Back in the day of the Jornada 568, I remembered reading about a similar PDA called the Jornada 928 which offered about the same features and form-factor as its non-wireless enabled brother. At the time I owned a Jornada 545 (which unfortunately passed away due me accidentally breaking the screen 🙁 ) and thought how great that it would be to have both a phone and a PDA in one, and be able to surf the web anywhere I wanted (at the time never considering the cost of GPRS 😛 ). I never expected to get one, because at the time I wasn’t really earning much if any money, my parents hadn’t let me have a phone yet, and I hadn’t discovered the wonderful world of importing through eBay. 🙂
Fast forward a few years and I tried a combo solution of an iPAQ 4355 (with integrated thumboard) and a Sony Ericsson T610 connected together via Bluetooth. This solution worked great, but one day I was in a tech shop and saw the ultimate combo of a phone and a PDA: the o2 XDA II Mini. I bought one two weeks later and it was great. I remembered thinking how had I ever done without the simplicity of a converged solution.
The chance to see what it would have been like all those years ago presented itself when I was reading Julie and Judie’s report on Mobius 2005. Judie mentioned that she managed to acquire a Jornada 928 while at the event, but because the J928 is dual-band (900/1800Mhz) it does not work with any US carriers (850/1900Mhz) and therefore one of the device’s biggest features (the phone) could not be used.
In a reply to an earlier email I had sent to Judie, she asked me if I was interested in reviewing the device. I jumped at the chance to review a device that I had wanted to have all those years ago.
The specs of the Jornada 928 are:
–TI OMAP 206Mhz Processor
– 64MB RAM
– 32MB ROM (upgradeable)
– 3.5 QVGA 65k Colour Reflective Display
–Type Ie Compact Flash Slot
– Dual-Band 900/1800Mhz GSM/GPRS Radio
– Dual 760mAh Batteries – one internal, one user-replaceable
– Phone Status LCD Monochrome 132×32 pixels
– 3.5mm Headphone/Headset jack
– Semi-Active Flip Cover
– Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition
About 2 weeks later the package arrived. Inside was the Jornada 928, a USB Sync/Charge cable, and a 32MB CF card that Judie had thrown in.
Considering when it was first available, the size of the 928 would not have been unreasonable. Certainly within the same size of other Pocket PC devices available at the time. But of course the thing that makes this device different from the other PPCs was the GSM/GPRS radio.
Starting at the top of the device is a folding antenna, CF slot, IrDA window, 3.5mm headphone jack and the stylus silo. The antenna can be raised to improve reception, but I never found it necessary during my testing to do so. The device looks a lot nicer with it down.
Next is the CF Type 1e slot, with the “e” standing for extended. I can only remember one ever Type Ie CF card, and that was the Casio Pocket Camera (it may have been CFII though). There may have been other cards available, but none that I am aware of. The slot acts just like a regular CF Type I slot however, accepting a variety of different CF cards. For my testing I used it for a 32MB CF card. The small panel that backs onto the slot slides out to accommodate those hard-to-come-by Type Ie cards.
Above the CF slot is the IrDA window. I didn’t really have anything to test it with, but I can imagine that it is the regular old IrDA that we have all experienced over the years. On the top right is the regular 3.5mm headphone jack, that will also accept 3.5mm headsets. I couldn’t test the headset functionality, as I didn’t have a 3.5mm one, but through headphones music sounded fine -just like any other PPC. Next to it is the stylus silo (which is empty in the photo).
The stylus is similar in shape to the older Jornada 520 and 540 series of PPCs. I had a Jornada 545 (which tragically died from a broken screen) and the stylus felt quite similar. It is quite flat, with a ribbed section to grip on. It is much better than some of the toothpicks that are provided with some PDAs these days. The stylus from my new Sony Ericsson M600i is far smaller.
On the left side there is a record button, and a volume up/down button. The right side of the device is bare. The edge of the J928 has a rubber “bumper” along it, on three of the 4 sides (all but the top). This really secures the device in your hand, and should help prevent damage if it was dropped (and miraculously landed on its side hitting the bumper). It’s a shame that, like most current generation WM Phone Edition devices, the up/down buttons are only for volume control, and can’t be used for scrolling.
On the back of the device is the afore mentioned CF Type Ie cover, a reset button (which can easily be pushed using the stylus tip) and a removable battery. The removable battery is 760mAh, and compliments the internal battery, also 760mAh. Totalling 1520mAh, the benefit of having one battery internal and one external is that the removable battery can be replaced without having to disable the PDA or Phone. It would have been great to be able to swap the removable battery mid-call for example, but the phone functions were disabled when the battery was removed. I would say this has something to do with the SIM card being under the battery.
The SIM card is under the battery, and can easily be swapped in and out if you had multiple SIM cards.
The size of the device is about the same as the Jornada 568 that it is clearly based on. The closest sized device I have is the Sony CLIE NX70. As you can see, the NX70 is about the same size, but is a hair less wide.
It is a bit thinner when you take into account the CF Slot that protrudes out the back of the NX70.
Now to the front of the device. Its looks pretty much like a standard Pocket PC from 2002, with close resemblance to the Jornada 560. You immediately notice the small screen and two phone buttons that don’t appear on any other device.
This screen provides various information regarding the current phone status. There are icons for signal strength, GPRS, GPRS connection status, Sound/Vibrate Mode and Battery. By default, the screen will also display your operator. In this case my operator is Vodafone.
Using the Phone Display icon in the settings menu, you can customize the text displayed on this screen. You can have either your operator name (default), some text, a small black and white bitmap, your next appointment or a clock.
