It’s been a little over a month since I received a Qtek 8500, HTC‘s first clamshell phone which runs the Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone operating system. Unlike some of the other Smartphone OS devices available, such as the Dash and the Q, which attempt to “be all and do all” without the benefit of a touch screen and the full Pocket PC operating system, this is one model that appears to be happy just being a smart phone.
Phone first, PDA second, which is an interesting concept these days.
Just like other HTC models, this phone started out with a code name, which I have seen written as “Str Trk” and “STRTrk,” …yeah, it’s called and pronounced Star Trek – and that’s all you need to know. 😉
This phone is available in the US branded as the Cingular 3125, but I was sent the European model which is branded and sold as the Qtek 8500. This review will specifically cover the Qtek version, but there will of course be similarities to the 3125.
The 8500 is available in black, silver and pink. Obviously I was sent the more feminine version, and I’ve got to tell you that having never been one to go nuts over any device just because it was a girly color, this one still managed to turn my head. The pink is not soft and subtle, it is in your face and vibrant.
The 8500 is pretty, feminine and flirty, and underneath her skirt?is an impressive set of features…sorry, I couldn’t resist! 😉
Platform – Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition
Dimensions – 3.8″ long x 2.0″ wide x 0.65″ thick
Weight – 3.6 ounces
Chipset – TI OMAP 80
Memory – 64MB ROM, 64MB RAM
LCD Module – 2.2″ diagonally measured 240×320 resolution with 65K colors TFT LCD, while LED backlight
Communications – Quad-band 850/900/1800/1900, SMS (MO, MT), concatenation SMS (640 characters), EDGE/GPRS, EDGE Class B
Camera – 1.3 megapixel CMOS
Audio – Microphone / Receiver; Loud speaker for hands-free support; audio sampling rate 16-bits with 8KHz, 11KHz, 22KHz, 44.1KHz; AMR/AAC/WAV/WMA/MP3
Connectivity & Interface – Bluetooth v1.2 supported without EDR, class 2 transmit power, microSD, 3V SIM card, USB 1.1, A2DP
Battery – user removable and replaceable 750mAH Lithium-ion, standby time 100 – 150 hours, talk time 2.5 – 5 hours
Value added applications – polyphonic MIDI ring tones, MMS 1.1 supported, Java Virtual Machine (J2ME, CLDC 1.1, MIDP 2.0)
Included in the box are?the Qtek 8500 “Musicphone” (as it’s called on the box), headset, AC adapter, USB sync cable, user manual, quick start guide, two CDs with applications and set-up software.
The “pinkie”, as my friend John calls it, measures 3.8″ long x 2.0″ wide x 0.65″ thick and weighs 3.6 ounces. It is comparable to the Samsung A900, and just to show you how much smaller it is, I included the Treo 700wx in the following group photo…
We won’t even get into how much fatter the Treo is than the 8500, because it is an entirely different animal. 😉 Comparing just the 8500 and the A900, you can see that there is not much size difference between a non-smartphone and one with both brains and beauty.
Here’s a side shot. The Qtek is a little bit longer, but not really noticeably fatter or thicker.
The pink aluminum casing is not smooth, instead it has light ribs in its metallic shell that give the device a really?unique texture. The black portion at the bottom is covered in a thick rubberized coating, which gives the phone a pleasing texture. The 8500 feels very solid but there is some creaking when the two halves of the flip are squeezed together. The hinge feels solid and when flipped open or shut, it feels strong and not in any way flimsy.
On the front are the 1.3 megapixel camera lens, the external display screen, three Media Player buttons including reverse, play/pause and forward, the two LED indicators on the bottom left, and the speaker on the bottom right.
It started to get dark today before I realized that I would need my usual camera shots taken with the phone, so this picture is a little bit darker than my usual examples. I can certainly take more if you would like to see them. 🙂
The 128×128 pixel display on the front is vivid…
…and can be configured to display a multitude of options.
The back of the phone has a removable aluminum pink battery cover, which we will open later in this review. The rubberized circle at the bottom right is a plug covering the external antenna connector.
The left side of the 8500 has subtle lanyard hole in the end of the hinge, and there are two recessed plastic buttons with nubs to help guide the user’s fingers to their push points. When the flip-lid is open and the first button is pressed and held, the Voice Notes recorder will launch; a short press will launch the Voice Tag feature.
The right side of the phone has an open earphone, sync and charging port. While it looks like it might be a USB port, it is actually a flatter and wider version…bummer. Like the HTC Hermes / Dopod 838 Pro I previously reviewed, the Star Trek does not have a dedicated headphone jack – it is consolidated and will require an adapter before the user’s favorite 3.5mm earphones can be used. This would be near tragic since the phone is marketed as a “Music Phone”, but there is one saving grace – the phone has Bluetooth A2DP, so it can stream music wirelessly to a set of Bluetooth enabled headphones or a set of BT speakers.
