[Ed. note: If you haven't already, then take a look at the first part of this review, Unboxing the i-mate JAQ3, in which Judie opens the JAQ3's box and takes a quick look at this PDA phone and its other box contents.]
For this jointly written and jointly posted (on each of our sites) review, Judie’s comments will be in black, and Clinton’s comments will be in blue and italicized.
One afternoon about a month ago, I received an email from an i-mate executive assistant saying “Jim Morrison wants to send you an I was equally surprised when I received one of these units! The good thing I have discovered though about i-mate is they are responsive despite, literally, being on the other side of the planet. I heard and read a lot of horror stories about their responsiveness but I have found them to be great. Yeah, but I am still waiting on a reply about whether they can help me get my hands on an i-mate Ultimate 7150. Oh the glory that is the Ultimate 7150!Windows Mobile phone, can you please send me your detailed shipping address and contact telephone numbers?” is of course, the CEO of this Dubai based . It’s not every day that I get offered a free PDA to try, so I quickly sent in my information, and it wasn’t long before I received the JAQ3.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing concerning the JAQ3 which I knew coming into this review, was that even though it had a similar style to the Samsung BlackJack WM5 Smartphone, the JAQ3 utilizes the full WM5 Pocket PC operating system. This in itself brings the JAQ3 into the attractive realm occupied by another QWERTY WM5 PPC Phone Edition device which I adore, the Palm Treo 700wx. Absolutely it does! This, in my view, is one of the stronger arguments for the JAQ3 over the BlackJack. Both are similar in size but with the extensive amount of Pocket PC… erm, Windows Mobile Professional software out there to do just about anything, it pushes this device ahead.
The JAQ3 measures exactly 5″ tall x 2.7″ wide x 0.57″ thick, and it weighs 5.1 ounces. Its body is composed mostly of black plastic which has been treated with a textured, almost rubberized non-slip coating. There is a glossy black section of casing which frames the 2.4″ 320 x 240 landscape oriented screen, and the buttons and keys on the front of the device are all done in either a matte black or a muted gray. The matte silver four-way directional pad with matte black center-select button adds a subtle dash of shine. This is a thinner Pocket PC Phone Edition than I am used to, but there is no compromise in the overall feel of the device. The JAQ3 is pleasingly heavy and I don’t think that it feels cheap or “plasticy” in any way. Torquing the case does not produce even one creak, and everything about this PDA feels…solid.� It is this thinness that has drawn me to really liking the JAQ3.� While I have cases for most of the devices I use – and i-mate even ships one with the JAQ3 – I like just putting them into a pocket.� With this device you can do that easily and can fish it out equally as easy.� As Judie mentioned, the rubber-like coating on the device really helps keep it in your hand and it does a great job of hiding fingerprints as well.
I like how the JAQ3 fits in my hand. Although its edges aren’t as rounded as those of the Treo, they are all beveled – and there are no sharp edges as seen on the Motorola Q.
I honestly didn’t know how I would feel about trying an i-mate device that wasn’t made by HTC, and since this is my first time to encounter one, I’ll say that I have been pleasantly surprised. This new generation of i-mate devices is manufactured by TechFaith Wireless, a Chinese company.
Let’s jump right in and take a look…
Wireless: GSM Quadband (850/900/1800/1900), EDGE/GPRS/GSM, Stereo Bluetooth (v1.2) and WiFi (802.11b / g), IrDA FIR
Messaging Support: SMS, MMS 1.2
Email support: Outlook, multiple POP3, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo mail
Platform: Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC AKU 3.2
Expansion Card: MicroSD
Memory: 128MB ROM, 64MB RAM (persistent storage)
Processor: TI OMAP 850, 200 MHz
Screen: 2.4″ 320×240 resolution, 65K colors LCD Touch Screen
Audio: Hands-Free supported, microphone, speakerphone
Multimedia Player: Supports MIDI, MP3, WMA, WAV, AMR
Supported ring tones: 64-chord MIDI, MP3, WMA, WAV, AMR
Camera: 2.0 megapixel, 4X Digital Zoom, supports still image and video cap[ture
Battery Type: User removable / rechargeable 1200 mAh Li-Ion
Battery life: Up to 4 hours talk time, up to 150 hours standby
Measurements: (with a micrometer) 4.44? tall x 2.29? wide x 0.85? thick
Weight: 5.1 ounces
As you look at the specifications you’ll see they are somewhat “run-of-the-mill”. There isn’t much that is spectacular but it works and it works well. I-mate did well in sticking with what they know will work and will meet the needs of most users out there. In my mind it is clear this device is squarely aimed at the RIM Blackberry user and should appeal to that strata of users. True! The specs are pretty average, but there is one thing that stands out – WiFi! The JAQ3 has it, whereas the Treo doesn’t. That to me was a pretty compelling feature addition. Yes and the WiFi works great. I had no problem getting connected to public networks or my private network at home and throughput was great.
