that switches between meeting and normal profiles based on calendar status.

Let’s go into settings a bit. As mentioned, you can change the brightness of the backlit keypad.

Here is confirmation on the specs. The JAQ comes with AKU 2.5. The device doesn’t support stereo Bluetooth.


BENCHMARK TESTS


   Since Spb Benchmark from Spb Software House has not really been updated for use with Windows Mobile 5.0, which includes many changes for increased performance and battery life (as well as a different way of working with storage memory), we can only compare Windows Mobile 5.0 devices to other Windows Mobile 5.0 devices.

HELP SUPPORT

   The user manual for the JAQ is terrific – probably the best I’ve ever seen for a Windows Mobile device. There are full-color screenshots, and lots of step by step descriptions. This, coupled with the great keyboard, brings the Ease of Use factor quite high for this device.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
The first complaint that we have is the JAQ’s bulkiness..or is it ruggedness? Perhaps it’s both. The JAQ did withstand some decent falls without breaking. It could be that i-mate decided to include this "wrap around" keyboard to make it look more rough and tough. The case material, though…which is all plastic, would potray a different picture of the unit’s durablity.

    Second – where’s the camera? A camera is essentially these days – even if you don’t use it for more than taking a photo of something interesting you normally wouldn’t come across, we need a camera.

    The JAQ makes for a terrific internet device, thanks to the great keyboard, and QVGA lanscape screen. What it’s lacking, though, is some way to have quicker connectivity. UMTS or WiFi would make this device a better proposition.

    The issue of quick dialing a contacting within Pocket PC Phone edition is an inherent flaw. i-mate should add some sort of Today plug-in, as found on the Windows Mobile Treos.

    The performance of the TI OMAP processor is low, especially under my moderate to heavy multi tasking. For those that don’t multitask on their PDA, the device’s perfomance should be adequate.

    Is this device for lefties? It would seem so with the stylus on the left side. Though the odd placement was easy to get used to, it still makes me wonder the reason behind it.

    And finally – the highly reflective screen makes outside viewing very difficult. I was on my way back to my car on a sunny day recently, and I couldn’t read the screen… at all, even on max brightness!

PURCHASING

   
The i-mate JAQ is sold for $499 over at MobilePlanet. That’s the lowest price we could find.


PROS

  • Terrific backlit keyboard
  • Mini-SD slot is external
  • Good one-handed operation
  • Profile program included
  • Useful Auto Config utility to set up internet connections

CONS

  • Bulky
  • No camera
  • Very plasticy
  • No 3G connectivity or WiFi
  • No way to quick-dial a contact
  • No A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • 200MHz TI OMAP processor can be slow
  • Stylus is in an odd location
  • Unusable in bright sunlight
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    In taking an objective view of the JAQ, we ask: did the manufacturer successfully create the product that it intended to? In this case, i-mate wanted to make a simple and rugged messenger. Yes, it’s bulky and slow. Yes, it’s lacking a camera and 3G connectivity. The Yes’s could go on for several more items (I’ll let you refer to the Cons list above). But did i-mate succeed, yes. Though the more advanced users will look past this device, it definitely has a market for those looking for a basic, less expensive, reliable messenger, with a good-sized keyboard.


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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.