Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dopod S300 / Qtek 8500 Mini-Review

The first step is admitting that you have a problem. I have a problem: I'm addicted to cell phones. I can't get enough. As soon as I hear about a new phone or accessory that is coming out, I turn into a kid the night before Christmas. I read the gadget blogs, hang out in the phone forums, contribute to some open source pocket pc apps, and anything else I can do to stay involved with the community. Anyway, since I came across this phone weeks before it is released in Europe or North America, I though I'd take the opportunity to publish a review.

First, the summary for the folks skimming this entry:

  • Style: 5/5
  • Functionality: 5/5
  • Performance: 4/5
  • Battery Life: 3/5
  • Reception: 5/5
  • Email: 4/5
  • Music Player: 3/5
  • Overall: 5/5


Style


This phone looks like a RAZR, but improves on the RAZR's shortcomings. A better keypad, better camera, better reception, and better operating system (Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone). Another nice feature for me is that the phone is slightly longer than a RAZR when it's opened, and since I have a huge head, it better positions the microphone near my mouth, rather than the side of my head. Color wise, black is in. Apple has made all of their products available in black. Computers come in black. Hip cell phones come in black.


The other cool feature is the external display. It's customizable to have a few different styles of analog or digital clocks, but it also shows notifications of new email messages, missed calls, appointment reminders. If you press the camera button with the phone closed, the camera is fully accessible from the outer display. And the music player shows current track status, volume, running time, and paused / playing / stopped state.



Functionality

This phone has it all. It runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone, and that basically opens it up to all types of applications. I use the phone to synchronize my calendar and contacts. I also use the features in the Windows Mobile 5 MSFP (Microsoft Feature Pack) that adds real-time push email, similar to a blackberry. In the tests I've run, the email arrives on my phone within 15 seconds of arriving at the Exchange server. It also supports address checking against the server, so you don't need to have everyone added to your local address book. The phone also has the standard collection of Windows Mobile apps like Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, Pocket MSN, MSN Messenger, and the rest of the normal applications.

Operation while using the phone is a breeze. I was even listening to music while I received a phone call. The music paused, I received my ringtone through the wired headset (not sure if this works over Bluetooth yet), answered the call, and when I hung up, the music resumed where it had left off. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is definitely a small feature / big win piece of functionality.

Dopod included a few custom applications that I found interesting, but ended up uninstalling them to save space. They packaged a custom 3D menu, that looks cool for a demo, but ultimately is slow and doesn't expand for new menu items. there was also a custom MP3 player, but again, Windows Media Player works fine for me.

The once feature that was very important to me when selecting the phone, but one that I haven't had a chance to test out yet is the wireless stereo over Bluetooth (A2DP). This technology allows you to listen to music (MP3 or online streams) through Bluetooth headphones. My dream headset is the Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 (Link) that I already have on order, but it's not released yet.

Performance

My last phone before this one was an I-Mate KJAM (also know as a Qtek 9100 / HTC Wizard / T-Mobile MDA / Cingular 8125 / etc...), and that ran Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Edition. While the operating system was richer in functionality, the phone had the exact same processor as the S300 does, the 195MHz OMAP processor. I always thought the KJAM was OK in performance, but was certainly not a speed demon. My opinion is very different with the S300. Menus are snappy, IE opens quickly, messaging opens quickly, I can have several applications open at once without much trouble. I can even switch between the camera application and IE back and forth without much lag.

The only performance issue that I've had is when I had IE, Messaging, File Explorer, and Media Player open. Then, I went to MIDLet manager and launched Google Maps mobile. This seemed to be too much for the phone to handle. I was eventually able to switch to the task manager and kill a few tasks, but I ended up rebooting the phone since it was sluggish after that. This could be a knock on the phone, but I think it is more likely a sign of an OS instability that will be ironed out in future ROM versions.

Battery Life

Of my short list of my disappointments with this phone, this is top of that list. Granted, i use my phone a ton. Email synchronizing all day long, contacts and calendar sync'ing too, 2 - 3 hours of talk time per day, a fair amount of web surfing from the phone, listening to music, and a few other things. Should I expect more than 1 day of battery life with this usage? I'm not sure, but I'd like to. I'll try to keep my talk time down one day, maybe this weekend, and see if I can get more than a day of battery life. I think this might be a downfall, but at the same time, the battery life isn't any worse than my RAZR, which I used only for talking, and still only managed about 1 day of use.

Reception

Simple answer. The reception is unbelievable. Better than my RAZR. Better than my KJAM. Better than my SMT5600. Even better than my old Nokia 6610, up until now, the phone with the best reception I've ever had.

Email

Real time push email is a life changer. I didn't invent the term crack-berry, but it is very fitting. The great news is that I have instant access to my email. The trouble for my personal life is that I have instant access to my email. My only complaint, and this is really just trouble with any non-QWERTY device, is that responding is a little painful. On my KJAM, I would write 15 - 20 emails a day. On this phone, that count is down to 5 or less. The T9 is great, and works surprisingly well, but it's still hunt and peck, instead of typing.

By the way, my phone is from Asia, so it has the Extra characters. Trust me, the entire phone operates in English. Without that, I've be very, very lost.

