HP has announced, but not yet released, the iPAQ 610 Business Navigator. This 3G smartphone will run Windows Mobile 6 and offer a nice variety of wireless connectivity options.
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I recently had a chance to spend some time with a pre-production version of this device, and I thought I’d share some first impressions of it.
It’s All About the Wheel
In many ways the iPAQ 610 is a run-of-the-mill device. It’s good, but not outstanding. But it does include one genuinely innovative feature that sets it apart from the pack.
This smartphone includes a built-in numberpad, rather than a keyboard. Superimposed on the numbers will be the Smart Touch wheel.
This is a little hard to describe, but imagine holding a phone and putting your finger lightly on the 2 key, then sliding it down past the 6 and on around to the 8, and this causes a cursor on the screen to scroll down. Sliding your finger in the opposite direction makes the cursor move up. It’s immediately intuitive, quick, easy to use, and, well, fun.
If it isn’t obvious, this will function as the iPAQ’s 610’s scrollwheel, allowing the user to easily select items on the smartphone’s screen display one handed.
Because I don’t think words do enough to show how slick this input device is, I’ve included a video my co-worked Andrew Baxter took while using the Smart Touch wheel.
There is something to keep in mind with this smartphone, though. The touch wheel takes the place of a D-pad. This will cause problems for applications that require a D-pad — especially games.
Still, most of the time this bit of innovation makes the 610 noticeably easier to use one handed.
HP is heavily emphasizing one of the features of this smartphone by putting it right in the name. This iPAQ will come with a built-in A-GPS receiver, allowing this device to act as a navigation system.
"A-GPS" stands for Assisted Global Positioning System. Odds are you’re familiar with the GPS system, in which satellites signals are used to exactly determine your position. For the most part this works well, but large buildings can block the signals from the satellites, which makes regular GPS somewhat problematic in big cities. Enter A-GPS. This uses signals from radio towers to augment the positioning data from satellites, and can be much more accurate than regular GPS in some situations.
Function Over Form
Bucking the general trend of slim smartphones, the iPAQ 610 is nearly three-quarters of an inch thick. When I talked to HP’s company representatives about this, they were completely unapologetic.
According to them, when designing this model, one of the important goals was a good battery life. That’s why it includes a 1590 mAh battery. This is supposed to allow the average business user to not have to constantly worry about recharging. Their attitude seems to be that if this requires the device to be relatively large, then so be it.
When I consider the complaints I read about smartphones that don’t make it through a day without recharging, their attutude makes a certain amount of sense. But whether this model lives up to that goal remains to be seen.
The iPAQ 610 will run Windows Mobile 6 Professional on a 520 MHz XScale processor.This is the version of this operating system for smartphones with touchscreens, and this model will have a 2.8 inch, QVGA one.
It will have 128 MB of RAM and 256 MB of ROM.
This quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone will feature tri-band UMTS/HSDPA, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
It will include an integrated 3 megapixel camera with support for both video and still images.
The iPAQ 610 will sell for $600 unlocked. It will probably be lower if some carrier decides to offer this model, but so far HP seems content to sell this smartphone directly to consumers.
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