So let’s take a look at the front of the device. On the top right edge is a three-color LED indicator that flashes red, green or yellow depending upon the circumstance. Next up is the landscape oriented rectangular screen, which is a bit of a change if you are used to the Treo’s square screen. The buttons and keys on the front all have nicely domed tops, and they provide a satisfying click when pressed. The four-way D-pad has a solid feel, and while it easily rocks in the intended direction, it doesn’t have any squirrelly play. The center select button is large enough that the D-pad won’t be unintentionally activated when clicking.
The back of the JAQ3 has two rubber skid pads at the top right and left, and the 2.0 megapixel camera’s lens. The battery compartment door is held in place with a bit of friction, and it slides off when coaxed. At the bottom left the telescoping stylus peeks from its silo.
Inside the battery compartment, the SIM card slides into a special tray and the battery is in a tight spot. The battery basically has to be pried out with the tip of the stylus in order to be removed. While this method works, it just seems…inelegant, at best.
If there is one thing that I do not understand about the JAQ3 it is the location of the soft reset button. In order to access it you have to remove the stylus – because you need it to do the physical push of the reset button – and remove the battery cover. This is really cumbersome and more steps than I think should be involved in resetting a device. I agree that it’s annoying, but you know what? Those are the same exact steps that must be taken in order to rest a Treo. I guess you just get used to having to do it every so often…not that it makes it better. No, it doesn’t make it better but I did find a work around: Spb Pocket Plus. If your device isn’t completely locked up and you can get to the Today screen, you can create a shortcut to soft reset your device. Now if you have totally locked up your JAQ3… time to crack open the battery compartment.
The left side of the JAQ 3 has, from left to right, a very convenient scroll wheel with action function, an OK button, and a camera button. The scroll wheel is a great addition – one that I wish every PDA had!
The right side has, from left to right, the power button, the miniUSB port, and the 2.5mm headphone jack. When the power button is pressed and held, it will turn the device on and off. When it is quickly pressed, it will turn the screen on and off.
The bottom of the device is slightly rounded and beveled, which makes it seem smaller when held than it really is.
The top of the JAQ3 has a spring-loaded MicroSD slot behind an attached door which clicks into space behind the card, protecting the bay from debris.
I like the protection door on the MicroSD slot. Not only does it protect from debris as Judie suggested, but it cut down on loosing these impressively small cards!
The stylus is one of those cramped telescoping jobs that are becoming more and more popular. It measures just a smidge over 2.75″ long when compressed and 3.75″ long when extended. It is not something you will want to enter an opus with, but then…there is a keyboard for that.
The included slipcase is…adequate. It covers the screen and back, but leaves the corners of the device exposed. It’s not a Vaja case that’s for sure, but it does the job. By-the-way, no, Vaja doesn’t have a case yet.
The back side has an open clip (metal covered with leather) which will fit up to a 1″ wide belt.
Here are some outdoor photos taken with the JAQ3′s 2 megapixel camera. I think they are pretty good for a PDA camera…
…and here is one of Gizmo, taken inside with fading afternoon light. While this will never replace your main digital camera, the JAQ3 can certainly fill in when a quick photo is needed. These pictures were all taken on the 1600 x 1200 resolution and “High” picture quality settings. Clicking these photos will show them in their full size. In my testing of the JAQ3′s camera, I was very impressed! As Judie points out, both in low light and bright sunlight the picture quality was great, far better than most of the HTC-based devices that I’ve tested.� Is this going to replace Judie’s Rebel XTI? I doubt it – but it is a good spur-of-the-moment camera and will provide you a good quality image you could print.
