- Every once in a while, you may find yourself in a $2 shop, looking at plastic junk. Somewhere in amongst the endless little green army men, glittery ponies with toxic paint and velvet Elvis mirrors, you'll probably find a fake mobile phone or two. Toys, after all, have to move with the times, and the current new generation of kiddies can't be expected to get by with twine and baked bean cans forever.
- Why are we bringing up fake mobile phones in a review of a phone that costs quite a bit more? Well, just as those fake mobile phones look somewhat like real mobiles but lack the critical components to make them actually functional, the i-mate JAMA 201 looks all the world like a proper Blackberry-style smartphone — except that it's lacking just about everything that you'd want in a real smartphone. Sure, it's cheap — but it's just not good enough for a real purpose.
1 - Design :
- So having established what the JAMA 201's trying to do, it is worth pointing out that it certainly looks the part of a Blackberry-style smartphone, right down to the full QWERTY keyboard. Like most Blackberry clones, the keyboard is on the very small side, but then there's only so much key space you can dedicate to 113x63x14mm worth of design space. Sadly, there's still a few flaws here as well. The space bar is, even for a smartphone, pretty small whichisaproblemifyouwantoseparateoutyourwords. The keys also have a distinctly slick feel to them, which makes it all too easy to slide over the key you intended to press and mis-type.
- The five-way directional pad and selection keys above the keyboard have the same slick feel problem, and it took us a lot of patient repetition to get used to the fact that only the bottom half of the selection keys work with any kind of reliability when selecting things. The USB connector — for both charging and data transfer — hides behind a very solid rubber cap that is hard to remove. It was exasperating to open when we needed to, and we have this feeling it'll probably tear off most JAMA 201s rather quickly, even if only accidentally.
2 - Features :
- The JAMA 201 is a Windows Mobile 6 smartphone running on a 300MHz Samsung processor with 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM. That's not a particularly stunning combination for running Windows Mobile 6 applications, but the average news doesn't end there. Critically for a modern smartphone, it lacks any kind of 3G connectivity; this is strictly a tri-band (900/1800/1900) GSM phone. The practical upshot of that? You need to hope and pray that nobody sends you any particularly large emails, and browsing intensive websites — like, for example, i-mate's own flash-heavy offering — is an exercise in extreme patience. The JAMA 201 is Bluetooth capable, but has no inbuilt Wi-Fi. It has USB connectivity — but it's only USB 1.1, continuing the slow theme.
3 - Performance :
- If you've read the features paragraph — and if you haven't, shame on you for skipping ahead — you're probably not going to be too shocked when we say that the JAMA 201's performance was on the sluggish side. Both basic Windows Mobile 6 applications, and even the interface itself was slow, which you'd expect on such a rudimentary processor. In combination with the lack of 3G data speeds, however, the 201 slips into the annoyingly slow bracket for most of the pertinent applications you're likely to want to use a smartphone for.
- Like most smartphones, the actual mobile telephony part of the JAMA 201 is almost an afterthought, with the dialling panel being fairly small and the inbuilt speaker quite tinny. As with most phones of this size, working out optimal ear placement can also be a challenge. The JAMA 201 is rated with a battery life of up to four hours talk time and up to 150 hours standby. On moderate usage, we managed four days before battery levels got woeful, which is presumably at least partially a function of the lower power requirements of GSM and the lack of Wi-Fi.
- The JAMA 201 does represent a challenge to the smartphone market in that it brings an unlocked Windows Mobile 6 platform to market for only $489. It's just that in doing so, it makes so many compromises, and strips so much out of what we'd want from a real smartphone along the way as to render itself functionally redundant.