Flipping open the lid reveals a 1.75″ tall by 1.3″ wide QVGA screen. Viewing items on the screen does not feel cramped in the least, and since you won’t be using it to modify Office documents, it is certainly suitable for just about everything else. The ear-speaker is the circle seen directly above the screen.
Metallic low-profile number pads have certainly become the norm since the RAZR stormed onto the scene; the keyboard on the left is the 8500s, and just for reference, the keyboard on the right is the A900’s.
The buttons on the number pad are as follows: The hash marks are the left and right soft keys which correspond to choices on the screen, the green button with the headset icon is the Talk button, the red button with the headset and power icon is the Power / End button. The button with the house icon is the Home button, which will always return you to the Home screen. Pressing it and holding will open the Quick List. The button with an arrow on it is the Back button, which will return you to the previous screen or backspace over (erase) keyed characters. The hole on the bottom left is the light sensor, and the hole on the bottom right is the microphone – it’s not in the center bottom as I first expected.
Pressing the numbers and buttons on the pad actually produces a satisfactory tactile feedback. Although there isn’t a “click” like a keyboard might do, the keys can definitely be felt as they press in, and there is a “thunk” sound as the pressing occurs. Obviously there are less keys on this pad since they are numeric instead of QWERTY, so there is plenty of room for larger fingers. The trade-off is that it takes multiple button presses to spell things out; thankfully there is T9 to intuitively aid in getting the right word out.
Flipping the phone over and sliding off the battery cover reveals the battery compartment and the SIM card holder which is directly on top of the microSD slot. My suggestion would be to get the biggest possible memory card and leave it in place. I get nervous just thinking about repeatedly removing the SIM card to get to the microSD. My luck is that I would either drop one or both, or somehow destroy one or both. I think it would be best to put them in place and leave ’em alone. 😛
The battery is only 750mAh, but I could easily get through several days before I had to re-charge.
Making calls is just like using any other phone, you start dialing a number on the pad, and the call will go through. Unlike a “dumb phone” however, choices will pop up as the number is dialed, offering quick choices based on the numbers pressed or the letters that correspond to the letters. For instance, I pressed the 9 key, and this is what popped up – the last dialed numbers that included a “9” or a letter represented by that button, every number that starts with a nine, and every contact that includes a W, X, Y or Z.
I can either keep dialing the number or use the directional pad to scroll to the correct choice. Pressing the center of the D-pad will pull up the info on the number, and then pressing the Call button will dial the number. If the D-pad center is not touched, that step will be eliminated and pressing the Call button will simply call the main number.
Overall, I can’t find anything in the hardware portion that really disappoints me or would make me hesitate to recommend the phone to even my most tech-challenged friend. There is nothing scary in the hardware or the basic interface that would intimidate a Smartphone newbie; anyone could pick this phone up and make a call.
I could stop right here, but this is a Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone! There’s all sorts of software goodies to explore…so let’s take a tour.
This is the Home Screen. It shows the signal type, the battery level, and the signal level. Previously opened files and applications are shown, along with the carrier, time and date. Upcoming appointments, ringer profile and unread text messages are also shown here. Using the D-pad or the soft keys (the “bar” buttons under the screen), the user can navigate to the various files, settings and applications.
Hitting the start button reveals the various available choices…
Let’s take a look at some of the individual applications.
Messaging – allows you to send text messages, MMS and read and reply to Outlook mail.
Using Internet Explorer is not a very satisfying experience, but it is possible to do…
This is what’s inside the Accessories folder…
One of the coolest things about the phone is that it comes pre-installed with Java, so running midlets like the new Gmail mobile is easy right out of the box.
Contacts is a simple alphabetical list; tapping on a contact with the center button of the D-pad will reveal the contacts info.
The Calendar application…
…and the Settings option.
Obviously that software run-through wasn’t meant to give you every possible facet of WM5 Smartphone, but it should be enough to get you comfortable.
Overall the HTC Star Trek is one of the best and easiest to use Smartphones I’ve tried. I really like that it is a phone first, but that offers many PDA capabilities. It seems to be comfortable being exactly what it is – a very smart, very connected phone. Users with a lower experience level will appreciate being able to keep all of their contacts and calendar events synced directly with Outlook; even those that never sync with a computer will like that this phone has a much more robust information management system than a regular mobile. Users with a higher experience level will appreciate the perks that come Qtek’s WM5 Smartphone operating system. The fact is that the Qtek is no more difficult to operate than the typical multimedia phones being sold today, but it has so many more options that I feel it is a superior choice for anyone that wants a phone that does more than dial a basic number.
The HTC Str Trk / Qtek 8500 is available from various resellers including Cingular in the US.
MSRP: $449.99 / significantly less with a contract
What I Like: This is a rock-solid phone first! It is easy to use, yet gives much of the same functionality of a full blown PDA. This is a device I would feel confident giving to a user of any experience level, something that can’t be said for many other “smart phones”.
What Needs Improvement: The placement of the microSD under the SIM card seems hazardous, I wish that the USB connector was still standard size – not the flattened and less standard version.