i-mate Jam £400
28th Mar 2005 | 23:00
A Pocket PC in more than just name
The problem with Pocket PC smartphones is typically one of bulkiness. Take O2's enduring XDA II, for example. While this fully-fledged communicator combines the easy touch 'n' click power of a PDA with the GSM/GPRS connectivity of a mobile phone, this fat-cased superdevice sits as invisibly in your back pocket as a king-size Twix does. A better idea would be a gadget that boasts the same all-round PDA/ phone functionality, but which is also significantly smaller and lighter. The i-mate Jam might just fit the bill.
We hesitate to call the Jam 'the ultimate Pocket PC phone', but it comes agonizingly close. At first glance, it doesn't appear to have the specs to make that sort of impact. It's limited to only 64MB of memory and only half this amount is available for user storage. Modern Pocket PCs tend to supplement this shared memory with non volatile flash disks - the Dell Axim X50, for example, adds 91MB of extra space this way. But the Jam only features an additional 8MB of RAM. Make sure that you store your vital contacts info here because, should the battery die on you, everything stored in the main memory gets wiped without warning.
But the Jam's small size and extra functionality are ample compensation. The 2.8 inch colour LCD retains a decent 240 x 320 resolution and the screen can be flipped between portrait and landscape modes at the touch of a button. Running Windows Mobile 2003 SE software, the Jam comes packed with all the software you expect to find on a Pocket PC - Pocket Word and Excel, Windows Media Player 10 and MSN Messenger. It also boasts a 1.3 Megapixel camera, which can take still photos (BMPs or JPEGs) in resolutions up to 960 x 1,280 pixels, and capture video (MPEG- 4 or Motion-JPEG AVIs) in 240 x 320.
Like most connected Pocket PCs, the Jam also features a voice recorder mode, a speakerphone option and Bluetooth for shortrange networking. It's a shame that there's no Wi-Fi option as standard - this would have made the Jam VoIP-ready right out of the box. But even this isn't a huge problem, as the SDIO/MMC expansion slot can accommodate a third-party wireless card. Of course, should you choose to add 802.11b, you won't be able to bulk up the stingy storage capacity. But there are bound to be some compromises when a device is this small.
Not only is the Jam taking on other Pocket PC mobiles, it's up against more established handsets like Sony Ericsson's P910i and Orange's SPV. While setting up the GPRS connection is fiddly if you've bought the phone without a contract, the Jam has the potential to be a powerful all-rounder. Its brushed silver good looks only add to the allure, and a battery life that can give you in excess of five hours of intensive Pocket PC use and a day and a half of standby time/three hours talk time is ideal. With only a single mini-USB connection on the bottom edge - used for charging and PC docking - it's a compact versatile handheld.
Weighing only 160g, the Jam takes the concept of a Pocket PC phone and emphasises the 'pocket' part. There are more powerful PDAs, and there are smaller mobile phones. But the Jam is the best fusion of the two.