Posted March 25, 2004 by Howard
Paw, updated June 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief Discontinued: XDA III has replaced
the XDA II.In the US, these are sold as the Siemens
SX66 (GSM) and Audiovox PPC-6601 (CDMA).
Note: The XDA II was designed by HTC, the
same folks who designed the 3000 and 5000 series iPAQs as well
as the original XDA. It's sold under several brand names, including
the XDA II, iMate, Qtek 2020 and MDA II.
Smartphones, whatever form factor they may be,
has been steadily garnering market share worldwide, and many analysts
have predicted that the days of the standalone PDA are numbered
as convergence devices take over. HTC might make that day become
a reality sooner than we think with the release of the XDA II.
The XDA II is the much awaited follow up device
to the immensely popular original XDA, known as the T-Mobile
Pocket PC Phone Edition in the US and as the XDA overseas.
It was adored by many due to its sleek design and native Windows
PC file interchangeability, but scorned by critics mainly for its
apparent poor phone-pda software integration, non-transflective
display and lack of connectivity options (no Bluetooth and no SDIO
slot to be exact). The XDA II addresses those shortcomings, and
is a full featured, Bluetooth enabled, Triband phone with an integrated
VGA camera. But is the XDA II as perfect as O2 and HTC want us
to believe? Lisa Gade, our Editor in Chief thinks the answer is
"yes" since she fell in love with this phone and purchased one
Design and Ergonomics
If you're one of the many people who liked the
design and form factor of the XDA, chances are you will go gaga
over the XDA II since both units share a similar design, with the
XDA II offering a few slight improvements. Gone is the protruding
antenna and instead of being all silver, the XDA II now is silver
on the front, with black accentuating the overall look. The SD
slot is now located at the top with the power button, IR port and
stylus silo flanking its sides. The upper left side of the unit
has the voice recorder button, slider volume control and camera
snapshot button. The hardware button locations are unchanged from
the XDA, with the 5-way d-pad and call send and end buttons located
below the display and the Calendar and Contact buttons above the
display. HTC has made a conservative decision and retained the
design that made the original XDA a hit, and If it ain't broke
don't fix it, right?
Comparing the size of the XDA II
to the Samsung i700 Pocket PC phone
One caveat is that the XDA II
feels a slight bit cheaper compared to its older brother. I don't know
if it's the plastic that they used, but the XDA II just feels a little
less sturdy than the XDA. I also wish that they had moved the headphone
jack to the top of the unit instead of putting it at the bottom of
Expandability, Horsepower and Battery life
By utilizing an XScale 400 MHz processor the XDA II
has the capacity to perform fast computing tasks, and is on par with
top of the line Palm and Pocket PC devices. Unlike other Pocket PC phones,
it makes no hardware concessions. Large contact and photo databases can
be opened in an instant, movie files can be played with scarcely a hit
on the CPU's overall speed, and games can be thoroughly enjoyed with
no fear of slow downs. In the age where 64MB of built-in RAM is of the
norm, the XDA II carries the distinction of being one of the few Pocket
PCs that comes with a hefty 128MB of RAM and an extra 14MB of flash ROM
storage. An SDIO slot is included so you can add extra storage memory
with MMC/SD cards or add functionality by using SDIO networking cards
such as the WiFi SD cards from Sandisk and Socket.
It should be noted that you can buy an optional accessory “backpack” which
attaches to the back of the unit. This “backpack” adds a
CF type II slot, VGA output port and an extended battery to the device,
although this would make the XDA II substantially thicker and heavier.
From a technical standpoint, the XDA II seems to have
almost everything: power, memory and expandability, but with all of this,
something has got to give right? Sadly, HTC did skimp on something when
making the XDA II, and that something is the oh so important battery
life. The XDA II comes with a 1,200 mAh Lithium Polymer battery, a battery
that size may seem to be enough for a regular PDA, but not one that does
dual-duty as a phone. In my normal use that includes using SMS, making
calls, accessing the calendar and contacts list, playing games and some
light reading, the XDA II would only last a day, and I hadn't even turned
on the Bluetooth radio yet. Be prepared to charge your XDA II every night.
