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Reviews

i-mate JAMin Pocket PC Phone

By Adam Z. Lein March 20, 2006, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION

Ever since I bought the JAMin I haven't been able to get that song out of my head, but frankly, I'm mighty proud to be jammin'! The JAMin is the latest Pocket PC Phone from i-mate. It's also known as the HTC Prophet, Qtek S200, XDA neo, Dopod 818pro, and will certainly take on a few other brands as other carriers pick it up. Read on to see what grounds this device is set to break!

WHAT'S HOT

The i-mate JAMin is a lot like the original i-mate JAM (HTC Magician). Some new additions include 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0, 200Mhz TI OMAP CPU, 128Mb ROM, 64Mb RAM, 2.8' QVGA screen, Windows Mobile 5.0, and a much improved 2MP camera. The JAMin also adds quadband GSM/GPRS and EDGE similar to the K-JAM it supersedes.

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY
Device (no cover)Size (inches)Weight (grams | ounces)
i-mate JAMin 4.18' x 2.31' x 0.68' 150 | 5.30
Palm Treo 700w 4.40' x 2.30' x 0.90' 180 | 6.40

Asus A636

4.80' x 2.88' x 0.76' 186 | 6.56

HP iPAQ hw6515

4.60' x 2.79' x 0.82'

165 | 5.82

i-mate K-JAM4.25' x 2.28' x 0.93' 160 | 5.64

i-mate PDA2k

4.92' x 2.81' x 0.71' 210 | 7.40

i-mate JAM

4.18' x 2.31' x 0.68'

150 | 5.30

Dell Axim X51v

4.70' x 2.90' x 0.70' 175 | 6.20

Dell Axim X3i /

X30

4.60' x 3.21' x 0.58'

138 | 4.80

HP iPAQ hx4700

5.17' x 3.03' x 0.59' 187 | 6.60

HP iPAQ rx3715

4.50' x 2.80' x 0.64' 158 | 5.57

WHAT'S IN THE BOX

The JAMin comes with a Mini-USB cable, AC adapter, stereo headphones with talk button/mic/volume control, vinyl case, extra stylus, software CD and manual.

THE DEVICE

Let's take a closer look at the device itself.

Black is the new silver! The JAMin's body is encased in a hard rubber non-slip black shell. Very stylish, and very comfortable.

The JAMin's form factor is the same as the original JAM. You still can't beat this "smallest Pocket PC" form-factor for pocketability!

The 11 button navigation area at the bottom of the JAMin is the best design I've ever seen on a Pocket PC Phone. All future Windows Mobile devices should have this hardware button layout. It's by far the most user-friendly for one-handed navigation. (The Treo 700w also has a similar layout.)

On the left side you see the Camera button, volume slider button, Communications Manager button, and a lanyard hole. If you hold down the Communications Manager button, it will activate another custom function who's default assignment is the voice recorder.

At the top, you see the SDIO slot. Yes, that's right it's regular SD, not the new Mini SD or Micro SD memory slots found in other phones. That means you can still put a nice 4GB SD memory card in here for all your music and movies.

On the right side is the infrared port, power button, and the stylus silo. If you hold down the power button for about 4 seconds, the JAMin will bring up a Yes/No dialog asking if you want to continue with a full power off. If you choose Yes, it will shut the device off completely, meaning it won't use the battery at all. That means the device won't wake up for appointments, phone calls, emails, text messages or anything until you turn it back on and boot up.

On the bottom of the device is the soft reset button, Mini-USB port, 2.5mm 4 connection headset jack, and a microphone hole.

On the back is a reflection mirror, speaker grill, external antenna port, and 2 Megapixel camera lens. The ring around the camera lens can be rotated to switch it to macro mode for close-up photos.

Here's the JAMin with my Bluespoon 5G; still the world's smallest Bluetooth Headset. I was pleasantly surprised when using my bluetooth headsets with the JAMin. The bluetooth connections seem to be very much improved. Where Bluetooth headset connections would get significant interference when turning your head or going behind a wall on other i-mate devices, Bluetooth connections on the JAMin are practically flawless. I can actually use a bluetooth headset while in a different room! By the way, the bug we saw in the K-JAM where activating Voice Command via a bluetooth headset won't work if the device is in suspend mode is fixed in the JAMin. Yes, if the JAMin is in suspend mode in my pocket, I can now activate Voice Command via the Bluetooth headset with doing any registry hack.

The i-mate JAM, K-JAM and JAMin are similar in size, but the K-JAM is significantly thicker, as it has a slide-out keyboard.

In our stack-up, you can see how thick the K-JAM is on the bottom. The JAM and JAMin are exactly the same thickness.

The stereo headphones included are the same ones that come with the i-mate K-JAM. The Talk button, volume control slider, and microphone are on an in-line plastic piece lower down the cord. There's also a little plastic clip that attaches the two headset wires together. This can be used to go around your neck and keep any tugging pressure off the ear buds headphones. (Note the name of the song playing in Media Player, click to zoom if neccessary.)

