The handheld market has been getting squeezed lately, so it is no surprise that HP has finally decided to jump on the smart phone bandwagon with the iPaq h6315 Pocket PC. Available through T-Mobile wireless service ($499 with activation; $599 without), the h6315 blurs the line between phone and PDA and offers four-way wireless capabilities (GSM/GPRS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and IrDA). In addition, it sports a VGA camera and add-on keyboard. Purely from a design standpoint, the h6315 can't match the popular Treo 600; the iPaq is larger and heavier, and it looks much more like an overgrown PDA than a phone. Still, if you're after a Pocket PC with everything but the kitchen sink, the iPaq h6315 is the PDA for you. The challenge with any convergence device is cramming all those multifaceted features into a design that is compact, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. The HP iPaq h6315 is only partially successful. Like the , the , and the , the h6315 looks more like a PDA than a phone. (Microsoft refers to these as Pocket PCs Phone Edition to distinguish them from true smart phones such as the .) At 4.7 by 2.9 by 0.7 inches and 6.7 ounces, many users will find it too bulky to use as their primary cell phone. And even without the snap-on keyboard, it is larger and heavier than the Treo 600.
The keyboard attaches to the bottom of the device and adds to the overall size of the handheld. While handy for punching out quick e-mails and text messages, we wish HP had seamlessly integrated the keyboard as on the Treo 600. Another gripe: The keys are spaced so close together that we had a difficult time getting into a rhythm when thumb-typing. To be fair, it's faster than a virtual keyboard or other input method, but we'd recommend that you give it a test-drive before you buy, especially if you have bigger digits.
The detachable keyboard has its advantages, however. Foremost among them, it frees up valuable real estate for the 3.5-inch TFT (thin-film transistor), 64,000-color screen, making it easier to read than a typical phone display. Beneath it, you'll find four shortcut keys--Contacts, Talk, End, and Inbox--and a navigational keypad.
The rubberized sides make it easy to grip the handheld with one-touch access to various functions. On the left are a 3.5mm headphone jack (which accepts Walkman-style headphones), a voice-record button, and a Reset button, while the right side has up- and down-volume controls, the SDIO/MMC slot, and a camera-capture button. The top of the h6315 houses the antenna, the IR port, and the stylus holder. And rounding out the chassis are the camera lens and the battery lock and release buttons on the back of the device. HP also throws in a desktop cradle, an AC adapter, and an earbud headset. From a PDA standpoint, the HP iPaq h6315 has a respectable set of features. Powered by a Texas Instrument OMAP 1510 167MHz processor, the device has 64MB of ROM and RAM (55MB of which are user accessible). The handheld runs Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition, and the usual suspects--Pocket Outlook, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player--are onboard. You also get a few extras, including Microsoft Reader, ClearVue Presentations, and a handful of HP utilities, such as iPaq Backup and HP Profiles for defining profiles for wireless connectivity.
One of the chief selling points of the h6315 is that it offers wireless your way. Want to use Bluetooth (or infrared, for that matter) to synchronize data? You're set to go. Need to check your stocks using Wi-Fi while at Starbuck's? No problem. Of course, it's also a true world phone (quad-band GSM/GPRS) for voice and data. No other handheld or phone we know of currently offers all that.
To use the h6315 as a phone, the simplest way to call up the touch-screen dial pad is to press the Talk button on the front of the device. (Alternatively, you can use the keyboard to dial, but there's no numeric keyboard, so you have to press the Shift key for every number.) From there, you can view your call history, speed dial numbers, and access your contact list. Once a call is active, you can also turn on the speakerphone. Other phone features include vibrate mode, SMS text messaging (up to 160 characters), and MMS multimedia messaging.
Aside from text messaging, T-Mobile's My E-mail service gives you access to POP3, IMAP, and corporate e-mail accounts. Also, if you work in a Microsoft Exchange 2003 environment, you can receive e-mail attachments and remotely synchronize with your calendar and contacts. Instant-messaging fanatics will also be pleased to see the h6315 allows them to log in to AOL, Yahoo, and ICQ programs.
There is also a built-in VGA camera that can take pictures with a maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels. Picture quality wasn't the greatest, and you'll want to be sure there's plenty of light if you're taking indoor shots, as they come out looking dark. A nice touch: You can use the included HP Image Zone software to view and edit images and to create slide shows. We tested the quad-band (GSM/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900) HP iPaq h6315 in the San Francisco area with T-Mobile service. Call quality was generally good, and callers said they could hear us clearly, even through the speakerphone and headset. Also, volume was quite loud, so you should be able to hold a conversation outdoors with no problem.
As a PDA, the h6315's performance wasn't all that impressive. Equipped with Texas Instrument's OMAP 1510 167MHz processor, the device was a bit sluggish when there were multiple applications open. Even the Start menu responded slowly to our stylus taps. However, it did score well in CNET Labs' battery tests. Playing a looped a video clip with all wireless off and backlight set at midlevel, the h6315 lasted 8.35 hours. Rated talk time is 4.5 hours, and standby time is 210 hours.
As noted earlier, the h6315 features four-way wireless capabilities--Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, and IrDA--and each one worked well. Web pages loaded with ease, and we were able to pair the device with a Bluetooth-enabled PDA and transfer contacts. We also liked that you could have all technologies on at the same time.
The h6315's screen displays 64,000 colors, but we often thought images looked a bit washed out. We adjusted the screen setting and backlight, which helped, and it was easily readable outdoors.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.