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Reviews

i-mate K-JAM Pocket PC Phone

By Adam Z. Lein October 11, 2005, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION

Hot on the heels of the release of the i-mate JasJar, comes the latest Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC phone. The i-mate K-JAM is basically a re-branded version of HTC's Wizard Pocket PC Phone. You'll see the same type of device under other names like T-Mobile MDA Vario, Qtek 9100, etc. This one is much more friendly towards usage in North America since it supports quadband GSM, GPRS, and EDGE where as the JasJar (HTC Universal) only has triband GSM, GPRS, and UMTS which is not currently available on any of the North American carriers at this time. However, both Cingular and T-Mobile currently support EDGE high speed internet which means you'll get faster wireless internet speeds with a KJAM than you would with a JasJar.

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY

Read on for a look at every aspect of the device.

WHAT'S HOT

The i-mate K-JAM (HTC Wizard) is the first Pocket PC phone with 802.11b/g support. It's also the first with Bluetooth 2.0 support, although the initial release versions only do Bluetooth 1.2; Bluetooth 2.0 will be available in a ROM update. The K-JAM also sports quadband GSM/GPRS and a slide-out keyboard... all in a form factor comparable to the previous i-mate JAM (HTC Magician) Pocket PC.

Device (no cover) Size (inches) Weight (grams | ounces)
i-mate K-JAM 4.25' x 2.28' x 0.93' 160 | 5.64
i-mate JAM4.18' 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
HP iPAQ rz1715 4.48' x 2.75' x 0.53' 120 | 4.23
HP iPAQ h6315 4.68' x 2.95' x 0.73' 190 | 6.70
HP iPAQ h2215 4.57' x 2.95' x 0.63' 142 | 5.01
HP iPAQ hx2755 4.71' x 3.01 " x 0.65' 164 | 5.80
HP iPAQ h5450 5.43' x 3.30' x 0.63' 206 | 7.26

Click on any of the above links to view our review of a handheld listed. The K-JAM still remains to be a relatively small handheld.

THE DEVICE

Let's take a closer look at the device itself. The K-JAM also 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 keyboard looks great with its silver on black color scheme. In the dark you can see the blue backlight in the keys, but the lighting is uneven which makes the letters hard to read.

On the top is the Messaging and Internet Explorer buttons with the phone speaker in the middle. In the two corners of the speaker slot are LED light indicators for bluetooth, WiFi, Notifications, and charging status. Below the screen are two soft buttons for accessing the menus, a 5 way directional pad, an answer/send button, and an end button.

The i-mate K-JAM and it's older brother the i-mate JAM are similar in size. The K-JAM is definitely thicker, but remains comfortably pocketable.

On the left side you see the Communications Manager button, the volume slider button, and a speaker grill. If you hold down the Communications manager button for a few seconds it will toggle the audio mode between on and vibrate. This is a great way to quickly switch to vibrate mode when going to the movies or a meeting.

At the top, you see the power button and the Mini-SD slot. The power button is flush with the body and thus difficult to find by feeling with your finger. If you hold down the power button for about 4 seconds, the K-JAM 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 right side, you see the camera button, a soft-reset hole next to the infrared port, another speaker grill, and the Voice Speed Dial button. These buttons are also flush with the device, which makes them difficult to press accidentally (say in your pocket), but also difficult to find without looking.

On the bottom of the device is the stylus hole, a battery cover latch, Mini-USB port, 2.5mm 4 connection headset jack, and a lanyard hole. The stylus is pathetically small, albeit retractable. I'm going to be carrying a regular-sized stylus in my pocket and just leave this one in it's slot.

On the back is a "Flash" light, reflection mirror, and 1.3 Megapixel camera lens.

When you turn the flash on, it stays constantly lit until you take a picture.

In our stack-up, the i-mate K-JAM on top is significantly thicker than the JAM. Here you see from top to bottom; i-mate K-JAM, i-mate JAM, i-mate Pocket PC Phone, and the Dell Axim X51v. The K-JAM's dimensions are 109 x 58 x 23.7 mm and weighs 160 grams.

