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Old 11-25-2005, 01:54 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 39
Default iMate SP5 vs SP3 review

I know Mike's written a much more comprehensive review, but you can never have too much information, right?

Anyway, I promised a while back that I'd write a comparative review of the T-Mobile SDA (AKA i-Mate SP3) and the i-Mate SP5. Well, I've had the SP5 for a few days now, so here we go. There won't be any pictures - if you're after pics, I'd just Google it. I haven't written a review like this before either, so it might be horribly disorganised or I might miss out important things. You get what you pay for.


Physically, the device is a little larger than the SP3. I can't entirely say in which dimension - I think it's a little bit larger in all three. The battery is 10% bigger, and WM5 has slightly better power handling, so hopefully we can expect a bit longer battery life (I generally got a whole weekend out of the SP3 quite happily). There is an extra button at the top left which jumps you into a "wireless" utility - this gives you the options to switch on/off bluetooth, WiFi and sound. I can't entirely see in what way it's different to the normal "profile" selector screen, apart from being much slower.

The machine seems a lot slower than the SP3 was (though the SP3 was quite quick when compared to the Motorola MPX220 I had before). I'm not sure if it's the processor speed or the fact that WM5 now stores data inside the flash memory instead of normal address space, but just clicking on "calendar" now takes almost five seconds to display my day. Likewise, scrolling through the days takes 1-2 seconds per day (though it will buffer keypresses, so scrolling five days doesn't take much longer if you don't look at each one). Both of these actions were largely instantaneous on the SP3, as far as I remember.

The WiFi is a funny old thing. In ActiveSync 4, MS disabled the ability to sync over a wireless network, which would have been rather handy. I managed very easily to connect this phone to my wireless network at home and log into Messenger but beyond that I really couldn't think of what I was going to do with it. I can't look at shared folders on my PC (which might have been handy) and I'm sure as anything not going to browse the internet using mobile IE (which as far as I can see hasn't changed since WM2003). So far the only thing I can think of actually using WiFi for on this phone will be showing off to my mates, or finding where there _is_ a wireless connection, so I can get the laptop out and use it. You can't even make the phone pretend to be a modem and connect to a wireless network on behalf of your non-wireless laptop (or other device). Suggestions appreciated. Anyway, it seems to work pretty well, even though I've nothing to do with it.

The camera seems excellent - much better than the old SP3 one. It takes up to 1280x1024 and while it's still not a patch on a "proper" digital camera, it's the best phone one I've owned. If anyone's particularly keen I can probably post up a couple of example pictures.

the screen too looks fantastic - the SP3 was very good and while I'm hesitant to say this one is particularly better, it certainly has a higher resolution so the fonts are more pleasing to the eye.


WM5 is not as much of an advancement on WM2003 as I'd hoped for, really. There are icons in the start menu, which at least looks kinda cute, but once you get into any submenus it looks just as "my first windows program" as WM2003 did.

The "contacts" program has been improved - as well as showing more descriptive data around each contact's numbers, it will show "notes" fields and pictures for contacts (which synchronise nicely without Outlook 2003, so I might actually start using them now).

Speaking of synchronisation, you of course end up using ActiveSync 4 as well. It looks a little different to the old app, but I am not really very sure what's different. You can no longer be specific about which tasks to synchronise (it used to allow you to synchronise a given date range, but now it's all or nothing) but apart from that it seems to be a similar program under the skin. It does synchronise much faster though, and so far I've not had any problems apart from a repeated crash on first connection of the phone, which was solved by a reboot. I've not tried sync using Bluetooth yet.

The "tasks" app now allows you to filter by categories - this is a huge boon, but unfortunately I'm going to have to carry on using the excellent DeveloperOne PowerTasks app instead, because rather bizarrely it doesn't allow you to edit the "notes" fields. Go figure, as the Americans say.

The "calendar" app is just as horrible as the old one. You're still incapable of viewing data in any meaningful way on a view other than the single-day one. The reminders are now snoozable for more than five minutes (yay!) but you can still dismiss them while the phone is locked (!). I was used to Pocket Informant before switching from PDA to Smartphone - MS's calendar app is so far behind what even existed on the Psion Revo I had eight years ago, it's almost hilarious.

As far as I can see, the text messaging app is exactly the same as the old WM2003 one, apart from a bit of colouring in. It still has the rather odd foible of writing words ahead of the cursor that you have no intention of putting in (if you have seen this, you'll know what I mean). If there's an option to make it suggest endings for words that you've started entering, I haven't found it. The "request delivery report" feature seems to work exactly the same as WM2003 (i.e. doesn't work at all).

The media messaging seems very similar to the old version too, apart from a little icon that appears in the very top of the screen while it's sending things. Oh, and apart from the fact it needs 4Mb of free storage space in order to send anything. How do I know this? Well, it leads me on nicely to my biggest gripe.

This phone has no storage space left! I don't know exactly how much it had when it shipped, but I synchronised my contacts/tasks/calendar, installed one or two apps (with home screen plugins, so they need to be on the device itself rather than the storage card) and all of a sudden I've got 2mb of memory left! My contacts/tasks/calendar data is quite large (5Mb or so) but I've never had a problem like this before. I removed all the apps I had installed on the device and nope, still not enough memory. I removed the "Trust Antivirus" application that came with it (was running out of options here) and I baaaaaarely managed to scrape through the 4Mb required to send media messages. I've now installed Battery Pack Pro, and I'm back down around the 3.5Mb mark. I've no idea how to create any extra space - I now only have ONE app installed on the phone's memory, and I removed one of the ones that came with it! There are two i-mate games that come installed on the phone (Backgammon and Lines) - they appear to take about 1Mb each so my next option is to start uninstalling them so that I can send picture messages.

Overall, my impressions of this phone are very favourable apart from the storage space issue (and admittedly, part of it is a media-messaging issue). My impressions of WM5 are a bit mixed. It doesn't really feel like a huge improvement - from the look of it, Microsoft have gone down that familiar route of adding new stuff (Wi-Fi; new media player which i haven't tried out; hotmail integrated into MSN messenger) instead of fixing things that were crying out for repair (the ability to dismiss reminders while the phone was locked; the abysmal calendar application; the fact that muting the sound doesn't actually mute it for all applications). There are a couple of applications (1-Home-Edit; Fizz Weather) which I use a lot but can't actually install yet because they don't have WM5 versions - of course, this isn't Microsoft's fault, but it's helping to slightly tinge my impression of the OS.

What haven't I mentioned yet... oh, there's an icon that tells you when the phone is on vibrate alert, instead of the one that used to show it being on mute.

That's it - I'll follow up this post with any other feelings I come up with. I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts.

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