Lightning Review: i-Mate Ultimate 8502

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The gadget: The i-Mate Ultimate 8502, the company's new entry-level workhorse touchscreen and keyboard smartphone which is making its local debut on Telstra's Next G network.
The price: $999
The verdict: It's a nice enough phone and the network is speedy, but the BlackBerry gang don't need to get too worried just yet.

On sale this week, the 8502 (and its keyboard-sprouting sibling the 9502) are making their global debut on Telstra's impressively quick (and impressively pricey) Next G network. According to i-Mate, an increasing number of these devices are finding their way into consumer hands — but despite that claim, the main target audience remains business users who would otherwise probably be sporting a BlackBerry.
There's some nice features — remote locking via a website if you lose the phone and the ability to build a custom internet presence for managing it — and the overall design is a logical successor to previous models. All the Windows Mobile apps are present and correct, and call quality is good. But given the choice between this and a BlackBerry, we'd still be feeling fruity.
A big part of the problem is the reliance on Windows Mobile, which is still far more Windows than Mobile and lacks the really integrated feel delivered by RIM. Tellingly, despite the full keyboard, there are some features you can only access using the stylus, which is pretty much useless for one-handed operation. Typing on the keyboard is adequate, but even our rather thin fingers slipped up fairly often.
By far the worst feature is the battery life. We used a fully charged device for half an hour or so's light web browsing one day — no calls or high-power activities — and the thing was dead by breakfast the next morning.

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