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iMATE XDA II I've had my imate for just about a month now and I could tell you everything you'd need to know about it in one sentence. After 30 days of use, I'd be willing to lose just about everything I have before giving it up. But let me discuss why:

When I first saw what it looked like, I thought it was simply a newer version of the T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition. After all, it does bare a strong resemblance to it. But there's a big price difference, about $ 500-600.00 so I knew there had to be some pretty serious differences. I was right, there were. If you check out the Spec Sheet you'll see some really amazing numbers. Basically, the thing has more power and resources than a top of the line desktop from a few years back. Sporting a 400MHz processor and 128MB SDRAM this thing has a ton of muscle, particularly for something this small. The battery life is similarly impressive. If you've owned a PDA before, you are amply aware that battery life, or lack thereof, is the bane of your PDA experience. The numbers are posted in the link I posted above, but according to the manual, here's what you are looking at:

Talk-Time: 2 - 4 hours
PDA: 13 hours (this of course is an approximation but experience bares this out)
Standby: 150 - 170 hours (again, an approximation but I have not been able to test this)
Data Retention Time: 72 hours

All in all those are some pretty impressive numbers and considering that the thing functions as a cell phone, it's hard to complain with power like that. It's also got a spare / backup battery and although it's pretty limited, it's got enough power to bail you out of many major jams - if the main battery is totally dead it can save your data for 20 minutes. There are a lot of power setting you can manipulate on it and I have not found battery life to be much of an issue with one limited exception (that was totally my fault). It's important to remember though that the imate is packed full of features, many of which are hardware based. If you crank up all of these, you can expect some diminished battery life commensurate with what you use. I seldom use Bluetooth or WiFi when I'm not at my house. If you use the Jabra or connect to your workplace wifi network, this will obviously be a little different for you. The Camera, particularly the Video Recorder feature can be a battery hog but this should not surprise anyone. One day I hit the record button accidentally on my way to work and inadvertantly left the camera on for about two hours. I got to work around 8:00 (must have turned on the camera sometime before that) and around 10:00 I heard the low battery warning. This may be a slight problem for you b / c it's not hard to accidentally hit the camera button. There is a button lock, but it's also a pain in the butt. With that said, I've had the phone for about a month now, and as clumsy as I am I've only done this once so it's not a major deal if you are even remotely careful. As far as battery life goes, I keep it charged when I'm home. When I go to work my charge is usually 100% and when I get home around 5:00 or 6:00, it's usually around 40% depending on how much I talk on it. I can not remember seeing it below that. So I usually stick it in the charger for an hour and then head to the gym or out to eat. Until I got a Personal Media Center, and I used it for my MP3 player while working out and again, battery power has not been an issue.

Since I mentioned the Media Player, I'll talk about it a little. When I got the phone I splurged for a 256 MB storage card which provides me just about all the storage I'd ever need. The headphones that come with the phone are a bit lame in that they are impossible to keep in your ears. So I went to Circuit City and bought a pretty cool set for under $ 20.00. Jabra is another option and the imate has Bluetooth built in so it's a very viable option. As far as using it for an MP3 player, it's perfect. You can listen to your music, and if you get a call, it switches mode, it pauses your music, lets you take the call and then returns you to where you were as soon as your done. You can also hear a notification if you get a SMS message or email. Like I said, I just got a Personal Media Center which is my best friend in the world when working out, but the imate definitely did a good job.

The phone component is really cool. As you'd expect, it integrates with your contacts in outlook and it takes care of syncing them for you as soon as you create a partnership. This could not be any easier. You have some pretty amazing features in Contacts so you'll want to take full advantage of this. For instance, my girlfriend has a direct phone line at work, a general work number and cell number, a VOIP number, 3 different emails and of course a SMS number (which is the same as the cell number). By specifying all of these in her contact, I can call, email or text message her just about anywhere (or everywhere) with absolute ease. But another cool feature is the Photo Contacts. This allows you to add a picture to each of your contacts so when you select the contact, their picture appears. Similarly, when Caller ID detects that someone on your contact list is calling, it will show their picture if available. I found that adding pictures was a bit counterintuitive and the imate maintains a separate 'Photo Contacts' and' Contacts' area, although Photo contacts will grab its information from contacts. After figuring it out for the first time though, it was a piece of cake. You can also attach custom rings to your phone, so between these two features, you can have it 'your way' to a degree I have not expreienced before.

The imate has all the goodies you'd expect such as Bluetooth, GPRS connectivity etc.. One of the cooler features is the ability to receive an e-mail, hit reply, record a voice message and send your reply back as audio. How much you want to do this depends on your service plan but it's very cool. All imate owners can sign up for free at www.clubimate.com which has an Exchange server and the new Outlook Web interface (very nice touch). They have a lot of add-ons like Ring tones and back grounds (although I noticed that all of the ring tones were either India or Arab based - was not sure what that's all about).

As far as the speaker and receiver, they are both pretty strong. I've tried a few various headsets and none of them have been that impressive. However, if I use the phone directly, the volume is quite powerful and with limited exceptions, no one has reported any problems hearing me. I had a weird problem for 2 days where the volume seemed to go out - and this would have been a career ending injury. I could use the phone with the headset but other than that the audio was gone (and no, I did not have the mute the volume on or turned very low). But this just fixed itself after a day so that was a pleasant surprise.

The camera is pretty cool too, and will allow you to shoot still images or video. Phone as far as cameras go, it's probably the best I've come across. As far as stand alone digital cameras go, it's a little limited. The main problem seems to be with lighting and that's possibly because I've missed something (bubblehead moves like this have been committed by me before). There are some built in templates that you can use and integrate your pictures into PictureShow - a very nice touch. Moreoever you can use your pictures for the Today Screen. Another feature that's cool is that you can have them auto sync with the desktop - nothing out of the ordinary but very convenient nonetheless. Also, the video and audio capabilities are pretty strong overall and they are a great fit with the multimedia functionality provides the imate.

So I can say that each of the advertised features of the imate do what they say and do it well. If you are a feature freak, you'll be in love from the first second you see it. But it's biggest feature is the power. 128MB of RAM gives you plenty of elbow room on the device and you can even write really sloppy compact framework code and have it run pretty well on an imate (of course, I would never write such code). Same goes for the processor, plenty of power to do anything you may want to do. I have yet to be even slightly disappointed with the imate's muscle. And compared to say, a HP 1940, this thing is a PowerMonger. The battery life is great too. There are some great settings so you can turn off the PDA without turning off the phone and you can turn things off after a few mintues - in a nutshell, you can really conserve on power and that will not be a problem if you are even remotely good about charging it.

Finally, there are a whole slew of accessories and I have the standard leather case. There are plenty more available out there if you are so inclined but considering the imate's price tag, you may not be really anxious to go out and spend a bunch more on it. With that said, you will not be disappointed if you buy one, on the contrary. Even though they are not cheap, you'll get over the price tag in 10 seconds. Every single person I've shown it to has had the "Wow" effect and among PDA or smart phone enthusiasts, this is even more pronounced. Now not everyone likes the PDA form factor and for them, imate has a Smart phone version which looks just like the Orange SPV. Rob Tiffany is about to review his, but I have no doubt he'll find it to be just as cool as I found mine to be. Few gadgets honestly justify their price tags, but without a doubt, the imate does. It is the coolest Phone I've ever owned, as well as the coolest PDA and until I got a Personal Media Center, it was the coolest portable music player too.

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