- ✓Integrated TV tuner and FM radio
- ✓Windows Mobile Pocket PC with slider-style telephony number pad
- ✓integrated answering machine and call recorder
- ✕Not enough built in memory
- ✕screen rather small
- ✕overall design somewhat clunky
UBiQUiO is probably a new brand to most people. It belongs to mobile device retailer Expansys, following a company acquisition. Expansys has a programme of UBiQUiO launches planned, the first of which is the 401 Smartphone.
The UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone is something of a hybrid device. It runs Windows Mobile Pocket PC phone edition, yet earns the label ‘smartphone’ rather than a ‘connected Pocket PC’ primarily because of its slider format and incorporation of a telephone style number pad. This is not its key selling point, though: that comes in the shape of an integrated TV tuner and FM radio.
The UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone’s footprint is, at 109mm by 53.5 mm slightly less than that of the HTC TyTN (112mm by 58mm), yet it's somewhat thicker at 24mm compared to the TyTN’s 22mm. The TyTN has a sliding keyboard under its screen, while the UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone has a number pad. This is a significant point, for the UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone brings elements of mobile phone design to the Windows Mobile Pocket PC format.
With the slider mechanism closed, front facing buttons cater for access to the Windows Mobile softmenus, pull down the Start menu and provide an OK function, as well as allowing you to initiate and end calls. A large joystick with four-way directional movement and a press-to-select feature sits in the centre of these buttons. This is nestled in a surround which looks as though it ought to be a navigation button, but in fact has no function beyond the aesthetic.
On the left edge is a controller for the built in 2.1 megapixel camera, and a jog wheel volume control. On the right edge are two covered slots, one for a miniSD card, the other for connecting the provided stereo headset. The reset button is also here. The headset connector is proprietary, but a converter to a 3.5mm jack is usefully included in the box.
Mains power is supplied via a mini-USB connector, and this also caters for wired PC connectivity. The stylus, a lightweight extending type, lives in a housing on the bottom right back of the device. We found it rather too small and light for our taste.
The 240-by-320 pixel screen occupies most of the front of the device. At just 2.4in. across the diagonal, it's small compared to other Windows Mobile Pocket PC screens, but is not wildly out of step with what you’d expect to find on a Windows Mobile smartphone. The screen delivers a clear picture, although our review unit seemed unwilling to hold full brightness effectively.
Slide screen and bottom section apart and you reveal the numberpad. Its keys are silver in colour, and they cover a relatively large area. The keys are not equal in size, with the 5 and 8 particularly big, causing the 4, 6, 7 and 9 keys to be proportionately smaller. This unevenness caused us a few problems of misplaced fingers when number dialling without looking at the numberpad early on, but we soon got used to things.
The UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone is a tri-band GSM handset with GPRS support. Its specifications as a Windows Mobile device are average rather than outstanding. The processor, Intel’s PXA 272 running at 416MHz performed well enough in our tests, but the device is a little short on memory. It comes with 64MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM, and our review device, fresh out of the box, had about 15MB of free storage capacity. This can be augmented with miniSD cards, however, and a 128MB card is supplied.
Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are present, but the latter is only the11Mbps ‘b’ standard. Similarly, the USB is version 1.1 rather than the faster 2.0, and Bluetooth is 1.2 rather than 2.0.
The TV Tuner and radio are clearly major draws for the UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone. We’ve not seen either feature in a Windows Mobile device before, either Pocket PC or Smartphone.
The software that accompanies the FM tuner can search for stations but won’t self tune. However, there are ten presets that you can assign easily enough, and some people may prefer this to self tuning as it lets you retain the stations you want in the order you want. You can get the tuner software to auto-search to the next available channel, and you can record music to either the internal memory or a memory card.
The TV tuner also has its own dedicated application. The tuner picks up analogue terrestrial broadcasts. We used the automatic channel search and the device tuned in to BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Reception was fine from our office and in a few other venues we tried during testing. The UBiQUiO 401's screen is small for serious TV watching, but it orients itself in landscape format to take best advantage of its size, and you have brightness, contrast and colour controls.
To use both the TV and FM radio you need to connect the provided headset as this has the antenna integrated. You can then play sound either through the headset or the UBiQUiO 401’s speaker. The headset connector is proprietary and although you get a converter to a 3.5mm jack, this doesn't contain an FM antenna so you can’t use your favourite headset for TV or radio.
The built-in camera is a more conventional handheld extra. It shoots stills at resolutions up to 1600 by 1200 and has a sequence shooting mode and various filters and effects. There is also a video shooting mode. Cleverly, you can change many of the settings, such as toggling the flash between on, off and auto modes just by tapping the screen rather than trawling through menus. The stills camera has a macro mode that you turn on and off using a small switch next to the lens on the back of the device. A flash unit also sits near the lens.
In addition to these applications and the standard Windows Mobile bundle, the UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone includes a Zip file manager.
The recorder that's used with the FM radio can also be used to record phone calls and act as an on-handset answering machine. In the latter case you can ask it to answer calls after 10, 15 or 20 seconds of rings, to save recordings to internal memory or a storage card, and you can allocate a recording time -- including unlimited if you have enough memory.
You should be able to get this to kick in before your operator’s answering service. Notifications inform you of new messages. In a business context, this could prove a lot more effective than checking for messages by phoning your operator’s answering service. If you want to use this feature, we’d suggest recording your own greetings message, as those provided with the device are poor.
Performance & battery life
Expansys quotes the battery life of the UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone as 3 hours of talk, and 110 hours on standby. We ran our usual MP3 playback rundown test, forcing the screen to remain on throughout, and with the GSM SIM active. We got six and a quarter hours of music -- a fairly average rating.
As a Pocket PC phone with a number pad, the UBiQUiO 401 Smartphone is something of a hybrid. Smaller than a regular Pocket PC but larger than a smartphone, it's debatable whether it offers the best of both worlds, or the best of neither.
Certainly it's bulky for the pocket, but the added functionality that the Pocket PC version of Windows Mobile offers over the smartphone variant may prove attractive. The TV tuner and radio may not have obvious appeal to business users, but the integrated answering machine and call recorder could clearly be very useful.