- Nice hardware design with sensible dual-display system
- removable main battery
- competitive pricing
- strong software bundle.
- Relatively bulky
- vulnerable antenna
- flimsy stylus.
Hewlett-Packard’s Jornada 928 was well into development before the Compaq merger, and will retain its HP design and badge, although it may be the last handheld to do so. HP has pulled out quite a few stops in its attempt to both end the Jornada range with a bang and come up with an xda-beater.
The full title of this device is the Jornada 928 WDA. ‘WDA’ stands for Wireless Digital Assistant, and HP is keen to emphasise that the communications features of this Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition device are integral rather than bolted on. There are three main innovations.
First, HP has abandoned the near-ubiquitous Intel StrongARM CPU in favour of Texas Instruments’ OMAP 710 processor. The OMAP 710 incorporates a GSM/GPRS engine and an ARM-based processor to deliver an efficient integrated solution.
Second, the Jornada 928 WDA has two batteries. One is integrated into the device, while the other is a removable lithium polymer cell. Between them, these batteries deliver a claimed 12 hours handheld usage, three hours talktime and 150 hours standby -- more than a match for other handheld/phone convergence devices. When the lithium polymer cell is removed, the internal cell automatically takes over, effectively allowing spare batteries to be hot-swapped.
Third (and you’ll notice this as soon as you open the box), there are two displays. The main screen is a conventional 240 by 320 pixel, 16-bit colour, reflective TFT, and it performs very well -- even in bright sunlight. The second screen is a small monochrome 132 by 32 pixel unit located above the main screen and accessible when the lid is closed. Along with a button on each side, this second screen provides access to telephony features such as profiles and speed-dial numbers independently of the handheld itself.
Other clever hardware features include an ambient light sensor and a flip-up antenna that can be used if you have difficulty getting a phone reception. There is a Type I Compact Flash card slot -- something HP has always favoured. The cover for the CF slot is cleverly built in two parts: you lift the top cover to add memory or use another ‘flat’ CF card; to use ‘extended’ cards which are odd shapes, you remove the slot’s entire back panel.
HP has always paid attention to software provision in its Jornada range, and the 928 WDA is no exception. The software bundle -- all held in ROM -- includes HP Backup (to ROM or CF card), HP Home Menu (an alternative interface for launching applications quickly), HP Image Viewer, HP Month View (which adds a monthly calendar to Pocket Outlook), HP Task Switcher (a system tray applet for switching between and closing applications), and MicroChaiVM for running MIDP Java applets.
The Jornada 928 will be available standalone or bundled with a small CompactFlash-interfaced digital camera – the camera’s drivers are preinstalled in the ROM of every device. With this add-on, users have access to Multimedia Messaging (MMS) thanks to built-in client software.
So far, so good. But what are the Jornada 928 WDA’s drawbacks? For a start, the antenna, which you won’t need to use at all times, looks as though it could be fairly easily snapped off when extended. The device itself is also on the large side: in direct side-by side comparison with O2’s xda, the 928 WDA is slightly wider and considerably taller -- around 10mm is added by the second phone-only display. A minor niggle is that the stylus is rather flimsy.
The Jornada 928 WDA will be available from Vodafone at £390 (inc. VAT) with an airtime contract. This considerably undercuts the xda which, at the time of writing is selling at o2’s web site for £499.99 (inc. VAT). It’s likely that Vodafone will be joined by other networks in the near future, perhaps starting a price war for wireless-connected handhelds. In advance of that, the Jornada 928 WDA has the advantages of price, a doubling of the xda’s RAM to 64MB, CompactFlash expandability and a strong software bundle. If you’re looking for a handheld/phone convergence device, the Jornada 928 looks a pretty good bet -- especially as HP has recently said that it will provide technical support for the Jornada range for at least three years.