iMate Smartflip

January 30th, 2007 Mobile Phones, Tech, The West Australian

The early iMate products capitalised on a strong ‘cute’ factor, most models lovely rounded figures that felt good in the hand and sported the brand name that gave you the warm and fuzzies every time you read it.

But the design factor was always in danger of overshadowing the fact that the iMate range comprised some of the best and easiest to use business machines in any market sector.

The Smartflip is perhaps the most understated of their products; no flashy silver, no riotous name like JASJAM sounding like a funky modern circus troupe. Its design actually carries echoes of the Motorola model still cleaning up large slices of the market, the RAZR.

The Smartflip is similarly slender, retaining the characteristically curved edges that make it feel like a little jewel in your hand. Like Motorola’s poster child, it opts for almost completely flat upper and lower faces, the buttons punctuated by simple outlines so you can feel your way.

The closed profile is similarly uncluttered, sporting only a large round external display, camera lens and three unobtrusive media player controls. The design gives the Smartflip a civilised, sophisticated edge.

Where it falls right down is the alliance with Microsoft and the bundling of the Windows Mobile OS. If you could select the operating system you’d like installed on your phone, the Smartflip would be a much better purchase.

Part of the problem is the uneasy marriage between the phone and the OS in this particular case. As anyone who uses Windows Mobile knows, it suffers the technological equivalent of middle age spread. Like its desktop counterpart, there’s a lot of superfluous information that simply doesn’t translate onto a screen as big as two postage stamps.

It’s also a very convoluted OS to manipulate to your liking. Several attempts to transfer contacts and calendar data onto the Smartflip resulted in the calendar data but just a handful of contacts. Attempts to transfer music files in order to assign them as ringtones failed altogether.

That’s not to say transferring data onto the Smartflip doesn’t work, just that manipulating the transfer software and the unforgivably horrid Windows Media Player to move files is too convoluted to make sense to the unfamiliar user. Bear that in mind when you consider purchasing a Smartflip; it’s an attractive and comfortable phone, but one should never judge a book by its cover.


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