CAMERA

The i-mate JAMin comes with a new built-in camera that puts other Pocket PC cameras to shame. Special thanks to Jackie for modeling.

The Camera application is the same version of the one normally included in the HTC manufactured devices. For some reason it only takes pictures in landscape mode.

The 2.0 megapixel camera is much much better than the built-in cameras of any other Pocket PC phone. Click the above image to see it full resolution. I shot this at the 1.3Mp though since the 2Mp setting takes up too much memory.

Here's a sample of how the camera does in a poorly-lit scary basement. As you can see, a bit of noise crops up in these conditions, but you can still see plenty of detail. Let's look at how the K-JAM handles the same conditions...

This photo was taken in the same conditions with the i-mate K-JAM (with it's flash on). Obviously the JAMin's camera is many times better than previous cameras from HTC products.

The macro mode is perfect for "scanning" text or business cards in OneNote Mobile for conversion later with OneNote's optical character recognition. But the depth of field is very narrow, so be sure you take your picture straight-on if you're going to run OCR on it.

INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

The i-mate JAMin includes all of the software improvements of Windows Mobile 5.0, however the early release models do not include AKU 2 with the Messaging and Security Pack. I'll go over a few of the phone-specific Windows Mobile 5.0 features here, but I'll focus on those added features that i-mate has provided with 3rd party programs. Most of these enhancements are basically the same as what was added to the K-JAM. So if any of this sounds familiar, it is.

The Comm Manager mainly handles WiFi power settings and Bluetooth settings. It also has a button that toggles the audio settings to vibrate mode. Then there's an ActiveSync button that simply launches ActiveSync.

The Settings menu at the bottom of the Comm Manager gives you access to the normal Microsoft Bluetooth stack settings dialogs where you can manage and create bonds with other Bluetooth devices. The software here is improved over Windows Mobile 2003SE as there are no longer two Bluetooth settings dialogs. You can configure COM ports and ActiveSync pairings all from this dialog.

The WiFi Settings dialog is not very feature rich, but it gets the job done.

The new Contacts program in Windows Mobile 5.0 is very much improved. You can even sync Contact photos with Outlook 2003 and Exchange 2003 SP2. i-mate added integration for adding Voice Tags to each contact as well.

Even contact specific ring tones are integrated with the Contacts program. However, the ringtone settings are not synced with Outlook, which means if you have to hard reset, you'll have to re-configure all of these.

When someone calls you, their contact photo appears as a notification window on the bottom of the screen. Things run so much more smoothly with an OS level Photo ID integration.

The new Phone application interface is very much improved. No longer are there blank buttons, and all the functions are accessible from the Menu. That means you don't have to know the trick to turning on the speakerphone. On the other hand, the directional pad hardware shortcuts for accessing the Speed Dial and Call History are no longer present.

The Smart Dialing add-on from HTC has been updated to support the Windows Mobile 5.0 Phone application. The version included with the JAMin is an updated build which seems to be much faster as well.

The Messaging application also uses Contact photos for emails and text messages.

Unfortunately, the MMS integration is very lacking. The interface doesn't look like the other messaging accounts anymore, and it doesn't even use the soft-keys for menus! i-mate uses ArcSoft's MMS Composer 3.0.7.19 here, by the way.

The Phone Pad T9 Predictive Text input panel is included in the JAMin's ROM. The large buttons are supposed to make typing text with one big thumb easier.

i-mate has also included a ZIP compression program in the JAMin's ROM. It's obviously not designed for Windows Mobile 5.0 though.

i-mate includes the above Voice Speed Dial program from Cyberon for voice activated dialing. You can record voice tags for calling any contact as well as launching Applications. It works quite well except that launching the Voice Speed Dial program does not pause Windows Media Player so that it can hear you. You can also edit the registry to get a different voice recognition program to launch via the Bluetooth headset if you choose.

ClearVue PDF is included in ROM for viewing PDFs. Also notice this application is not designed for Windows Mobile 5.0. ClearVue PDF tends not to display PDFs very well though.

The JAMin also includes a MIDlet Manager.

There's a little application for setting up your Club i-mate email account automatically. This saves you from having to enter all those Exchange Server settings.

In the System Settings tab there's a control panel called Clear Storage. This will basically do a hard reset and restore your JAMin to the default.

The JAMin comes with a nice version of Backgammon.

Skype is also included in the ROM of the i-mate JAMin. It's still not designed for Windows Mobile 5.0, but it will run sometimes. You need a soft-reset's worth of available memory just to run the program. Luckily Skype is un-install-able via the Remove Programs control panel.

BENCHMARKS

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. But I'll throw in a comparison with the i-mate JAM (a non WM 5.0 device) just for a display of how differently Spb Benchmark renders the two operating systems.

