i-mate JAQ3 Pocket PC Phone

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INTRODUCTION

    Every day, it seems, I’m talking with someone new about the possibilities of PDA phones. And every day, I see more and more phone devices in the hands of consumers. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any real clear winners up to this point. Each device seems to have its own strengths, and with that, its own weaknesses. Certainly no newcomer to the PDA phone world, i-mate is on the scene again with their JAQ3 Pocket PC phone. A slim, touchscreen enabled, and front keyboard based device with a big potential, especially in the corporate environment. Potential to be a Blackberry competitor? Perhaps. Potential to be a great PDA phone? Certainly. Potential to really wow you with its capabilities? You’ll have to read on to find out!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s talk specs, though you may want to get your sleeping cap on. The JAQ3 is almost the same in terms of hardware as the original JAQ, but adds WiFi, a 2.0mp camera, a smaller screen, and a lower capacity battery. There is no doubt that i-mate has created the JAQ line to be business devices – they are no frills, messaging devices. The JAQ3 is running Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC phone edition with AKU 3.2, features a 200MHz TI IMAP processor, 2.4" landscape QVGA touchscreen, 128MB ROM, 64MB RAM, WiFi b & g, Quad band GSM/EDGE, Bluetooth 1.2, a 1200mAh battery (with 4 hours talk/120 hours standby), external MicroSD slot, and a full QWERTY keyboard.

Compared to the original JAQ, the JAQ3 weighs the same, but is longer, less wide, and less thick. Click on any device name in the table for a review.

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


PRODUCT FEATURES


(all images link to higher resolution)

    Found within the blue i-mate box is the User Manual, a Quick Start Guide, various warranty info, the software CD, a carrying case (magnetic closure), a USB sync cable, power, headphones (and covers), the battery, an extra stylus, and of course, the JAQ3.

    The face of the i-mate JAQ3 is smooth black plastic. Sporting a Window, two soft-key, an OK, mail, call start and end, Internet Explorer, D-Pad and center buttons on the top and a 39-key QWERTY keyboard below (with the numeric keys enabled by default). The screen does seem small for the unit size, but once you start using the device, you barely notice.

   

    The left side of the JAQ3 has a scroll wheel, a second OK button, and a slightly recessed camera button. It is important to note that the scroll wheel can be a little tough to press as not much of the mechanism is exposed. To the right side of the device, we find the power button, a mini-USB port, and the headphone port (mini).

   

    On the top of the unit, we see the indicator LED (red or green depending on the situation with no Bluetooth indicator), the IR port, and the microSD slot. I am slightly concerned for the slot cover, wondering how long it would last with constant use. But since I leave the cards in place most of the time, I don’t see this becoming too much of an issue.

Moving to the bottom of the JAQ3, we find the stylus port. The bottom, like the face, is a smooth black plastic.

    The camera is located on the back of the unit along with the speaker and battery door. The SIM card sits next to the battery, but cannot be moved without removing the battery first. Interestingly, the back of the unit has a slight texture (almost feels rubbery) that makes the phone easier to grip.

    The keyboard itself is backlit and lights up regardless of the ambient light level. The larger keys are slightly rounded and the D-Pad has a metallic finish. The smaller keys are rounded slightly feel slightly ‘sticky’. All of the keys on the front of the unit have a very nice tactile response and are easy to use. It took some getting used to the key placement (I kept trying to use the Fn key as the Shift), but only because I was using a slightly different keyboard layout before the JAQ3.

    In my large hands, the device fits quite nicely. The buttons are easily accessible, and the textured finish feels quite nice. But for the average user, it may be a little overwhelming and difficult to get their hands wrapped around.

Using sizeasy, we can easily see the size disparity between the JAQ3 and say, the Motorola Q and TyTN.

   

    Side by side and stacked with the Verizon XV6700 and Cingular 8525, the JAQ3 is thinner, but otherwise bigger in most respects. The shape and lines of the unit do make it seem smaller than it actually is. Pocketability is no issue, although if placed in ones front pants pocket, it was sometimes tough to slide the JAQ3 out during a call because of the textured finish.

