i-mate Ultimate 8502 Handheld Phone - Review

i-mate Ultimate 8502 Handheld Phone - Review

The 8502 is the only PDA-phone in i-mate's Ultimate series not to come with a VGA display. So you might dismiss it as being lower in a scale of ultimate-ness compared with the rest. After a few days with it though, we found that the 8502 may be a perfect fit for some users, more so than some of the other models in the series with their higher-resolution displays.


Like the other devices in the range, the 8502 has a truckload of connectivity options. Aside from triband UMTS and quadband GSM (ensuring it'll work almost anywhere in the world), this handheld also supports HSDPA and HSUPA for broadband-like data transfers over the cellular network. While HSDPA is pretty common in most big cities, HSUPA is not quite as widely supported by operators at this point. So don't expect blazing-fast uploads with your 8502 until your operator gets up to speed.

GPS is built into the 8502. The test unit sent to us didn't feature any navigation software, but we tried the navigation capabilities out using the free Google Maps application. Even in a built-up area with many tall buildings, the 8502 did well to get a location fix once we got out from under the trees.

Weighing just 140g, the 8502 is the lightest among all the Ultimates. This doesn't come as a surprise as it is more compact than the rest and is completely made of plastic--the 6150, 8150 and 9502 are all partly metallic. Yet it doesn't feel at all cheap. Its construction is solid and overall it has an appealing design.

For menu navigation, the 8502 has a directional pad above the keypad which tends to the right. This may seem a little strange, but we found it to be very effective for use with the right thumb, as we've noticed with the 8150. If you are holding the device in your left hand, there is a scroll wheel where your left thumb will rest.

On first encounter, the 8502's keypad may seem somewhat "squishy", as the keys move around quite a bit and look like they may fall off easily. This doesn't take away from our typing experience, though, we found the keyboard very effective with good tactile feedback once you get used to the compact spacing between letters. Of course, don't just take our word for it. Try it out at a store when it finally launches before making a decision on that, especially for those with fat fingers.


Even though it has the ability to make video calls, the 8502 doesn't have a front-facing camera for that purpose. On the rear, we liked the fact that it has a 2-megapixel camera, but not that it lacked an autofocus feature.

Unlike the 8150 and 6150, the TV-out feature on this handheld uses composite video instead of VGA-out. This may pose a problem when you enter meeting rooms with ceiling-mounted projectors and the only cable extended to the table is the VGA one.

This PDA-phone comes with a 400MHz Qualcomm processor and 128MB RAM. That's the same as the HTC TyTN II. But upon a reset, only 41.5MB of memory is free for running applications. That can quickly run out once you have a few applications open in the background. For comparison, the TyTN II has over 50MB free even though it has a modified Home screen which sure takes up some memory as well. The software on the 8502 we have here is not final, so hopefully the built-in applications that run on startup in the background will be more memory-efficient in the final build.


There's certainly a lot to like about the i-mate Ultimate 8502. One of the best things about it is the compact design and exposed QWERTY keypad which some may prefer because they are accustomed to Treo or BlackBerry devices.

The company expects the 8502 to be available in mid-December and it currently has an estimated price of US$895. This does needs to go down a little, especially if operators will not be stocking it--which means users must buy it without contract discounts. It will come backed with a two-year global warranty and a suite of security and support software which makes it easier for the user to secure data and get the device fixed if needed.