Check out the i-mate JAMin, the Windows Mobile 5 follow-up to the JAM
Reviewed June 20, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Why is it that some of the sweetest
phones never make it to the US? The XDA
II comes to mind, which
was both hugely popular overseas and quite powerful as a Pocket
PC and a phone. Now the i-mate JAM (code named HTC Magician,
and sold by T-Mobile Germany as the MDA Compact and by o2 as
the XDA II mini) has taken every market by storm except the US
where no carrier offers it. Fortunately, the device is offered
by a few importers in the US, and we received ours from David
Weiniger's playfully named Mad
Monkey Boy's Gadgets online store,
a reasonable and reputable importer. Indeed, thanks to importers,
the JAM is enjoying a good deal of success in the US even without
carrier support or subsidy.
What is the JAM? It's the smallest Pocket
PC phone to date, being similar in size to the palmOne Treo
650 and much smaller than the Siemens
SX66. Though it lacks
those competitors' built-in keyboard, it does have a reasonably
fast processor, Bluetooth, an SD slot and a camera. If you're
not a constant emailer or SMS hound, the JAM could work well
for you. It's available in two GSM tri-band versions: 850/1800/1900
MHz for the US (particularly for Cingular and AT&T users)
which we received for review and an 900/1800/1900 MHz version
for Europe, Asia and largely T-Mobile users in the US (we'll
cover bands in detail later).
Features at a Glance
The JAM runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second
Edition, has a 416 MHz processor, 64 megs of RAM, Bluetooth,
and SD slot supporting SDIO and a 1.3 MP digital camera. Since
the device is small, the display area is only 2.8" diagonal
rather than the more common 3.5" screen used on other QVGA
Pocket PCs. In the box you'll find the unit, 2 styli, USB sync
cable, world charger, stereo headset, black nylon belt clip case,
software CDs and manual.
The i-mate JAM is a small and curvy creature,
with strongly rounded corners that put a new face on generally rectangular
PDA designs. It is significantly smaller than any other Pocket
PC Phone Edition model currently on the market and is small by PDA standards.
As phones go, it is large— though not impossibly so. It will
fit in most pockets, and though larger than many current feature phones
or MS Smartphones (those are the ones
that run Windows Mobile Smartphone edition, not Pocket PCs), it is
not awkwardly large or ungainly.
The JAM and E-TEN M500,
the compact PPC phone competitors.
The JAM's clean, minimalist look is appealing
and it won't strike terror in the hearts of techno-newbies who might
be overwhelmed by a plethora of buttons and controls. The display dominates
the front face, with the earpiece slit centered above the screen, and
a lower control cluster at the bottom, comprised of a 5-way directional
pad surrounded by call send and end buttons and calendar and contacts
buttons. The SD slot is on the top edge, the power button on the right
edge, while the camera, voice recorder and volume slider are located
on the left side. Though quite small, the side buttons are easy to
operate, and the slightly domed front buttons have good ergonomics.
The mini USB sync port (same as used by the Audiovox
SMT5600) is located on the bottom, as are the 2.5mm headset
jack, reset hole and mic. Both the charger and sync cable connect
to the sync port and thus you'll only be able to use one at a time,
though the JAM does support USB charging so you can top up the battery
via the sync cable.
The i-mate JAM has a metal casing with a light
silver finish and a black ridged band surrounding the sides, which
makes it easy to hold. The finish doesn't show fingerprints, and is
attractive. The camera lens and self portrait mirror are located
on the back of the unit, as is the battery door. The SIM card lives
in a slot under the battery. When you remove the rear battery door,
the unit automatically shuts off.
Horsepower and Performance
While not the fastest Pocket PC on the block, the JAM
has a respectable Intel XScale PXA272 processor
running at 416 MHz. That's the latest, greatest PDA processor from Intel,
with the fastest Pocket PCs such as the Dell
Axim X50v and HP iPAQ hx4700 running
the 624 MHz version. So 416 MHz isn't the fastest you can get, but it
is very fast by Pocket PC Phone standards, which need step down on processing
power a bit in order to increase battery runtimes (no one wants a phone
that lasts only a half day). The processor compares well with the 400
MHz Siemens SX66 (aka XDA IIs and MDA III)
and trounces the HP
iPAQ 6315's 168 MHz TI processor. And the JAM beats out the
Siemens SX66 and iPAQ in video playback!
The JAM has 64 megs of RAM, 57.41 megs of which is
available for your use, and 64 megs of flash ROM, 7.60 megs of which
is available. You can use the SD slot to increase memory using SD memory
cards, and you can use a variety of other cards such as SD
WiFi, 56k dial up modem and more since the JAM supports SDIO. SanDisk's
SD WiFi card works well with the JAM, as does their SD
WiFi + 256 meg memory card.