Music Player

I know the form factor has been out there for a little while, but this is my first "music phone" that I've owned, and I must say, I'm using it much more than I ever thought I would. My iPod Nano is now sitting in my drawer. I have 1GB of music loaded onto a memory card, and when I head to the gym, I only need to bring my phone with me. One device, light weight, one I always have with me, and there's my music. Another nice feature is that if I get bored with my MP3 collection, I just start streaming Sirius radio (Link), something my iPod definitely can't do.

I did notice one small issue, but this is definitely a software bug more than anything else. If you wake up the external display with the track forward or track backwards button, it doesn't always change the track. Sometimes you need to hit the play / pause button first, and then the track skips work fine. A minor issue, but a bug none the less. Another thing that got me the first time I used the music player is that when you pause the playback, that is not the same as stopping the playback. Lesson learned when my phone was battery dead at Noon. It seems that pause still chews up a ton of battery life, and you have to hold the play / pause button for a few seconds to get the playback to stop. Of course, I'm sure I'd have known this if I actually read the manual, but I'm in software, and RTFM is an acronym for users, not for technically savvy people ;).

Overall

In summary, I can't give this phone enough praise. I know it will be a big hit with the enthusiast market, and I can't image how well this will move once Cingular / T-Mobile / (Major GSM Operator) releases the phones. It has every bit of functionality that power users have been waiting for in the form factor that the RAZR proved was possible and the most convenient. I'd recommend to anyone that they NEED to pick up this phone. For any fellow / future owners, enjoy the new toy.

Here are some other published previews / reviews



Update (2006-06-14)

Technorati : , , , , , ,

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi uabigbird,

It's YW from the GTX. Really envious of the fact that you have this phone and am using it! Just a few questions:

1. Given that I only use my Pocket PC for calendar/phone number entry anyway (relying on Outlook for most typing tasks), this seems the perfect replacement for me. It's more than capable of dealing with that, despite the lack of a touchscreen, right?

2. Is there any limit (besides obvious RAM/ROM limits) on the addresses/phone numbers it can hold?

3. Do you have to use a proprietary se tof earphones/headphones, or is there a remote with a 2.5 or 3.5mm jack?

3. How is the sound quality compared to your Nano through the same (if possible) earphones/headphones? What earphones/headphones are these?

That's all I have for now... thanks!

YW

Program Manager said...

1. This was the exact situation I was in. I owned the KJAM, which I still have and love, and it was great. But I found myself doing more reading than composing, and was looking for something to be slimmer in my pocket. This is perfect for syncing calendar, contacts, and email, and all of it over the air.

2. No limit except for local storage. I have about 400 entries in mine, and still plenty of memory to go.

3. It comes with a proprietary set, but it supports bluetooth wireless stereo. I have this , which works wirelessly and allows me to plug in any standard 3.5mm headphones. I tried this with my Shure E4c's, and it sounded perfect.

4. The sound is virtually identical. I don't have an equalizer, so the sound is slightly different, but more than acceptable. I have started only bringing my phone to the gym instead of my Nano.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your answers man... I think I am pretty much set on getting this phone, but I will wait for the SE W950i to come out before putting down the cash, just so that I can compare both and not suffer from possible buyer's remorse. That, and the fact that I only bought my (secondhand) K750i in November. ;)

I'm a bit wary of Bluetooth audio as I don't really believe that it can sound as good as a cable connection. However, I suppose it's probably "good enough" for gym and occasional portable use. Plus I can always buy a DAP later onif I want.

Y-W

Anonymous said...

Another thing - found the manual for the QTek version of the Dopod online at http://www.myqtek.com/europe/products/8500/manuals.aspx - you may want to post that as a link for anyone interested in the phone. Cheers.

YW

Anonymous said...

Great review! I have been following this phone (the Qtek version will be sold here) since it was announced, and im going to get it for sure! I feel though, that a few other downsides should be mentioned.. Firstly, IR is gone, Bluetooth is only v1.2 (as oppossed to v2.0), and the battery is smaller (750mva) as opposed to phones like the Qtek 8310 (or the I-mate SP5), which boosted a 1050mva battery). Also no WiFi, but one must keep in mind, some things must be sacrificed for the physical size. Would be nice to include an alternate battery though, that would be bigger, (making the battery part of the phone slightly thicker), but would be a nice backup in case you need to be a few days without your charger. I know these things are included with some phones.

I Was wondering, could you take a picture of the phone in the dark? I am curious as to what the keypad looks like when its lit up in the dark.

In my opnion, White is a really booring backlight color :(

Cheers!

Program Manager said...

The one downside I agree with is the battery size. I did notice that I-Mate announced an extended battery (1100mAh), so I'll probably end up getting that. The other downsides you mention, IR and WiFi, I have a KJAM, and I actually never used either of those functions. WiFi is more than it is cracked up to be, since it destroys your battery life, and I stopped using IR a few years ago in place of a USB cable. By the time you line up the IR receivers, might as well use a cable.

The Bluetooth 2.0 lacking is something of a downside, but for my needs, BT 1.2 is just fine. All I need is a headset and wireless stereo, I'm not worried about much else.

