The i-mate JAQ3 bears a significant external resemblance to the UBiQUiO 501, a Pocket PC phone made by a Chinese company called TechFaith Wireless. There is a good reason for this, as the JAQ is also built by TechFaith Wireless.

This is one of i-mate’s first collaborations with TFW, having used Inventec Appliance for the dull original JAQ. The company has been forced to turn to these since the end of its collaboration with High Tech Computer (HTC).

Make no mistake, however; there are notable differences between the JAQ3 and the 501. Specifically, the JAQ3 has microSD expansion rather than miniSD, and quad-band GSM / EDGE instead of tri-band GPRS on the 501.

Design and construction

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Looking at it, one of the first impressions of the JAQ3 is that it is the slightly bigger cousin of the Samsung BlackJack. This is misleading, of course, because the JAQ3 is a Pocket PC Phone, rather than a WM Smartphone like the BlackJack. But the similarity in design – if not with the BlackJack in particular, then with the overall class of slim keyboard smartphones – is undeniable.

And it’s slim: the JAQ3 is only 0.57 inches thick, making it one of the thinnest Pocket PC phones on the market, considerably beating all Treos and HTC Hermes, albeit with a bulk. more important than the others.

The main design feature of the JAQ3 is quite simply the keyboard. A full 39-key layout, it occupies more than half of the device’s face, arranged below the directional pad in the tradition of slim Treos and Windows smartphones.

On the tactile level, the keyboard is certainly more than usable. I would rate it just a bit below that of the Samsung BlackJack, but even above some of the larger Pocket PC phones made by HTC, like the Hermes / Cingular 8525. The directional pad and the eight main buttons – four keys of navigation, plus two application buttons and Send / Finish – all are also clickable.

The touch of the case is also very pleasant. It has a solid feel of high quality plastic, with an almost rubbery grip, and is basically smudge proof. Robustness and style in equal parts.

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The microSD slot sits on top of the device, covered with a small rubber cap – presumably a dual-purpose element, designed both to keep debris from entering the slot and to keep the obscurely tiny card from getting out. escape without permission.

Next to that is the Status LED, used to indicate system connectivity and load. On the one hand, quite easy to miss as it blends into the black casing, is the infrared port.

I feel in conflict with the small screen of the JAQ3. While this helps reduce the overall size of the device, it is barely 2.4 inches diagonally creating some pretty cramped conditions. Unlike similarly sized screens on Windows Mobile smartphones, the JAQ3’s interface was not designed for such a narrow display, and these other devices don’t have to deal with a touchscreen. This gives fine tapping to the points.

In case you end up looking for it, the reset button is under the battery cover, in a deeply recessed niche next to the stylus. Don’t ask me, I don’t know why.

The only totally sour note in the external hardware department is the stylus. It manages to be boring in two ways – both by being a telescoping toothpick model and by being very difficult to remove from its silo. My best advice is to ignore it and just use a finger if you need to interact with the screen. Unfortunately, this further complicates the little screen dilemma mentioned above.

Right side: power button, USB port and headphone jack.

I have to take a moment to praise the JAQ3 for one thing in particular: keeping the audio and USB connectors separate. In an age where so many devices use a combo connector and the proprietary earphones and headphones that come with it, a normal 2.5mm stereo / headphone jack is welcome.

Left side: scroll wheel, OK / close key and camera button.

Overall, the design of the JAQ3 is surprisingly good. At first it doesn’t seem like a knockout style to you, but in use it is quite sturdy and has underrated ease of use. The keyboard is good, the placement of all controls and connectors is good, and the build is of excellent quality. i-mate clearly made a good decision by abandoning its former contract manufacturer: the JAQ3 is of far superior design than its vile ancestor.

Performance and user-friendliness

The JAQ3 shares the same TI OMAP 200 MHz marginal processor as most Pocket PC phones; adequate for the most basic use but worthless for VoIP and difficult for video.

Running the Linpack benchmark for Windows Mobile, the device scored significantly lower at 0.59 stellar mega-flops, compared to 1.34 mflops for the Cingular 8525 at 400 MHz and 1.9 for the Dell Axim X51v at 624 MHz.

