The line between regular mobile phones and smartphones has well and truly blurred. Dopod's 595, O2's Xda Stealth and now i-mate's Smartflip all offer full Windows Mobile 5.0 functionality, but come in packages as small as many phones that aren't as feature-rich.
The phone's basic measurements are 98.5mm by 51.4mm by 15.8mm, and this coupled with a weight of 99 grams makes it both smaller and lighter than the 595 and Stealth. The clamshell isn't quite as slim as Motorola's RAZR, but it should slip comfortably into most jeans pockets.
Speaking of the RAZR, the Smartflip uses a similar keypad design, in that there aren't individual buttons but rather a single brushed metal plate. We found this to be both comfortable and elegant.
Aesthetically, the Smartflip is all black with shiny silver accents. When compared to regular mobile phones it's far from the most attractive offering you'll find, but relative to other smartphones it's quite the looker. Check out the attached images and decide for yourself.
To wrap up our design observations, it's worth noting that i-mate has designed the device to be used as an MP3 player as well as a phone/PDA. Three track navigation buttons on the front of the device enable users to conveniently cycle through or pause songs without having to flip open the phone.
Like many clamshells, the Smartflip offers dual screens. On the outside you'll find a 1.2-inch, 128x128 LCD that supports up to 65K colours, while flipping it open reveals a 2.2-inch, 240x320 display, also supporting up to 65K colours. We found the external screen to be extremely handy since it's capable of displaying useful information at a glance, such as a digital/analogue clock, battery status, caller ID, volume, missed calls and MP3 player track information.
The internal screen is vibrant and perfect for basic phone tasks, but those looking at editing more than the occasional word document or spreadsheet will likely find themselves longing for more screen space.
The Smartflip supports Bluetooth 1.2, which is pretty much mandatory even for a non-smartphone. Unfortunately, like the Dopod 595, it doesn't offer Wi-Fi, so all of your Web browsing and e-mail downloading must take place over GPRS.
Quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900) support is present for your regular phone functions, and both loud speaker and MP3/WAV/WMA/AAC/AMR ring tones are also present.
Mobile professionals will be pleased to hear that, since it runs the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, the Smartflip comes bundled with a number of handy office applications including Outlook with push e-mail and ClearVue's Document, PDF, Presentation and Worksheet applications.
Synchronising with a PC is accomplished via a USB1.1 connection, but strangely, the device uses a proprietary 12-pin connector. This won't pose much of an issue except in the event that you lose the bundled USB cable, at which point you may have difficulty finding a replacement.
While O2's Stealth and Dopod's 595 offer 192MB and 128MB built-in flash storage respectively, the Smartflip only offers 64MB, so you'll definitely want to populate the provided microSD slot, which sits just underneath the SIM card.
Of course, no smartphone would be complete without the requisite low-end digital camera, and the Smartflip doesn't disappoint here. It's got a 1.3-megapixel camera, and although there's no flash -- which puts low-light shots out of the question -- it's capable of taking self-portraits thanks to the ability to preview your image on the external display. Noise is apparent in most snaps, but for candid weekend shots the camera should suffice.
Given its diminutive dimensions we certainly weren't expecting the Smartflip to pack a speedy processor and loads of RAM. Turns out we were right -- it's got a 195MHz processor and 64MB of memory. Surprisingly, however, during testing we hardly noticed any lag at all. Load times are fast (aside from initial boot-up), and unless you're planning on editing spreadsheets, word documents and composing e-mails simultaneously, you won't experience RAM shortages.
Navigating the user interface is easy considering the lack of a touchscreen, but bashing out long e-mails and documents isn't nearly as simple, due to the relatively small screen size and lack of a full QWERTY keyboard.
Call quality is great, the loudspeaker feature is clear and audio playback through the bundled headphones is pleasing. Battery life -- at around 2-3 days per charge -- should also be sufficient for most users.
If you're looking for a compact phone but at the same time require the power to view and compose e-mail, documents, presentations and spreadsheets, the Smartflip should fit the bill nicely.