Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:54:35 PM
Tidy design and good keyboard.
Poor optical controller.
For anyone who has been following Windows Mobile over the years, Hewlett Packard needs no introduction. The manufacturer has come up with many devices, some laudable, some less so. But its first foray into Windows Mobile smartphones was the predecessor to this current handset, the iPAQ Data Messenger.
With the second generation non-touch-screen iPAQ Voice Messenger, Hewlett Packard comes close to greatness, but there is one serious flaw that does a lot of damage.
Hewlett Packard’s latest attempt to come up with a Windows Mobile candybar style smartphone that is good for data communications, arguably imitates the top manufacturer in this respect, RIM. The iPAQ Voice Messenger has a keyboard that comprises of four rows of five keys. Many of these keys offer two QWERTY characters per key, a system reminiscent of the BlackBerry Pearl. There is also a predictive text entry system to help with speedy data input.
There are a couple of great hardware features on the iPAQ Voice Messenger. Sitting on the top of the phone is a slider button that turns the ringer on and off. This addition is much more useful than having to keep changing the profile, so it might actually get used when it should.
There is also a key lock on the left side of the casing, which we found useful. Digging a bit deeper, we came across a handy feature; you can reply to an email with a voice note. This is really easy to do – a lot
easier than tapping out a response, actually – and we’ve seen it before from Hewlett Packard. Nice.
We mentioned that ‘one serious flaw does a lot of damage’, and there is one with the iPAQ Voice Messenger. Every smartphone needs a D-pad of some sort. In a non-touch-screen handset like this one, it is a vital component and it has to be well designed and user friendly.
In this case, the manufacturer has chosen a touch based controller. Slightly concave and with a press-to-select feature, the idea is that you pass a finger or your thumb pad over the controller to move around.
It sounds simple in principle, but we found it very difficult to get to grips with in practice. It just wasn’t responsive enough, and was therefore unreliable. Without a touch-screen you have to rely on it, and the fact that it is not well implemented is a deal breaker for us.
The Opera browser makes viewing webpages on the iPAQ Voice Messenger as pleasurable as it can be on the relatively small screen, and HSDPA connectivity helps speed things along nicely. It is a pity there is no front camera for two-way video calls, though. There’s Wi-Fi and a GPS antenna too, so you could add some third-party software for point to point sat nav.
Hewlett Packard has produced a great device with the iPAQ Voice Messenger; however, it is a shame that the handset is let down by a poor D-pad. As this is so unreliable, using the phone becomes a case of
trial and error rather than smooth as silk.