Last week I had the good fortune to be invited along to participate in The Ultimate Escape. The event was sponsored by i-mate and myself and four other participants were given our choice of either of the new i-mate Ultimate devices. I chose the 9502.
Obviously this device is a freebie (so make of this what you will) but a positive side effect of the time spent in Byron Bay is that I got to really get a handle on the unique selling points of the unit.
Rather than do a free standing review I thought I might compare the device to my old JasJar which I totally loved. First, lets look at the feature breakdown:
- Windows Mobile 6.0 (JasJar ran Windows Mobile 5.0)
- 640×480 Screen (same)
- Slide Up Screen Reveals Keyboard (JasJar had a taco-shell design)
- Integrated GPS (JasJar didn’t have GPS)
- HSDPA and HSUPA (JasJar just had 3G)
- 3MP Camera and Front Camera (JasJar was only 2MP IIRC)
When it comes to high end mobile devices like this platform choice is everything and I’m never going to be running a device that isn’t using Windows Mobile simply because of the benefits I get around integrating with the Exchange server at work (I get a lot of e-mail each day and the ability to triage it as I go through the day is very important).
Despite Windows Mobile 6.0 being a whole major revision number over Windows Mobile 5.0 there hasn’t been a radical departure from the Pocket PC functionality that we know and love (although I’d love to see some UI innovation down the track).
For me though, the biggest thing that Windows Mobile 6.0 gives me is the plug-and-play Internet Sharing functionality where I can turn the device into a modem in about two seconds without having to install any drivers. Whilst I was away in Byron Bay I was using this feature a lot and I could also receive and make calls at the same time. I could only get this working sometimes get this working with the JasJar if I had good 3G coverage, so in this case the combination of the HSDPA/HSUPA transmitter and the Telstra Next-G coverage was a winner for me.
Perhaps my only real disappointment with the device is the keyboard. I have pretty fat fingers and the keyboard on the Ultimate 9502 isn’t really designed for high speed thumbing like the JasJar was. It is actually a trade-off because I couldn’t think of a way they could add the keyboard to the device without making it significantly bulkier – so I think i-mate made the right decision here, but it just leaves JasJar users like me out in the cold a little.
On a positive note, the 8520 keyboard (the other Ultimate device) actually has raised pyramid shaped keys which are easier to use, but that wouldn’t work for the 9502 given the slide up screen.
Integrated GPS is a nice feature and I downloaded a Windows Mobile version of Google Maps which could talk to it. One thing that is painful with GPS (generally – not just on this device) is the time it takes to find satellites. I happen to have a Navman S30i (or something like that) that I use when I am in the car or travelling around – the Ultimate won’t replace that unless you load up some specialist navigation software – but I did successfully manage to navigate our way back from the pub one night.
As an aside, access to enable or disable the various transmitting and receiving features is via a special purpose button. This is actually better than the 8520 which I think you need to drill down into the Comms Manager to turn that off.
Obviously the killer feature at the moment on phones is the high speed network access and the impression I get is that the Ultimate 9502 and 8520 with their HSDPA/HSUPA functionality are basically the top of the line at the moment. I’m actually in the USA right now and I went into Frys yesterday to pick up some stuff and found that there is nothing in the US market that compares yet so we are actually pretty lucky to be getting our hands on these devices right now.
Finally – the 3MP camera on the device is a nice touch. It certainly isn’t the highest resolution camera you will find on a mobile phone, but it does actually take a nice shot. To see what it can do check out the profile shots for the participants from the The Ultimate Escape (David, Paul, Michelle, Tamara, me).
Basically this device is everything that I want in a phone less the JasJar keyboard. Before I went on The Ultimate Escape I had recently purchased a HTC Touch Dual and now it is sitting at the bottom of my laptop bag and I’m using the i-mate instead. About the only thing that the Dual has that I miss is the TouchFLO UI but the Spb Mobile Shell is a pretty good replacement for that.
Overall I would give the device a 9 out of 10, it would need to somehow have a larger keyboard to get a 10🙂