At 114.5x57x17.4mm and 160g, the Data Messenger can't exactly be considered small and light. That said, it comes with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, so the increased size and weight are expected. The front of the device has a glossy finish with a very clean design. The screen is flush with the chassis and the Call and Hang up buttons are merely a thin silver strip with very subtle markings. Below this strip are two touch-sensitive buttons. The one on the left is a Windows key for bringing up the Start menu, the other is an OK key for exiting menus.
These work for the most part, but the practicality of this smartphone's design is letdown by the optical directional pad. This small, circular button lets you select by depressing it, and move around menus by swiping your finger over the sensor in the middle. We've seen this on a Windows Mobile phone in the Samsung SGH-i780, but HP's implementation is much poorer. For one, the i780's sensor was much bigger so you didn't have to keep re-adjusting your finger when scrolling long lists. Also, Samsung added the option of using a mouse pointer on the screen, which made having an optical sensor a good choice. HP does not have that software option, so in this case a regular directional pad or trackball would have sufficed, and would have been more effective, too.
The sides of this HP are pretty busy. There's a dedicated lock key along with volume controls and an additional shortcut on the left. On the right are the micro-USB and 2.5mm audio ports as well as a camera button. The ports are protected by a rubber protector, but this feels poorly attached and we found it to open easily even when we did not intend to do so. On the top of the device is a dedicated ringer switch so you can silence your phone quickly.
When you slide the screen toward the left, a landscape-orientated QWERTY keyboard is exposed. It has four rows of keys and the layout is sensible with most letters and punctuation marks found where you'd expect them to be. Aside from that positive aspect, the keyboard has very little going for it. The keys are completely flat and placed much too close to one another. This makes it difficult to figure out where each key is if you don't look intently at where your fingers are. Given the amount of space HP has to work with on this device, it could have done better with the design of the keyboard, a key selling point of this business-centric product.
The screen found on the Data Messenger measures 2.8 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 320x240 pixels (QVGA). This can be considered minimally acceptable by today's standards for a mid-range device. Having a higher resolution such as VGA or even WVGA and a larger screen would help not just for better viewing of images and videos, but also for reading websites and analysing spreadsheets more clearly.
What it lacks in design, the Data Messenger aims to make up for in features. Like other HP iPaqs before it, this smartphone comes with its own suite of software specially catered for the business user. The Home screen has special rows, one of which shows world time and weather through the Spb Traveler app. A special HP Menu is also available to give quick access to commonly used items like settings, messages and the browser.
Another useful keyguard feature requires you to press the Select key after the power button so you don't accidentally turn on the device in your pocket. IT managers will also find it easy to manage this iPaq remotely through its bundled software. This has been one of HP's key features for its smartphones and the Data Messenger is no exception. Full backups of the device's data can also be done using an accompanying app.