The screen on the JAQ3 was pleasantly bright and easy to read. The example above is only at level 3 of 5 (in other words, it can get a lot brighter). The colors were rich and vibrant, with great contrast.


    The camera is located on the back of the unit along with the speaker and battery door. The SIM card sits next to the battery, but cannot be moved without removing the battery first. Interestingly, the back of the unit has a slight texture (almost feels rubbery) that makes the phone easier to grip.

    The keyboard itself is backlit and lights up regardless of the ambient light level. The larger keys are slightly rounded and the D-Pad has a metallic finish. The smaller keys are rounded slightly feel slightly ‘sticky’. All of the keys on the front of the unit have a very nice tactile response and are easy to use. It took some getting used to the key placement (I kept trying to use the Fn key as the Shift), but only because I was using a slightly different keyboard layout before the JAQ3.

    In my large hands, the device fits quite nicely. The buttons are easily accessible, and the textured finish feels quite nice. But for the average user, it may be a little overwhelming and difficult to get their hands wrapped around.

Using sizeasy, we can easily see the size disparity between the JAQ3 and say, the Motorola Q and TyTN.

   

    Side by side and stacked with the Verizon XV6700 and Cingular 8525, the JAQ3 is thinner, but otherwise bigger in most respects. The shape and lines of the unit do make it seem smaller than it actually is. Pocketability is no issue, although if placed in ones front pants pocket, it was sometimes tough to slide the JAQ3 out during a call because of the textured finish.

The screen on the JAQ3 was pleasantly bright and easy to read. The example above is only at level 3 of 5 (in other words, it can get a lot brighter). The colors were rich and vibrant, with great contrast.


The screen on the JAQ3 was pleasantly bright and easy to read. The example above is only at level 3 of 5 (in other words, it can get a lot brighter). The colors were rich and vibrant, with great contrast.


The screen on the JAQ3 was pleasantly bright and easy to read. The example above is only at level 3 of 5 (in other words, it can get a lot brighter). The colors were rich and vibrant, with great contrast.


SOFTWARE

   

    Running Windows Mobile 5 (AKU 3.2) with ROM version 2.08, the JAQ3 has a lot going for it. While the majority of the software on the device is standard for WM5, we will be looking at some of the more interesting and i-mate specific applications.

   

    First up on the i-mate specific list is their i-mate Suite. A thirty day trial is included with the unit, giving you access to their online backup program, Control, and 1-view. The Backup application worked as expected, copying over the contents of the device 9(including the SIM card) to the online vault in a more than reasonable time. Restores were a all-or-nothing affair if one used the Backup application to accomplish this task.

    1-View complimented Backup by giving you easy access to those vault files. This also means that you could share files between multiple users. Control then presents the ultimate in user customization – allowing IT professionals to not only secure single devices, but devices across the enterprise.

   

    An interesting inclusion was CA’s eTrust Antivirus. With a one year subscription, it is here to protect you from the wild and hairy world of PDA virii…if there really were any to worry about, that is. Needless to say, this was removed from the device almost as quickly as it was installed. Too little processor to go around for that sort of paranoid scanning. I fully expect to see PDA viruses show up in the future, but for now, these sorts of applications are more show than anything else.

   

    i-mate does include a Configurator (allowing one to instantly configure the PDA to the provider’s specs), but at the time of this review, only one downloadable config file was available, and it wasn’t Cingular. In that same realm, the SIM Manager allows you to easily manage your SIM device, backing up the device, or even restoring contacts.

   

    I did enjoy having an easy-to-use Profile Control application (with a Today screen plug-in to boot). With several profile types available, all I needed to to was tap the profile name on the Today screen and cycle through the list. Yes, that is the iPhone Ringtone, and no, it doesn’t come default with the device.  It’s a nice ditty and can be found various places around the net.

