Reviewed May 9, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The i-mate JAM was one of the first very compact Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones and as a result, it was a hit. Though not offered by any carrier in the US, it was readily available unlocked from importers and online retailers. In just a year, the JAM has evolved into the JAMin, which keeps the small form factor and adds Windows Mobile 5, a higher resolution camera, WiFi, a quad band (rather than triband) GSM radio and more memory. That's a healthy dose of upgrades for a device that maintains the same small size and sells for roughly the price of the original JAM when first introduced. The 200MHz Texas Instruments processor is the only downgrade from the 416MHz JAM. The JAMin is sold by importers and select online retailers but is not offered by any carrier in the US. Though pricier than carrier subsidized phones, the JAMin is unlocked which means you can use an GSM carrier's SIM and need not sign a contract. It's both a full blown PDA with touch screen and a quad band world phone with Bluetooth and WiFi.
Like most Pocket PC phones, the JAMin is made by HTC, and its code name is the "Prophet". The Prophet is sold by other manufacturers and overseas carriers as the XDA Neo, Qtek S200, Orange SPV600 and Dopod 818Pro. These devices' hardware are identical with only minor software differences. The i-mate product line is readily available online and they offer good software support including ROM updates, making them a popular brand.
In the Box
The JAMin comes with one rechargeable battery, stylus, 2.5mm stereo headset with mic, a standard USB to mini-USB sync cable, world charger, horizontal belt clip case and software CD. It uses the same USB sync cable and charger as other i-mate (and most recent HTC) PDA phones and MS Smartphones.
Design and Ergonomics
Curvy, petite (by PPC phone standards) and simple: that's the JAMin in a nutshell. The casing's size and shape are unchanged from the JAM, but the JAMin adds a few more buttons. The JAM was aimed at novice users and women (sexist, yes) who might be intimidated by lots of buttons, so HTC made a device with few external controls. The JAMin still keeps it simple, though the number of buttons has increased modestly. You'll find a large directional pad flanked by call send and end keys, OK and Windows Start Menu keys and two context sensitive Windows Mobile 5 softkeys on the front face. The Comm Manager key (launches the triple wireless radio manager), camera and volume slider are on the left side while the power button and IR window are on the right. The full size SD card slot is located up top and the sync/charge connector is at the bottom. The device is finished in matte black and the camera lens and associated self-portrait mirror are on the back above the battery door.
The JAMin is a quad band GSM world phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) that will work anywhere in the world GSM service is available. It's unlocked for use with any GSM carrier (just pop in your SIM and enter the correct settings for Internet access for your carrier). For fast (but not 3G fast) data the JAMin has EDGE class 10 as well as the older, slower GPRS. Data speeds over EDGE in the Silicon Valley area were good, coming in between 110 and 130k when using Cingular's MEdia Net service, and between 65 - 110k on T-Mobile.
Like all Windows Mobile phones, the i-mate comes with mobile versions of Internet Explorer and Outlook (the email component is called Messaging) so you can stay in touch when on the go. A recent ROM update added support for Microsoft's AKU2 which offers push e-mail for Exchange 2003 users.
Voice quality on the JAMin is quite good with clear conversations and adequate volume when talking directly to the handset. When using the included earbud headset, call clarity was also excellent and volume is more than ample. In our tests of the 850 (Cingular) and 1900MHz (T-Mobile) bands in the US, the JAMin had very good reception that's on par with the T-Mobile MDA, and beats the Treo 650 by a small margin and the i-mate JAM (850 and 900MHz models) by a greater margin. The phone is good in areas of OK to excellent reception. If you spend most of your phone-time in an area where you can barely get a signal with most phones, then it still might do the trick (but then you might want to think about changing carriers too).
The phone supports common call features such as call forwarding, conference calling, call waiting and it has a full duplex speaker phone that's decent but not stellar.
Like other recent i-mate smartphones, the JAMin comes with voice dialing that works over Bluetooth. Yes, that's still not a common feature on Pocket PC phones which is unfathomable since every decent feature phone with Bluetooth can do it. The JAMin ships with Voice Speed Dial which uses voice tags rather than true speech recognition. Yes it lacks Microsoft Voice Command's impressive recognition capabilities and range of commands but MS Voice Command does eat up a lot of resources and won't work over a Bluetooth headset or car kit. You can record tags for any contact in your address book and you can record tags to launch the applications of your choice. To initiate voice commands, assign a hardware button to the application (more expedient than launching it from the on-screen Programs group), press the button or press (press and hold for some headsets) the call button on your Bluetooth headset or car kit to have the phone listen for your command.
Horsepower and Performance
Like the HTC Wizard variants (i-mate K-JAM, T-Mobile MDA, Cingular 8125) the JAMin runs on a 200MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 850 processor (actually 195MHz, but everyone rounds up). That's quite a come-down from the original JAM's 416MHz Intel XScale CPU but the upside is improved battery life. Despite the half-speed processor and slower Windows Mobile 5 OS, the JAMin is usable but you will notice delays launching applications and might find it a tad sluggish for Skype (overclocking the CPU remedies this). Though the Cingular 8125 runs on the same CPU, it feels peppier than the JAMin, and the US T-Mobile MDA feels as responsive as the JAMin. If you're looking for decent performance (other than video playback and Skype reliability at this point), and crave great battery life by PPC phone standards, the JAMin should suffice. The lower the megahertz, the better the battery life, and the JAMin lasts longer on a charge than the faster JAM (when WiFi isn't in use).
