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Sample ImageThe i-mate could be the answer to the dream of a truly consumer phone running Windows Mobile software. At 12mm thick it’s slim enough not to raise sniggers from your friends, and with full specs of 114 x 49 x 12mm it won’t look like you’re lugging around a brick.

To be truly consumer it would have to deal with photos, music and videos in a useful, useable way. Unfortunately, this is where the SPL’s problems start.

The mini-SD memory card slot is hidden away inside – no doubt to keep the unit’s size down – which means you’ll have to pull the battery out to swap the card if that’s how you store your MP3s and films.

The camera function also performs below expectations. In this case the blame should be laid at the Windows 5.0 operating system, which is clunky and slow on a phone that has a 200Mhz processor, with 128MB ROM and 64MB RAM.

Pressing the dedicated camera button brings up the colourful loading icon and when you go to capture an image there’s a slight delay. That means truly spur of the moment images will be missed.

Thankfully, the quality of the images is more than acceptable for the 2-megapixel camera, with UXGA pictures up to 1600 x 1200 being snapped.

The video function shows fairly grainy pictures on the phone’s 2.2-inch screen. However, even loud sound from a concert was captured well.

 

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The lack of bite to the consumer functions could be balanced out by the business functions – this is a Windows Mobile after all.

Sadly, these are a bit of a let down as well. Mobile versions of Microsoft Office software are missing presumed unneeded.

At least the sync functions are as good as ever for Microsoft Outlook users – beating Sony Ericsson ’s XTNDConnect hands down in our experience and slightly ahead of Nokia ’s sync software.

The SPL also boasts the ability to chat with your mates on MSN Messenger and has a handy set of nine standard text messages, to save your thumb from the punishment of typing the same usual “I’m running late” messages every time.

The battery life has also come on in leaps and bounds from the early days of smartphones. It took a full two and a half days of limited phone conversations and some major fussing with features before the phone starting demanding to be attached to a power point.

The only other problem we had was the limited size of the keyboard, which led to occasional wrong button presses and a general difficulty using the keys on the bottom row.

Overall, while the i-mate SPL is fine for those who wouldn’t class themselves as power users but fancy the frills of a smartphone, it will be lacking a certain something for everyone else.

The phone will be available in April for £236 RRP.

Rating: 6/10

 

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