The only saving grace here is that the XDA II's battery is user replaceable,
so you can simply stock up on extra batteries if you feel the XDA II
hasn't got enough juice to last you through the day.
Being a former XDA user, I was well aware of its weakness
holding a signal. My XDA would sometimes lose signal and the only way
to get a signal was to toggle the wireless antenna off and on-- I was
very glad to see that this quirk is no longer a problem with the XDA
II. The XDA II manages to hold a network signal as good as my old Motorola
phone, and the XDA II is capable of automatic searching for a network
signal after losing a connection.
In the US, we tested the phone on T-Mobile's network,
and were pleased with the results. The XDA II has excellent RF, pulling
in a signal even in marginal coverage areas.
Configuring the XDA II for GPRS and MMS connections
was a breeze with its autoconfig program: I simply selected my Cellular
Phone Network Provider from the drop down list and all of the configurations
were set automatically. If by chance your network provider isn't on the
drop down list, you can easily configure GPRS and MMS yourself— you
just have to know the GPRS and MMS Access Point Name (APN) of your particular
network provider. Note that while many carriers are listed in the autoconfig
program, these carriers are all those who officially sell the XDA II.
There are no autoconfig settings for US carriers, so you'll have to enter
the correct GPRS and MMS settings using the Pocket PC Connection Manager.
If you're using T-Mobile in the US, note that many folks have trouble
getting MMS to work, but GPRS is easy.
The phone has GPRS Class B / Multi-slot Class10 for
data connections and also supports class 8. Windows Mobile 2003 Phone
Edition allows you to switch between class 8 ( faster downloads) and
class 10 (faster uploads).
With camera-phones being the rage nowadays,
it was only natural to equip the XDA II with a VGA camera, and
with the XDA II's high price tag, one might easily argue that
the inclusion of a camera is only fitting. The XDA II's camera
may seem to be useless at first due to its low resolution and
the absence of a flash (as with every GSM camera phone). But
the camera did prove itself useful on a number of occasions,
because although I have a standalone digital camera I don't carry
it around with me everyday as I do the XDA II. The camera is
capable of taking both stills (480x640, 240x320, 120x160) and
videos at 15fps with sound (240 x 320, 144 x 176, 96 x 128).
It saves pictures in JPEG and BMP format while videos are saved
in MPEG and AVI format. Using the camera in environments with
good lighting produces good quality pictures and videos by VGA
camera standards. In dark environments, the XDA II's camera is
technically blind as a bat so don't even bother to use the camera
at night to avoid disappointments. It was a let down that camera
doesn't offer a “night mode”. One very nice thing
I really liked about the camera though is that it is capable
of using graphic templates similar to those found in Neo Print
photo booths which are quite popular in Asian countries. These
templates are basically graphical borders or frames that are
pasted on top of the pictures, adding more eye candy and giving
your pictures that extra “oomph” when you send it
to another person via MMS.
Above: a photo taken at VGA resolution
with the XDA II. Click on the photo to see the full size, un-edited
Other than GSM and GPRS, the XDA II also has
Bluetooth wireless networking that allows you to use the various
BT headsets available on the market. Note that the XDA II supports
the Bluetooth headset profile, but not handsfree. I tried the Plantronics
and Sony Ericsson's BT
headsets and they worked flawlessly. The Jabra
250 paired just fine, but didn't have good range with the XDA
II (about 2.5 before the connection had static).
ActiveSyncing, connecting to a Bluetooth access
point and using the XDA II as a modem via a wireless BT connection
is also possible. I was very disappointed to find that the Microsoft
Bluetooth software stack used for this phone lacks the OBEX file
transfer profile. This means that the XDA II is incapable of sending
or receiving files via Bluetooth. Why they didn't include the OBEX
file transfer profile is beyond me and it seems quite stupid since
one of the primary uses of Bluetooth is file transfer.