The OMAP850is a dual core processor which has one core to handle PDA functions and another that's basically a DSP handling telephony and some multimedia duties. As you can see from the benchmarks, it offers similar performance to the K-JAM and MDA since it uses the same CPU. The JAMin has 128 megs of flash ROM and 64 megs of RAM. Under Windows Mobile 5, RAM is used in the same way it is on a PC: it's the place where running programs execute. The operating system and pre-installed applications live in Flash ROM and the remaining 43 megs are available for you to install programs and data. Should you need more space for programs and files, you can get an SD card to use with the JAMin. Typically there are 25 megs of free RAM which is an adequate amount to run several programs simultaneously.
Display, Multimedia and Gaming
The JAMin has a bright, sharp QVGA 240 x 320 transflective color display that's easy on the eyes despite its small 2.8" diagonal size. The display supports 65,000 colors and both portrait and landscape modes. The screen has very good contrast, pleasing color saturation and is quite bright at the 50% setting (though not as bright as the Wizard). Indoors it looks great, though outdoors fade and glare are noticeable (the same is true of most PDA displays).
Results, comparing Windows Mobile 5 PPC Phones
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 (KB/sec)
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
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)
Sound out through the included stereo earbud headphones is good when listening to MP3s using the included Windows Media Player Mobile 10 with support for DRM. Likewise movie soundtracks sound good, and certainly much better than the speaker, as is the case with all PDAs and phones. The phone does well with video encoded at 450 kbps or less and QVGA resolution using Windows Media Player and the excellent free TCPMP video player. If you're into high bitrate encoding, the JAMin isn't for you, as you'll notice frame drops above 600kbps which become unpleasant at 700kbps. Volume for both PDA audio and ringtones is average through the built-in speaker.
To test video playback we threw our usual
test file at it: "The Chosen" (a neat BMW flick with
Clive Owen) which is a 4:26 minute long, 10 meg MPEG1 file recorded
at 320 x 240, 308 kb/s. We tested the Cingular 8215 using TCPMP,
an extremely fast open source free video player that supports
MPEG1, DivX, ASF, WMV and AVI files. TCPMP benchmarked "The
Chosen" with a modest benchmarks of: Average speed: 182.27%
Bench Frame Rate: 43.75
Bench. Data Rate: 564 Mbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s
As we've noted before, HTC cameras haven't set the world on fire, though their software is lovely. While the Wizard models have taken a turn for the better with good quality 1.3 megapixel cameras, the JAMin may capture a lot of pixels but the images themselves aren't very good. The culprit is poor while balance, with photos having an undue blue to purple cast (a white rug captures as mid-blue!). The camera software offers a selection of pre-set white balances in addition to automatic, none of which get it right. Indoor photos are yellow-orange even when incandescent is selected, while outdoor photos can turn rosy-cheeked youths into recent morgue entrants. Sharpness and clarity are decent, but nothing compared to high end 2MP camera phones from Nokia, or even some of their 1.3MP offerings. That said, given the high resolution, once the photos are sized down to VGA or even 800 x 600 resolution, they look quite sharp.
The camera can take still photos up to 1600 x 1200 along with lower resolutions suited to MMS and caller photo ID. Full resolution photos average 300k in size. The software has presets for photo, video, MMS video, caller ID photo, sports and burst and you can select from several ambiance settings including Auto. The camera supports only JPEG format for still shots, and both MPEG4 or Motion-JPEG AVI formats for video with audio at a maximum resolution of 176 x 144. You may record videos of any length, limited only by card or internal memory capacity (depending on which you're saving to).
The camera application runs in landscape mode and uses the full screen for preview. It has an optional post-capture review with handy shortcuts to view the image in Pictures and Videos or Windows Media Player, delete it or send it via MMS or email. If you want to take stealth photos, you can turn off the shutter sound, and you can set the camera to save to an SD card, show post-capture review or not and put a time and date stamp on the photo.
Original image was taken at 1600 x 1200 and resized down but otherwise unedited. Note that the building walls on the right and in the distance are white, though they appear purple due to the camera's color cast.
Bluetooth and WiFi
Comm Manager is your one-stop destination for all things wireless on the JAMin, along with a few other goodies. Launch it by pressing its icon on the Today Screen or pressing the dedicated button on the phone's left side. You can turn the phone, Bluetooth and WiFi radios on or off, as well as controlling speaker mute, initiating ActiveSync and push email. Under Comm Manager's settings menu you'll find items that take you to Bluetooth and WiFi settings applets.
The Wireless LAN applet, similar to other recent HTC-made devices, shows signal strength, current SSID, mode, Tx rate and channel. If offers several tabs for power management (the default setting worked fine for us), manual IP settings if you don't use DHCP, LEAP and secure certificate enrollment. WiFi connections were reliable in our tests when connecting to a variety of public open access points and 802.11g access points using WEP encryption. Range was average for Pocket PCs, which is to say quite good. The device can connect to an access point that's 70 feet away through walls.