When it comes to battery life, the JAQ3 does a great job. I’ve taken the JAQ3 on multiple business trips and easily have battery to spare at the end of the day. On average, I talk on the phone 3-4 hours per day and have managed to go a day between recharges (accidentally mind you – that’s what happens when you pack in a hurry for a “day” trip to Chicago!). Additionally, I have my Exchange mail being pushed to me constantly so there is always a constant draw on the battery and I am still able to make it a couple of days on a charge. Overall, I am very impressed with the battery life. I would have to agree with Clinton’s assessment. This is a PDA Phone that can theoretically have a lot going on between the phone service, WiFi, Bluetooth, Push email and PDA functions. But it consistently manages to get through the day. However…if you are using the JAQ3 as your MP3 player, eBook reader, phone, etc. etc., you can realistically expect to need a recharge at least once a day. Just get in the habit of plugging it in when you get the chance, and you’ll be fine.
As I mentioned in the specifications, the JAQ3 has GSM Quadband (850/900/1800/1900), which means that it should work well with both T-Mobile and Cingular in the USA. When using it as a phone, I found that it was comfortable enough to hold to my head, which is generally the same way that I use my Treo. Others may think it is too wide to hold, in which case they can use a BT headset. The JAQ3 offers EDGE, GPRS, and GSM, but it is not set up for UTMS or the newer higher Cingular wireless speeds. Some people may object to it having Stereo Bluetooth (v1.2) instead of 2.0, but for me – the thing that tips things in the JAQ3′s favor is the inclusion of WiFi (802.11b / g). There is also an Infrared port for those that still move data in this manner.
A couple of things I’d like to add on the radio and Bluetooth. There are a lot of questions circling around why i-mate would produce a device that is only able to do GPRS/EDGE and not UTMS. Sure it would be nice but the reality of it is that here in the United States, UTMS simply isn’t everywhere yet. Right! We don’t even have EDGE (or its CDMA equivalent EV-DO) in San Angelo, yet! If you are in a major metro area then you probably can find it but even then it is sketchy. I live in the Dallas area and can drive just five miles north of my house and be at GPRS, not even EDGE. I drive five miles south and I have more UMTS than I can handle. Given that we are a bit away from ubiquitous UMTS, I don’t consider this too much of a knock against the JAQ3.
As far as Bluetooth 1.2 versus 2.0 is concerned, it really comes down to 2.0 being able to handle multiple Bluetooth devices better than 1.2. Both versions has multiple channels meaning theoretically at least you could have multiple BT devices partnered with your device. Version 2.0 handles this much better but the practical use of this on a Windows Mobile device can be debated. Now if we were reviewing a UMPC, this would be a totally different discussion! But I digress….
As Judie mentioned earlier, the JAQ3 runs Windows Mobile 5.0 AKU 3.2 which allows for over-the-air synchronization with your Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP2 or higher server and includes the standard fare of Microsoft applications such as Windows Media Player 10, Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile to name a few. In addition to these base applications, i-mate has included several applications in the JAQ3. The applications, referred to as the i-mate Suite, includes three applications which both extend the functionality of the device as well as solidify its performance.
The first application in the i-mate Suite is 1-View, a terminal client application, which allows you to use your JAQ3 – or any other Windows Mobile 5 device – to view and share files from any PC. This is particularly handy for those who travel and want to get a file from their PC at home or in their office without having to actually go to the computer. In order to use 1-View the PC you are wanting to access has to be available through firewalls or other security measures which may be a challenge in today’s enterprise environment.
The second application is Backup which, as the name implies, allows you to backup your JAQ3 to an online account at i-mate. By having your data available online, this assures you of being able to restore that data no matter where you are in the world. As the i-mate Backup is an online process, the backup can take time based on how much data you are backing up. Further, Backup utilizes the JAQ3′s GPRS/EDGE data connection which adds to this backup time. In my view, i-mate Backup should be a supplement to a device-based backup solution such as Sbp Backup (read my review ) or Sprite Backup and not your sole backup solution.
The third application in the i-mate Suite is Control which allows you to either receive remote assistance on your JAQ3 as well as the ability to remotely wipe the device should it be lost or stolen. Clearly Control is aimed at the enterprise and enterprise user and likely will not see much use from individual users. The advantage that Control offers over the remote wipe function of Exchange 2003 SP2 is that, well, you don’t have to have Exchange 2003 SP2! Even better – Control can remote wipe storage cards as well.
With your JAQ3 you will have the i-mate Suite available to you for 30-days from the point of registering with the service. Afterward it is a flat $100 (US) fee to use the service. The value for individual users is there in 1-View as well as Backup while the small enterprise user can benefit from Control. Given the depth of service you get with the applications, the fee isn’t all that bad.
