i-mate K-Jam Windows Mobile PDA/phone
Review Much as I like i-mate's Jasjar - aka HTC's Universal - its size makes it less practical for me as a phone rather than a PDA. I'm clearly not the only one who favours a smart-phone device that operates like a PDA but is small enough to hold up to my ear and use like any other handset.
HTC's Magician, released earlier this year in a variety of guises but reviewed here in its Orange SPV M500 form was just such a unit. Unlike the Universal and some of HTC's other, larger devices, the M500 doesn't have a keyboard, vital these days for mobile email.
Well, now it does. HTC's Wizard - offered again by a number of companies, including i-mate, which calls it the K-Jam - is a tablet-style PDA in a phone form-factor, just like the M500. Like the Jasjar, however, it also has a QWERTY keyboard.
Size-wise the K-Jam is barely bigger than my Nokia 6600. It's more curvy than the M500, with fewer straight lines, and so feels a little more comfortable to use handset-fashion. It's 10.8 x 5.8 x 1.8cm and weighs a reasonable 160g. The stand-out feature is the crisp, bright 240 x 320, 2.8in 65,536-colour display, which is eminently readable. Above it are a pair of buttons - albeit moulded from a single piece of plastic - to launch Windows Mobile 5.0's Messaging and Internet Explorer apps. Below the screen is a similar two-way button for the on-screen soft menus. Underneath sits the obligatory five-way navigator control between, respectively, green- and red-illuminated call make and break buttons.
On the left-hand side of the handset you'll find voice-dial and camera activation buttons, the K-Jam's infrared port and a tiny reset switch. The base mounts the mini USB 2.0 sync/recharge port and an earphone socket - albeit a 2.5mm job, so you won't be able to plug in a standard set of phones. The right-hand side panel has a volume control rocker switch and a button that brings up the handset's wireless manger utility. On the top sit the power key and a MiniSD slot. On the back is the 1.3 megapixel digicam with a night-light.
Tucked down one side Is the stylus bay from which slides a 5cm scribbling tool which extends telescopically to 8cm. The lower portion of the phone's back is the battery cover, released by a catch on the handset's base and much easier to remove than the Jasjar equivalent. Inside sits the SIM slot and the 1250mAh rechargeable battery.
Turn the K-Jam 90° anti-clockwise and push down at back and the unit splits in two to reveal the keyboard. It's more like the keyboards you used to see on palmtop computers than a Blackberry keyboard. Unlike the Jasjar's pad, the buttons are clearly separate, making them easier to locate. The downside is they're barely raised above the surface of the surrounding plastic, so they could be easier to hit. With the keyboard down, the K-Jam is perfectly laid out for two-thumb typing, but doing so isn't as easy as it should be, thanks to the flat keys.
And oddly, the soft-menu buttons have been laid out to be symmetrical with the keys, not to to appear beneath the on-screen menus, so I just found myself tapping the screen with my finger to make menu selections.
The K-Jam's slider system feels much more robust than the Jasjar's flip-and-twist screen pivot, so it's less damage-prone. Again, revealing the keyboard automatically reformats the screen to landscape mode, sometimes quickly, often not. The phone has a 200MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 850 processor.
While the Jasjar offers 3G and 2.5G mobile phone connectivity, the K-Jam is 2.5G only, offering GPRS with EDGE for faster data, and quad-band (850/900/1800/1900MHz) GSM support for round-the-world usage. That's fine for email, less good for browsing, but there's 802.11b/g wireless for hotspot and home/office WLAN Internet access. I had no trouble connecting to my WPA-protected 802.11g home network. IE isn't the best mobile browser out there, but it works.
Interestingly, i-mate is promising to release soon a ROM update that will add support for the 802.11e quality of service and 802.11i (aka WPA 2) security standards.
The K-Jam has Bluetooth 1.2 on board to host wireless headset connections. There's an ample 64MB of RAM on board, backed by 128MB of Flash for the OS and non-volatile data storage.
The aforementioned Wireless Manager utility is handy for turning Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off, particularly the WLAN radio, which is inevitably something of a battery hog. I got more than a couple of days' usage out of a single battery charge, with Bluetooth on and occasional Wi-Fi operation. That's above par for most smart-phones I've used, and certainly better than my less-functional, slower Nokia 6600. i-mate quotes ranges of 3.5-5 hours' talk time and 150-200 hours on standby for the handset's battery performance.
The K-Jam retails for around £450, but the company's UK supplier, Expansys, is also offering it for £18, if you buy it with a £30-a-month Vodafone connection package - the airtime will cost £540 alone, so an outright purchase is better value, particularly if you already have a SIM. The K-Jam is unlocked, so will work with any network's SIM card.
Like the Orange M500, the K-Jam wins on size - it really does feel like you're holding a phone, yet you get a classic PDA user-experience. But the newer model squeezes in Wi-Fi and an email-friendly keyboard, so it's a much better mobile data proposition. Windows Mobile 5.0 is better able to be operated without recourse to the stylus, especially with the keyboard activated, so that's an advantage too.
When I tried the M500, aka the i-mate Jam, I said it was "the best keyboard-free PocketPC phone available". That's still true, but the K-Jam is nonetheless a better device and, for me, the best keyboard-equipped PocketPC phone. ®
|Pros||Compact; keyboard-equipped; Wi-Fi enabled.|
|Cons||Expensive; 2.5G not 3G.|
|Price||£450 (handset only); £18 (with £30-a-month, 18-month Vodafone airtime package)|
|More info||The i-mate K-Jam site
The Expansys K-Jam site