i-mate, the newest entrant to the Windows Mobile (WM) handheld market in the Asia Pacific region, makes a big splashing introduction with its flagship model – the i-mate Ultimate 9502. Inevitably, comparisons between the HTC TyTN II and the 9502 would pop up and rightfully so as both phones share a number of similarities in the specification department. Before we go into the review proper, do note that the 9502 we received is actually a pre-release model, and as such, our performance evaluation isn’t final until we get hold of a proper retail unit.
Targeted at the business consumer, the 9502 has a solid feel to it when held in one’s hand, despite it being made out of mostly plastic. When we first laid eyes on the 9502, we immediately thought of T-mobile’s Sidekick series, a mobile messaging device that won't see the light of day on our shores. Like the Sidekick, the 9502 also features a slide-out 39-key QWERTY keyboard, spelling the end of the similarity right there. Small as it may be, when we used the keyboard to type SMS or short notes, we had no complaints. This was mostly due to the structure of the device which creates an easy thumbing input experience when you hold it with both hands.
For those that prefer phones of the svelte kind, size may be an issue as the 9502 is one of the bigger devices out there. When it comes to weight; the 9502 is 10g heavier than the TyTN II, but 10g lighter than the Nokia E90 Communicator. To i-mate’s credit, the shortcomings in weight are more than made up for with its solid anodized black metal frame and a dash of faux leather, giving it an air of business-like elegance.
There are dedicated shortcut keys all around the 9502, allowing easy and fast access to often used applications without the touch of the screen. What makes the keys more user-friendly is its dimensionality, giving a better tactile feed to your navigational experience.
For memory and storage expansion purposes, you get a microSD slot located at the side of the device, though it is obstructed by the battery cover. This poses a slight problem if you're the kind that likes to take out the memory card every so often. The 9502 includes integrated support for XGA Video Out capabilities, providing you with the option to connect it to monitors or projectors and watch videos off it or even use Windows Mobile on a larger screen. This feature was especially included in a business sense so users can perform video conferencing or project slideshows and presentations from the phone itself, totally replacing the need for a notebook.
Connectivity features on the 9502 include common ones such as Wi-Fi, HSDPA and Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, and tops the spot with HSUPA that promises faster download and upload speeds with your mobile broadband plans. For general multimedia needs however, the integrated 3.0-megapixel camera is nothing to brag about as the colors look faded and washed out on a PC. With moderate usage of Wi-Fi and other applications, the 9502 lasted almost 3 days. This was by far the longest battery life we have had out of a WM device, most likely due to its battery capacity of 1,620mAH as compared to the TyTN II’s 1,350mAH.
When all is said and done, at an estimated price of US$995 (~S$1443), the i-mate Ultimate 9502 is a product that is truly deserving of its moniker as an all-in-one WM device, giving strong contenders such as the TyTN II and ASUS P750 a run for their money. To us, the 9502 is a powerhouse that has all the features you could ask for and doesn’t leave you wanting more, if you don't mind the bulk and weight that is married to it.
The VGA display is a welcome treat for multimedia viewing, or checking through maps using the 9502's integrated GPS functionality for navigation.