In addition to the i-mate Suite, the JAQ3 comes with three games exclusively from i-mate as well: i-mate Blackjack, i-mate Jam-Jammy and i-mate Pool. As the names suggest, i-mate Blackjack and i-mate Pool are blackjack and billiard games respectively. Both are graphically well done and the game play is easy. i-mate Jam-Jammy is modern twist on an old game. Remember as a child playing a shell (or cup) game where you hid a marble or coin, shuffled the cups around and your victim, erm, friend had to guess which cup the marble or coin was under? That, in essence, is Jam-Jammy. It sounds simple – and honestly it is – but it is really addicting!
These games are a nice switch from the Backgammon game that came with my i-mate JasJar…and which I never played.
An application that I found very helpful on the JAQ3 was Voice Commander. Voice Commander allows you to verbally say a command to the device instead of having to use the keyboard or stylus. Some of the commands available include being able to call a contact at various phone numbers, starting applications, starting Windows Media Player, search for contacts or even digit dial. Voice Command works amazingly well and required no additional training for me to use. Once I had all of the contact data synchronized to the device, I was able to accurately dial my contacts 90% of the time, even in noisy environments. I was quite impressed and found it to be marginally more accurate than Microsoft Voice Command 1.6. Like any other application, you can configure one of your JAQ3′s hardware buttons to access Voice Commander to allow you to easily use it.
A few weeks ago on Clinton Fitch (Dot) Com! I did a review of one of the two most popular mobile antivirus software applications available, . With the JAQ3 you get a 12 month license of the other, equally as popular and effective, CA eTrust Antivirus. Like it or not, mobile borne viruses are out there and will continue to grow more prevalent as the platform continues to grow. It is a matter of when, not if. Fortunately i-mate is forward thinking and has partnered up with Computer Associates to provide this application with the device. Like a desktop antivirus application, eTrust can be updated over-the-air with new virus signatures so you can make sure that you have the latest protection. In my working with eTrust I found it to be quick but not overtaxing of the device. I could still do other things with it running in the background.
The last application we’ll cover is the i-mate Configurator application. While other OEMs have similar applications, none that I have seen are as straight forward as the one in the JAQ3 and it is completely automatic. When the JAQ3 detects a SIM card – or a new card – it automatically detects the carrier that the card is configured to use. You are then prompted with the network information and asked if you want the device to be automatically configured to work with that carrier. When you press Yes, all of the network settings including GPRS/EDGE are setup! That’s it! It is literally that pain free.
I have to say that overall I’m pretty impressed with the JAQ3. As I mentioned earlier, it is clear in my mind that this is squarely aimed at the RIM Blackberry user and in that vein, it does a great job. I would have to agree with Clinton on that point. If you are a business user that wants full Pocket PC functions, and your phone is your main PDA, then the JAQ3 would certainly be a contender. I would definitely choose it before I picked a Q, simply because it is perfect for viewing and editing spreadsheets, documents, and other business uses. Is this the best device for a “power user”? Probably not. But then, we kind of need to define “power user”, too. Obviously almost anyone that uses their PDA phone for more than making calls and jotting quick notes might consider themselves a power user. But in this case, if you define a “power user” as someone who uses their PDA Phone for wireless surfing, hours of phone calls in between charges, watching movies, listening to music, reading eBooks, viewing and editing office documents, receiving and sending push email, delivering PowerPoint presentations,and creating and editing html documents on the fly for immediate posting via a high speed wireless connection, then in that case, perhaps it might not be best suited for a “power user”. Otherwise, I think the JAQ3 might be suited for just about everyone. I do think though that the vast majority of Windows Mobile users out there though, would find it met their needs just fine. I completely agree. If there was one thing I’d like to see different is the reset button in the battery compartment. Yeah I know the Treo has it as well but I still don’t like it. Well if that’s truly the only thing you would change if possible, then it sounds like the JAQ3 might be a good alternative for anyone that’s been eyeballing the Treo series. With its upcoming upgradability to WM6, the JAQ3 is poised to cross over into the next phase of Windows Mobile; anyone that owns one will be up to date with a current and competitive device.
Written by Judie Hughes and Clinton Fitch.
What I Like: Pocket PC Phone OS on a QWERTY device, the scroll wheel, bright screen, comfortable keyboard
What Needs Improvement: Move the reset button from under the battery door – there’s no need to imitate the Treo in this regard