Here it is: The first Windows Mobile 6 smart phone, and it comes from none other than HP. It’s a good choice for mobile professionals who want to keep on top of their e-mail and occasionally work on documents while on the road. The HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger is a departure from the company’s other smart phones as it focuses more on voice features and fills a void in its mobile device lineup, falling somewhere between its workhorse Pocket PC phones and standalone PDAs. Comparable to the Cingular 2125 or the T-Mobile SDA, the iPaq 510 looks and feels like a cell phone with its compact design; consequently, the controls are a touch cramped. However, this design flaw is tempered slightly by the fact that the smart phone has outstanding voice-command capabilities and convenient shortcuts to frequently used programs.
Of course, the other big news here is the new operating system. The HP iPaq 510 runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition (formerly known as Smartphone Edition), which brings the full Mobile Office Suite for working on the go as well as enhanced e-mail capabilities, Windows Vista synchronization, and more. Though we’ve only had a couple of days with our review unit, we’ve been impressed so far with the new capabilities and the iPaq 510’s performance. We’re still running it through our CNET Labs test, however, so we’ll update the performance section as soon as we have results.
HP has not made any carrier announcements at the time of this writing, but as a quadband GSM phone, it’ll either be Cingular or T-Mobile. In addition, the company said it will start selling unlocked versions of the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger some time in the spring, with prices starting around $299. Who knows how many other Windows Mobile 6 smart phones will have cropped up by then, and though we’re not completely sold on the design, we think the HP iPaq 510 is off to a good start.
Out of all the company’s smart phones, the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger most resembles a traditional cell phone. Unlike the HP iPaq hw6900 series, the candy bar phone iPaq 510 is compact and lightweight at 4.6×2.8×0.7 inches and 5.8 ounces, and the overall design reminded us a lot of the Sony Ericsson K790a. The iPaq 510 certainly doesn’t earn many style points with its utilitarian design and basic color scheme of charcoal gray and black. That said, it’s completely appropriate for its intended audience of mobile professionals. In general, the HP iPaq 510 has a solid construction and feels comfortable in the hand and when held up to the ear.
On front of the device, there is a 2-inch-diagonal TFT screen that displays 65,000 colors at a disappointing 176×220 pixel resolution. Though text and images were clear, the iPaq 510’s screen simply didn’t have the crispness and pop like the displays found on the Cingular 2125 or T-Mobile SDA. Also, we noticed it had a tendency to hold a lot of smudges and fingerprints. The good news is we could still read the screen contents even under harsh lighting.
We should note that the HP iPaq 510 runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition, and like Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition before it, this version of the OS doesn’t support touch screens, so you’ll have to navigate the phone through the controls below the display. At your disposal are the standard talk and end/power buttons, two soft keys, a home page shortcut, a back button, a four-way directional keypad with a center select button, and of course, the numeric keypad. Now, here’s where the smart phone’s compact size works against it. The layout of the controls and dial pad is cramped, so it’ll take some finesse to press the right button. It was very reminiscent of our experience with the T-Mobile SDA, and even with our smaller hands, we still had problems hitting the right key or texting without errors, so we can only imagine it’ll be more difficult for those with larger thumbs. The keys also are a bit stiff, but looking on the bright side, they are adequately backlit.
The phone’s interface combines some of the old and some of the new. The Today screen keeps the layout of Windows Mobile 5 devices, but the icons and font have more of a Windows Vista look and feel about it; you’ll also notice this in the Start menu. HP has done a really nice thing by adding a Shortcuts menu at the bottom of the Today screen, where you can easily launch frequently used applications or functions with a click of a button. This is a huge time-saver as one of the biggest complaints about the Windows Mobile operating system is the number of steps it takes just to complete one task.
Other controls and design features include a volume rocker, a microSD slot, and a 2.5mm headset jack on the left spine, a voice-command launch key on the right, and a mini USB port on the bottom edge. Also, on the back of the smart phone, you will find the speaker, camera lens, and self-portrait mirror.
HP packages the iPaq 510 Voice Messenger with a USB cable, an AC adapter, a wired stereo headset, reference material, and a companion CD. A belt holster would have been nice, but the handset is small enough to easily slip into a pants pocket. However, if you’re throwing it into your bag or purse, you might want to think about investing in some kind of protective case.