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Review of GSM-handset I-Mobile 902
Editor’s note. It would seem that reviewing a device that’s destiny won’t touch majority of the Europeans makes a little sense – for 700-750 USD one could seamlessly pick a solution bearing a label of a top5’s member boasting completely different level of build quality, interface layout etc. There is no doubt about the author expressing its own point of view on the model but the truth is, neither quality of plastic, nor solidity of casing offered by a minor manufacturer, can match that of world’s best companies – you will get even more confident of that after checking out the photos. But what really grabs our attention and what is the core of this very review, is the fact that I-Mobile’s handset carries a camera module that we are to see in a number of upcoming Sony Ericsson-branded phones in 2007. Even a fleeting glance unveils near resemblance of interface layout with Sony Ericsson K750i, which is not just all another coincidence – the camera is in fact made by Sony. In Sony Ericsson’s brand new handsets the camera’s UI will be revamped with more features coming up, but the basic quality of snaps, as well as approximate size of future handsets, can be checked out today. This is the way we would like you to think of this review – it gives an idea of what we are about to see, that’s all.
I-Mobile releases its handsets exclusively for the home market of Thailand and regrettably haven’t made it to other markets yet. It’s a real pity, since there is a couple of truly fetching and eye-picking models. One of them, I-Mobile 902, is one of the first GSM-enabled handsets showing off a 5 Mpix camera onboard. An in-depth face-off against its closest and only rival, LG KG920 has turned out to be impossible, due to the latter model being unavailable when we wrote this article, however in course of this review we are mentioning some features, but first things first.
What does impress at a glance is tiny size of the 902 that makes only 102x48x17.5 mm, at that it weights about 100 grams, which is a world of difference as compared to the KG920. The edges of the I-Mobile’s offspring are slightly curved, making the phone look even smaller. All in all such dimensions prove to be very portable – the handset readily slips into a pocket, be it on a shirt or pants. The 902 comes in two trim – with black or red polished plastic. The materials used and build quality are superb – all details are well-tuned; gaps are non-existent on the casing. This, however, brings about certain nuisances, as the back cover is a single whole with the latch, which makes you strain your muscles should you want to detach it, nevertheless you won’t need to do so unless you mean to change the SIM-card.
The top rim houses the abovementioned latch, allowing you to remove the battery cover. The right place features dedicated camera key, while on the left one will find volume rocker key and covered Micro SD (T-Flash) memory expansion slot. The handset supports memory cards up to 1 Gb big and hot swap feature as well. Two interface ports are mounted on the bottom rim – one for plugging charger and data-cable, whereas the other one is good for headset and video-out. These sockets are both covered with a rubberized flap. The 902 comes included with a stereo-headset making use of Sony EX71SL earphones with three pairs of rubberized earbuds – the default headphones are of superb quality, as they show off excellent noise cancellation capabilities, which is rare for in-the-box headsets. On top of that the handset comes included with a headset-adapter carrying a microphone and 3.5 mm jack allowing for plugging in custom earphones.
The back cover plays host to the camera lens covered by a moving shutter, a self-portrait mirror, a Xenon Flash and loudspeaker’s grill used for playing back music. While placed face-up on a table, the handset ends up leaning on the shutter, which makes the ring tones and hands free mode sound even louder and prevents the battery cover from getting scratched.
The square numeric keys are nice to work with – all buttons are lit in white, well-visible in the dark. Slightly above one will find soft-keys and pick/hang up keys with the five-way joystick (in some ways similar to that of Sony Ericsson K700i) mounted between them. It’s quite handy in operation, the only thing you should keep in mind is making sure you have completed presses; otherwise you might end up having wrong applications starting up.
The display found on the 902 is brilliant – having QVGA (320x240) resolution it boasts a diagonal of 2 inches. The picture proves to be very crisp and sharp, just like the market’s best offerings, at that it belongs to the small group of screens capable of showing 16.7 mln colors. Up to 8 text lines can appear on the screen at once. The font size is quite big, thus you won’t experience any problems with reading it, even if you place the display in the sun.
