iMate SP5m = My new favorite phone… almost

Click here to know more about the latest i-mate™ SP5mI’ve been a long-time user of the HTC-developed Audiovox SMT-5600 Windows Mobile Smartphone (a.k.a. Scoblephone in some circles). It’s dependable overall, syncs my mailbox, I can browse the web (to my wife’s chagrin at times) and of course, sync my contacts and music directly to the phone.

But there’s a new kid in town. A follow-up to the SMT-5600, HTC has partnered with iMate to create the iMate SP5m. With a QVGA (320×240) brightly lit screen, faster data service w/ EDGE, built-in WiFi and carrying over Bluetooth support, the phone has to be experienced when turned on. While EDGE isn’t as fast as EV-DO or other true 3G high-speed networks, with T-Mobile, I get an unlimited data plan and can use it in most places as a wireless modem in a pinch.

Then there’s the software- after beta testing Windows Mobile 5.0, I just couldn’t go back to anything else. Simple grid layout of applications, snappy response, and sync improvements top my list of inviting features. I do wish that the WM Player was a bit more updated, but it plays music, and I can set songs as ringtones to really annoy folks at meetings.

Michael Gartenberg recently commented on the iMate’s looks being sub-par when compared to a Motorola Razr. Sure, the Razr looks nice, but just about everyone has one. My wife has one- she likes it, but she’s a different user from me. She likes the style, the Gwen Stefani ringtone that makes me want to strangle a cheerleader every time the phone rings, and doesn’t mind the oddities of the keypad or clearly inferior screen. She’s not interested in email or serious web browsing. She just wants a phone, and that’s what the Razr is.

That’s not to say the iMate is without its own warts. The keypad is ridiculously small. If I forget to lock the keys, the rolling stones start blaring out of my pocket, courtesy of the somewhat trivial playback buttons on the main screen. Someone decided to take 3-4MM off the main keypad to put these buttons in. Big mistake because now I’m fat-fingering the display if my fingernails are trimmed too short to use to select and tap a button. A big frustration IMO, but manageable over time. Battery life is good, provided you keep WiFi turned off most of the time (which I do- there just aren’t any compelling services for it yet).

Gartenberg may give the Razr his cellphone of the year award, but I think it’s time to split his categories. Michael does acknowledge, “If you’re looking for a candy bar phone, with all the features of the Smartphone platform, this is the device for you. It just isn’t much to look at.”

And there I agree. The device has heft, but lacks the tactile/emotional response of the Razr. Texture and materials matter, even if it raises your BOM cost. Some understand this (in Cupertino among other places).

Next up: Using Cingular’s EDGE service integrated w/ a Sony Laptop- a trip around the NJ coast & Manhattan.

One response to “iMate SP5m = My new favorite phone… almost”

  1. I’m agree with you.