The method of dialing on Pocket PC Phone
Edition 2003 hasn't changed much from the 2002 version:
you simply press the “call” button or tap on
the phone icon on its touch screen to invoke the graphical
dial pad. From the graphical dial pad, you can access the
speed dial menu and turn on the speaker phone (you can
also turn on speaker phone mode by doing a press-hold on
the call button). You may also dial directly from the contacts
application, simply tap and hold on a name to invoke the
context menu and choose any of the contact's available
numbers to dial. When viewing an individual contact, phone
numbers are underlined, and you can tap on the number to
Phone and PDA integration of the the
PPC Phone Edition OS is still clunky at best-- yes there
are a few improvements over the 2002 version, but still
not enough. Make no mistake folks, the XDA II is a PDA
first and a phone second, the Microsoft guys from Redmond
could sure use some lessons in phone-PDA integration from
the Treo 600 and Sony
In addition to the core Pocket PC Phone
Edition applications, the XDA II comes with a few more
programs that greatly enhance the overall experience of
the Windows Mobile platform. The MMS Composer by Arcsoft,
is a no frills MMS builder that anyone can easily use.
IA Style, which was recently bought by HTC, is the brains
behind the Album picture viewer program and the Photo Contacts
application, and both pieces of software are very efficient.
Album is basically a beefed up picture viewer that supports
the viewing of a wide variety of formats including BMP,
JPEG, GIF, AVI and MPEG. The program is tightly integrated
with the camera so you can view pictures or videos taken
with the camera seamlessly. Photo Contacts, as the name
would suggest, is the program that allows you to associate
a picture with anyone in your contact list. Not only can
you assign a picture, but you can change the font type,
font size, name color and background color as well. My
personal favorite is the phone dialer feature of Photo
contacts which allows me to simply tap on the picture of
a person to dial his/her number.
Rounding up the software bundle is xBackup
(the name speaks for itself), WiFi SDIO drivers by Socket
Communications (just insert the Sandisk or Socket WiFi
SDIO card and voila! Instant WiFi access) and Westtek's
ClearVue suite (Powerpoint and PDF viewer).
For most of us, no convergence device
has quite reached perfection. The XDA II, while impressive,
still has a far way to go before being perfect. But for
those who can look past the XDA II's imperfections, you'll
find that this is one of the most well made smartphones
on the market. This is definitely one of the few devices
out there that almost everyone will like: its combination
of style and features will make it attractive to anyone
from an ordinary student to a company CEO. Yes it is expensive,
but you probably won't find a better way to spend that
amount cash while reducing the number of gadgets in your
varies by country and carrier. US importers such as Dynamism, iCube and Expansys offer
it and the iMate (same unit, different branding) for ~$900
without contract unlocked. The unlocked unit should work
with any GSM provider's SIM. Though if you're with AT&T
Wireless or Cingular in the US, keep in mind that you won't
be able to take advantage of their recently deployed 850MHz
towers, and instead will only connect to their 1900MHz
towers for service.
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands
Internal database read (records/sec)
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
3.7" 240 x 320 pixel color transflective display
with 65,000 colors.
XScale PXA 263 prcoessor running at 400 MHz. 128
megs of RAM and 14 megs of flash file storage. 64
megs ROM. Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition operating
x 130 x 19 mm. (2.75" x 5.1" x .75").
190 grams (6.7 ounces).
in speaker and mic, headset jack and speakerphone.
SD slot supporting SDIO (and SDIO Now!) that accepts
SD and MMC cards and SDIO cards such as GPS and WiFi. Bluetooth
1.1 wireless personal area networking.
Comes with a 1200 mAh rechargeable Lithium Ion polymer
battery. User replaceable.
Mobile 2003 Phone Edition operating system. Microsoft
Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel,
Internet Explorer, MS Reader and Outlook. Also, Terminal
Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and
Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. ActiveSync
3.7 and Outlook for the desktop. 3rd party and additional
software: Westtek ClearVue for viewing PowerPoint
and PDF files, XBackup, IA Album, PhotoContacts,
GSM world phone: 900/1800/1900 MHz. GPRS class B
multislot class 10 for data.
the Box: CD, manual, phone, cradle,
stereo headset, battery, charger, case and 2