The i-mate Smartphone 3 (or SP3 for short) is based on the HTC Typhoon
and is one of the most desired Smartphone device ever. You may
also know the device under the Audiovox name as the SMT5600 or as the
SPV C500. The SP3 is a small cell phone that packs a punch...that
punch being Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Smartphone. On
top of its size and functionality, the SP3 is one of the first
Smartphone devices to include Bluetooth and use the new miniSD memory
format. In case that was not enough a VGA camera was included and a
battery touting the longest battery life for a Smartphone, rivaling the
battery life of a "plain" cellphones.
The SP3 is powered by a 200 MHz TI OMAP processor.
Running Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Smartphone, the SP3 has
64 MB of ROM space and 32 MB of RAM space. For connectivity, IrDA and
Bluetooth are both included. The wireless module for the device is for GSM/GPRS
networks. At a relatively standard size, the SP3 is 0.69 inches thick
with a weight of 3.75 oz. The battery in the SP3 is one of the most
powerful on the market, with 1050 mAh of power. Also included in the
Smartphone is a VGA camera for taking both photos and video.
The SP3 has a, what I would define as, cobalt blue
case. It is a relatively standard style cell phone, with the most
noticeable features being its relatively large screen, the number of
buttons surrounding the directional pad, and the directional pad itself.
The front face of the device includes all the navigation buttons, the
standard keyboard, a small slit at the top which is the ear piece, and a
the notification light. The top of the device has the power button
and IrDA port. Each side of the device includes buttons. The
right side the camera button, the left the volume/earpiece control.
The bottom has sync port (a standard USB connection, not proprietary),
headset connector, and the microphone (which is slightly on the edge
instead of being on the bottom with the ports). The back has the
VGA camera and under the battery is the slot for a miniSD card and the
SIM card. The phone is a standard thickness at 0.69 inches which
makes it fit easily in the pocket of just about anyone.
As a Phone
Being that Microsoft Smartphone devices are phones
first and PDA's seconds, I only see it fitting to start by talking about
the phone functionality. The SP3 connects to a GSM/GPRS network.
Again an i-mate device was able to get me service in some locations where
other phones would not. The phone is small and fits well in your
hand when you are trying to talk on it. Since the earpiece is
flush against the device and is only a small slit, it leaves a little
something to be desired quality wise, but it still pretty good in most
cases. I have not decided if I like having the headset port on the
bottom or not since with other Windows Mobile products I am used to it
on the top, however my non Window Mobile phone it is on the bottom.
But with the included Bluetooth, I usually used a Bluetooth headset
instead. I think it would be ideal if Bluetooth could be turned on
by a button press as I usually only found I was using it around my
desktop computer (either with the headset or to sync). The rest of
the phone functionality is pretty much standard to Windows Mobile for Smartphone, so other devices would act similarly.
As a PDA
When it comes to being a PDA, a phone has some
shortcomings. One is input, though Windows Mobile for Smartphone
has some ways to try and work around that. One things I like on
the SP3 is the T9 designation on the * key so you know that is the
button to use for changing input modes. The keys are alright for
inputting with, but the middle buttons (the 2, 5, 8 and 0) have a softer
feel than the others. Also, while there is a clear division
between rows of buttons, there is not between columns which makes "touch
typing" more difficult. i-mate (more specifically HTC) did a go
job augmenting Windows Mobile with a couple of extra programs. The
SP3 includes a number of utilities including a file manager, free space
checker, and task manager. These are three programs I like to have
to be able to better control my device. Also included were some
nice configuration programs, one of which allows you to most easily
setup a Bluetooth connect for ActiveSync. Since Smartphone is not
stylus driven, the direction pad is particularly important to navigation
and general use of the device. The SP3 has a different style
directional by which focus on easy of up/down action, with the
right/left being on either edge of the pad. This was a good idea
since most of the navigation with Smartphone is up/down, not left/right.
The other function of the directional pad that is highly used is action
(pressing into the directional pad). Often I found when trying to
chose an item I would move my selection down instead. I have
noticed this as a pretty standard problem with directional pads where
the action "in" is difficult to press. The SP3's directional pad
does not solve this problem.
I am really not excited about the whole miniSD trend in
Smartphones. i-mate decided to have the SP3 include miniSD which means no SDIO,
which means no way to use WiFi (at least right now). So the first
red flag on expandability for me is miniSD as I would really like to use
WiFi with the phone in some applications and would like to be able to
use the SD cards I already have bought and use with all my other device.
The second red flag is the location of the miniSD slot, which is under
the battery. This means in order to switch cards, the battery has
to be taken out. This is not good when you have a 512 MB card that
you want to plug in your card reader or when you have a series of 128 MB
cards that you use at different times.
Screen and Battery
A vibrant screen is always a good thing to be able to
see what is on your screen, though a vibrant screen can also mean poor
battery life. The SP3 has a strong screen, which makes its good in
most any light. Unlike Pocket PC, a Smartphone does not have the
same dynamic brightness control to help conserve battery life. You
can set the phone to dim the screen quickly and then turn it completely
off after a set number of minutes. The only problem I found with
this is that a number of buttons will relight the screen. While it
will time out and turn back off, I have found a number of times where
the screen was already on when I did not expect it to be. The
battery on the SP3 is one of its best qualities. With 1050 mAh of
power, the battery is much stronger than most other phones. For
the last four days I have been using the device without charging it at
night like I normally would. This includes 45-60 minutes of calls
per day, about 30 minutes of "PDA use," and Bluetooth only being on for
use of a headset or for syncing. Battery life is not a problem for
my use as I charge almost every night, but the battery life on this
device is strong if you need it.
The VGA camera is a nice addition to the
device. Included on the SP3 is a program called Photo Contacts for
adding pictures to you caller ID screen. The camera photo/video
program is easy to use, with the photo part saving in only JPEG and the
video in a number of formats including MPEG-4 and AVI (both not playable
by the included Windows Media Player). The camera button on the
side of the SP3 will launch the camera program in whichever mode it was
last in. It took me a while to realize this so a number of times I
thought I was taking videos when I actually was taking videos.
When it comes down to it, I was hoping I would like
this device a lot more than I did. There has been quite a bit of
hype on this device and I am not sure if it quite lives up to its
reputation. Do not get me wrong, the SP3 is a strong device.
It is well constructed, powerful, and has great battery life, but there
are still a few things I think could have been fixed or tweaked to
really make this device as "killer" as everyone said it was. Its
price tag is just under $500, which may be a little hefty for a phone if
you are comparing it to some of the PDA devices on the market. The i-mate SP3 comes unlocked so it can easily jump on the T-Mobile network
in the US. The SP3 is a good purchase if you want a small and
powerful Windows Mobile Smartphone, primarily to be used for phone use,
text messaging, and data internet service. The SP3 is a good
device and see what I the hype was about, but it my use, there was still
a little to be desired.
Dave's Score - 8.0
This means, this product is a very good product,
though has some features which could be improved. This product embodies
quality in its design and application, and is something I would use
though I think there are still areas for improvement. Weigh
the pros and cons before purchasing, but in my opinion this device is a
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