This would be really useful in case, for example, you lost your phone. You could have your name displayed here, so the person who found the device wouldn’t need to know how to use the device to find the owner information. What would be even more useful would be the ability to have multiple lines of text that would cycle through. That way you could have both a name and phone number appear. At present, if the text is longer than the screen it is just cut off.
When a call is received, the screen displays both an incoming call message, and then displays the callers name (if in Contacts) or number. It will only work if they do not have a private number of course.
The green and red buttons serve their usual purpose. The combination of the Caller ID screen and answer/end call buttons means that you don’t need to open the flip or touch the screen to answer or end a call.
Next up is the screen. Now you have to remember that this screen is, well, old. It is really not up to today’s standards for screens. The screen on the J928 is a 3.5 QVGA Reflective display. Reflective means that it is best viewed outdoors. New devices all utilise transflective displays, which look great indoors, and good outdoors. The screen on this device is acceptable. Outdoors, it looks quite good, but indoors, it is very washed out, and the backlight is uneven. There is also a strange shadow that extends from the top left of the screen diagonally downwards.
I have also noticed that one side of the screen shines a bright light out of the side. It’s best shown in the photos below.
On to battery life, which is a hard thing to test considering the age of this device. Based on my testing of this unit, it got about 3-4 days standby time with the phone on, and the device not used at all. When you start using the device, either for calls or regular Pocket PC operations, it drops rapidly to under 2hrs. This is no indication of the device’s original battery life because the two batteries in this device would be quite worn out.
Performance on the device was fine. Fine in that the included applications and other productivity applications worked fine. I tried Betaplayer, which is in my opinion the best video player for PPC available, and videos sized for the PPC at a reasonably low bitrate still stuttered. According to Betaplayer, the processor is a TI925T at 130Mhz, which I was a bit confused about.
When I sorted out the issues with my SIM card (see the phone section below) I found phone performance to be fine. The addition and integration of the top caller ID screen, as described earlier, is very handy in phone operations.
Many of the latest Windows Mobile Phone Edition devices have abysmal reset times, in excess of 30 seconds. The J928 takes only 13 seconds to complete a reset and be ready to go.
Phone call quality was quite good, with the person on the other end being able to hear me clearly. The speakerphone was ok, but not from a great distance (maybe 2m). Signal reception was decent, but not as good as a Nokia or my i-mate SP5. It didn’t seem to make any difference whether I had the antenna up or down. I just left it down the whole time.
I did initially have trouble getting one of my SIM cards to work (an Optus PrePaid). At the beginning of testing, the card worked fine, but after a few days the J928 became really unstable. I figured that the device may just have been defective due to its age and unknown heritage, so the review was put on hold. I tried both soft and hard resets, but within minutes of resetting the device would stop responding. I was cleaning up my desk the other day when I found the Jornada in my drawer. I figured I would give it one more go, but it was still not working properly. It was then that I tried another SIM card (a Vodafone this time) and voila! It was working fine, and it has been since. I don’t know why it suddenly decided to reject my Optus SIM card, because the card works fine in other phones, but the new Vodafone one works perfectly. I’m not sure whether this is a problem with the SIM reader (it is old), the SIM card (it was old and abused too), or a combo of both.
So how would I rate it? At the time, it would have been a fantastic device, incorporating always-on GPRS and phone connectivity, whilst maintaining the functionality of a Pocket PC. Since the time of the Jornada 928 and O2 XDA, dozens of Pocket PC Phone Edition devices have been released, and are becoming increasingly popular. The main issue, at least for me, with these older Phone Edition devices is their size. For me, they just aren’t a good phone. They are too big. I could not imagine carrying around the Jornada as my main phone. While I understand that many people feel that a larger device is fine (like Judie with the i-mate JASJAR, which is a totally awesome device) I couldn’t carry the Jornada 928 around. Compared to the Phone Editions and Smartphones that I have used (XDA II Mini, KJAM, i-mate SP5, Sony Ericsson M600i) the J928 felt huge!!!
But, today is not 2002, so its not terribly fair to compare the J928 to today’s devices. Compared to its competition back in 2002, this device was a star. Built-in phone, integrated CF slot (unlike iPAQs of the time), removable battery and innovative phone display all in the same size as a regular Pocket PC. The main issue that I have with this device is the screen. Even back in 2002 it would have been pretty lousy. Colours were very washed out, backlighting was uneven, and it isn’t very bright. As a phone it is just plain uncomfortable. Unlike newer Phone Edition devices like the XDA IIs is doesn’t have any nice round edges so it looks like a calculator. The only way I could see someone using it as a phone is with a headset. It is clear that this device was designed primarily for data usage, unlike today’s devices that are closer to the size of a regular phone.
I’ll rate it in sections, as there are both good and poor aspects to the J928. Ratings are out of 10.
At the time, all Pocket PCs were fairly large, and the J928 would have been in the same league as them.
The screen on the J928 is very poor. Washed out colours and uneven backlighting really put it down.
Reception was quite good, and GPRS worked fine, but the sheer size of the device just made it look silly when held up to your ear for calls. A headset would be mandatory.
Incorporating a GPRS radio and CF slot, it would have been one of the most expandable devices at the time. Unfortunately missing out on Bluetooth which would have made the size as a phone less of an issue (being solved by a Bluetooth headset).
The speed of the device was fine, but nothing exceptional. It struggled to play even low-res video in TCPMP, but the included applications ran fine.
Really it was let down by is poor screen. Otherwise it was a fairly solid device. Only the XDA could match the J928 for its integrated GPRS radio, so its competition was limited. Based on that, the J928 lost to the XDA, which had a better screen, was faster, and arguably had a nicer design. The CF slot is a nice addition, as is the removable battery, flip cover and phone display. A good device, but its size and limited release saw it never take off.