i-mate JAQ3 is WM6 Ready

Having only seen pictures of the i-mate JAQ3, it appeared to resemble the Samsung BlackJack and the Motorola Q with its QWERTY keyboard beneath a small horizontal screen. When I took it out of the box, I found that it was larger than a BlackJack but smaller than a Q. I expected it to be another Smartphone designed to compete with the Black Jack and the Q, but to my surprise, when I touched the screen it responded. And, you know what that means—it’s a Pocket PC phone edition.

Now the JAQ3 had earned my attention. When I discovered that it also had built-in Wi-Fi, unlike the BJ and Q, I was an instant convert. Couple that with a 2.0 MPX, 4X digital zoom camera and stereo Bluetooth, and you have a real winner.

But those were not the only features that reached out and grabbed me. I realized how much I missed a scroll wheel and action button, which seems to be coming back. I remember my first Pocket PC, an HP Jornada, and how much I appreciated using it to navigate Websites and eBooks. I wonder if the Blackberry has prompted the return of the thumbwheel. The mini-USB connector earned my approval along with the nice spacing and feel of the keys. The black, rubberized case, which seems to be the rage wins my approval too because it feels good and makes for a secure grip.

Let’s take a peek under the hood where we find a ho-hum 200 MHz processor, which is a disappointment, and its lack of hunk can be apparent at times. The 128 MB ROM and 64MB RAM configuration is pretty standard nowadays, but one could wish for more. I am grateful for the inclusion of 802.11b/g technology to accommodate high connection speeds when available. While the Bluetooth technology is stereo capable, it is 1.2 instead of 2.0.

This GSM, Windows Mobile 5 phone is a Quad band device supporting 850/900/1800/1900 with GPRS and EDGE connectivity. Obviously, it does not support any of the faster wireless networks such as EV-DO.
Under the JAQ3 battery cover lives a 1250mAh removable, rechargeable Li-ion battery supposedly capable of up to four hours talk time and 150 hours standby. The JAQ4 has a 1660mAh battery that supports 5 hours of talk time and 200 hours standby. There is also a SIMM card slot under the battery cover along with a most inconvenient and not always responsive reset button. I really appreciate the optimism of manufacturers who place the reset button under the battery cover. But, I think they need to get a grip on the reality of how often it is necessary to reset a device after software installation and freeze-ups.

While the 2.4 inch 65k color transflective 320x240 JAQ3 screen may seem small, it is significantly larger that the BlackJack and will display more information than a Palm Treo 750 because of the higher resolution. The picture is sharp and clear, but the images are small and may be a problem for the visually challenged.

On a tour around the outside of the device, you will find the silo for a telescoping stylus on the bottom left corner. On the right side you will find the power switch, a mini-USB connector and a 2.5 audio jack. I wish it had the more common 3.5 audio jack that connects to more accessories without an adapter. On the top resides a covered hatch hiding a micro-SD slot. Also on the top we have the infrared port, which I like better than on the side—not that I do a lot of beaming. I wish there were more in vogue because it is a great feature that I do not notice many people using.

There are three items of interest on the left side of the JAQ3: a scroll wheel/action button, a second OK button, and a camera button. The JAQ4 adds a GPS button.

On the back, above the battery cover, you will see the lens for the 2.0 MPX camera and just below that the speaker.

The JAQ3 comes loaded with Windows Mobile software and some i-mate add-ons: Windows Outlook Mobile (Calendar, Contacts, Messaging, Tasks), Windows Push Mail (when used in conjunction with Exchange Server 2003, SP3), Internet Explorer Mobile, Windows Media Player 210 Mobile, Picture Video View, Active Sync Client, Windows Live Messenger, Calculator, Voice Notes, File Explorer, MMS Client, MMS 1.2 support, Blacklist application, Java virtual machine, i-mate Suite 30 day trail, CA eTrust Antivirus, SIMI Manager, ClearVue PDF viewer, and three i-mate games.

i-mate Suite for Window Mobile Command and control enterprise solutions consists of 1-View for accessing any file on any PC, anytime, anywhere. It allows you to determine which files you wish to share with other users for greater productivity and security. Backup enables users to backup mobile data to office, home, or laptop PCs while on the road and to restore those files to other Windows Mobile devices. The Control application allows remote assistance and control of remote Mobile devices. With Control, data can be erased from lost or stolen Mobile devices for security purposes. These collective features are available on a subscription basis for $9.99 a month or $100 per year. I hope there is a discount for large companies with many devices, otherwise this is a very expensive solution.

Support is an important consideration when making an investment in a Pocket PC, especially one with a high price tag such as the JAQ3. When i-mates first became available in the United States a year or so ago, customer and technical support was almost non-existent. I-mate is certainly aware of this issue, and is building a support center in Redmond, WA near the Microsoft campus. However, at this time, even though there is supposed to be online 24/7 support, I have had very little luck with it. There is still no phone number to call. I hope these issues will be resolved soon.

Conclusion

The JAQ3 may appear to be a cousin to the BlackJack and Motorola Q, but it blows them both away in terms of its robust functionality. Besides, it’s a Pocket PC phone edition, not just a Smartphone. Another important consideration is that it is upgradeable to Windows Mobile 6. Buying a WM5 device on the eve of the release of WM6 may be a mistake if it is not upgradable.

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