Reg review No company has done as much to advance Microsoft Windows Mobile telephony hardware than Taiwan's HTC. The company's smart phones have been offered by numerous vendors and networks, as have its phone-equipped PocketPCs, most notably as the O2 XDA family. And not content to find one good design and stick with it, over the last few years HTC has continued to evolve each line.
HTC's latest PocketPC design is codenamed 'Blue Angel'. It may sound like an escort agency, but that hasn't prevented it being picked up by Europe's key networks and plenty of others around the world. I looked at i-mate's PDA 2k, courtesy of Expansys, but the same hardware also appears as the O2 XDA IIs, Vodafone VPA III, T-Mobile MDA III, Orange SPV M2000 and other labels besides.
Out of the box, Blue Angel looks like a standard PocketPC running Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition - it's actually packing Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition Phone Edition, if you like long operating system names. There's the usual 320 x 240 3.5in transflective LCD, with a speaker/earpiece above it and five-way navigation control underneath. There are call-make and -break keys alongside the navigator - just above it are four slimline buttons each invoking the Start menu, email, Internet Explorer, and any dialog's OK or application's quit button, respectively. Either side of the speaker are the typical Contacts and Calendar application launch buttons, brought up to the top of the device, and network activity LEDs.
On top of the unit are the SD IO slot, power key and headphone socket. The latter is covered with a rubber bung that's nice and snug out of the box, but becomes too loose to be of use once you've uncorked it. The SD slot is equally poorly executed, with inserted cards flush to the surface of the PDA making it very hard to push the card in to release it - or to lock it during insertion - unless you have particularly thin fingers. Fortunately, there's plenty on on-board memory: 128MB of RAM, of which 125.8MB are available to the user. There's 46.3MB of built-in Flash storage, too.
Fortunately, the SD slot and the earphone socket are the limit of Blue Angel's duff design - the rest is much smarter. On the left-hand side panel, you'll find the usual voice recorder button along with a second control to activate the unit's adequate 640 x 480 digicam. Between the two buttons lies Blue Angel's volume control, a springloaded slider-switch that controls both the system sound-level and the ring volume through a pop-up menu. Below these controls you'll find Blue Angel's infrared port, the first of the unit's four wireless connectivity options.
The camera is on the back of the device, above the battery. A catch on the base releases the power pack, a 1490mAh job, which you have to remove to to insert your SIM card.
SIM card? Yes, wireless connection number two is a quad-band GSM/GPRS radio, switcheable between Class 8 and Class 10, providing voice communication and data networking. In addition to that, Blue Angel offers 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The latter's handy not only for hooking the unit wirelessly to a notebook, but to allow you to use a Bluetooth headset - essential, since PocketPC phones aren't exactly convenient for up-to-your-ear usage. I tried the unit with Motorola's new HS820 and it generally worked fine, though its range appeared limited compared to my standard Nokia 6600/Motorola HS850 set-up. The audio began to break up if I moved more than a metre from the PDA. Worse, there's no voice-tag support, so you have to get your PDA out of your bag whenever you want to make a call.