- Large and usable keyboard
- Absence of a camera may suit some business users
- Wide-screen format is good for reading text
- Lacks Wi-Fi
- Unattractive hardware design
One of the consequences of HTC's decision to seek a higher profile for itself by releasing devices under its own brand name seems to have been the defection of some companies to other suppliers. i-mate has announced two devices which are not made by HTC: a smartphone, which we will evaluate shortly, and a connected Pocket PC device, the JAQ. Whether a realignment away from HTC becomes permanent for i-mate remains to be seen, but the move has, in this instance, allowed i-mate to make a bold choice of hardware.
We call the JAQ 'bold' because in design terms it defies convention by being large and somewhat unwieldy. It's also rather 'plasticky' in feel, while its colouring & mdash; completely silver apart from large blue company and device logos, and markings on the buttons and keys — is not attractive. Overall, the JAQ fails to deliver the kind of stylish look that many mobile professionals are after.
i-mate calls the JAQ a 'heavy duty' device, and sitting beside every other handheld on our desk it does indeed deserve the title. At 122mm tall, 71mm wide and 22mm thick it's a giant. The weight, at 160g, is not out of step with other Pocket PC handhelds, though.
The most immediate benefits of its size are that the JAQ can accommodate a large screen and a keyboard. The former measures 2.8in. from corner to corner, and offers the standard 320 by 240 pixels for Windows Mobile devices. The touch-screen has a landscape orientation, and one of the features new to Windows Mobile 5.0 when it appeared was the ability for the screen to flip between landscape and portrait modes. This has been used to good effect in, for example, the HTC TyTN where the display reorients itself automatically if you slide out the keyboard. There is no such capability here, however, and you're stuck with the screen in its wide orientation.
Compared to the portrait-format displays more commonly used in Windows Mobile Pocket PCs, the extra pixels of width can make it easier to view emails and web pages. On the other hand, the lack of depth when scrolling through vertical lists or using the Windows Mobile tappable keyboard can be annoying. In fact, you're unlikely to want to use the latter, as the hardware keyboard is one of this device's few plus points.
The keys are tall and thin, and well spaced. This makes it easy to locate them with both thumbs, although the overall width of the JAQ does make one-handed use difficult if your hands are small. Above the keyboard is a row of shortcut buttons in whose centre is an ugly but responsive mini-joystick. Immediately outside this are the softmenu buttons. They are a long way from the menus they map to, but, like the Start, OK, Call and End buttons flanking them, are large and easy to hit.
Above the screen are three indicator lights that inform you about battery, Bluetooth and messaging status. The JAQ's appeal to business users may be enhanced by the fact that there is no camera.
For all its robustness, the JAQ has a surprisingly flimsy stylus. It's a telescopic unit, and very lightweight. We found ourselves using fingertips rather than the stylus on most occasions.
On the left is a button for launching the built-in voice recorder and two others for adjusting volume. On the right is the power button. This edge also houses the 2.5mm connector for a stereo headset and a miniSD card slot. Both are covered by the same rubber strip. The mini-USB port for the AC adapter and PC connectivity is on the bottom of the casing.
The JAQ is supplied with a spare stylus, a stereo headset, a PC connection cable, a mains power adapter, a protective case with belt clip, a software CD and a printed manual.
As a connected Pocket PC aimed at business users, the JAQ's specification is a little basic. The phone is quad-band with GPRS/EDGE support, but it lacks the 3G connectivity that we are seeing in many of the latest handhelds. It does support push email via Exchange 2003 SP2, though.
A shade more than 40MB of storage was free on our review sample after a hard reset — remember, you can expand on this using miniSD cards. Bluetooth and infrared are both present, but not Wi-Fi, which is another feature we now expect on Pocket PC handhelds.
i-mate has added some applications to the standard Windows Mobile suite, including a phone blacklisting application that can be used to block incoming calls, the ClearVue PDF viewer, a photo contacts application, and a profile manager that allows you to switch between six different handset profiles.
Performance & battery life
The JAQ delivered only an average battery life in our tests, managing 7.5 hours of continuous music from a full charge, with the screen forced to stay on and music played from a miniSD card. Indeed, the battery is remarkably small given the overall size of the JAQ.
Some users will desire the JAQ precisely because it's on the large side. Certainly, anyone who considers some keyboard-equipped handhelds too small to use effectively could find the JAQ more accommodating. In opting for this device, though, they will be choosing something decidedly average in both specifications and performance.
|Application Software||ActiveSync, Calculator, File Manager, Microsoft Internet Explorer Mobile, Microsoft Office Outlook Mobile, Pocket MSN Messenger, SIM Manager, Windows Media Player 10 Mobile|
|Phone Navigation Buttons||navigation button|
|Integrated Components||voice recorder|
|Band||GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (Quadband)|
|Phone Form Factor||full keyboard|
|Form Factor Details||touch screen|
|Service Provider||not specified|
|Operating System Family||Windows Mobile|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0|
|Input Device||Touch screen, keyboard|
|Short Messaging Service (SMS)||Yes|
|Phone Functions||Vibrating alert|
|Integrated Components||Voice recorder|
|Messaging & Internet|
|Cellular Messaging Services||MMS, SMS|
|Messaging & Data Features||Text messages|
|Messaging Services||MMS, SMS, Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger)|
|Communication Features||Internet browser, mobile Email client|
|Data Transmission||EDGE, GPRS|
|Wireless Interface||Bluetooth, Infrared (IrDA)|
|Clock Speed||200 MHz|
|Display Resolution||320 x 240 pixels|
|Color Depth||16-bit (65000 colors)|
|Diagonal Size||2.8 in|
|Diagonal Size (metric)||7.1 cm|
|Smartphone Diagonal Size||2.8 in|
|RAM||64 MB - SDRAM|
|Supported Flash Memory Cards||miniSD|
|Talk Time||Up to 240 min|
|Run Time Details||
Talk: up to 240 min
Standby: up to 150 hrs
|CE Input Device|
|Type||keyboard, touch sensitive screen|
|Phone Functions||vibrating alert|
|Installed Size||64 MB|
|Supported Flash Memory Cards||miniSD|