What's hot: QWERTY messaging phone that's well-suited to business.
What's not: Small, low resolution display, not a multimedia demon.
Reviewed February 11, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so the cliche goes. It's apt enough for HP's latest business smartphone, the Glisten, whose form and function aren't so different from the 2008 HP iPAQ 910c. The looks have gotten more modern and trendy, with a flush display and a black soft-touch casing, but it's still your basic Windows Mobile Pro QWERTY-bar business phone. What has suffered is one-handed and touch navigation thanks to Windows Mobile 6.5. WinMo 6.5 was designed with larger screens in mind, and it attempts to be more touch-centric, neither of which matches with the QWERTY bar smartphone. That means the traditional Start Menu that looked just like the one on your Windows PC is gone. A shame because that was easy to navigate using the d-pad, while the hex grid of icons that replaces it is a nightmare with the d-pad. Thank goodness for the touch screen, you say? Well, not so much. The small, low resolution display is hard to navigate with a finger, making the included stylus a must, and that feels very dated and inefficient.
What stands in the Glisten's favor are its sturdy build, grippable back and good QWERTY keyboard. Combine that with Windows Mobile's excellent integration with MS Exchange, and you've got a decent business phone. The HP Glisten is likely to appeal to veteran Windows Mobile users who accustomed to, if not fond of, that operating system's features and UI. It's otherwise unlikely that the HP would win in a contest against a BlackBerry. RIM's smartphones are easier to use one-handed and their UI is much better optimized to the hardware controls with myriad keyboard shortcuts and convenient home screen options.
The Glisten at a Glance
The HP iPAQ Glisten is sold by AT&T in the US and it has 3G HSDPA on AT&T's bands as well as 2100MHz for Europe and Asia. It's a quad band GSM world phone with EDGE for those places that are devoid of 3G coverage. It has a 2.5" AMOLED touch screen and it runs Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional. The Glisten is powered by a 528MHz Qualcomm CPU and it has 256 megs of RAM and 512 megs of flash memory. There's a fixed focus 3.1 megapixel camera on board as well as a full complement of wireless: GPS, Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR and WiFi 802.11b/g.
Design and Ergonomics
The iPAQ feels solid and well made, and we particularly like the grippy soft-touch back. The QWERTY keyboard's keys are laid out in a smile configuration and are relatively large: both pluses. But their slick surface makes typing faster but less accurate.The embedded number pad is clear in contrasting white and there are shortcuts on the bottom row for the web browser, calendar, email and AT&T Navigator. The chromed plastic sides have relatively few controls and ports. A 3.5mm stereo headset jack and micro USB port are on the right and the volume controls are on the left. The not terribly good or loud speakerphone lives under a small grille on the back. The HP isn't a thin phone by any means, and it's about the same thickness as recent BlackBerry Curve 8500 series models. To our eyes, it looks less plasticky and higher quality than the BlackBerry 8520 and 8530.
The AMOLED display uses less power and is more vivid than traditional LCDs, though the HP's isn't as vivid (or over-saturated) as recent Samsung AMOLED phone displays. It's a resistive display (Windows Mobile 6.5 doesn't natively support capacitive displays) and that means you can use a fingernail, a gloved finger or the included plastic stylus with the touch screen.
Phone and Data
While HP's smartphones have had excellent voice quality and volume since the hw6915 that preceded the 910c, the Glisten has average voice quality and its earpiece isn't particularly loud. Incoming voice is clear with very light background hiss but outgoing voice sounds digitized and this was augmented with many of the Bluetooth headsets we tested with the iPAQ. Volume is average for a GSM phone and it's fine for home and office but it can't combat very noisy public locations. The speakerphone isn't among the best we've heard, but it's suitable to increase volume in a loud place when the earpiece doesn't do the job, and it's fine for in-car navigation using the included AT&T Navigator's spoken directions.
Like all Windows Mobile phones, the Glisten ships with Internet Explorer Mobile and the mobile version of Outlook which is comprised of Messaging (for email, SMS and MMS) and PIM applications (calendar, contacts, tasks and notes). These sync to MS Exchange over-the-air flawlessly and the phone can also sync to Outlook on the desktop via USB. Messaging is a solid email client that works with POP3, IMAP, Gmail and other accounts well, and the Exchange experience is top notch.
Though many Windows phone manufacturers include the superior Opera Mobile browser, HP thinks you can make do with IE. Honestly, the screen is so small and the QVGA resolution so outdated, that we don't consider the Glisten optimal for web browsing anyway. If web browsing is important to you and you plan to do a lot of it, consider a smartphone with a larger, higher resolution display like the HTC Tilt 2. For full HTML sites, you'll see only a fraction of the web page on screen at a given time and selecting links, even with the stylus, takes patience.
The BlackBerry Curve 8530 and the HP Glisten.
Here's our 7 minute video review of the HP Glisten:
The HP Glisten is literally a solid Windows Mobile QWERTY bar phone. It's well-made, sturdy and not bad looking as business phones go. But we can't say it adds anything new or enticing to the mix, and there's little that's changed since the HP 910c (which was a decent smartphone). What has changed is the OS, and unfortunately, Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional is less well suited to the QWERTY bar form factor than was Windows Mobile 6.1. One handed operation is limited and you often must touch the display to get things done. That wouldn't be such a bad thing if the display wasn't so small and the on-screen targets too tiny to easily tap with a finger. The iPAQ is definitely better suited to those who are comfortable with the stylus.
In terms of features and performance for the price, the HP does well and has all the bells and whistles you'd expect on a business smartphone at this or even a slightly higher price. The 528MHz CPU generally does a good job of keeping up with tasks and with 256 megs of RAM, you can leave several applications running simultaneously. Windows Mobile is often maligned, but it offers solid business features including strong MS Exchange support, a built-in Office suite, good security and compatibility with Windows desktops.
Price: $129.99 after rebates with a 2 year contract.