Monkey Boy's Gadgets also sells the PocketPCTechs.com 128
meg upgraded model, for those of you who can't survive with so little built
in memory. We received this model for review as well and the additional
memory was more than welcome. Though RAM consumes power even when the device
is turned off, we found that the 128 meg version had only 10% less runtime
than the standard version. The folks at Pocket PC Techs have a well-deserved
good reputation and we heartily recommend this model for power users. Do
keep in mind that the upgrade will void the manufacturer's warranty however.
Mad Monkey Boy sells both GSM versions of the JAM with the 128 meg upgrade
for $190 more than the standard JAM.
Phone Features and Reception
The JAM is an unlocked GSM device which means you can
use it with any carrier's SIM. If a phone is
locked, as are most sold directly by US carriers, it can only be used
with a SIM from the carrier who sold you the phone, and not a competing
carrier's SIM. Since the JAM is unlocked, you can switch SIM cards and
carriers any time you wish and as frequently you wish. The JAM comes
in two flavors, varying only in the GSM bands supported. The 900/1800/1900
MHz version is great for use in Europe (primarily 900 MHz), Asia (primarily
1800 MHz, but some 900 MHz) and in the US where T-Mobile is the largest
1900 MHz band GSM carrier. If you use T-Mobile and also travel the world,
this is the model for you. If you are an AT&T or Cingular customer
in the US, you'll likely want to opt for the 850/1800/1900 MHz model
we received for review. While these carriers do use the 1900 MHz band,
they also heavily rely on the 850 MHz band (which incidentally provides
much better indoor reception than 1900 MHz). This means you'll get the
best US coverage with the 850 MHz model, though the drawback is you won't
get very good reception in Europe and parts of China where 900 MHz is
used heavily. How unfortunate that the JAM (and many other high end phones)
aren't quad band, offering all four bands currently used around the world!
Reception is strong with the JAM, bested only by some
Nokia models and the GSM Treo 650 which have
the very strongest RF. The phone has held a signal in relatively weak
reception areas, and maintained both connection and call clarity. Both
incoming and outgoing voice quality are excellent, though incoming voice
volume isn't as loud as some other Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones like
the Siemens SX66, Samsung i700, Audiovox
PPC-6601 and XDA II (also designed
by HTC). The phone's volume is certainly adequate and compares well to
other recent GSM phones on the market, but nothing beats the incredible
volume of the other Pocket PC phones.
Like all Pocket PC phones, the JAM has a large
on-screen dialer application with numbers that are large enough to dial
using a finger. This screen has a call send/end button, a speed dial
button, call history button and a hold button that appears when in a
call. You can mute a call by tapping on the mic icon in the task bar,
bring up the address book by tapping the Contacts icon and open Notes
if you wish to jot down notes or drawings when in a call. You need not
tap out phone numbers using the on-screen dialer, and instead can make
calls with one press using the speed dial function. Speed dial can hold
up to 99 numbers (1 is assigned to voicemail), and if you wish to use
voice dialing you can purchase Microsoft's
Voice Command. I-mate has customized the standard dialer screen,
adding a small window that mimics a standard cell phone LCD. When you
begin to tap in a number, it shows the nearest 3 matches in Contacts,
and you can tap on a match, then press the on screen call button to dial
The phone comes with IA applications that not only
manage the camera but handle picture caller ID and distinctive ring.
The Windows Mobile OS doesn't currently offer distinctive ring (setting
a desired ring tone to a specific contact) so it's great that HTC had
added this feature to the Magician.
All Pocket PC Phones have flight mode, and the JAM
is no exception. Simply tap on the signal strength meter on the menu
bar and select flight mode to turn off all wireless features. You can
still use the PDA functions when the device is in flight mode. The device
has a speakerphone. To activate it, press and hold
the call send button for a second or two when already in a call. The
speakerphone is not terribly loud compared to other phones however. If
you prefer a headset, the device will automatically route calls to the
included stereo earbud headset when attached, and mute MP3 or video playback
when a call comes in. You may also use Bluetooth
headsets with the device, though voice dialing is only supported
when using the phone or a wired headset, not a Bluetooth headset (this
is currently true of all Pocket PC phones except the HP
The phone has class 10 GPRS for data which provides
throughput around 45k on average in our area. We wish it had EDGE (so
far a no-show on Windows Mobile phones) but alas it does not. Given the
screen resolution and rendering capabilities of Pocket Internet Explorer
and third party web browsers, a faster data connection would be ideal
to speed up page load times which can approach 20 seconds for a desktop
optimized web site.
