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i-mate Ultimate 8502
The Ultimate series is the latest from i-mate, and features four smartphones with different form factors and slight variations in features, all targeting the same audience. The Ultimate 8502 is one of these, and might well appeal to BlackBerry lovers. But how well does it meet the needs of the discerning business user? Let's take a look.
The Ultimate series brings not only a new look to i-mate phones, but makes the device slimmer and lighter than most Windows-based handsets. It measures 116 x 55 x 15mm and weighs 140g, which makes it rather compact compared to regular business smartphones.
The phone seems to bundle all the navigation options possible. It has a stylus with touchscreen, a jog dial for up-and-down navigation (especially useful if you receive hundreds of mails in your inbox), and an impressive joystick. The last of these is probably what you will use the most; in fact, I hardly used the stylus or the jog dial. It's a bit odd how all three navigation options figure in the same handset. Maybe i-mate hopes this device will appeal to everybody...
On the left side of the device are a jog-wheel and 'OK' button, and on the right are the volume adjustment buttons, a dedicated camera key, and voicemail. The TFT touchscreen has a display of 256K colors (65K effective) at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. At 2.6 inches, the QVGA screen is wide enough to handle slides and spreadsheets.
Below the screen is a QWERTY keypad, with a host of shortcuts that enable ease of use. The keypad is designed in such a way that there is not much space between the keys, so it's not too ergonomic for those with fat fingers. That's a small price to pay for compactness.
Connectivity and Features
The Ultimate 8502 is based on the Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional OS. The UI is good in terms of easy accessibility of menus. A Windows-based OS can often try your patience, but I found the startup on this to be good and fast.
Moving on to connectivity, the phone supports HSDPA, which means it's not just 3G enabled but 3.5G compatible as well. That’s not all; the Ultimate also boasts India's first HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access) for the best upload speed. We're still awaiting 3G in India, so it may be a while before we can use all these nifty features.
The best part is that the phone comes with a video out. You can display slide shows or demo videos using the output cable; just attach the device to any laptop or projector. No more wasted time on file transfers! The plug-and-play options are impressive too. On the flip side, I felt that a feature-rich phone such as this deserved more RAM. With just 128MB RAM it sometimes becomes slow, but admittedly this didn't happen too often.
Internet and Mail
Since the phone supports HSDPA, if you are travelling abroad you can definitely use this feature (and even HSUPA, as many countries do offer these services). All you need is a compatible handset. Do bear in mind, however, that data charges for international roaming tend to be expensive. You might want to get a local SIM card, unless you're the CEO and your company takes care of all your bills!
Wi-Fi on the 8502 was a breeze and I got connected in a matter of seconds. Data transfer rate while accessing the Internet was quite decent and I felt that Internet Explorer worked quite well with this phone. However, I was not able to install my favorite Opera Mini as this seems to be restricted. After extensive tweaks it connected, but speeds were not satisfactory. So if IE is working fine, please do not attempt a switch.
The mailing agent was quite intelligent, and I could easily configure both my personal and enterprise mails. Windows Live Sync got my Hotmail up and running in a trice. Of course, the more mailboxes you configure, the more your data usage, and the higher your bills will be. There's a patch to upgrade the OS from Windows Mobile 6 to Windows Mobile 6.1, but you need to be registered with the Windows Owners' circle and have Windows Mobile Professional Edition on the phone.
I tried using Fring and a couple of other freeware available on the Internet, and the results were good. Fring worked perfectly; my Yahoo, Gtalk and MSN Messenger contacts were all loaded promptly and the application was quite stable on this device.
Mobile Office and Battery
This is one device that will not let you down when it comes to office productivity. As we saw earlier, email integration is very quick, and attachments automatically open in their respective formats. Editing Word docs and Excel sheets are easy because of the wide screen. But there's sadly no option to switch to landscape mode, which would have helped with spreadsheets. That aside, the file manager is efficient and the OS (Windows Mobile 6 Professional) complements the hardware well, in terms of speed and stability.
The battery is another thing that should motivate you to buy this phone. It lasts a long time and copes well with all the features. This Lithium-Ion standard 1530 mAh job offers 180hrs standby and 4hrs 30mins of talktime. With a good amount of calls, synching mails, browsing the Net, and trying VoIP apps like Fring, the battery lasted two full days. And though I was travelling, I could charge it via my laptop as it has a mini-usb charging slot. No complaints at all!
The i-mate Ultimate 8502 is available for Rs 39,550, which is rather more than others in its category. Overall it scores over the rest of the i-mates available in the market, thanks to its increased processor speed, features, and build quality. All these considered, I'd say the i-mate 8502 is a good buy if you can afford it. After all, good things don't come cheap.