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It's been a while since we've seen a smartphone from HP here in the United States, but the company's hoping to shine with its new messaging device for AT&T, called the HP iPaq Glisten. The Windows Mobile 6.5 handset looks decent on paper, offering all the essential features a mobile professional would want in a smartphone: a full range of wireless options, e-mail capabilities with a spacious QWERTY keyboard, and productivity tools. However, after spending some time with the device, we came away feeling completely underwhelmed by the iPaq Glisten. Its AMOLED touch screen should be one of the highlights of the smartphone, but instead, the low-resolution screen and the poor touch interface make it one of the phone's downfalls. In addition, there's very little in the way of extras or customization that just makes the smartphone feel drab.
For our money, we'd rather give up the touch screen and go with something like the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700, which offers a sharper screen, faster performance, and costs about $80 less than the iPaq. However, if you're not a BlackBerry fan or are partial to Windows Mobile, the iPaq Glisten can do the job, just don't expect a lot of bells and whistles. The HP iPaq Glisten is available now with a two-year contract for $179.99, after a $50 mail-in rebate.
Designed for business users, the HP iPaq Glisten has an appropriately corporate-friendly look with its all-black casing and silver chrome highlights. Its design is similar to the rest of the QWERTY messaging smartphones out there today but like the Samsung Jack, the Glisten is slightly on the wider side at 2.48 inches wide by 4.45 inches high by 0.52 inch thick, so it's a bit of a handful when you're holding it up to your ear on a phone call. It does have a very sturdy construction, however, and has a soft-touch finish on back.
One of the highlights of the iPaq Glisten should be its 2.5-inch AMOLED resistive touch screen, the reason being that AMOLED displays are sharper, brighter, and consume less power than standard LCDs. Unfortunately, the Glisten's lowly QVGA resolution (240x320) doesn't make it pop quite as much in comparison to the AMOLED displays on the Samsung Omnia II and the Behold II. It's still bright and readable, but just doesn't display images and text quite as smoothly or as sharply as the others.
In addition, the small screen isn't optimized to take full advantage of the new touch-friendly menus of Windows Mobile 6.5. For example, there's more scrolling involved since the iPaq Glisten can only show a few of the Start menu icons onscreen at once. Also, once you get past the new Today screen and Start menu, the submenus look a bit antiquated and selecting items from the cramped drop-down require that you break out the stylus to make selections. The virtual soft keys along the bottom of the Home screen also require a bit of precision, so we would have preferred the traditional physical buttons. You do get a few navigation controls below the display, however, including Talk and End keys, a Start menu shortcut, an OK button, and a directional keypad.
Now, while we're not huge fans of the Glisten's screen, we have few complaints about the smartphone's full QWERTY keyboard. It features large, domed buttons with clear lettering and ample backlight, so we had very little problem using the keyboard. The bottom row also includes shortcuts to several apps, including the Web browser, calendar, messages, and AT&T Navigator, which is handy.
On top of the device, there's a power button and a quick-launch key to turn Wi-Fi on/off. The left side holds a volume rocker while you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Micro-USB port on the right. As usual, the camera is located on back with the microSD expansion slot hiding behind the battery door.
AT&T packages the HP iPaq Glisten with basic accessories, including an AC adapter, a USB cable, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The HP iPaq Glisten keeps it fairly straightforward in the features department, remaining focused on the most essential tools for business users. As we noted earlier, the smartphone is running Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional Edition, so you get some of the new benefits of the updated OS, such as Microsoft's My Phone backup service, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, and an improved Internet Explorer Mobile.
E-mail capabilities remain pretty much the same as Windows Mobile 6.1 with real-time synchronization with your Outlook e-mail, calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. Once Exchange 2010 is released, Windows Mobile 6.5 will support conversation view for e-mails, unified messaging, free/busy calendar lookup, and more. The iPaq Glisten also supports POP3 and IMAP accounts, text, multimedia, and instant messaging. A Facebook app came installed on our review unit but you can download more social networking apps as well as numerous other titles from the Windows Marketplace.
Other apps shipping on the iPaq Glisten include the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, Adobe Reader LE, Sprite Backup, MSN Weather, MSN Money, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Music, AT&T Video, and Yellow Pages Mobile.
The standard personal information management tools are also there. The HP iPaq Glisten's address book is only limited by the available memory and offers space for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, company information, and the like. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, a group ID, or a custom ringtone. Phone features include quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dialing, voice dialing, conference calling, and noise cancellation technology for better audio quality. Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, Wi-Fi, and support for AT&T's 3G network are also all available on the Glisten.
The smartphone is pretty bare-bones in the multimedia department. The preloaded Windows Media Player gives you a basic player for checking out MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV, H.263, H.264 videos. AT&T's entertainment services provide another avenue for discovering new music and video. The iPaq Glisten offers 256MB SDRAM/512MB Flash but is expandable up to 32GB via the microSD slot.
The iPaq Glisten is also equipped with a 3.1-megapixel, fixed-focus camera with 5x digital zoom and video-recording capabilities. HP also includes its PhotoSmart Mobile app so you can edit photos right on your device. Picture quality could be better. There's quite a bit of shutter lag, so even though we tried not to move the camera after pressing the capture button, we still ended up with blurry images. Colors were also slightly washed out.
We tested the HP iPaq Glisten in New York using AT&T service and call quality was decent. On our end, there was plenty of volume and audio was clear enough that we didn't have any problems hearing the conversation. However, there was a slight background hiss that persisted during our review period. Friends also reported hearing a similar static during lulls in the conversation but said sound quality was good otherwise. Speakerphone quality wasn't all that great. Audio sounded tinny and garbled, so it was difficult to hear the conversation at times. Volume was also low in noisy environments, so it was nearly impossible to have a conversation.
We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth Headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones without any problems. We also plugged our On-Ear Bose Headphones into the smartphone's 3.5mm jack to listen to some tunes and music playback was satisfactory. Video, however, also suffered because of the QVGA resolution. The picture simply wasn't very sharp and playback was often choppy.
Using AT&T's 3G network, CNET's full site loaded in 1 minute and 6 seconds, while CNN and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 10 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. Not to beat a dead horse, but the smartphone's smaller screen size definitely hurt the Web-browsing experience, and even though Windows Mobile 6.5 has made improvements to Internet Explorer Mobile, navigating the browser is still cumbersome.
The iPaq Glisten is equipped with a 528MHz Qualcomm 7200A processor but can occasionally be sluggish, taking several seconds to launch apps or even open e-mails. However, it was able to handle most tasks without a problem and we didn't experience any system crashes during our testing period.
The HP iPaq Glisten features a 1590mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 15 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests but will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the iPaq Glisten has a digital SAR rating of 1.25 watts per kilogram.