E-TEN glofiish X500 Pocket PC Phone

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INTRODUCTION

    E-TEN, who historically hasn’t surprised us with a truly compelling device, has created a new brand within itself: glofiish. The first device from glofiish carries quite a claim – to be the "World’s thinnest Pocket PC Phone, GPS and WiFi all-in-one." With that claim, they’ve got our attention. Is this the device that many have been waiting for, or was usability sacrificed for the sake of thinness? We’ll take a thorough look at the E-TEN glofiish X500 to see whether it should *keep* our attention. Read on to see what we found!

WHAT’S HOT

    As mentioned, the most unique aspect of this device is that it’s the thinnest Pocket PC phone available with GPS and WiFi.

    Let’s talk specs. The E-TEN glofiish X500 is a quad-band GSM phone with EDGE, including a Samsung S3C2440 400MHz processor, 128MB ROM and 64MB RAM, a 2.8" QVGA touchscreen, Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi (both 802.11b and g), a 2MP camera with flash, integrated SiRFStar III GPS chipset, a microSD slot, and even an FM radio tuner! Wow, that’s quite a feature list. The manufacturer claims that talk time is around 7 hours, while standby time comes in at 200 hours. Not bad.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

    In our comparison table, we find the indeed the glofiish X500 has the slimmest body of any other Pocket PC phone around, though not by much: the HTC Artemis is just .05" thicker. Do you really notice .05"?


PRODUCT FEATURES
(all images link to higher resolution)

Here’s the box. Notice that E-TEN leaves their branding out of the picture, and pushes forth with the glofiish name.

Opening the box, we find a small plastic window that reveals the X500.

Inside the box we find the device, USB charging cable, USB PC cable, stereo headphones with built in microphone, leather case, quick start guide, and software. Also included, surprisingly, was a screen protector. I’ve never reviewed a device that came with a screen protector.

And here it is – the glofiish X500. Notice the use of brushed aluminum around the edges of the screen, with silver-metallic plastic adorning the rest of the body.

    Moving closer, we can get a look at the buttons on the front of the device. Starting at the upper left, we have the GPS button, M-Desk launcher (more on that later); on the bottom, we have a start/end call button, two soft keys, and a D-Pad. Note the lack of Start menu or OK buttons.

Here we can get a feel for the screen brightness, and how the device appears in-hand.

Up close, we can see the varied use of colors and textures: brushed metal frame, silver metallic case, matte silver D-Pad.

Here’s a close shot of the two hardware buttons on the top. There are two LEDs on the right and left side. Something I found to be peculiar was that when charging the device, an amber LED illuminates, but doesn’t change to green once fully charged.

    On the left side of the device, we have, starting on the right, a stereo headphone port, voice record button, and volume +/- buttons. I found the volume buttons to be awkwardly placed. Also – they didn’t have any sort of tactile feedback (such as a raised bump, etc), so that when you thought you were making your car louder, you were actually starting a voice record session.

On the right side of the device (from right to left) is the power button, soft reset hole, and camera button.

    The microSD slot on the glofiish X500 is accessible from the bottom of the device, NOT behind the battery compartment as found on most newer devices, thank goodness. Also, many will be excited to learn the the X500 uses mini USB for charging and syncing. No proprietary connectors to deal with.

The back and sides are covered with soft rubber, making for a food feel. On the rear we find the mono speaker which I found to be plenty loud when using the speakerphone…

…plus the 2MP camera sensor, self-portrait mirror, and flash.

    Opening the back, we find a very tall and wide (but thin) 1530 mAh battery. Also shown above is the stylus, which is retractable. Whether you love or hate retractable styli, they help save space, and they’re here to stay.

And, of course, behind the battery you will find the SIM card holder.

The case that it comes with is actually of good quality leather – the texture is soft, and it has a nice leather aroma.

The problem is that it’s JUST a case, and not a holster. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this. Keep it in the briefcase? It’s a phone – you keep it on your person, and having a case without a belt clip seems silly.

The front buttons glow blue, green and red. Snazzy.

COMPARISONS

Here’s a front shot comparing (from left to right) the 5.5g iPod, i-mate JAQ, Palm Treo 700w, Qtek 8500, i-mate SP5m, glofiish X500, and Dell Axim x51v. Click on for a larger image.