Bluetooth's user interface is less replete with features and information since the JAMin uses Microsoft's basic Bluetooth stack and software. Though the software lacks wizards or friendly graphics to guide you through connection management, it does get the job done reliably. Using the software you can make the device discoverable, discover and pair to other devices such as GPS, PCs, headsets, car kits and keyboards. The JAMin has Bluetooth 2.0 which is backward compatible with previous versions such as 1.1 and 1.2 but it does not have EDR (enhanced data rate) found on some recent Mac and PC computers. It supports most all common profiles including DUN, serial port, hands-free, headset, object push and HID (but not A2DP). We tested the i-mate with several Bluetooth headsets including the Plantronics Discovery 640, Cardo Scala and Motorola H500 and all did well in terms of voice quality, volume, call transfer and hands-free features.
Battery life, compared to feature phones, isn't a strong point for Pocket PC phones. But that large display, full HTML web browser, email capabilities and mini-PC-in-your-hand experience makes us forgive their relatively short run times. Despite that, the JAMin with its standard 1200 mAh hour Lithium Ion rechargeable battery does quite well, lasting just under two days with moderate use (30 minutes phone time total using a Bluetooth headset, surfing the web over EDGE for 1 hour total, using WiFi and the web for 30 minutes more, and checking email and PIM data several times per day with Bluetooth always on). That scenario would send the XDA III (Siemens SX66) to the charger by day's end. Credit that good battery life to the 195 MHz CPU: it uses less power than many 400 MHz units such as the iPAQ hw6915 and Verizon XV6700. If you're a very heavy phone and data user, or are addicted to WiFi, do expect to charge nightly. If you're a light user expect two days on a charge. If you plan to use WiFi for several hours at a time, don't expect the JAMin (or any other Pocket PC phone) to last longer than 3.5 hours. Keep a spare battery around!
All Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs come with the operating system, Mobile Office suite including Outlook Mobile and desktop Outlook, Windows Media Player Mobile 10, Terminal Services, Pictures and Videos, Pocket MSN (Hotmail, MSN Messenger), File Explorer, handwriting recognition (print and cursive), Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (the game formerly known as Jaw Breaker), Calculator and support for secure certificates and VPN connections. Outlook on the PDA has calendar, contacts, tasks, notes and email (called Messaging), which you can sync to a Windows desktop running Outlook. In addition you get Clear Storage (wipes out the device to factory settings), Comm Manager, Club i-mate email, the camera application, Voice Speed Dial, ClearVue PDF viewer, Modem Link and Zip (unzips .zip files).
You can add any Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC app you wish and we tested several which ran well, including Resco File Explorer, Resco Photo Viewer, TCPMP, eReader, Opera beta and several current Pocket PC games.
Good things come in small Windows Mobile packages these days. With so many models to choose from with similar features (and most made by HTC), it's not an easy choice. For those who put price high on their selection list, a carrier-subsidized smartphone makes the most sense, which rules out the JAMin in the US. However, if you prefer to have a quad band GSM world phone that's unlocked for use with any carrier, the JAMin is an excellent choice. If you're an international traveler, you'll make up the added cost in no time by avoiding US carriers' overseas roaming prices. For those of you who don't crave a keyboard but want a full Pocket PC PDA-phone, the JAMin is a strong contender thanks to its bright and sharp display, Bluetooth, WiFi and support for Exchange 2003 push email. It's not the fastest Pocket PC phone, but speed is adequate and similar to the Wizard and even Treo 700w in some respects.
Pro: Very compact for a PPC phone, sharp display, has Bluetooth with support for many profiles, WiFi and Exchange push email support (with most recent ROM). Good battery life. A stable Windows Mobile offering. Full sized SD slot.
Con: Though 2 megapixels, the camera takes photos with impossible color inaccuracies. A tad sluggish (power users will want to try some over-clocking).
x 2.28 x 0.72 inches. Weight: 5.29 ounces.
Phone:GSM quad band (850/900/1800/1900MHz) with EDGE (class 10) for data.
Camera:2.0 MP camera capable of taking still photos (JPEG) and videos with audio. Max photo resolution: 1600 x 1200, max video resolution: 176 x 144 (supports MPEG4 and Motion-JPEG AVI formats).
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b and Bluetooth 2.0 (not EDR).
Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition operating system.
Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Mobile versions
of Word, Excel, PowerPoint (view only), Internet
Explorer, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN
Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, Windows Media Player
10, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game), Voice Recorder
as well as handwriting recognition. Additional applications:
Camera, ClearVue PDF viewer, Club i-mate email, Comm Manager,
Wireless Modem (use the phone as a modem over BT,
IR or USB), Skype, Java WM (Tao Group's intent MIDlet Manager), CA eTrust anti-virus for Windows Mobile, Zip (unzip application), Clear Storage (wipes
out all data and resets unit to factory defaults), i-mate Backgammon, SIM Manager.
ActiveSync 4.1 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot supporting
SDIO and SDIO Now!.