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i-mate Jasjar PocketPC phone

Wireless wonder?

The Jasjar is the first Windows Mobile device I've used you can operate without recourse to the stylus. The Tab and arrow keys take you to any on-screen UI component, selecting it ready for activation using the Enter key. In tablet mode, you'll still need the stylus, but I found myself using that mode less and less. The only thing you can't do directly from the keyboard is activate the scroll bars and with the screen in landscape mode that's something you'll need to do.

i-mate Jasjar

That said, the keyboard itself is perhaps one of the Jasjar's weakest features. To make the keys as large as possible, there's no gap between them, and while each is gently convex, I still found it too easy to press the wrong one. The feel is good, and typing with two thumbs while holding the device in both hands made short work of text messages and emails. But touch-typing is out of the question, and typing with both index fingers little better. I'd have preferred slightly smaller but clearly separated keys. Still, it's way better than the calculator-style keys we used to get on palmtops.

The symbols, entered by pressing the FN key and then one of the alphanumeric buttons, are printed on the keyboard in red, on top of dark grey. If the light conditions are low enough, the keyboard backlight kicks in when a button is pressed, and that's a big improvement.

The Jasjar's 1620mAh battery sits behind a plate on the base of the unit, underneath the main digicam. The SIM goes underneath the battery. I was impressed with the unit's battery life. With Bluetooth on most of the time and Wi-Fi a fair bit too, both being used while activated, and with plenty of calls being made over the cellular network, I got well above two days' usage out of a single charge, more than most smart phones provide. There's a caveat: I didn't use 3G. I'll be considering the effect of 3G when I look at the network-branded versions of the Universal.

And now we come to the real problem: the price. The Jasjar is not cheap. UK supplier Expansys, which kindly provided the review unit, wants £690 for it. That's reasonable given the engineering that's gone into the Jasjar, but it's nonetheless a significant outlay. Buying it with an airtime package may help, but you'll be signing up to a hefty monthly payment if you want to reduce the up-front cost significantly, and it may be more cost-effective to stump up the asking price. You can get the Jasjar for £177, but you'll pay at least £600 for the next 18 months in monthly airtime fees.

Less of a problem than the price is the Jasjar's weight. It's 285g, making it one of the more chunky PocketPC handsets out there. It certainly feels a lot heavier than i-mate's PDA 2K, aka the Orange M2000 or the XDA IIs.

Verdict

There's no doubt: the Jasjar - and, for that matter, other versions of HTC's Universal - is a stunning mobile data tool. I'm concerned about the long-term durability of the screen hinge, but there's little else to fault but the understandably high price. It's connectivity is second to none. Even if, like me, you don't use its 3G capability, it works perfectly well in GPRS mode, and I was happy to wait until I was in range of a Wi-Fi network to use the high-bandwith apps. The keyboard makes entering information, web addresses, text messages, emails and instant messaging comments a doddle. There's the classic problem that the device is too large to make a good phone, but the improved Bluetooth support renders that issue negligible. ®

 

i-mate Jasjar
 
Rating 80%
 
Pros Windows Mobile 5.0; good keyboard; fine screen; excellent wireless support.
 
Cons Expensive; it's a weighty device; careful with that screen hinge.
 
Price £690 without airtime; from £117 with Vodafone airtime
 
More info The i-mate Jasjar site
The Expansys Jasjar site

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