Whilst HTC and HP mobile devices are pretty much synonymous with Windows Mobile devices, i-mate has been bidding its time, waiting to make its debut turn on the dance floor. A few months ago, we featured i-mate's Ultimate 9502, and were very impressed by it despite the considerable size and heft. Following up on that, we now have the i-mate Ultimate 8502.
Straight off the bat, the 8502 is your typical prim and proper Windows Mobile handheld aimed at the executives rather than the fashionistas. Encased in black, the 8502 is a pretty chunky phone weighing 140g, compared to slimmer offerings like the Samsung i780. On the other hand, it does fit snugly in the palm for one-handed navigation and operation. Having a concave 2.6-inch touchscreen display means you'll more than likely need a stylus to navigate the interface in favor of the cumbersome fingertip clicking.
The 37-key QWERTY keypad of the 8502 stretches across the full width of the phone's chassis. Typing experience was excellent but came at the expense of the individual key spacing. Nonetheless, the keys provided just the right amount of tactile feedback. Above the QWERTY keypad sits a mini joystick which works very well for navigation, as does the jog wheel on the left side of the device.
i-mate includes a remote device/data security system known as Secure i-Q that lets you lock and/or wipe your i-mate ULTIMATE or JAMA device of your personal data, including any information on the SD card (provided it is still inserted in the SD slot of the device). You can even go to the extent of sounding an alarm should it be lost or stolen. Done from the comfort of any PC with internet access, there is no special software required. All you need to do is register for the service before your i-mate device goes missing.
Through another service - Custom i-Q, you can completely customize your mobile with all your settings and preferences installed over the air so you just power up and go. This also creates a backup of your customization profile at www.imate.com to setup a new device or to restore settings to an existing device over the air (via GPRS or 3G).
Almost as feature packed as the Ultimate 9502, the 8502 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7200 400MHz processor with 128MB of RAM, 256MB of ROM, HSDPA, Wi-Fi and integrated GPS, though similar to the 9502, it sorely lacks a VGA screen. As it's targeted at the executive, the 8502 is also capable of video output for external displays like projectors. Battery life is reasonable with the 8502, running for a good two days with intermittent use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth before the low battery status indicator appeared. Regardless, we estimate that the battery will last longer when used purely for calls and messages.
Given what we've found, the pricing for the i-mate 8502 may come as a jaw dropper to many at S$1298. High price notwithstanding, the two-year warranty for the 8502 is quite uncommon among such devices. This assurance may garner the attention of serious buyers but it does seem unnecessary in a fast-paced market where new devices are born every six months. After all, if you change your handhelds at the rate you change clothes, an extended warranty won't be much of a carrot when you are forking out for the latest and greatest.