Though more well-known for its laptops and desktop PCs, HP is no stranger to smartphones. The company has released several models in the past, including the HP iPaq hw6945 Mobile Messenger and the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger, both of which have garnered some good user reviews, and now its hoping the HP iPaq 910c Business Messenger will do the same.
First announced back in September 2007, this messaging-centric smartphone is finally available in the United States. The iPaq 910c certainly isn't going to win any awards in the design category, but for its intended audience of power business users, they will probably care more about the functionality than looks anyway, and the 910c certainly delivers in the features department. Windows Mobile 6.1, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, multimedia--it's all in there. Performance was satisfactory, though call quality could have been better. That said, we think the biggest hurdle for HP will be the price and brand awareness. The iPaq 910c has not been picked up by a U.S. carrier, so you'll pay around $500 for an unlocked version of the smartphone. Plus, it's going to face stiff competition from brands like HTC, Samsung, and Motorola, which offer similar features and performance and for less with carrier support.
Looking at the HP iPaq 910c, we couldn't help but be reminded of the Motorola Q9c. Both smartphones sport a black and silver chassis; have similar keyboards; and are slightly on the bulky side. Of course, that's not to say the 910c is a knock off of the Q9c; it's far from it. The iPaq 910c has the advantage of a 2.46-inch touch screen that displays 65,000 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. Though clear and bright, the display size is a bit on the small side, so you can't easily tap icons or select menu items with a fingertip. You'll get more accurate results by using the stylus, and fortunately, HP includes a number of external controls to make for easy one-handed operation (more on this later).
The smartphone measures 4.5 inches high by 2.5 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and weighs 5.4 ounces, so it'll make for a tight fit in a pants pocket. There is a belt holster included in the sales package, so you can use that to carry your device around. The 910c has a solid construction and features a soft-touch finish on the back, so it doesn't easily slip from your hands.
Below the display, you have a navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, and a four-way toggle with a center select key. You also get shortcuts to your calendar, in-box, and Start menu, and an OK button. We found the layout of these keys to be roomy, but the buttons are a bit stiff to press. We felt the same way about the 910c's QWERTY keyboard. The buttons are a good size and have a nice concave shape to them, but they're just a tad slippery and again, stiff to press.
On the left spine, you'll find a volume rocker, a voice recorder/command button, a microSD expansion slot, and a mini USB port. The right side has a scroll wheel, an OK button, and a camera activation/capture key. As we mentioned earlier, the iPaq 910c is pretty easy to use one-handed thanks to the shortcut keys and the side-mounted jog dial. The latter can also be pressed in to select items. There's a power button, a reset hole, and an external antenna jack on top. Finally, the camera lens, flash, self-portrait mirror, and speaker are on the back.
The HP iPaq 910c Business Manager comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset, a protective case, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtone, and help page.
If the name didn't give it away, the HP iPaq 910c Business Messenger is a messaging-centric smartphone for business users. The smartphone runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition so it ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology out of the box for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via the Exchange Server. You can access your POP3 and IMAP accounts as well, and there's support for HTML formatted e-mails.
The iPaq 910c also allows you to compose and send e-mail by voice (your recipient will receive an audio file--no speech-to-text functionality yet--in his or her in-box with your message), as it comes with the Voice Commander feature that we first saw on the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger. This voice command system lets you perform a number of tasks (around 20 in total) by speaking to the device.
With Windows Mobile 6.1, you also get the new Getting Started menu that will guide you through the setup of your e-mail, Bluetooth headset pairing, ringtones, and more. The full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite is available for editing and creating Word and Excel documents and viewing PowerPoint presentations, while Web browsing is handled by Internet Explorer Mobile. Other productivity tools include a PDF reader, a task manager, a voice recorder, and a calculator. For running applications, the iPaq 910c has 128MB SDRAM and 256MB Flash ROM, and the microSD slot can accommodate up to 4GB cards.
As a phone, the quad-band HP iPaq 910c offers world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and you can store multiple numbers, addresses, and personal information. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of three polyphonic ringtones. Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard for use with mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, file sharing, dial-up networking, and more.
We think you'll also be happy to hear that the iPaq 910c supports UMTS/HSDPA (tri-band 850/1900/2100) and has integrated Wi-Fi. Note that you only get the HSDPA support on AT&T and not T-Mobile's 3G network, which operates on the 1700/2100 bands. And if that weren't enough, there's integrated GPS. Since there's a GPS receiver built into the device, you can use the iPaq 910c as a standalone handheld GPS, even if there isn't a SIM card in the phone. HP also ships the smartphone with a couple of navigation extras. First, there's a utility called HP iPaq GPS QK Position that will help speed up the time it takes to find your current position. Second, Google Maps comes preloaded on the device so you can browse its various maps, search for local businesses, check traffic, and so forth; you can, of course, use other third-party navigation software for maps, turn-by-turn directions, and more.
Whether for work or play, the iPaq 910c has a 3-megapixel camera with flash and video recording capabilities. In camera mode, you can choose from six resolutions and three photo qualities. There are also five capture modes as well as 4x zoom, a self timer, and white balance settings. Video can only be captured in H263 format and in one of two resolutions. Once done, you can share your photo with others via e-mail, multimedia message, or Bluetooth. There's also an option to upload them directly to a Snapfish account.
Picture quality was decent. Images looked sharp with pretty good coloring. Our complaint was that there was bit of shutter lag, so be sure not to move the phone immediately after taking a photo, otherwise you might end up with a blurry image. Unfortunately, video quality wasn't so hot, as recorded clips looked very grainy.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900/2100) HP iPaq 910c Business Messenger in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was OK but could have been better. On our end, we could hear a bit of a background hiss during calls and volume could be soft at times. Still, we were able to carry on conversations and use an airline's voice automated response system. Meanwhile, our friends reported good results overall, but said there was an echo at times. The speakerphone was sub-par, as voices could sound garbled, and again, volume was weak even at the highest level. On the bright side, we successfully paired the 910c with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Active Bluetooth Headphones.
Armed with a 416MHz Marvel PXA270 processor, the iPaq 910c was generally responsive, though there were times when we noticed some delays. The performance issues weren't anything debilitating but more of the typical slowdowns we've experienced on other Windows Mobile devices when too many applications are running at the same time. Web browsing was fast, whether we were using AT&T's 3G network or Wi-Fi, but we do have to say the 910c's smaller screen size didn't add much to the experience.
As for multimedia performance, music sounded weak and flat through the phone's speakers, and unfortunately, the device isn't equipped with a 3.5mm headphone jack so you'll have to use the sub-par earbuds included in the box or get a headset adapter. Videos looked OK; again, the small screen size wasn't ideal for watching clips. Still, picture and audio were always synchronized. Moving to GPS, the iPaq 910c took about 5 minutes to get a fix on our location from a cold start, but subsequent starts were much faster and the handheld did a good job of tracking our position.
The iPaq 910c Business Messenger's 1,940mAh lithium-ion battery has a rated talk time of 7.5 hours and up to 10.4 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests, but we'll update this section as soon as we have final results. Finally, we are trying to confirm the iPaq 910c's digital SAR rating and will include in our review and FCC radiation charts once we have the information.