I'll work on taking a picture, btut he keyboard backlight is more blue than white.

Anonymous said...

Really? Its more blue then white? Thats great news! On the other hand, you have the Dopod, and im getting the Qtek version.. but that shouldnt really matter, the phone is made by HTC anyways....

Really looking forward to the picture, because im getting the phone in 1-4 days :)

Anonymous said...

And, its great news that they are going to make extended batteries available! :D

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's YW again. I couldn't take it and went out to buy the Dopod today. The HK version only has a Chinese manual but I'm now printing out the QTek manual to compensate. I really look forward to using this.

Y-W

Anonymous said...

My god, this phone is so awesome - one of the best things I have ever owned.

The attraction of having PocketPC power in a better-than-RAZR form factor is not to be underestimated. And I haven't even tried my MP3 stereo Bluetooth transmitter yet.

It would be four thumbs up if I had that many. The only thing that would make it better would be to make it 3G.

Cheers for your comments on this phone once again - this is a real life-changer, and totally different from my useless Sharp 3G phone (which I was actually GLAD I lost).

Y-W

Anonymous said...

I'm having problems, as my BT dongle only sends mono output to my headphones - I called i.Tech and they said my S300 doesn't support stereo output. Is that a pack of lies, or is that also your experience?

Y-W

Program Manager said...

I don't have a bluetooth stereo headset yet. I'm waiting for the Sony HBH-DS970 to ship (ARGH!!!). Once it does, I'll let you know. If the output is only currently Mono, I'm sure it will be upgraded in a future ROM.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I think it's been confirmed that it's mono. But I'm sure you're right to say that it'll be fixed in a later ROM version.

Best phone I've ever owned, right up there with the Nokia 7110 and S-E T68.

prl said...

Good afternoon,

I have a Qtek 8500, but I'm having a problem here: I need to install an application on my smartphone. The problem is that the install file has 17MB and it needs more 17MB of storage to install the application. I checked Settings -> About, and it says that there is 17.31MB of "Total Storage" and 4.49 of "Available Storage". How can I fix this? I bought a 128MB MicroSD card, but it (obviously) says that I can't install the application there.

Is there a way I can resolve this and install my application in the smartphone?

Thanks in advance,

Paulo

Program Manager said...

PRL -

There is a Windows Mobile 5 registry hack that allows you to install applications onto the storage card. I'll try to dig it up, but if you search for registry hacks for WM5 smartphone, you should be able to find it.

PM

Anonymous said...

I also had a k-jam and found it slow . however ... HTC are bringing out this baby http://europe.htc.com/products/tytn.php
Which is the replace for the k-jam
Expansys will have in stock mid July 06! - it looks the perfect choice!

Anonymous said...

I want this phone!

Thanks for the review.

One question I have, though, regarding the Bluetooh capability: Can you use the voice-dial over a Bluetooth headset?

I remember that the Motorola MPx220 couldn't do this . . such a stupid limitation.

I currently use the Kyocera 7135 (Palm OS flip-phone), and this new phone is about what I'm looking for (actually has more than I need).

Any differences worth noting between the Dopod, Qtek, and Imate versions of this phone?

What carrier are you using with this phone? I'd probably have to go with Cingular.

Mark J. said...

I have had this phone now for 4 days, purchased from a dealer in NYC. Where as the form factor is awesome, as is the OS and all the functions that go along with it, the phone misses calls constantly. Moreover, it does not alert you to that effect. No "missed calls" no updates to new voicemails, until you reboot, which needs to happen about 4-5 times a day. I'm hoping this is just a ROM fix and the update will be out SOON, but right now, its more a cool toy than an actual productivity device, that is, if you actually need people to call you.

Anonymous said...

hello ...
i kinda like this phone ...
and i wanna buy the phone too ...
i've a RAZR v3 black now ...
i've these questions ...
how many missed calls can it list ...
my RAZR stores only 10 ...
how many SMS texts can it store ...
can i store texts messages on SDcard ...
Pls lemme know ...
thanks ...

Anonymous said...

I've had the Dopod s300 for about a month and had nothing but problems. The most recent is that I have a constant alert for no free storage space. I saved everything to a sd micro and still have this problem. The only thing that I can think of is my contacts. How would I go about resolving this?

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I have recently bought S300 after reading your review.

Anyway, i found out that i could not use my mp3 from storage card as ringtone, meaning i have to copy them to the phone. Is there anyway i can do it from the storage card ?

As for sending a vcard of my contact, everytime i press to send a vCard, it will go to MMS? Do you face the same problem ?

Thanks !

Vincent

Anonymous said...

Great review! My SE w600i just broke (don't every buy Sony Ericssons, by the way), so I'm in the market for a new phone. Looking into the Qtek 8500 and your thorough review is a great help. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I can't turn on my dopod s300
Can someone help me plz asap

Anonymous said...

hey i wanna ask u all . how to change the 2D menu to 3D menu?

Andreya said...

Hi Nice Blog .ipod battery share the characteristics common to Lithium-based technology found in other devices. Like other rechargeable batteries, these batteries may eventually require replacement.