With its integrated QWERTY keyboard, e-mail is an obvious draw for a device like the hw6900 series, which also ships with Microsoft's Messaging and Security Feature Pack, so you get direct push technology for wireless synchronization with Microsoft Exchange and your Outlook e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks. Most likely you'll want to contact your I.T. department for help setting up access to your corporate e-mail. If your company uses Good Technology, don't worry, the hw6900 also supports this solution, as well as Cingular XpressMail. The latter allows you to not only access work e-mail but also POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP accounts. We used XpressMail to receive our Yahoo e-mail on the hw6945, and after entering our user ID and password, we started getting messages within 15 minutes with no problems.
One thing that sets the HP iPaq hw6900 series apart from the rest of its smart phone brethren is the integrated GPS receiver, so it can double as a handheld GPS device. Even better, the smart phone supports Cingular's recently launched location-based service, TeleNav GPS Navigator so you can get turn-by-turn, text- and voice-guided directions and color maps, a Biz Finder for searching local businesses, a Fuel Finder, and a Spot Marker so you can find your car wherever you parked it. The service costs $9.99 per month for unlimited use or $5.99 per month for up to 10 trips. (Check back for our full review.) The hw6900 series also ships with the Microsoft Pocket Streets 2006 mapping program.
In addition to the GPS radio, the iPaq hw6900 series also packs in Bluetooth 1.2 and Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless connections. The iPaq Wireless utility found on the device conveniently allows you to turn on either or both of the wireless options with a tap of a button. Supported Bluetooth profiles include file transfer, information exchange, dial-up networking, and hands-free kits. While the integrated Wi-Fi will help you cruise the Web, the EDGE brings faster data connection speeds. It's too bad the hw6900 series can't accommodate Cingular's 3G HSPDA network.
As for voice features, the HP iPaq hw6900 series is a quad-band world phone, so you can use it while you travel overseas. The address book is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and it can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry, as well as home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one 9 ring tones. The phone also supports MIDI, WAV, and WMA ring tones. Other highlights include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, and voice dialing.
Both the HP iPaq hw6945 and hw6925 are equipped with a 1.3 megapixel camera with video recording capabilities and flash. For still images, you have a choice of 4 resolutions, 3 compression sizes, and settings for white balance and color. There's also a self-timer and an option to turn off the capture sound. In video mode, you can record clips with sound and no time limit, but you're restricted to just 3 resolutions. There are a couple of cool things about the iPaq's camera: First, HP kindly includes a photo management app, called HP Photosmart Mobile, where you can view your images in a slide show, add voice notes, send them via e-mail, and so forth. Second, when you're using the camera, you may notice a GPS icon along the bottom edge. When you press it, the hw6945 will record the GPS coordinates (as long as you have a satellite fix at the time) of the location where you're taking the photo. Then, if you happen to want to return to the spot at a later time, the device can map out the location based on the saved GPS coordinates. The feature is very similar to the one found in the Navman iCN 750 portable navigation system--and it's very cool. As far as image quality goes, the hw6945 was mediocre with fairly sharp lines but washed-out color. We appreciate that HP and Cingular offer cameraless versions in the iPaq hw6920 and hw6940, given that more and more businesses are prohibiting the use of camera phones for security reasons.
Finally, as with all Windows Mobile devices, the HP iPaq hw6900 series comes with Windows Media Player 10 for your multimedia needs. The device supports AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files. Also, if you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to the hw6945 and view them on the go. In addition, the smart phone comes preloaded with two games: Bubble Breaker and Solitaire.
We tested the quad-band HP iPaq hw6945 (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) world phone in San Francisco using Cingular's service, and call quality was generally positive. Like the i-mate Jaq, we had to adjust the phone's earpiece several times in order to find the audio sweet spot, but once we did, conversations were loud and clear. Our callers reported the same. Unfortunately, the audio quality diminished when we activated the speakerphone. There was a slight echo and volume was low. On the bright side, we had no problems pairing the hw6945 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
Beyond phone quality, the HP iPaq hw6945 was a mediocre performer. The Web browsing experience was good as pages loaded quickly, though it was nothing compared to the super-fast Cingular 8525. The handheld was generally responsive to our commands as well, but we noticed a definite delay when we activated the camera or GPS function. Music playback through the device's speakers was pretty dismal, as songs sounded weak and tinny. We plugged in a pair of earbuds, however, and sound was much better.
The hw6945 is rated for four hours of talk time and up to 7 days of standby time. In our tests, we got 7 hours of talk time before having to recharge. We did notice that using the other wireless options really had an affect on the battery life. If you don't need to use these features, we recommend you turn the radio off to conserve your battery.