In the side shot, you can really get a feel for the thickness of the glofiish compared to other devices. From the bottom to the top: iPod, Treo 700w, Qtek 8500, i-mate SP5m, glofiish X500, Axim X51v, and JAQ.

Here’s another angled comparison shot. From bottom to top: iPod, Treo 700w, Qtek 8500, i-mate SP5m, glofiish X500, Axim X51v, and JAQ.


INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

    E-TEN has added a handful of their own software to help customize Windows Mobile 5.0. We’ve got a lot of interesting things to see here. Before I get started, though, I wanted to mention something new that occurs when you begin using your device. Remember how you have to do the cut/copy/paste exercise after a hard reset? Well, with the lastest AKU release of Windows Mobile, Microsoft has added a simple "skip" button for those that have been through the practice several times.

It’s quite clear as early as the Today screen that E-TEN has done some work. They install a plugin called Quick Link that puts icons on your Today screen. You can disable this, of course.




And you can customize what programs and statistics are displayed…

…as well as how they appear.

 

One of my biggest complaints with Pocket PC phones is their hideous factory blue dialer, as seen on the left. E-TEN did something about it, and included a pleasant skin…

…that has a nice 3D look to it.

Going into the Start menu, we find that E-TEN has organized some of its new applications into folders. I like the icons that accompany each folder. Let’s take a peek inside of the GPS folder..

…and in here we have just three applications – no mapping software!

This is what GPS viewer looks like – it will tell you your latitude and longitude, altitude and speed.

    You can also view satellite data. I was indoors, so no signal was fixed. To test the acquisition times of the SiRFStar III chip, I used a program called GPSdash2 which lets you view some simple statistics with a GPS fix. Cold starts times were a decent 45-60 seconds, and the third party program quickly recognized that the X500 had integrated GPS.

Now we’re inside the utilities folder. The backup utility may be useful for those that do a lot of productivity work on their device…

…and it looks like this. It’s pretty straight forward – it’ll calculate how much space you need to backup, you tell it where to backup to (in this case SDMMC is selected), and you press the Backup button. Pretty easy.

    E-TEN includes a launcher that is found in the utilities folder, called M-Desk. It’s a simple tab-like interface that puts all the phone’s major programs at your fingertips. By default, it’s accessible via the Home hardware button at the top of the device.

Here’s the PDA tab…

The Fun tab, which contains basic games and other multimedia programs (which we’ll talk more about in a moment)…

And an especially useful tab that lets you see your battery capacity, free device and flash card memory and screen brightness. It’ll also let you rotate your screen.

Inside the Multimedia folder, we have more unique programs. The device has an FM tuner…

    …which looks like this. What’s annoying, though, is that you must have the headphones connected in order for the program to work. I’m assuming that the device uses the headphone wire as an antenna. Reception was just mediocre outdoors, and poor inside.

    Does this look familiar? E-TEN calls it ImageMaker, but I call it Paint for Windows Mobile. It’s quite basic, but it’s a fun tool that you can use to make sketches in color. For serious drawing on your device, Calligrapher from PhatWare is a great choice.

They’ve got a novelty program installed called ImageWizard, which lets you put a photo frame around images.

    E-TEN replaced Windows Mobile Picture and Video viewer with Multimedia Manger. It’s essentially the same thing, but lets you adjust thumbnail size and navigate a bit easier between pictures stored on a device and on a storage card.

This is the camera application. It’s much more advanced than the standard program used in Windows Mobile. If you press the wrench…

…you get A LOT of options to choose from…

    …that pop open when you press any item. Of note, you can change size and quality of the picture, format, flash setting, white balance, picture effect, etc. What it doesn’t have, though, is a Macro mode. If you press the camera icon on the bottom left corner…

…it will switch to video camera mode.

And as with the camera mode, you get a good amount of options when you press the wrench key.

    Overall, I think the added functionality of the camera was overkill. The device became very laggy when I tried to adjust various settings. Cameras on mobile devices should be simple and quick – I want to be able to pull out my phone quickly, snap a quality photo without any fanfare, and that’s it.

But in terms of picture quality, I was actually impressed. There’s a bit of blur in this image because it was tough to steady my hands, but the flash helped to make a relatively crisp picture. Click for the high resolution shot.

Here’s another shot taken of a dart board. The colors are a bit exaggerated, but overall, an impressive shot for a camera on a phone. Click on for full resolution.