Also included is Cyberon Voice Commander. It works admirably, but takes so long to initialize (do to the processor speed is my guess) that it isn’t really useful.

   

    The wireless manager is straightforward and I was able to connect to wireless access points without much trouble at all. In reality, I don’t use Wi-Fi much with data-enabled devices, but the wireless-G capabilities are a welcome capability.

   

    The lack of 3G was a bit of a disappointment. Once you’ve experienced that sort of speed, you don’t really want to go back. Average speeds using DSL Reports’ mobile speed test were in the 160 kbit/second range. Peaking at 185 kbit/second and bottoming out at a measly 25 kbit/second. I was able to easily pair the device with my laptop and use the Bluetooth PAN capabilities to surf through the phone.

    The built-in dialer was exactly what I expected, but with number keys on the front of the device, I seldomly used this interface, save for the Call History button. Even with the slower processor, the virtual button response was excellent.

    If you haven’t heard me say this before, I’ll say it again: It doesn’t matter how many megapixels are specified, without good glass (lens), you won’t get good images. The JAQ3 sports a 2 megapixel camera, but don’t expect much from it. The camera application is launched, by default, from a recessed button on the left side. Once open, Brightness, Contrast, and Saturation controls appear on the left, and the soft keys are relegated to capture and menu. You can also capture an image by pressing down the center button of the d-pad. Because of the slight delay from the button press to actual image capture, one will seldomly see a perfectly focused shot.

   




Menu options for the Photo application include various effects and capabilities (such as Burst and Video).

The image above is not from the JAQ3, sorry to disappoint you.  This is the test shot taken with my Sony DSC-V3 with no modifications save cropping.

   

These examples are the JAQ3 images. The Auto white balance had a tendency to add too much of a blue tint, and setting the camera to incandescent did improve the image somewhat, but the colors were muddled and dull.

   

    On the entertainment side, i-mate does include a few games with the JAQ3 (Pool, Blackjack, and Jam-Jammy). Both Pool and Blackjack have online play capabilities, but I was unable to find an opponent willing to challenge me. You can play the device if you don’t mind an easy victory.


HELP SUPPORT

    With a complete User Manual, Quick Start Guide, and a member’s only support area, the JAQ3 certainly had a lot of help to back it up. The support emails I sent were answered quickly and accurately.


BUGS AND WISHES

    Power, power, and just a little more power. The lack of a good powerhouse can make using one’s device tedious. And considering that 3G is available in the United States, this would be another important, yet lacking feature. The form factor could be cut down a bit, but in all, the overall size wasn’t unmanageable. Another important upgrade would be in the call volume realm. The device performed great when using a headset, but otherwise, it was a great disappointment. Switching back to my normal day-to-day device made the difference even more stark. Call quality and reception was rather low on the JAQ3, and should also be on the list of future improvements. Last would be the inclusion of some sort of light and/or flash for the camera. While I doubt that the light will help improve image quality much, at least you could get somewhat better reduced light pics.

PURCHASING

    The i-mate JAQ3 can be found on Froogle for around $560.

PROS

  • Nice keyboard
  • Scroll wheel
  • Good battery life
  • Good one-handed operation

CONS

  • No 3G
  • Low call volume (speakerphone included)
  • Laggy performance
  • No camera flash or light
  • Poor reception
Value
Ease of Use
Features

Overall

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    I was a tad disappointed with the JAQ3. The size and feel of the unit is more than acceptable, and could have found a welcome place in my mobile world, but the lack of even a semi-powerful processor and 3G capabilities has relegated it to the "can’t use" realm. The call volumes weren’t good, and neither was the reception in my book. Not to say that the device is a complete loss! The sheer fact that its small size also includes a touch screen was a major plus in my book. The keys had a great texture and tactile response, and one-handed operation was truly achievable. Let’s hope that this is a milestone for future i-mate devices to improve upon.




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About The Author
DickieAdams