When you launch Pocket IE or your favorite 3rd party
web browser such as NetFront,
the device will automatically make a GPRS connection. As with other
Windows Mobile 2003SE phones, it will maintain that connection even
when you're done using the Net or have powered off the phone. Don't
worry, the connection is dormant and won't eat up data unless you have
the phone scheduled to connect to the Net to check email or ActiveSync
wirelessly on a schedule. To manually disconnect from GPRS, simply
tap on the data icon at the top of the Today Screen and tap on disconnect.
The i-mate JAM has a user replaceable 1200 mAh Lithium Ion polymer battery.
The battery lives under a large door on the back of the unit and when
you slide that door down and off, a switch automatically turns off power
to the PDA, ensuring that your data remains intact when you swap the
battery. This does mean that each time you remove the battery door, even
if you don't take out the battery, the unit will soft reset (reboot).
The battery capacity isn't terribly high by Pocket PC phone standards,
but the JAM does use less power due to its smaller display (the display
is one of the biggest power consumers) and because the unit has 64 rather
than 128 megs of RAM like the Siemens SX66. RAM uses power even when
the device is turned off, hence less RAM means longer battery life. The
JAM made it through a day of active use which included 40 minutes of
phone calls, an hour of surfing the web, playing a few video shorts and
listening to MP3s (screen off) for an hour. If you're a heavy PDA and
phone user, you'll likely charge the JAM each night, whereas light users
might manage an every other day charging regime.
As you can see, the JAM does quite well
in benchmarks, coming in close to the XDA II and III family
of devices in performance and soundly beating the much slower
Display, Sound and Multimedia
While most Pocket PCs have a 3.5" transflective
display, the JAM's measures 2.8", to keep the unit
small. Despite the size reduction, the display is sharp
and easily readable. Unless you have old, tired eyes, you'll
likely manage just fine with the smaller fonts and user
interface widgets. Colors are saturated and the screen
is decently bright, though not nearly as bright as the
E-TEN M500's (see comparison photo above). Like all Windows
Mobile 2003 SE Pocket PCs, the screen works in both portrait
and landscape modes and the JAM has a handy screen orient
ration changer icon on the taskbar.
Sound volume in call through the speakerphone
and system sounds through the built-in speaker have good
volume, though not as loud as some other models such as
the Siemens SX66, XDA II and Samsung
i700 Pocket PC phones. Like
all Pocket PCs, the JAM can play MP3s using the included
Windows Media Player 10. For best sound you'll want to
use the included stereo headset rather than the integrated
The unit makes a great portable video
player in conjunction with a fast SD card to store videos,
though the screen is smaller so your movies will appear
even smaller than they do with standard 3.5" screen Pocket
an extremely fast open source free video player that
supports MPEG1, DivX, AVI, ASF and WMV files. BetaPlayer
played back "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, with benchmarks
Average speed: 552.15%
Bench Frame Rate: 132.52
Bench. Data Rate: 1.7 Mbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s
Those are excellent results, besting
the JAM's big brothers the Siemens
SX66 and the Audiovox
PPC-6601, which may have more to do with continuing
improvements in BetaPlayer than the device.
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
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)
The i-mate JAM has integrated Bluetooth
1.2 with support for Bluetooth handsfree headsets and car
kits, ActiveSync over Bluetooth, and DUN (dial up networking).
It also supports serial port profile which is used by GPS
and some other accessories. Unfortunately, the device runs
Microsoft's rather lackluster and de-featured Bluetooth
software rather than Widcomm's (now Broadcom) more full-featured
and user friendly software. In fact, adventurous users
have tried to install Widcomm's Bluetooth software but
the JAM can't run it, likely because it doesn't have enough
free driver memory to load the software. We tested the
JAM with the Motorola
HS820 and Plantronics
M3500 Bluetooth headsets and both worked well, offering
very good range and good voice quality.
The JAM's 1.3 megapixel digital camera
sounds exciting: that's a good resolution by phone standards.
However, the photos aren't to die for, though they're better
than the Motorola
MPx220's notoriously bad photos by a big margin. As
you can see below, well-lit indoor shots show too much
grain, and the camera tends to blow out highlights massively
in outdoor and strongly lit scenes. The pictures also have
a blurry, unsharp look about them. I do wonder if better
imaging software could have helped the JAM's 1.3MP CMOS
camera. Looking at the photos, it seems the hardware itself
is reasonably capable but the imaging data isn't processed
as well as it could be to produce sharp, light-balanced
photos. This is in contrast to the MPx220, whose camera
hardware is less than capable.