    E-TEN added a Microsoft Voice Command variant called Voice Commander. It does about the same thing – but requires a few more words to operate. For example, in Voice Command, to dial Brandon’s home number, I say "Call Brandon Home," and the program will repeat what I said in its robotic voice, and dial away. In Voice Commander, however, I must say "Call Brandon at Home," it will then repeat what I said in a robotic voice, and ask me to confirm with a yes or no. That’s too many steps – I’ll stick with Voice Command. Comparing accuracy rates – I’d say that both programs come in equal at around 85% accuracy.

But for those that don’t want to spend extra money for another voice command program, Voice Commander does have a good amount of settings that you can explore.

Here’s a shot of the big and bold Wireless Manager.

Moving on to the Phone folder, we have some other choices here. Of note is the Scenarios program…

    …which is simply an attempt at a profiles program as found in Windows Mobile Smartphone. Though this is a noble attempt, there is no automatic mode that’ll toggle between Meeting and Normal modes based on your calendar status. This program feels like an afterthought.

Let’s talk about settings a bit. I’ve never seen this screen in a WM device – it reminds me of Device Manager in Windows XP.

Here’s a shot from the About screen.

    E-TEN actually changed the Power Settings screen – it allows you to turn on the key lock, and enable the battery icon. Have you noticed the battery icon, by the way? It’s up in the taskbar at the top of the screen. This is something that Windows Mobile Pocket PC lacks and should have – it’s good to see E-TEN include one.


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

    I was actually suprised that the glofiish X500 didn’t come with a full user manual. The device does come with a quick-start guide, which should cover all the basics if you’re a newbie.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
This phone would be my daily driver if it had 3G. It’s got just about everything a geek could want (perhaps minus a keyboard), and it’s still running slow EDGE. My guess is that if E-TEN finds the glofiish brand to be a success, they’ll start producing a device with 3G.

    It’s rare that we get a quality case with our new devices. Often times, the manufacturer includes a "pleather" piece of fabric with which to wrap the device. In this case, E-TEN included a high-quality leather case. As mentioned – that’s good and dandy for a Pocket PC, but this is a Pocket PC

phone

– I’m going to be carrying this on me all day, everyday. Slipping a device AND a case into my pocket is not an option – unless I find it fashionable to have a large bulk in my pocket. A belt clip would put the icing on the included case. But with no clip, I don’t have a use for the case. That’s a shame.

    This device includes the fantastic SiRFStar III GPS chipset which features quick satellite acquisition times and low power usage. But where’s the mapping software? I’m not ready to spend another $100+ after having bought a new device. The HTC Artemis P3300, a similar device that has built in GPS, comes with TomTom6 navigation software, why can’t the X500?

    The glofiish X500 is missing some key hardware buttons that, as a result, makes one-handed usage very cumbersome: the OK and Start menu button. The result of not having these extra buttons may be a less-cluttered front face, but come on, Windows Mobile phone devices have lately been optimized for one-handed operation; why break the paradigm?

    My last gripe is with the camera application – it’s big, bulky, and slow. The huge list of settings and tweaks may be welcomes by the more serious of phone photographers out there (I still have yet to meet one), but for me, I want to be able to point and shoot, quickly, without feeling like my device is being stressed.

PURCHASING

   
Over at MobilePlanet, the E-TEN glofiish X500 can be had for $749.95.


PROS


  • The thinnest Pocket PC phone with GPS and WiFi


  • Lightweight

  • Integrated SiRFStar III GPS
  • WiFi B & G
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • FM radio
  • Good 2MP camera with flash
  • Great build quality

CONS


  • No 3G


  • Leather case doesn’t have belt clip

  • One-handed operation is difficult
  • Doesn’t come with GPS mapping software
  • Camera application is slow

  • Pricey

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

OVERALL IMPRESSION

   There’s no doubt that this is a high-end Pocket PC phone. The use of quality materials and textures and the breakthrough integration of a slew of wireless technologies (though no 3G) in such a slim form factor all make for a terrifically well-rounded device. This device doesn’t fail in any one category – the only thing that it is really missing is UMTS capability. If you’ve got the money and want an attractive, capable, and oh yes – slim Pocket PC phone, then you may want to catch a glofiish.


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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.