Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

June 2, 2008 • Reviews

The i-mate Ultimate 8502 Unboxed and Discussed

This is one i-mate model which I think a lot of people have been eager to explore, the Ultimate 8502 which features a full QWERTY thumbboard on its lower half. Those who prefer the Treo or BlackJack form factor will appreciate the 8502’s candy bar style as well as the fact that using the keyboard does not require rotating the device 90? to the left and then sliding it open. In other words, this is the type device people who text and drive generally prefer; not that I would ever do such a thing…

All pictures are thumbnails, you can click on them to enlarge; a gallery with even more photos is at the end.

Let’s jump right in and unbox this little guy…

Besides its integrated thumbboard, the 8502 has a 2.6? QVGA (320 x 240) touch screen, 400 MHz Qualcomm® MSM 7200™ Processor, 256 MB ROM, 128 MB RAM, WiFi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth, 2.0 megapixel camera with fixed focus, an LED compensation light, and it has a 2.5mm audio jack. It also has integrated Qualcomm GPS with an internal antenna.

Under the tray framing the 8502 are all of the other included goodies…

…the USB sync cable, a leather belt case, the AC adapter with three international power tips, a direct video out cable, a stereo headset, a battery, the user manual, a quick start guide, and a getting started CD.

The 8502 measures exactly 4.57″ long x 2.21″ wide x 0.59″ thick, and it weighs 4.8 ounces. The matte black case appears to be composed of aluminum, and it has a satisfyingly solid feel. Torquing or squeezing the device does not produce any unwelcome creaking. At the top of the phone is the ear speaker, on its right side is an LED which will glow green, amber or red to display the status of the phone’s radios or battery. Oddly enough, this is the only Ultimate which does not include a front facing video camera; granted, this is not a feature which we can even use in the US, but I understand that those in Europe and Asia would miss it. The 2.6″ (measured diagonally) screen is vibrant and beautiful, but I couldn’t help but wish it was VGA like the Ultimate 6150 I unboxed the other day. If it had been…I get tingles just thinking about how awesome it would have been. 😉

Below the screen is a toggle bar which controls the left and right soft keys. Under that is a panel which includes the Send button, the Windows Start Menu button, the OK button, the off center joystick nub (its location makes for easier navigation with the left hand), and the End button. Directly below is the QWERTY thumbboard, which so far has got to be the absolute best I have ever used. Seriously, zero learning curve, hardly any errors when using it whatsoever. I’ll discuss it a bit more further into this review.

Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.0 – Once again, I am disappointed that it isn’t 6.1
Processor: 400 MHz Qualcomm® MSM 7200™ Processor
Memory: 256 ROM/128 RAM
Battery: 1530mAh Lithium Ion
Wireless: GSM Unlocked Quad-band Phone 850/900/1800/1900; 3G 850/1900/2100; Bluetooth 2.0 (A2DP); Wifi 802.11b/g/e/i; FM Stereo Radio, Qualcomm GPS with an internal antenna
Expansion: Micro SD; Combo port for USB, TV + Audio output, charging; VGA Out; 2.5mm earphone jack with stereo sound
Camera: 2.0 MP Video/Camera with LED compensation light (on back)

On the left side of the 8502 there is a scroll wheel with push-select action and an OK button.

On the bottom are the 2.5mm earphone jack, the microphone, and the miniUSB port.

On the right side there is a camera & video button, a voice recorder & voice dial button, and a Volume±/ Zoom In/ Zoom Out toggle.

On the top, there is a stylus silo and Power/ standby button.

The stock stylus is easily the best that I can remember seeing in years. It is a telescoping jobby, but it starts off as a fairly decent 3.38″ long x 0.16″ diameter…

…when extended it measures 4.14″ long. Also setting it apart from others seen is the addition of the metal rim around the black plastic stylus head; it gives the stylus the illusion of having a bit of inset obsidian, and it’s an unexpected elegant touch.

Let’s jump back to the keyboard for just a moment before we go to the back of the device. As I mentioned before, I am extremely pleased with it and have found it to be the best I’ve ever used. The way that the keys are angled and spaced allows my fingers to nimbly seek out and select each letter or symbol as needed.

I have made so few errors while keying with this thumbboard that I keep grabbing it to shoot off a quick SMS to retest myself. The keys push in just enough, and there is a light popping sound made as they smartly press in and out. Okay, maybe this fab keyboard is enough to make me forgive the 8502 for not having a VGA screen; I’m debating my position on that at the moment. I mean, weren’t we originally promised that all Ultimate devices would have VGA? It appears that this is the only one which doesn’t come with it, and just to add insult to injury the 8150 has a 2.6″ VGA screen – how hard would it have really been to put that same screen into the 8502? Grrr.

Flipping the 8502 over, there is a tight cluster of ports and features exposed: starting at the bottom left, there is an LED “compensation light” (flash), the 2mp camera lens, an external speaker, and two rubber stoppered ports which I suspect might be the external GPS (larger plug) and an external Wi-Fi (smaller plug) antenna ports. The battery compartment cover is a slight disappointment because it does not employ a latch; instead it uses friction and slots to slide in and out of position.

When the battery cover is removed, the SIM slot is exposed; on the far left is a microSD slot built into the side which is only exposed when the cover is removed.