Overall, the system works well enough for professional use, although I wouldn’t try a lot of high-end products.

Extended software and features

One of the things i-mate relies on quite heavily in its briefings is the “i-mate suite” of management tools.

The short version of the explanation for the i-mate suite is that it is a management service that allows you to do just about anything with, to, or for the device over the air. Remote backup, remote restore, install programs, transfer files, wipe and lock lost or stolen drives, etc.

The bottom line is that if you can think of something you’d like to do with the device without having it in hand, the i-mate suite probably can. These are not all remote apps, however, there are also a variety of functions like i-mate Backup that can be invoked from the device itself.

In addition to the preloaded software related to i-mate’s own-brand services, they add a few other trinkets: a copy of ClearVue PDF, an installer for ComputerAssociates antivirus, Cyberon Voice Commander, and a few games (i-mate branded, of course) to name only the most notable.

The Java environment on the JAQ3 is Esmertec’s Jeode platform. I’ll give him this; it has become a lot less boring since the last time I tangled with it. In fact, it has turned out to be a pretty nice Java environment, although it still seems to be a bit more resource intensive than it should be. On the already slow JAQ3, this leads to marginal performance in Java applications like Opera Mini. It also makes the MIDlet installation process difficult. However, it does support full screen mode, eliminating the top and bottom bars to free up screen space, which Intent Midlet Manager does not on most other PPC phones.

Connectivity

Not much to say here, really. The JAQ3 has the standard package of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as well as its GSM / EDGE radio which is remarkable only for its ordinary character.

It is a little disappointing not to see 3G in a device like the JAQ3, considering how expensive it is. I find it hard to believe that so many expensive smartphones can’t bring themselves to include 3G, but they can stick it in the new RAZRs they are offering for free.

Of course, the JAQ3 only deserves some blame for this, as it’s no surprise that with so many of its competitors taking the cheaper route, it doesn’t hold its proverbial neck either.

Battery life

The JAQ3’s battery life proves once again that engineering isn’t a science, it’s an art. Although it only has a 1250 milliampere-hour battery, the device manages to last 4 to 5 hours talk time even with other uses, matching other devices with slightly larger batteries. , and even surpassing some of its direct competitors like the Treo 750.

Of course, factors like a small screen, lack of 3G, and a slower processor all contribute to battery savings, but even most other devices with these “features” still don’t have an edge over the battery. JAQ3 for battery life.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the JAQ3 is a big improvement over its predecessor in almost every respect. It has better material, better design, and wider appeal to users.

While I can’t say that I was particularly impressed with any given feature of the JAQ3, the simple truth is that it’s about as close as you’re going to get to the physical design of the Cingular BlackJack or the Motorola Q all. while remaining having full compatibility and functionality of Pocket PC software.

If this is your goal, then you have a winner. Otherwise the JAQ3 is fine, but another device may be more suitable for your needs.

Advantages:

  • Solid design
  • Jog dial
  • Management suite

The inconvenients:

  • microSD slot
  • No 3G
  • Slow processor

Conclusion:

  • A quite respectable but not extraordinary Pocket PC Phone with a QWERTY tablet design.

Equipment

Processor: TI OMAP 200 MHz processor
Operating system: Windows Mobile 5.1 (Pocket PC) with AKU 3.2
Display: 2.4 inch 320 x 240 transmissive / reflective LCD display
Memory: 64 MB of RAM; 128MB flash memory (45MB available)
Size weight: 5.0 inches long x 2.65 inches wide x 0.57 inches thick; 5.6 ounces
Expansion: One microSD slot
Mooring: Single mini-USB connector
Communication: Quad band GSM / GPRS / EDGE; 802.11b / g Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 1.2
The audio: 2.5mm stereo headphone / headphone jack; loud speaker; earphone and microphone
Drums: Replaceable 1250 mAh lithium-ion battery
Grab: 39-key keyboard; 5-way directional pad; two remappable application buttons
Other: Jog dial; i-mate Suite management software; Java / J2ME environment

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