The included case is nothing special. It leaves the sides exposed and uses a magnetic closure. It also tends to press the hardware buttons (if you don't have keylock on).

The stereo headphones are a nice matching silver color and the wiring is a very interesting silver woven-rope style wire. 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. I imagine this would be used to go around your neck somehow and keep any tugging pressure off the ear buds headphones.

INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

The i-mate K-JAM includes all of the software improvements of Windows Mobile 5.0. I'll go over a few of the phone-specific Windows Mobile 5 features here, but I'll focus on those added features that i-mate has provided with 3rd party programs.

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 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 3.0.7.11 here, by the way.

The Phone Pad T9 Predictive Text input panel is included in the K-JAM'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 K-JAM's ROM. It's obviously not designed for Windows Mobile 5.0 though.

My favorite new feature in the K-JAM is that finally we've got the ability to Voice Dial via a Bluetooth Headset. i-mate includes the above Voice Speed Dial program from Cyberon. 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.

The K-JAM 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 K-JAM to the default.

The K-JAM comes with a nice version of Backgammon.

Windows Media Player 10.1 adds a ratings capability and fixes some bugs. Microsoft apparently forgot to add one-handed user-interface support to the Library navigation window. It's still PlaysForSure compatible, meaning you can use DRM protected content from all of the online music and video stores except for iTunes. It can also sync your storage and memory cards with Media Center 2005 and Windows Media Player 10 which I love. I've had some issues with the screen toggle not staying off when it switches between tracks. I really wish Media Player gets updated in a ROM upgrade soon. After I've gotten used to using the hardware buttons for everything, it's such a pain to have to use the stylus for Media Player.

If you're an Orb user, you'll love the K-JAM. Not only does it support 802.11g, but streaming live TV and Media Center content via Orb over a 201Kbs EDGE connection is quite smooth as well. Yep, watching TV on this is MUCH better than GPRS!

Skype is also included in the ROM of the i-mate K-JAM. However, I couldn't even get as far as the screenshot above. My version wouldn't launch Skype at all (even after a hard reset)! That will definitely require a ROM upgrade at some point.

The Camera application is an updated version of the one normally included in the HTC manufactured devices. You can see there's a new button at the bottom for a Flash.

The camera has a 2.0 megapixel upsampling mode. Click the above image to see it full resolution. The quality is not much improved over other i-mate cameras. The lens is not nearly sharp enough.

Here's a similar photo at the 1.3 mega pixel setting.

Here's a sample photo in extremely low-light conditions. I'm also using the flash on this shot. The flash has an effective range of about 2 or 3 feet, and the pictures are still very noisy and blurry.

BENCHMARKS

Since Spb Benchmark from Spb Software House has not been updated for use with Windows Mobile 5.0, which includes many changes for increased performance and battery life, we can only compare Windows Mobile 5.0 devices to other Windows Mobile 5.0 devices. But even then, it looks like Spb Benchmark isn't very accurate.

The Graphics index can't be right at all. There's no way the K-JAM has better graphics processing power than the Dell X51v.

In real life, the i-mate K-JAM with its TI 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 K-JAM 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.

We tested the 1,250 mAh battery on maximum backlight during normal usage with WiFi and Bluetooth on. The KJAM lasted for about 7 hours 33 minutes. Turning down the backlight and shutting off wireless when not in use will give you over 10 hours of usage. That's some very impressive battery life.

HELP SUPPORT

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

BUGS AND WISHES

I think there's something wrong with the Mini SD card slot on my 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. But it's pretty annoying that I can't come back to the song I had lined up in the playlist previously.

A lot of the third party software included on the i-mate K-JAM was not entirely updated to support Windows Mobile 5.0. There's also an Antivirus program included in the ROM which significantly slows down the device. My version didn't even install, so I didn't bother. You've also got Skype which wouldn't run... and the MMS client integrated with the Messaging program, which doesn't have soft-keys support. It's a bit of a mess having all these legacy programs on the beautiful new Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. Be sure to check out the WM5FixSite.com for updates on what software is or is not compatible with Windows Mobile 5.0.