In real life, the i-mate JAMin with i's Texas Instruments OMAP 195MHz processor is noticeably slower than the i-mate JAM with a 416MHz Intel processor. If you're downloading email over WiFi while playing music in Media Player and switching between a few other applications, the JAMin will get extremely slow, to the point of hanging. However, if you don't multi-task too heavily, you should be quite pleased with the performance. It can certainly play video in Windows Media Player quite nicely both from the Mini SD card or streaming internet.

BATTERY

We tested the 1,200 mAh battery on maximum backlight during normal usage with Bluetooth on. The JAMin lasted for about 8 hours 10 minutes. Turning down the backlight and shutting off wireless when not in use will give you over 10 hours of usage.

HELP SUPPORT

i-mate maintains a very useful support website and community for their customers. Clubimate.com has forums, live-support chats, update downloads, software purchasing capabilities, etc. all available to imate customers. The live-support chat's aren't that helpful as the operators tend to only give out cookie cutter responses. imate also now offers some device tutorials as well.

BUGS AND WISHES

The JAMin has some of the same bugs as the K-JAM. When using Windows Media Player, if I pause/stop the music and shut the device off for a while, sometimes when I turn it back on, Media Player doesn't recognize any Media Library. If I go to the menu and access the library again... then all is well.

A lot of the third party software included on the i-mate JAMin was not entirely updated to support Windows Mobile 5.0. The MMS client integrated with the Messaging program still doesn't support soft-keys or the new menu interface. In fact, most of the 3rd party applications included in the ROM still don't support the new menu interface in Windows Mobile 5.0. Be sure to check out the Windows Mobile 5.0 Fix Site for updates on what software is or is not compatible with Windows Mobile 5.0.

The issue where WiFi sometimes can not obtain an IP address from a DHCP server correctly is still in the JAMin just as it was in the K-JAM. It doesn't seem to happen all the time, and a soft reset tends to fix it.

I also wish the JAMin had more program memory and a faster processor. I'm the type of guy that likes to multi-task alot. So I don't have time for my PDA phone to be slowing down and freezing when trying to run a GPS Navigation program while listening to music and answering the telephone.

The JAMin only has a mono speaker and it's located on the back of the device... where the palm of your hand usually is. I don't know why engineers think this is a good idea. My hand tends to muffle the sound, and this in no way helps the sound gets to my ears which are located on my head (grin).

PURCHASING

The i-mate JAMin can currently be found at a number of online retailers including Mad Monkey Boy's Gadgets and Expansys. It's selling for about $649 right now.

Pros

  • Quality 2MP Camera with macro mode
  • Thin, small and lightweight
  • 802.11b/g WiFi
  • Great Bluetooth performance
  • Great battery life
  • Quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM
  • Non-slip hard rubber body

Cons

  • 200MHz TI OMAP processor can be slow
  • Mono speaker is on the back
  • Could use more program memory

OVERALL IMPRESSION

Since some of you are probably just purchasing the variations of HTC Wizard (T-Mobile MDA, Cingular 8125) and HTC Apache (Verizon XV6700 and Sprint PPC-6700), as they've recently become available through North American phone carriers, you may be wondering how they compare to this new HTC Prophet model. Honestly, despite some shortcomings such as the lack of keyboard, I firmly believe the Prophet is superior. I was pretty disappointed with the thickness of my K-JAM whom I lovingly refer to as "Fatty McFat Fat," so now that I'm using a device as thin, small, and light as the original JAM, I'm much happier. I don't miss the keyboard at all, since there are a lot of terrific graphical keyboard programs that can help you type faster, such as TenGO, Fitaly, and Calligrapher. I didn't really like having to look at the keyboard on the Wizard too... it meant I couldn't see exactly what I was typing.

In addition to the beautifully small form factor, the JAMin shines above other Pocket PC Phones in a few other aspects. Its Bluetooth radio is the most powerful on any Pocket PC Phone I've used. Old headsets that would create static when the phone was in a pocket on the opposite side of my body or in another room, work flawlessly with the JAMin. Then there's the camera! Again, the camera on the JAMin is the most powerful on any Pocket PC I've seen.

Finally, we've got some significant improvements to the Pocket PC Phone's body design as well. Instead of the smooth shiny silver plastic that most Windows Mobile devices sport these days... and ever since the iPAQ H3600 made it popular... we've got a hard non-slip matte rubber shell now. Why didn't someone think of this sooner? Granted the shiny silver plastic did serve a purpose of dissipating heat, and the black rubber will certainly absorb heat, but it's winter time right now and the JAMin is running just fine. There's also major improvements in the hardware button layout: there are a full 11 hardware button functions in the lower thumb-area of the device. Having the D-pad, action button, two soft-keys, start menu, and Ok buttons all in one place are a boon to one-handed usability. All future devices should implement a similar layout! Actually, the Treo 700w and HTC Apache models do implement a similar layout, and that's good.

Overall, if you're already familiar with Pocket PC Phones and you've been spoiled by the original JAM's form factor, you'll love the JAMin. Just be sure to load some Bob Marley music into Windows Media Player.

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