This was a tricky review. Do I tell you about the good bits and forget the troubled ones, or do I tell it as it is…
The HP iPAQ Data Messenger
As you can see from the pictures this phone has a great look to it. The real thing is just as impressive. It has a classic, sort of Flash Gordon look. I loved the style. And anyone that saw it, noticed it. Good so far. This is a high end phone, with all the latest features and specifications (nearly) as any of its peers. It has full email support including Exchange Push Email, GPS for Google Maps or other 3rd party Satellite Navigation programs. The full slide out QWERTY keyboard pitches it as serious business device.
So what the problem? Well I just couldn’t use it. But maybe you can! HP have been making iPAQs for some time now and there may be situations that its right for, and the phone for you. So let me give you the basic info and then tell you what I found:
What’s in the box?
The phone, Mains charger with USB output socket, Micro USB data / charging cable. Ear phones with Call Answer/End button and volume control, manuals, Utility CD and trial of Outlook 2007. Check out Matt’s iPAQ Data Messenger un-boxing video for more information.
HP iPAQ Data Messenger Specification:
- Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
- Qualcomm 7201A 528MHz CPU
- 128 MB SDRAM
- 256 MB flash ROM
- 2.4” transmissive TFT, 64K colours, 320 x 240 pixel non-touch screen display with LED backlight
- 20-key keyboard with alphanumeric/QWERTY layout
- 5-way optical navigation key
- Integrated WLAN 802.11b/g with WPA2 security
- Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR
- Micro-USB connector for synchronisation and charging
- Micro SDHC card slot – supports up to 8GB
- Tri-band UMTS (900/1900/2100 MHz), HSDPA Category 8 (up to 7.2Mbps downlink) and HSUPA
- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
- Integrated GPS navigation (Assisted GPS)
- 3.1 Megapixel autofocus camera, 5X digital zoom
- LED flash
- Removable/rechargeable 1260 mAh Lithium-Polymer Battery (user changeable)
- Dimensions (W x D x H) – 5.0 x 1.36 x 11.4 cm
- Weight – 107g
On the left: Power button, up and down volume buttons and a user selectable button. 3 part telescopic stylus.
iPAQ Data Messenger left side
On the right: Rubber cover to the MicroUSB charging/data socket and the 2.5mm audio socket. Camera button.
iPAQ Data Messenger right side
On the top: Audio slide switch.
iPAQ Data Messenger top view
On the back: Camera and LED flash. Cover to battery, Sim and hot swap MicroSDHC card socket.
iPAQ Data Messenger back view
On the front: LED status lights. Ambient light sensor. Physical Call and End Call buttons with micro LEDs. Touch sensitive mouse pad with physical centre select button. Touch sensitive ‘Windows’ and ‘OK’ buttons.
iPAQ Data Messenger front view
- Very stylish
- High technical specification
- Optical mouse and touch sensitive buttons have potential
- Raw Windows Mobile 6.1
- General design flaws
So what’s my beef? The first issue with this phone was that it ships with an almost standard version of Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. This is a problem because Windows Mobile has not changed much in the last 4 years and is just not what users expect from such a personal item as a mobile phone. In HPs defence, as noted above, they have made iPAQs (portable computers with and without built in phones) since day one of Windows Mobile. So perhaps they have released this phone for users who want the standard and familiar WM interface. This could be especially true for business users that may have bespoke applications written for their WM device.
Secondly it’s likely that the Messenger will support WM 6.5 due for release in the next few months. Early reports are that 6.5 is much more user friendly. I say ‘should support’ as it’s a new device and WM6.5 uses a very similar core software platform to 6.1 – but do check with HP or your supplier if this is a decision maker for you.
If you are buying your first WM device then I think you would be much better off looking at phones with customised front ends, see phones from HTC, Samsung and LG.
The keyboard: As far as I’m concerned high end communication devices like this needs a decent keyboard. So far I haven’t found anything that comes close to a real physical click button thing, though the BB Storm, Samsung Omnia and the Nokia 5800 make good offerings, mainly as they have Haptic feedback (physical feedback i.e. click, vibration, sound). It’s not all about layout either, the best physical keyboard on a phone has got to be that of the HTC Touch Pro, the buttons are all together but the shape makes it easy to sense the individual keys and the ‘feel’ and travel is perfect. If I ever get married again it will be to a HTC keyboard.
If only the HP’s was even close.
The keyboard has a wavy texture, designed no doubt to guide the user to the keys, but it doesn’t. It was difficult to feel where one key started and the other ended. This was bad enough but then when pushing the keys, they would travel and click but often no signal was sent to the device, so at the end of a sentence one had to go back and fill in the missing letters. It was worse than the worst on screen keyboard I have ever used. In fact it was so bad I simply refused to use it after a while, but I really did try. Was it a faulty keyboard? Possibly, but it wasn’t one or two keys, they were all temperamental, and judging by the shortcomings of the phone I didn’t doubt that it was simply a design fault.