Indoors, daytime natural light.
Sammy, medium outdoor
The camera application is a full-featured
affair, with full-screen viewfinder, and a wealth of settings
including image size (960 x 1280 all the way down to 120
x 160), your choice of JPEG or BMP file formats, Ambience
(auto, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, night, grayscale,
sepia, cool and negative), manual contrast adjustment,
shutter sound enable/disable, review after capture option,
and flicker adjustment. The camera offers 2x digital zoom
in all but the highest resolution setting, and can shoot
videos with audio. The JAM shoots video in MP4 format and
both the video and audio quality are very good, though
audio and video tend to fall out of sync. We shot videos
at 320 x 240 resolution and got 10 fps, 20.7 K bytes/sec
data rate, and mono audio (Pocket PCs have mono mics) at
8,000 Hz according to QuickTime player on the desktop.
Like all Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile 2003,
Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Outlook and
handwriting recognition are pre-installed in ROM. Other pre-installed
Microsoft apps include Pictures, Terminal Services, MSN Messenger,
Solitaire, Jawbreaker, ActiveSync and Calculator. The unit comes
with Windows Media Player 10 for MP3 and WMV/ASF movie playback.
Value-added software pre-installed in ROM includes
Photo Contacts (photo caller ID), Wireless Modem (use the JAM as
a wireless modem for a notebook over USB, IR or Bluetooth), SIM
Manager, Java MIDlet Manager by the Tao Group, xBackup which allows
you to back up all or just PIM data to Flash ROM or an SD card,
KSE Truefax 2.0, Club i-mate email, and Album (an image viewer
formerly known as IA Album).
A very compact Pocket PC phone. If the size of
other PPC phones discouraged you, the JAM, which is close in size
to the Palm Treo 650 just might hit
your sweet spot. The minimalist looks and good controls are winners,
and the device is fast: don't be fooled by its small size. Bluetooth
for headsets, GPS and other accessories is a plus, though the Bluetooth
software is basic. The device offers good reception and the two
triband versions mean that most all except true world travelers
will be happy. Some day all phones will be quad band!
Pro: Small size
and good looks. Fast device, stable and expandable thanks to the
SDIO slot. Has Bluetooth and works well with SD WiFi cards. Good
call quality, though not as loud as some other Pocket PC phones.
Has Windows Media Player 10 for Pocket PC, which has enhanced support
for DRM and Windows Media Center Edition.
Con: Microsoft Bluetooth
software is very basic and lacks the ease of use and profiles supported
by the more commonly used Widcomm/Broadcomm Bluetooth software
and drivers. The camera's still shots are lackluster but video
quality is decent (other than loss of audio/video sync). Battery
life is good by Pocket PC phone standards but shorter than the
Treo 650 and some popular Nokia Symbian Series 60 smartphones such
as the 7610,
7710 and N-Gage
QD. Such a powerful device could use more RAM or ROM for storage
(consider the Pocket PC Techs 128 meg version if you're a power
user who loads lots of apps).
List price: Varies
depending on dealer and whether you start a new phone contract
to get a discount on the phone.
Boy currently sells the 850 MHz JAM for $599 without contract
and $499 with a T-Mobile contract. Add $190 for the 128 meg Pocket
PC Techs version. Add $10 for the 900 MHz model.
TFT color LCD. 64K colors, screen size diag: 2.8 ".
Resolution: 240 x 320.
Ion polymer rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
XScale PXA 272 416 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in
RAM (57.41 megs available). 64 MB Flash ROM with
7.6 megs available for your use.
x 2.28 x .71 inches. Weight: 5.29 ounces.
MP CMOS camera capable of taking still photos and
video with audio. Max. resolution: 960 x 1280 still
shots and 320 x 240 video. Camera lens: 4.8mm focal
length, f 1:2.8 aperture.
in speaker, mic and 2.5mm stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player
10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
1.2, class 2. SIR IR.
GSM:Two versions available, both with GPRS class
10 for data: 850/1800/1900 MHz and 900/1800/1900 MHz
Mobile 2003 SE for Pocket PC Phone operating system.
Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word,
Excel, Internet Explorer and Outlook. Also, Terminal
Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, Windows
Media Player 10, and Voice Recorder, Solitaire, Jawbreaker
as well as handwriting recognition. 3rd party and
HTC software: Album (image viewer), xBackup, Photo
Contacts, Java MIDlet Manager, KSE TrueFax, Camera
, Wireless Modem (allows you to use the phone as
a modem for a PC over Bluetooth, IR, Serial or USB).
ActiveSync and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot, supporting
SDIO and SDIO Now!.