The HP iPAQ Voice Messenger is a stylish smartphone that is definitely worth some attention. Unfortunately, HP has let down the iPAQ brand by implementing a frustrating control system and giving the Voice Messenger an uncomfortable keypad.
The HP iPAQ Voice Messenger certainly looks the part. It has been completely redesigned and looks nothing like previous iPAQ mobile phones. It's quite sleek and stylish, and is similar in stature to the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 smartphone. It feels solid, though the rear casing does squeak slightly when pressed and the glossy chrome finish on the back of the phone is a fingerprint magnet.
But if HP deserves credit for the design of the iPAQ Voice Messenger, it certainly doesn't for the implementation of the controls. Instead of a regular five-way navigational pad, HP has opted for what it calls a four-way optical controller: a round, sunken key that you glide your finger across to move around the interface. Its lack of responsiveness is an issue — sometimes it registers a finger swipe perfectly but other times it simply won't respond. It makes using the HP iPAQ Voice Messenger a frustrating experience, especially since you are forced to use it because there is no touch screen.
The HP iPAQ Voice Messenger's keyboard is similar to the BlackBerry Pearl's, with two letters on each key. The predictive text method works quite well, but we feel the keys are too flat and a little small, so it does take a while to adjust to. There is a dedicated key lock button and a silent mode slider (located at the top of the handset). Unfortunately, the mode slider requires more force than it should.
Despite not being a touch-screen smartphone, the HP iPAQ Voice Messenger still runs the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system. HP has focussed on usability and provided an intuitive HP Sliding Panel Media home screen menu, which consists of a number of panels. You glide your finger across the optical controller to access them. Panels on the home screen include time and date, missed calls, calendar appointments, music, photos and settings. They're designed to prevent you having to delve into the Windows Start menu too often. The iPAQ Voice Messenger's display is crisp, sharp and has good viewing angles, but it is difficult to see in direct sunlight.
The HP iPAQ Voice Messenger includes all the programs and features of Windows Mobile 6.1, including Excel, PowerPoint and Word Mobile applications, Windows Media Player, Google Maps and a range of PIM functions. It's easy to configure for use with Microsoft Exchange, and you can also use standard POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, including Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. A suite of Windows Live applications includes Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail.
The phone has a built-in GPS receiver, though there is no turn-by-turn navigational software bundled. Google Maps is preinstalled, but this is a location-based search feature and doesn’t offer full navigation. You can improve the performance of the GPS by running the included GPS Connection Utility Software — this downloads a small data file that helps the device find a GPS fix faster.
In addition to 7.2 HSDPA support, the HP iPAQ Voice Messenger includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP. For mobile Internet, the standard Internet Explorer browser isn't the most intuitive to use, but pages loaded fairly speedily. Other features include a 3.1-megapixel camera with autofocus, expandable memory thanks to a microSD card slot, and a 2.5mm headphone jack. Charging the iPAQ Voice Messenger and synchronising the smartphone with a PC is achieved through a micro-USB port.
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