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i-mate Ultimate 9502 review: i-mate Ultimate 9502

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The Good A myriad of features. 2.8-inch VGA Touch screen. HSPA data speeds. Long battery life.

The Bad Exclusive to Telstra. Windows Mobile 6 can be slow. HSPA speeds less than Telstra promised.

The Bottom Line The i-mate Ultimate 9502 is one of the best smartphones we have come across -- and if you're happy with Telstra -- the i-mate 9502 makes an excellent alternative to a Blackberry or iPhone.

8.3 Overall

Review Sections

The i-mate Ultimate 9502 is the larger sibling of the i-mate Ultimate 8502, and shares the honour of being Australia's first HSUPA phone. While this phone is in the same league as a Blackberry or the iPhone, be wary of Telstra's promised internet speeds.

Design
What is immediately striking about the i-mate 9502 is the bright 2.8-inch touch screen that occupies most of the front panel. The generous 640x480 resolution means you can really enjoy multimedia content on this phone.

Unlike its smaller sibling, the i-mate Ultimate 8502, the QWERTY keyboard on the 9502 is hidden underneath a sliding screen. While it's quite small, raised keys means typing is acceptable. In a similar manner to the iPhone, the 9502 automatically detects which way the phone is oriented and tips the screen accordingly.

We had no problem using the small raised QWERTY keys on the 9502, but in truth we liked the touch screen so much that we tended to use it much more. The inclusion of a stylus stops the screen getting covered in finger prints, and in case you loose the stylus the 9502 even comes with a spare. A handy button is placed at the bottom of the screen that provides a shortcut to the 'soft' touch screen keypad.

At 116 by 60 by 17.8mm the 9502 is just fractionally larger than its smaller sibling, the 8502. While this isn't a small phone, it's a compact for the range of features it offers -- and much smaller than a monster like Nokia's E90 Communicator.

The 9502 offers a range of additional buttons, and we like the scroll wheel placed on the top left hand corner along with the with e-mail and IE key shortcuts. One annoying feature is that the button placed on the left hand side of the phone sits right next to the sliding screen, which opens in a spring loaded fashion. This left us occasionally pushing the screen rather than the "OK" or "wireless" shortcut.

Given that we preferred the stylus and touchscreen to the QWERTY keyboard placed underneath the screen, it is our view that the 8502 is the better design of the two i-mate releases. However bear in mind for extra AU$100, you get twice the display resolution (640x480 rather than a 320x240), more battery life and a higher resolution camera in the larger 9502. This more than justified the extra price in our view.

Features
The i-mate 9502 Ultimate packs pretty much every feature we have ever seen in a smartphone -- and whole bunch more we have never seen before -- including full HSPA access. However a word of caution here; with full HSPA Telstra will advertise at a maximum of 7.2mbps download and 1.9 mbps upload network maximum, but don't expect to get anywhere near these speeds.

We spoke to IDC telecommunications analyst Mark Novosel, who reported a maximum download speed of 2.2 Mbps, and 0.35 Mbps upload speed using HSPA in the North Shore and Eastern suburbs of Sydney. He was using an identical i-mate 9502 to our review unit. In our experience with the phone, the speeds reported by Novosel are realistic or even optimistic.

However given that the 9502 includes support for 802.11g/b Wi-Fi networks, you may be able to find a hotspot and avoid the whole 3.5G speed issue altogether. No doubt the built in Bluetooth will also come in handy.

Both the i-mates are also exclusive to Telstra, which is a major drawback in our view. We are not suggesting that the Telstra is a bad carrier, but a lack of choice for consumers is never a good thing. Further, customers on existing contracts will need to change carriers to get their hands on an i-mate 8502 or 9502.

Battery life on the 9502 is excellent -- with moderate use including video calls -- the i-mate 9502 battery lasted about three days. The battery life is also aided by the fact that the screen on the i-mate powers down after a short delay if it's not in use.

It's no surprise that that 9502 has excellent battery life, it includes the biggest battery pack we have even seen -- at 1660 mAh. Compare that to a 1,350 mAh battery in the HTC Touch Dual, or 900 mAh on the Blackberry Pearl 8120, and you will see why it comes out on top. If you open up the back of the 9502, you will see the battery is huge.

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