The back cover, which exposes no gap, conceals the battery module. Undoubtedly, the cover sits in the slot very well, but detaching it is a real pain. The 902 makes use of an 1100 mAh Li-Ion battery, being almost a record-holder among the handsets. As the manufacturer claims, it is capable of providing up to 300 hours of standby mode and nearly 3.5 hours of talktime. In conditions of St. Petersburg networks the phone lasted nearly 2 days at 1.5 hours of calls in sum and light use of its imaging, video and audio features. Should you be heavy on its imaging part and flash in particular, as well as radio, mp3 and Bluetooth, the lifetime dramatically falls down to 1 day (at 1.5-2 hours of calls). Naturally, if you are not so talkative, the phone will easily put up 2 or even 3 days of operation, but who can refrain from taking a few pics with such camera? It takes the 902 about 2 hours to charge from empty to full.
The main menu has an appearance of a 3x3 grid. One of three color schemes can be chosen for its outlook enhancement. All sub-menus are viewed as horizontal lists. Pusing the joystick or the left soft-key calls them up. On choosing a list an animated version of the icon is played back on on the display. They are well designed and are truly eye-candy.
The menu supports shortcut number navigation, but that’s not all about it. The navigation pad is assigned to different non-customizable functions, which is unlikely to be a hassle because of their proper selection. Pressing the navigation key upwards calls up the player, rightwards – FM-radio, leftwards – video record, downwards – access to shortcuts, which can be chosen from the pop-up list.
The left soft-button is responsible for accessing the menu, which also can be entered by the pressing the joystick, the right one stands for fast access to the phonebook.
In standby mode the display gets filled up with your operator’s logo, time, calendar, current sound profile and battery/network status. The operator’s logo as well as the time and calendar indicators can be switched off should you want it.
Various messages types are handled via special sub-menus. Let us start with SMS messages, as we usually do. The handset supports EMS standard. A message can be sent both to a single person, a number of contacts at once or a whole group. Delivery report comes not as a message but as a notification on the display.
The layout of interface for multimedia messages is simple and user-friendly. The maximum message size is limited to 300 Kb. Extra options include possibility to decline spam, choose type of message receiving while in roaming or within home network.
Messages are stored in RAM (128 Mb) with the maximum capacity equaling 100 messages.
The list of outgoing calls stores 45 records, incoming – 20, missed – 10. It seems the manufacturer sees the best way in this pattern, since there is no merged list of calls. Deflecting the joystick horizontally allows fast shifting from one list to another. Any given record can be viewed in details, which enables examining its date and time, without duration, though. Calls from/to one number are summarized, so that a number standing next to the call specifies total amount of calls made. In order to access duration data you will need to call up detailed information on desired item.
Phonebook. Contacts can be accessed by pressing right soft-key, you will see a list that contains all entries from both SIM-card and phone’s memory. You are at liberty to set only contacts stored on either SIM-card or the handset’s memory to appear on list. By default first name is highlighted, and you will see phone number in the popping up tool tip. Quick name search by first letters is supported (up to 9 letters). Having pressed OK key you will go into detailed view of a selected entry. Here you will see a thumbnail in case there had been one assigned. It can be either an image or a photo. Each entry can have up to 5 contacts of different types (cellular, office, home, fax other), one of them will be main one (by default it is the first one that you enter). Fields are fixed, but any of them can be disabled. There is only one 30 symbols long blank for Name.
The handset’s memory can store up to 500 entries with all data fields filled in. Speed dial (up to 8 numbers) is at your disposal, as well as moving/copying entries from SIM-card and vice versa (all at once or one by one), groups (five editable groups are available) and namecard.
On incoming call, the caller’s image (if there is any) takes up about 1/6 of the screens size, while the rest of the space is occupied by the caller’s name and phone number.
The I-Mobile 902 carries six sound profiles onboard that can be customized or renamed. By “customized” here we mean volume and tunes for calls, messages, alerts, service notifications and keyboard. Also, you can enable anykey answer and backlight duration for each profile, as well as power on/off sound.
The display settings feature options for setting wallpaper, screensaver and color scheme. Date and time visibility, operator’s title and own number can be adjusted here as well. As for the language settings, these are truly poor – English or Thai, that’s about it. And we are not winding up on this point – Settings also include default text input method, greeting message, shortcuts and a binary choice for TV-out – PAL or NTSC.