The K-JAM doesn't have the automatic GPS management in its ROM for some reason. Other Windows Mobile 5.0 devices use an OS native NMEA raw data processing module which GPS applications can use instead of developing their own. I'm not sure why it was excluded from the K-JAM. That said, I was able to get Intellinav's iGuidance 2.1.3 to work very well. Most other GPS navigation programs are still in the process of updating their software for Windows Mobile 5 support.

While the K-JAM finally lets you activate Voice Command via a Bluetooth headset. The Bluetooth headset voice command button does not wake the Windows Mobile device up when it's in your pocket!! Hello!? So I have to reach in my pocket, turn the K-JAM on, then press the voice command button on my headset? I hope this can be fixed in a ROM update as well. One very cool thing was that you are able to change the Bluetooth Voice Command button to launch any application with a registry edit. I made it launch Microsoft Voice Command 1.5, which works very nicely, but MS Voice Command does not close the audio gateway when it's done. I have to press the Bluetooth headset button again to close the audio connection when finished with my commands.

Also, the initial version of the K-JAM ROM only has support for Bluetooth 1.2. It has been said and assumed that Bluetooth 2.0 support will come in a future ROM update (since the HTC Wizard hardware was approved as supporting Bluetooth 2.0). I'm sure the Microsoft Bluetooth stack needs to be updated to support the A2DP profile as well. A ROM update is also expected to support 802.11e/i.

There's also an issue where WiFi sometimes can not obtain an IP address from a DHCP server correctly. It doesn't seem to happen all the time, and a soft reset tends to fix it. But again, a ROM update may be in order.

I also wish the K-JAM had a faster processor. I understand wanting to have very good battery life, but I'm such a heavy multi-tasker I'd be willing to give that up for faster processing.

There's one thing that's awfully misleading about the K-JAM. Most people say it has 128Mb of ROM, but what you don't know is that only 47.46Mb of that is user accessible for installing programs and storing files.

Lastly, I wish it was thinner. I must be spoiled by the old i-mate JAM's size. I'd definitely be willing to give up the keyboard for a smaller form factor.

PURCHASING

The i-mate K-JAM can currently be found at a number of online retailers including Mad Monkey Boy's Gadgets and Expansys. It's selling for about $749 right now, but the price may go down in the future. There are rumors that Cingular and T-Mobile will be offering a version of this early next year.

Pros

  • EDGE high-speed internet
  • 802.11b/g/e/i high-speed networking
  • Bluetooth 2.0 (coming soon)
  • Small form-factor
  • Great battery life
  • Slide out keyboard
  • Quadband 850/900/1800/1900mhz GSM
  • Voice Command over a Bluetooth headset

Cons

  • Early models have plenty of bugs in 3rd party software
  • Mini SD cards don't have more than 1Gb of storage
  • Camera quality
  • Thicker than i-mate JAM
  • Expensive

OVERALL IMPRESSION

This is my new primary device and I am very impressed. I didn't think I would ever care for a hardware thumb keyboard, but I'm beginning to get used to it. I'm still fine with Fitaly and Calligrapher though. Is the added thickness worth upgrading from an i-mate JAM? Well, I think the Bluetooth Voice Command or EDGE support or added WiFi alone would be worth the upgrade... instead you get all of that! The added quadband support means you can roam on more GSM networks, and the RF reception is actually better than the i-mate JAM and i-mate Pocket PC Phone that I previously used.

I was a bit turned off at first when I heard the K-JAM and HTC Wizard was only going to support Mini SD cards. But then I noticed a Mini SD card with 1Gb of storage only costs about $75. That's less than I paid for a 1Gb SD card last year. Sure, I wish I could get a 2Gb Mini SD card... and I wish I could swap memory cards with my digital cameras, but I'll get over it.

i-mate likes to be first to market with a lot of the HTC Pocket PC Phones and with that, you're going to get a device where not all the bugs are entirely worked out. On the plus side, i-mate will likely release ROM upgrades very promptly to fix these issues while other providers will wait to fix the bugs before releasing their versions. So right now, the K-JAM is a great device, but if you wait for some ROM upgrades to iron out the bugs and add some more features... then we'll be talking about an excellent device.

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