First Take: HP iPAQ h6515 Mobile Messenger

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HP iPAQ h6515 Mobile Messenger

Can the addition of GPS on HP's latest PDA-phone inject some much-needed oomph back into the dwindelling PDA market?

The h6515 Mobile Messenger hits the market at a time where shipments of standalone PDAs continue to decline and converged devices offering voice and data applications are increasingly being snapped up.

This is the second PDA-phone from HP after the company ventured into the converged space last year with its iPAQ brand and introduced the hw6315. While the hw6515 is the successor to this model, alongside the tweaks and additions, we find some features have been nixed.

Upside: The iPAQ h6515's biggest drawing card is an inbuilt Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. According to HP, it is the first PDA-phone in the world with integrated GPS and GSM capabilities. Real-time street navigation is provided by Sensis' Whereis Navigator and Australian users will receive a free one month subscription to the mapping service when purchasing the PDA.

On design, HP has done away with the external stub antenna and added a QWERTY keyboard and five-way navigation pad to the lower half of the hw6515 for data entry alongside the stylus/touchscreen options.

Two card slots (SD and mini-SD) are onboard for memory expansion and the hw6515 also has Bluetooth, a 1.3-megapixel camera and a removable flip-up screen protector.

Downside: While some GPS units use internal memory or expansion cards to store map information, Whereis Navigator relies on GPRS so you'll need a SIM card with a data plan. On top of a monthly subscription charges to Whereis Navigatior -- AU$149 for six months or AU$299 for 14 months -- users will have to pay associated GPRS charges for downloading maps and route information.

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Surprisingly, for a business-oriented PDA-phone, HP has axed wireless LAN from the h6315's list of connectivity options. While the h6315 had 802.11b, the 6315 only supports add-on Wi-Fi cards, which currently retail for around AU$200.

When trimming down the overall size of the device, HP has also shrunk the screen size to a square resolution of 240 x 240 pixels, meaning there'll be less room to view contacts, documents and messages.

Even though Microsoft has announced the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, the hw6515 runs the older Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition version.

Outlook: The hw6515 is HP's top of the line iPAQ and has a recommended retail price of AU$1199. Factor in a Wi-Fi card and GPS subscription and users will be looking at around AU$1,500-$1,700. Although innovative, as a relative newcomer to mobile phone integration, HP faces strong competition alongside more established manufactures, with devices such as Nokia's high-end Communicators (9300 and 9500), the BlackBerry 7100, Palm's Treo 650 and O2's range of Xdas.

Business users might also want to wait for devices carrying Windows Mobile 5.0 to hit our shores, which will feature support for 3G networks, a PowerPoint viewer and enhanced security. The first PDA-phone we've heard about that will use the new platform is the Motorola Q. Due in the first quarter in 2006, it features a built-in QWERTY keyboard, QVGA (320 x 240) wide-aspect 65K-colour display, 5-way navigation pad, thumb wheel, MiniSD card slot, Bluetooth, 1.3-megapixel camera, speech recognition and is only 11.5mm thick.

However, users looking for integrated GPS tracking, PIM synchronisation and a phone can't look past the HP iPAQ hw6515 -- purely because there's no alternative available here yet. Stay tuned for the full review.