Here you will find the application for managing the camera; however we will review it as we go deeper into the article.
The Photo Gallery menu enables viewing snaps taken with the built-in camera regardless of the place they are piled at. All photos can be viewed either as a list or thumbnails. While viewing an image, you are free to rotate it by 90, 180 or 270 degrees, zoom in up to 15 times, frame it, and decrease resolution up to 1280õ960 or 640õ480 pixels, cut out a fragment and set it as wallpaper. Furthermore, slide show mode is at your disposal as well, offering not only gap settings, but also the possibility to use any mp3-files as background music – note, that when watching the slide show on TV, sound is generated by its audio system, which makes the experience truly top-notch. It might seem to be a tiny detail, but it does make sense. Switching between the handset’s screen and video out is done with the help of the camera button – on turning the TV-out on, the phone shuts down.
This menu allows for printing photos via USB-cable using standard printer layout for digital cameras. You can print out either one snap or all available.
Video recorder will be given a close-up separately.
Video player shows the list of video clips outright, but unfortunately, this application requires all files to be stored in a certain folder – other recordings can be watched via the Gallery menu.
The music player lacks rewind function, which is partly made up by rapid playback – up to 32 times faster, at that the backlighting doesn’t go off in this mode. Video clips get rotated and displayed full-screen automatically. The volume of the loudspeaker is exceedingly high so the having a lot of pleasure while watching videos is inevitable, although if you consider the handset’s capabilities insufficient, you can always make use of video output. Should you submit high-quality video clips (democlips, converted clips), the picture on your TV will be brilliant, allowing I-Mobile 902 to double as a digital video master. Of course, if your memory card is good enough for that – one gigabyte of space equals to 2-3 clips captured in high resolution.
Speaking about the application’s ease of use, we have to admit it does really well on that front – the only serious shortcoming is the limitation of 10 memorizable stations, assigned to the numeric keys from 0 to 9. The radio starts up turned off – to activate/deactivate it, you need to press the joystick downwards. Background mode for the radio can be disabled, though. Both manual and auto tuning modes are enabled, as well as the stations list editing and renaming of stations. Three pretty-looking and sharp skins are available. The settings also contain the option for choosing output device type – the handset’s earpiece or a headset (while in radio mode, the camera button performs switching between these modes) – and recording format, as I-Mobile 902 is capable of recording broadcasts in WAV at 44100 Hz, 16 bits, stereo or mono, 8000 Hz. Storage place is also manageable here.
Handling the player with the joystick is quite easy – pressing it upwards performs play/pause command, rightwards/leftwards switches tracks on the list, downwards stops playback. The following formats are supported: AAC, AAC+, MP3, AMR, WAV, MIDI, I-Melody.
Regrettably, there is only one playlist available for creation. You are free to add/remove files to/from the list from any folders. Also, there are three skins at your disposal, along with auto-drawing up of playlist, loop and random playback of tracks, manageable background mode and six presets for the equalizer.
Sound recorder. There is not much to choose from when it comes to the Sound recorder – only storage place and recording format – WAV or AMR. Clip duration is limited only to the volume of free memory you have on the handset.
Stave. The application allows developing of polyphonic tunes with the help of stave and some other tools.
This application is in a fact a file manager enabling you to browse contents of the handset’s memory and Micro SD card. It displays all file types and empowers you with all basic actions, like move/copy/delete/new folder. Any file can be sent via Bluetooth, and in case its size doesn’t exceed 300 Kb – via MMS
Each entry is assigned to start and end dates. Month-view calendar is available, where every month is painted in a unique color. Should you need it, you can view all entries at once. This menu also contains alarm clock (actually three of them), world time, handy calculator, currency and unit converter.
The first item is a SIM-menu in case it’s supported by your operator.
Bluetooth. The handset is armed with Bluetooth 1.2 and wireless headset sound transfer protocol. The following profiles are squeezed into I-Mobile 902: serial port, Headset, hands-free, object push, file transfer. Bluetooth operation doesn’t cause any troubles – all tested devices were recognized in a convenient fashion. Transferring a 25 Mb big file was a breeze. On incoming call beaming switches into background mode without breaking off. You can choose storage place for received files.
WAP. The handset has WAP-browser 2.0 onboard. At entering address it adds standard prefixes. There is a list of the last visited sites availabled.
