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I-mate SP5 (black)

The I-mate SP5 improves upon its predecessor with a revamped design and new features. Read on to see if it's right for you.

I-mate SP5

If you're not a smart-phone fanatic, there's a good chance you may not have heard of I-mate. Although it's been in existence since 2001 and only landed on U.S. shores in April 2005, the company made quite a splash with the I-mate Jam, earning a 7.6 rating from CNET editors and an even better average rating of 8.5 from CNET users. The company's other smart phone, the I-mate SP3i, however, didn't fare as well, with several complaints of poor quality. Well, I-mate is hoping to right this wrong with the SP5, as it sports a revamped design and new features. Read on to find out more about the smart phone; the I-mate SP5 will be available in April.

Upside: The I-mate SP5 is a good-looking device, and you can't deny the advantages of its compact form factor (4.2 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches; 3.7 ounces). This candy bar-style smart phone won't weigh any mobile professionals down. It also rocks a sharp 2.2-inch-diagonal QVGA screen that shows 64,000 colors. Design elements aside, the SP5 has features for both work and play. The quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition, has integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and supports EDGE networks. It also has 64MB of ROM, 64MB of RAM, and a Mini SD card slot. For a little more fun, there's a 1.3-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities and Windows Media Player 10 Mobile for more videos and music. Other goodies include a speakerphone, as well as text, multimedia, and instant messaging.

Downside: For ultimate road warriors, the I-mate SP5 may not be the best fit, since the device runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition rather than the Pocket PC Edition. That means it doesn't include the full Office Mobile Suite, namely Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; however, you can get these applications through third-party apps. Also, while Outlook Mobile is on board, the SP5 is better for viewing e-mail rather than sending it, since there isn't a QWERTY keyboard. Finally, as with its sibling, the I-mate Jamin, if a carrier doesn't pick it up, your wallet will feel the crunch as you shell out $399 for an unlocked version.

Outlook: The I-mate SP5 has a lot of good things going for it--a small form factor, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi--but it will face plenty of competition from the Cingular 2125, which is available now, and the T-Mobile SDA, which will be available in February. Still, we're anxious to get our hands on the device, and we'll be sure to get a full review up as soon as we can.

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