The battery is a generous enough 1530mAh, but there is a typo in the quick start manual stating that it is 1660mAh…


Once again, here are some shots showing the Ultimate 8502 next to its sibling, the Ultimate 6150.

Also included in the package is a leather belt case…

…which can accommodate up to a 1″ wide belt.

I’ll be putting both the 6150 and the 8205 through their paces over the next month. So far I am most disappointed that the 8205 dropped the VGA ball, but the built-in GPS and the fabulous thumbboard may make up for it. Something that is starting to concern me is that the Ultimates seem to each have really fabulous parts, but to get the perfect device they didn’t put them together in the correct combination – at least for me. You see, already I’ve noticed that the 8502 is lacking the VGA screen and the front facing video camera found in every other model, whereas the 6150 was a bit fat to have no keyboard which may be due to its VGA screen. I wouldn’t have minded if the 8502 had been a few mm thicker if it would have meant it got VGA. Ah well; I’ll quit moaning about what can’t be changed or helped. 😛

The i-mate Ultimate 8502 is available from the manufacturer and other retailers.

MSRP: $699.99
What I Like So Far: Solid and substantial case; LED flash; generous battery size; scroll wheel and joystick; joystick is ergonomically placed for righties; best thumbboard I have ever used; built in GPS
What Is Causing Me Concern: No front-facing video camera for HSDPA users; only 400MHz processor; ships with WM 6.0, I think it should be 6.1; joystick will be awkward for lefties; why no VGA love? 🙁

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10 Responses to " The i-mate Ultimate 8502 Unboxed and Discussed "

  1. Mitchell Oke says:

    VGA is no excuse for fatness, the Diamond is going to have VGA and it’s only 1cm thick!!

    Tis a disappointment that this model didn’t get VGA. It’s not like it’s looks can redeem it…

  2. kevinnugent says:

    “Something that is starting to concern me is that the Ultimates seem to each have really fabulous parts, but to get the perfect device they didn’t put them together in the correct combination – at least for me.”

    Ummm… Judie… you have stumbled across the very reason why companies like i-mate exist!! If they gave us what we want, there would be no further use for them.

    Oh, and the 8502? Yaaawwwnnn…… 🙂


  3. TrvlngDrew says:

    Interesting about the VGA.. Guess we can’t have it all.. But I’m still concerned as can it be the only device we carry? I still wonder if that will ever happen.. Why is it that we have to carry one device that is a phone and we can use whilst driving and then we have something so complicated but can do it all.. Hmmm….

  4. Tariq Bamadhaj says:

    Nice writeup Judie.

    Actually I for one am glad that there is no VGA in this model. Don’t get me wrong, I love a VGA device but experience has taught me that you’ve got to sacrifice speed and performance for it. Only the Dell Axim series with it’s dedicated graphics chip was snappy as would be expected. All other VGA devices that I have used in the long run were sloppy after a while even though they were snappy at the beginning.

    That being said, with the new line up of chips that were announced earlier this year, that compromise might soon be a thing of the past. But until then, I would be pretty happy with the 8502.

    On a side note, you say that typing is great but how is it for one handed use? Is it comfortable to type a message with just one hand because the lowest row of keys seems too close to the edge.

  5. This is one device that I was REALLY interested to see some press on. I’m glad that GD (and you!) got one to play with. I am also disappointed that there’s no VGA screen on this puppy. However, the only place I would have made use of it was when using the GPS receiver and iNav’s iGuidance (my current GPS app of choice).

    I think its also too bad that the screen orientation didn’t default to landscape as opposed to portrait. The MotoQ, BlackJack and BlackJack II really cemented that default screen orientation with the 8502’s form factor; but honestly, its not a deal breaker for me.

    The lack of VGA for me, won’t kill me either; but like you, I also thought that all of the Ultimates were going to have VGA screens (one of the reasons why they were called, “Ultimate.”

    I’m looking forward to your full review!!

  6. ssschmidt says:

    Excellent Post!. Truly looking forward to the next installment.

  7. “VGA is no excuse for fatness, the Diamond is going to have VGA and it’s only 1cm thick!!”

    @Mitchell – I was looking for reasons, trying to be helpful. 😉

    “On a side note, you say that typing is great but how is it for one handed use? Is it comfortable to type a message with just one hand because the lowest row of keys seems too close to the edge.”

    @Tariq – I’ll post pictures of me holding the 8502 one handed and hitting the lower row in the next portion of the review. It’s not at all difficult to rest the lower edge of the phone in the crook of my pinkie, and then tap away on the bottom edge.

  8. Christopher Gavula says:

    I find myself disappointed by yet another WM device that’s overpriced and underpowered. At this price point I really expect VGA or at least a faster processor. Definitely not any kind of “Ultimate” for me – just more of the same…

  9. Mitchell Oke says:

    I agree with you Chris, it just feels like more of the same. I can’t see why you would buy this over say a Samsung SGH-i780 which is much better looking and has a 320×320 display. Surely VGA wasn’t too much to ask on a device clearly aimed at the corporate market who might want to read documents as they were originally formatted, or edit them with the keyboard.

    I think imate losing HTC was the worst thing they ever did, I mean pretty much everything they released after that wasn’t anything great.

  10. […] at the end of June kept me from posting my follow-up user experience with both the i-mate Ultimate 8502 and Ultimate 6150; now that things have calmed down it is past time to write about a subject which, […]

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