Data Accounts. The menu gathers settings for GSM/GPRS/MMS-connections.
Games and entertainment
Java. Here one will find preinstalled java-games. You can set in-game sound volume, turn on vibration, choose network settings. Games can take up approximately 300Kb of the handset’s memory.
Games. The handset comes included with three games. These are poor-quality race, even worse helicopter arcade and tetris.
Health. That item retains application calculating weight/height ratio and a «pink calendar» seemingly meant for women alone.
Now we have come to the point where the flavor is – for the very first time a handset houses a 5 Mpix CCD-sensor by Sony powered by a Xenon flash and auto-focus, with the resolution topping out at 3264õ2448 in case you use 8 Mpix interpolation. Though the latter feature is not of much use, though, since the same process can be carried out in any graphics editor - it has more of a marketing move in it. That’s why we recommend shooting in “default” matrix resolution. The camera’s shutter on opening automatically starts up the corresponding application. The interface is laid out in a way forcing you to hold the handset sideways.
The settings are many:
All settings are saved in the handset’s memory. It takes a 5 Mpix shot 1-2 seconds to get stored on the memory card. The very process of shooting goes like if it was a digital camera – first you tap the shutter button, so that the camera could focus, in case the previous step was a success and the auto-focus frame turned green, then you just push the key and get a snap. If the frame is red, you are running risks of getting a blurred shot, so it would make sense to focus again. Focusing itself takes about 1 second, leaving you with 2-3 seconds required to take a picture, which is quite good. The screen’s top features current resolution, while on the right you will see storage place, active preset and number of shots left. Deflecting the joystick upwards calls up macro-mode, while downwards will switch flash modes. A few words about the Xenon flash found on the 902 – it’s no match for those of digital camera, but still proves to be far ahead standard LEDs, at that it has no problems with shooting in the dark or poorly illuminated rooms. Quality of photos is on a par with inexpensive digital camera and marvelous for handsets on our market.
Should you deflect the joystick leftwards, the Multimedia’s Gallery will start up, pressing “Back” key returns you to the camera mode. Deflecting the joystick rightwards allows for launching video capturing.
The interface for video is pretty much the same as that for still images, yet the settings pool is somewhat different:
Video record will keep going on until you run out of free memory. Dedicated volume keys stand for digital zoom, deflecting the joystick rightwards once more brings up video gallery.
In case a memory card is missing in the handset, all clips will get stored in the phone’s memory, which is 128 Mb big.
The volume of 64-chord polyphony is at the utmost maximum for the today’s handsets. MP3 ring tones are played back without any notable flaws or crackles at top volume level, thus be sure you won’t miss a calls no matter where the handset resides in – be it a jacket, a bag or a pocket of your shirt, furthermore, a ringing I-Mobile 902 laying face-up nearby makes everyone sitting around flinch. I will even take the liberty and say that quality- and volume-wise the I-Mobile’s loudspeaker is nearly beyond competition. The same holds true for video – volume in a recorded clip is enough to share it with others in a cafe on a busy street. The silent alert is quite powerful as well, however occasionally I didn’t feel – though it is not much of a hassle considering how loud the ring tones are.
The handset delivers good reception quality, the earpiece outputs clear and penetrating sound, so don’t worry much about not hearing your interlocutor.
The 902 offers quite compact dimensions, especially when thinking of its outstanding imaging capabilities. Stable operation of Bluetooth and fat multimedia feature-pack should not be overlooked either.
Speaking of superficial comparison of the I-Mobile’s offspring with its only competitor manufactured by LG, we can rightfully note lesser weight and size, more “handset-like” looks of the former device, radio, video-out and bigger volume of bundled memory (128 Mb as compared to 8 Mb) – all this acts in favor of I-Mobile 902.
Listing the handset’s drawbacks, we cannot turn a blind eye to missing support for Russian language, which might become a serious impediment for many. At that official supplies of I-Mobile 902 in our country are non-existent, meaning that all who would like to get hold of the handset will be forced to turn to the “grey” market.
But warts and all, this model is one of the market’s absolute best offerings in the sense of camera quality with no credible competitors are on the horizon yet.
Published 13 November 2006
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