i-mate Smartflip

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i-mate Smartflip
  • i-mate Smartflip
  • i-mate Smartflip
  • i-mate Smartflip

Pros

  • Size, Speed, Interface and Controls, Display

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi, Location of SD Card Slot, Proprietary charger/USB connector, Large keypad

Bottom Line

Compact, yet elegant and stylish, it's hard to believe the Smartflip is a fully fledged smart phone running Windows Mobile 5. An excellent unit that's only let down by the lack of native Wi-Fi.

Would you buy this?

The i-Mate Smartflip is a revolutionary new entry into the smart phone market, offering a never before seen compact and lightweight clamshell design running the new Windows Mobile 5 OS. The Smartflip includes a a 1.3 megapixel digital camera, Bluetooth connectivity and excellent external and internal displays.

The Smartflip has bucked the trend of the larger bulky smart phone. Measuring just 98.5 x 51.4 x 15.8mm and weighing a mere 99 grams, it looks distinctively similar to the Motorola RAZR V3, with thin lines and sleek curves. The unit is finished in a grooved black plastic on the front and battery cover, with a plain matt black finish extending over to the sides and bottom rear.

Despite being so thin, i-Mate still manages to squeeze a number of buttons onto the Smartflips exterior including dedicated MP3 player controls on the front, a camera button on the right and voice tags and volume control keys on the left. There's also a single USB and charging connector on the right hand side, but this isn't a standard mini-USB port. This means you'll always have to use the included proprietary cables.

The Smartflips exterior also includes a handy external screen that is capable of displaying caller ID information. The screen includes battery life, reception, missed calls, new messages and alerts. It also shows time, date and wallpaper - all of which can be altered and changed via the settings menu.

The Smartflip opens to reveal an impressive, bright and clear display. The 2.2-inch TFT LCD is smaller than many other smart phones, but this is required because of the size of the unit. It has a very good viewing angle and is clearly visible in sunlight. Beneath this is a keypad similar to the Motorola RAZR V3 with large flat buttons complemented by stylish silver imprints. Although the buttons require a firm press to activate, the keypad is far more intuitive to use than the RAZR V3. Our only complaint is with the size of the keys - they are fairly large and this makes your thumb a little sore when moving from key to key. Those with large fingers will definitely welcome this design though. The controls on the Smartflip are standard, with a 5-way navigational pad, two selection keys, answer and end call buttons and dedicated keys for home and back.

Features and Performance

We didn't know what to expect from the Smartflip interface, as Windows Mobile smart phones are usually operated via a stylus and touch screen and/or on-board keyboard. The Smartflip has neither of these, but i-Mate deserves a lot of credit for the easy operation of this unit. Menus are concise and simple, with the two selection buttons and navigational pad making life extremely simple and easy - we didn't feel the need for a stylus at any stage. On the home screen, the left selection button is the Windows Start button, and the right accesses Contacts. The functions of these keys change from application to application, making ease of use a definite advantage.

Where the Smartflip also excels is speed - this is the fastest Windows Mobile device we've ever reviewed. Its OMAP 850 195MHz processor works well and applications load very fast. Switching between running programs is effortless and besides startup there's not much lag to report - the camera in particular starts almost the moment you open it.

The Smartflip is fitted with 64MB RAM and 64MB ROM, of which 44MB is available for storing your data. This is fairly standard, although perhaps 128MB of RAM would have been a better option. Thankfully the Smartflips memory can be expanded thanks to a microSD (formerly Transflash) slot. The most disappointing aspect of this is its location underneath the battery - this means you'll have to turn off the phone, slide off the back cover and remove the battery just to access it the card slot.

The Smartflip includes a 1.3 megapixel camera, but most smart phones are currently shipping with 2.0 megapixel or greater cameras. The camera does have a number of features, including grayscale, sepia and cool effects, a 2 and 10 second self-timer, 2x digital zoom and the ability to adjust white balance settings, but it is missing perhaps the most vital of all - a flash. The quality of pictures isn't impressive with poor colour reproduction and image noise. The Smartflip also enables you to capture short (MMS) or long videos but the quality again isn't anything to write home about.

The biggest failing of the Smartflip is undoubtedly the lack of native Wi-Fi support. It includes GPRS and Bluetooth as connectivity options - infrared is also absent. We were also disappointed to learn that it isn't a 3G phone - only supporting the 2.5G network. Other features include a loud and clear hands free speakerphone, polyphonic MIDI ring tones, Java support, a microphone for voice dialing tags and MP3 player capabilities. Of course, the Smartflip includes the range of applications that come with Windows Mobile 5, including Pocket Outlook, Calendar, Contacts, Internet Explorer Mobile Windows Media Player, ActiveSync, Pocket MSN, Calculator and Games.

The Smartflip has an average battery life with up to five hours of talk time and 150 hours of standby time according to i-Mate figures. These are a little disappointing considering the phone isn't 3G. We found ourselves having to charge the phone every two nights or so, which is quite normal.

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