The HP iPaq Glisten on AT&T Wireless looks like a large BlackBerry Curve, especially now that the HP iPaq monsters of yore. The 2.5-inch screen up top is not only a touchscreen, it''s also an AMOLED display, one of the few outside of Samsung''s stable, and it looks sharp. We never had trouble getting the screen to respond to our touch, as long as our aim was true and we hit the tiny buttons and menu icons Windows Mobile 6.5 presents.
Unlike most other manufacturers making Windows Mobile phones these days, like HTC, Samsung or LG, HP has left Microsoft''s Windows Mobile 6.5 interface completely in tact. This is a mistake. While the Today screen has seen some nice improvements, it still isn''t customizable or nearly as useful as the competition. It''s impossible to rearrange, and you can only see a small handful of icons at one time. Worst of all, though, once you get past these improvements, you''re stuck with the most skeletal version of Windows Mobile, which has gone mostly unchanged for years now. Everything from the calling and contacts screens to the calendar and scheduling apps to even the Windows Media Player, all of these are mostly ancient looking textual menus rendered in blocky fonts. The touchscreen almost makes use more difficult, as the interface and the small display requires breaking out the stylus often to accurately make your selection. Better if HP had simply stuck with the standard, non-touchscreen version of the OS, like HTC did with their HTC Ozone.
Calling – Very Good
Calls on the HP iPaq Glisten sounded good, but not great. Our callers reported a distant sound to our voices, and a digital buzz that made it clear we were talking on a mobile handset. On our end, calls sounded better, but we did have some problems with dropped calls on AT&T''s network. Reception was also a problem. The HP iPaq Glisten averaged 1-2 bars of service, even while other AT&T phones on hand reported twice that level. Battery life was excellent. The phone packs a massive battery, one of the largest we''ve seen on today''s market, and we got more than 7 hours of talk time out of a single charge. The phone easily lasted through a full day''s use, and probably could have gone a couple days without charging.
For contacts handling, the HP iPaq Glisten does a fine job with your Exchange corporate address book, and can synchronize with your Outlook contacts on your desktop as well. Other online contacts lists, like Google, Yahoo or Facebook, are left out of the loop. The contacts list may be ugly, but its highly functional. You can start typing a name from the Today screen and the phone will start searching right away. There are also plenty of fields to fill with useful information about your contacts. It''s very business-like, with no fun extras like the Facebook and LinkedIn linking you''ll find on phones like the BlackBerry Bold 9700 or the Palm Pre, but that might be enough for some users.
The HP iPaq Glisten packs plenty of good calling features, but buries most of them in inconvenient spots. The phone has voice dialing built-in, but there''s no shortcut button to activate the feature, and it''s buried in a submenu, difficult to find. You can connect a 3-way conference call, but you''ll need to dig in the menus, and the key to activate the menu is precariously close to the End key on screen, so we occasionally ended a call that we meant to expand. The speaker phone is nice and loud, the way we like it, but the phone lacks the cool new calling features we''re seeing elsewhere, like visual voicemail or convenient in-call information screens.
Business – Very Good
Even though the HP iPaq Glisten uses the most basic Windows Mobile 6.5 kit, WinMo is a very capable business operating system, so if you want to get work done on the road, the HP iPaq Glisten is a good tool for the job. The phone comes with the complete Office Mobile suite, so you can view, create and edit Word and Excel documents on the device. You can also view PowerPoint presentations to some extent. If you''ll be doing a lot of typing, the iPaq Glisten has a very nice keyboard. The keys are large and well rounded. They tend to run into each other more than the angled keys on modern BlackBerry phones, but we had no trouble with the keyboard, and found typing to be a breeze on the iPaq Glisten from the start.
Beyond the Office Mobile suite, the iPaq Glisten also uses Microsoft''s Mobile Outlook calendar and scheduling app. It''s an ugly looking program, but it''s very functional, and you''ll have no trouble scheduling appointments, inviting attendees and keeping track of your agenda and tasks. Beyond these basics, there are a few minor additions to the business tool lineup. There''s a streaming video service from Mobi that specializes in business news, and a Mobile Banking app that works with a select few banks in the U.S. There''s also a simple MSN Money app to track financial information. No business card scanner on board, and no other tools to make gathering business info and tracking your business contacts any easier.