Optical mouse: Great idea. Often I have struggled with using the click type buttons to scroll menus and the like, especially when the device is in a car holder. Swiping my finger across an optical sensor make more sense, the problem was it was not precise to use, frustratingly not moving for many attempts and then suddenly jumping several positions at once. Often I had to pull out the stylus just to select a menu option. Other times I simply put the phone down and walked away, as it wasn’t mine to hurl at the wall. I’m sure HP geniuses will get this sorted and it will be everything it was meant to be.
The front mounted touch sensitive buttons. Similar problem here, a simple touch is more user friendly than a click. The problem is that they are both directly under the physical buttons for Call and End Call. It’s almost impossible to answer or end a call without touching the touch sensitive button below… ! Astounding.
And in case you are in any doubt that it was just me, yes I do work with all types of computer equipment every day of my (potentially nerdy) life. But it is possible I am getting a little old now. So I reserved my judgment for a more than a week. It didn’t get any better. And the final test of all, I let my 12 year old boy at it. By the way – he has no problem using his “Digital-MP3-MP4 video player-wrist watch come TV remote control”. He thinks it’s just swell that it has buttons the size of pin heads and if you push 15 of them in a certain order you can turn off the front room TV when your sisters watching Neighbours. But, within seconds of trying to use the HP his face twisted, his body contorted and he looked up at me puzzled. Don’t worry son I said. It’s not you and he passed it back slightly defeated.
Only a QVGA screen, other devices have nearer VGA which has 4 time the resolution, it’s ok for general use, but web browsing benefits from a higher resolution. This is a LED backlit screen, but not OLED. OLED is a screen where the whole display is made from thousands of tiny LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) which gives a very bright and high contrast image. LED back lit is the next best thing, it still uses the LCD grid for the colours (like a computer controlled stained glass window) but uses LEDs to light it up, as opposed to a fluorescent tube. The benefit is LEDs use much less energy than fluorescent tubes and the contrast is much higher, as when black is needed the LEDs are just turned off, rather than having to ‘block’ the light from the always on fluorescent tube by turning the grid black. That’s good.
The screen was flush with the front bezel. Important for accessing on screen controls near the screen edge, with fingers. However the sensitivity of the touch screen was poor, often needing several pokes even with official stylus. And yes I did recalibrate the screen, 2 million times, swore at it, talked nicely to it, bribed etc.
The button to lock the screen – absolute necessity on a touch screen phone. HP’s is awkwardly placed on the left hand side, but the real problem was it had to be held in for 3 seconds before it locked the screen. On a busy business phone that’s a major irritation. I couldn’t see a way to change the 3 second delay though maybe it could be done with a Registry Editor. There is a slide switch on the top of the phone which switches on/off the ringer, but only to vibrate/buzzer, which is not acceptable in most meetings I have been in; it’s Silent or Off! Again I couldn’t see a way to change the switch to go to silent. Even better would be a slide switch to lock the screen and buttons.
Battery life: I charge my phones at least every night, just out of habit. And in years of heavy use have only had a low battery message once or twice. Even in mild use this didn’t last more than 12 hours. However: it could be that the battery wasn’t charged properly from new, I have seen batteries refuse to hold a charge if the very first charge was interrupted. Since I didn’t charge this phone first time I can’t say for sure. But I was chatting to the guru at my local Vodafone shop about it and his first question was what’s the battery life like?…
Speaker phone: Again I’m not sure if this was a one off fault or not, but when the speaker phone was turned on the other person heard excessive noise or just couldn’t hear me at all. It would have had to go back to the repair shop.
Lastly: The headphone socket. The latest trend is to put a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone socket on a phone so any old headphone can be used. HP has nearly done it! They built in a 2.5mm socket; yes one can use standard headphones with a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, but why? Was there really not room for that extra 1mm?
iPAQ Data Messenger vs HTC TyTN II
Apart from the raw WM6.1 front end, my overall feeling about this phone was that HP released it a little too soon. Perhaps just to make a presence in the market place? As a fan of WM, I appreciate their commitment and support of Microsoft’s product. But also feel there were a few engineers at HP that would have liked to tweak it just a bit more before releasing.
If you are set on a HP device, maybe wait a little until WM6.5 is released and ships with it. Hopefully HP will improve the keyboard and up the screen resolution, I look forward to a revised model.
Review by: Daniel des Baux
[ Post Tags: HP iPAQ Voice Messenger, Windows Mobile, HP iPAQ, Smartphone, tracyandmatt.co.uk ]