i-mate SP5

  • Editors' rating
    8.2 Excellent


  • Windows Mobile 5
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth integrated
  • quad band GSM, plus GPRS/EDGE


  • Expensive operator-agonistic option
  • built in Wi-Fi has potential, but the screen is not ideal for Web browsing

Windows Mobile smartphones are appearing in ever greater numbers in the UK, but there are few operator-free choices. However, Dubai-based i-mate has recently announced a pair of options -- the SP5 and SP5m. The duo are very similar in specifications and have two key selling points: they run Windows Mobile 5 and have built in Wi-Fi. The 'm' model has dedicated buttons for controlling music and is therefore more of a consumer offering, so we are concentrating here on the basic model.


The SP5 and SP5m are the first smartphones from i-mate to run Microsoft's latest Windows Mobile 5 operating system: the SP5 is reasonably compact and lightweight, measuring 107.5mm by 17.5mm by 46.2mm and weighing 106g.

The hardware is finished in black and silver, and there's a distinctive unbalanced, but not unattractive, look created by the rounded upper edge and curved lower edge. About half of the front of the casing is occupied by the screen, beneath which sits a row of four narrow keys. The outer two map to the soft menus, while the inner pair take you Home and back to the previous screen.

Under this row is a bank of four keys, two on either side of a small joypad-like navigation controller. The controller protrudes nicely and is among the easiest to use we've come across. Two of the four keys handle Call and End functions, and the other two take you to the Messaging and Contacts applications.

At the bottom is the number pad. Happily, this is relatively large and each key is slightly raised at its lower edge, making it easy to find. In dark conditions the entire keypad area lights up whenever any key is pressed.

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On the right-hand side of the device is a button that launches the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera, whose lens sits at the back along with a self-portrait mirror. The mini-USB cable connector for synchronisation and charging is on the bottom edge, along with a 2.5mm headphone jack.

The top edge houses the on/off switch and the infrared port, while the left-hand side is home to a pair of buttons that, on short presses, control system volume; a long press of the lower one activates the built-in voice command software. Above these sits a button that on a short press takes you to a controller for various communications features, and on a long press launches the built-in voice recorder program.

The SP5 is supplied with a USB cable for wired synchronisation, a stereo headset, a mains power adapter, a belt-clip-style protective case, the standard ActiveSync software CD and two printed manuals -- one detailed and one a quick-start guide.


The quad-band SP5 runs Windows Mobile 5, the latest version of Microsoft's mobile OS, which has a number of new features. Most notable among these for smartphones is support for Wi-Fi. Potential uses for this include wireless synchronisation (although Wi-Fi synchronisation is not supported in the version of ActiveSync that ships with the SP5), Voice over IP (VoIP) and Web browsing.

In the absence of a bundled VoIP client, we tried Web browsing over Wi-Fi, and it has to be said that the SP5's screen, while offering the maximum resolution currently available on a Windows Mobile smartphone (240 by 320 pixels), is really too small for Web browsing. Even so, the ability to log onto wireless networks may prove useful if VoIP clients start to proliferate for the platform.

The integrated 1.3 megapixel digital camera shoots stills at 160 by 120, 320 by 240, 640 by 480 and 1,280 by 1,024 resolution, and video at 128 by 96 and 176 by 144. There are additional preset options for shooting MMS video and images to associate with contacts. A range of ambience settings is available for different lighting conditions (daylight, incandescent, fluorescent and night), and you can apply greyscale, sepia or cool (blue) filters, as well as manually adjusting the brightness, saturation, hue and gamma settings for any image.

With 64MB of RAM, the i-mate SP5 is as well equipped as any Windows Mobile smartphone. If this isn't enough, you can expand the storage capacity via a MiniSD card. Unfortunately, the slot is housed beneath the battery, so to swap cards means powering down the handset (and Windows Mobile smartphones are notoriously slow to reboot).

Previous Windows Mobile smartphones offered access to on-board applications via a simple listing. Now the application choices are icon-based, with a 3-by- 3 grid extending across three screens. This looks prettier, but is no easier to use than the previous system.

Alongside the standard applications that come with Windows Mobile 5, i-mate includes support for Java, a file manager, a utility that clears the internal storage and an application called Pictures and Video that supports image cropping and rotation, beaming to other devices and a slideshow feature.


In everyday use, the i-mate SP5 performs well. Like other Windows Mobile smartphones it's small enough to carry comfortably, while the side button for activating Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is very handy. The high screen resolution is real boon -- not only can you see slightly more than with earlier devices, but what you see is also clearer. If you want ambitions to read text on your handset, this will really matter.

As far as battery life is concerned, i-mate quotes five hours of talktime and 250 hours on standby. Our rundown test involved continuous play of MP3 music with the screen forced to stay on. We got 8 hours 1 minute of battery life in total, with music playing right to the end.


Technology GSM
Application Software Calculator, Games, MSN Messenger, Microsoft ActiveSync, Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer, Photo Contacts, Pocket Outlook, Windows Media Player
Type smartphone
Band GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (Quadband)
Phone Form Factor bar
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Windows Mobile
Operating System Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone
Phone Features
Short Messaging Service (SMS) Yes
Phone Functions Vibrating alert
Messaging & Internet
Cellular Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Messaging Services MMS, SMS, Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger)
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS
Wireless Interface Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11b, Infrared (IrDA)
Technology TFT transflective
Color Depth 16-bit (65000 colors)
Diagonal Size 2.2 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 5.6 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 2.2 in
Clock Speed 200 MHz
Type Texas Instruments
Manufacturer Texas Instruments
Optical Sensor Type CMOS
Still Image Resolutions 120 x 160, 1280 x 1024, 240 x 320, 640 x 480, 80 x 60, 800 x 600
Media Player
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, WMA, AAC, AMR, MP3
Supported Flash Memory Cards miniSD
Run Time Details Talk: up to 300 min
Standby: up to 250 hrs
Digital Camera
Optical Sensor Type CMOS
Min Illumination 5 lux
Digital Video Formats H.263, MPEG-4
Still Image Resolutions 120 x 160, 1280 x 1024, 240 x 320, 640 x 480, 80 x 60, 800 x 600
Brand i-Mate
Product Line i-Mate
Model SP5
Packaged Quantity 1
Phone Functions vibrating alert
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards AAC, AMR, MP3, WAV, WMA
Power Adapter
Type power adapter
Installed Size 64 MB
Technology SDRAM
Flash Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards miniSD
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 1.3 megapixels
Service & Support Details
Type Technical support