Combination handheld/phone devices are becoming ever more common. The trick with such convergence devices is to get the right mix of features for whichever segment of the buying public is being targeted, and make them all easily accessible. Often, Windows Mobile for Pocket PC Phone Edition devices are praised for their touch-sensitive screens, relatively large library of third-party software, and good integration into existing office systems. But they sometimes lose out in terms of overall size, and, in many cases, are tied to particular network operators for voice and data services. i-mate’s JAM overcomes all the negatives in one fell swoop, being remarkably small and light, and also available SIM-free
Measuring just 58 by 108 by 181mm and weighing 160g the i-mate JAM is considerably smaller and lighter than Pocket PC Phone edition devices from O2 (the xda II at 70 by 13 by 190mm and 190g) and HP (the h6340 at 75 by 119 by 187mm, 190g). It matches Orange’s new Windows Smartphone, the SPV C500 for depth, although the C500 is marginally thinner, a fair bit narrower and weighs just 100g. The other comparable device is Sony Ericsson’s P910i: as with the C500, the P910i's dimensions are very close, although it's thicker (260 versus 181mm), and weighs 155g. The other handheld/phone combo worth mentioning at this point is PalmOne’s new Treo 650, which we expect to see early next year.
The i-mate JAM should interest anyone looking for portability. Clearly, if the rest of our review stacks up, any of the convergence devices mentioned above could face competition.
The hardware design is very much in the Windows Mobile Phone Edition mould, with call and end buttons sitting beneath the screen, accompanied by a navigation button with a nested enter key, plus shortcuts to the built-in calendar and contacts applications.
The right-hand edge of the device houses the stylus (which is quite small and lightweight) and sports a very small and slightly fiddly power button. On the left-hand side is a volume slider and small buttons for running the notes application and firing up the built-in digital camera.
The front of the i-mate JAM has an attractive brushed silver appearance, with a black ridged side section that makes it easy to grip. The lithium-polymer battery is removable.
The phone is a tri-band GSM/GPRS unit, and comes with the usual array of Windows Mobile applications installed in ROM, plus some extras from i-mate. The 416MHz Intel XScale PXA272 processor isn't the fastest available, but it coped with all we asked of it during the test period.
There is 64MB of RAM installed, of which 57.4MB is available to the user. This seems on the low side, considering there are devices available with 128MB or more. The RAM is bolstered by a 7.6MB chunk of ROM that will inevitably be used for backing up data.
An SD card slot lets you add more memory, but you may find that it's required for another task -- adding Wi-Fi, which is not built in due to space constraints. Wi-Fi as an add-on is nowhere near as convenient as having it built in, and we found its absence a real negative. You do get Bluetooth, though, which enables handsfree voice calls and wireless data synchronisation.
The software extras on top of the standard Windows Mobile bundle are good, the ROM including a fax application, Java support and Windows Media Player 10.
The i-mate JAM’s screen is bright enough, but quite small at just 71mm across the diagonal. This means the soft keyboard can feel a little cramped. To alleviate this, i-mate offers the keyboard in two versions, one dropping a number row among other changes in order to maximise the size of the QWERTY keys. There is also an input option called IntelliPad that uses a phone number pad type arrangement to offer various alphanumeric entry systems, combining this with predictive input. You can work surprisingly fast with this. The dialler has a companion applet called IntelliDialler that makes dialling numbers that little bit easier.
The final software tweak is a gem. Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition Second Edition supports landscape screen orientation, but to access it Microsoft requires no less than six screen taps from the Today screen (seven if you need to scroll down the Settings options to get to Screen settings, as you do on this small-screened device). A further six (or seven) taps are required to get back to portrait orientation. On the i-mate JAM, all you need to do is tap an icon on the Today screen and the screen reorients, cycling through portrait, left-handed landscape, and right-handed landscape orientations.
The built-in camera captures stills and video, the former as JPEG and BMP files at 120x160, 240x320, 480x640 and 960x1,280 and the latter as AVI and MPEG-4 at 96x128, 144x176 and 240x320. Additional capture formats are MMS video, Contact Photo, which lets you immediately assign a snap to a contact, and Picture Theme, which uses a predefined graphic surround for a snap.
The i-mate JAM's small size makes it easy to hold in one hand and prod at with the thumb -- ideal for making voice calls one-handed. It's also far less of a chore to hold this device to the ear for voice calls than it is with some larger Pocket PC/phone combos -- and you feel less of an idiot doing so.
Battery life is impressive. Our usual MP3 looping test, in which we leave the screen always on, but turn off Bluetooth and the GSM/GPRS radio, delivered 5 hours and 13 minutes of continuous music and overall life of 6 hours and 9 minutes. We have been able to live with this pretty comfortably during the test period, although daily charges via the mini-USB sync/charge connector have been required. Power can be delivered via the mains or a notebook PC, helping to minimise the amount of cabling you need to carry.
At £399 without a contract, the i-mate JAM is a shade expensive, but it can be found on the Web in the UK for as little as £164 with a monthly contract.
Edited by Charles McLellan
Additional editing by Tom Espiner