For road warriors, the HP iPaq Glisten can also act as a tethered modem. The phone comes with a couple different apps to connect your Windows laptop to AT&T''s network, including Internet Sharing, which is the easiest tool around. Our Windows 7 laptop found the phone with no trouble, and we were quickly surfing the Web at a steady clip. We saw downloads in the 1.5 Mbps range, which is good enough for simple Web use and news reading, though that''s not the fastest we''ve seen.
Social Networking – Mediocre
If you''re not using the HP iPaq Glisten for corporate e-mail and business functions, there isn''t much to help you connect with your social world. The phone does ship with the Windows Mobile Facebook app, but it''s buried in the submenus out of view. It''s a fairly simple Facebook program and only offers the most recent status updates, with some other features to browse your friends'' profiles and upload pics. If you''re interested in Twitter or MySpace, you''ll have to dig through the Microsoft Marketplace, Microsoft''s version of the App Store, which comes preloaded on this phone. The pickings are slim, though, so you might not find tools you''ll be happy using.
Multimedia – Good
Though the HP iPaq Glisten uses a dazzling AMOLED display, the best looking display technology we''ve seen, it''s mostly wasted on this device. The phone gets the most basic multimedia software available, the simple, unintelligent Windows Media Player suite. Windows Media Player does a poor job finding and managing your music and videos. Once you''ve loaded your files properly, the player controls are tiny, and there aren''t many features on board. It seems even Microsoft has abandoned the aging player. We clicked on the Web link on the WMP screen, and were taken to a page that said it was best viewed by a Windows Mobile device. Clearly, the base media experience on Windows Mobile needs an update, and HP might be the only manufacturer left completely relying on WMP for music and video playback.
That isn''t to say the HP iPaq Glisten can''t get the job done. Our music sounded good on the device, and the iPaq Glisten uses a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so we could plug in our favorite earbuds. Movies also played fluidly on the phone, and the device did a fine job rescaling larger resolution files to fit the disappointingly low-res, QVGA screen. The phone can accept microSD cards, but you''ll have to remove the battery to get to the slot.
Staying Informed – Good
The Web browser on the HP iPaq Glisten is the standard mobile Internet Explorer 6, and it''s not a very good version of the browsing software. Most Web pages looked lousy. Our own homescreen was a messy jumble with poor layout, illegible text and strange red lines thrown in for good measure. The low resolution screen means you won''t be able to read Web pages at full page width, and zooming in is a hassle thanks to Internet Explorer''s small and difficult controls. Some pages, like the New York Times, rendered well in their desktop versions, but CNN refused to recognize the browser as desktop capable and sent us the mobile version instead.
Traveling – Very Good
The HP iPaq Glisten comes with AT&T Navigator, which is an effective turn-by-turn navigation solution from TeleNav. We had a good time navigating with the device. The phone found our location for a first fix very quickly, and had no trouble routing us and rerouting our trip when we got lost. The interface left something to be desired, mostly the tiny zoom bar that was difficult to peck without a stylus. But otherwise the maps were clear and colorful, and the app was very useful.
The iPaq Glisten is also a good choice for international travelers. Besides support for AT&T''s 3G network, the phone uses tri-band HSDPA, so you''ll even be able to use the fast networks available in Europe and other countries that use the 2100 radio band for 3G.
Camera and Photos - Mediocre
The camera on the HP iPaq Glisten was a disappointment. We had high hopes, since the phone packs a 3.1-megapixel sensor and a very nice looking camera interface. But our images looked lifeless and dull, with little color or fine details. The menus also proved difficult to manage as the tiny icons on screen required a stylus to accurately tap. The phone does have a nice panorama feature. It''s one of the only phones we''ve seen to stitch full resolution images, instead of reduced quality pics. Of course, it wasn''t perfect, but the pictures are already blurry enough that we hardly noticed the gaps in the final image.
In addition to the camera app, the HP iPaq Glisten also comes with HP PhotoSmart software. We expected more from the PhotoSmart kit, some editing or image enhancement tools, perhaps. But mostly PhotoSmart was good for organizing images on your storage card, printing or sending them via e-mail. There were no options built in to upload pics to your favorite social networking site or Flickr, though HP does own Snapfish, so of course there is an option to send your photos to that image sharing site.
Price and availability
The HP iPaq Glisten will be available from AT&T Business sales and directly from HP for $230, or $180 after a $50 mail-in rebate.