HP iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger

So a great deal of you readers who come in day-to-day contact with me will have already seen the rather funky phone which Kilimanjaro Communication Management Consultants forwarded to me on behalf of HP so that I could give it the once over and publish my esteemed opinion of it on this here blog.

That was in July. I’m hesitant to give the phone back. I’ll come clean and admit I’ve been hanging on to it under the guise of “giving it a complete review”. Unfortunately I found some spare time to write this up so here it goes… (which probably means the phone goes too 🙁 )

The strange thing is that while the words HP and cellphone simply don’t appeal to me in the same sentence, I’ve quite enjoyed my stay with this little demon.

It packs a punch in a small chocolate-bar form factor that’s big on features, and I’m talking about my-other-phone-which-barely-competes-is-an-N95 style features.

USB Charging (Catch a wake up Nokia!!), Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, VPN Support, Voice over IP, complete Outlook integration and a Micro SD slot for adding storage are exactly the features one would expect from a top-end phone these days. The Voice Messenger has them. All of a sudden, unless you work in Sandton, an iPhone really isn’t *that* appealing.

In fact the USB charger that comes bundled with the phone is most certainly a keeper. It’s simply a wall-plug that powers a USB cable, ala iPod charger, but without the proprietary nonsense on the end, which means it can be used to charge any device that powers over USB!

The little box of delight that landed on my doorstep also bundles the mandatory syncing software on CD, headphone/microphone on a string, and a European plug adapter for the charger. Now I most certainly intend to keep that charger.

Ok, you’re probably all thinking that this blogger has now sold out to the marketing prowess of HP, which means it’s time to drop a couple of negative points.

Battery life, the age old enemy of the mobile warrior, performs just adequately at about a two to three day lifespan on relatively low usage on a single charge. (Of course this is where the USB charging ability gives one a huge benefit.)

The camera is a relatively disappointing-for-2007 low-end 1.3 mega pixel. It is however very responsive when taking pictures and the display as a viewfinder is very bright, even in lower-light conditions. For me, as the owner of two digital cameras this was however a non-issue.

The phone runs Windows Mobile 6. It’s fantastic that it’s the latest version of the OS, a fact that gives the average user an almost inherent ability to use the phone. Personally, I’m not a fan, but that’s just ‘cos I’m too tech for my own good. Running Windows Mobile 6 also gives the average user access to a number of third party applications, as well as the mobile Office suite of Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Java too is installed, which opens things up a lot more. Perhaps OpenMoko for the next one HP?

I did however experience one small issue with Windows Mobile. When the phone battery died (which it seemed to do rather silently), I sometimes left it uncharged and switched back to my other phone for a while. When I returned to the Voice Messenger, charged it up and switched it on, all my configured alarms that had not gone off while the phone was dead suddenly decided to alert one after the other. In the middle of a training course. Cringe with embarrassment. But I suppose that is a rather irregular use for the phone, which wouldn’t necessarily impact your average user.

Three more things before I tell you exactly where I think this phone belongs:
The keypad is ok. Better than a Nokia N70, but it still takes a bit of getting used to. I think the best keypad I had was on the Motorola RAZR. This one is *much* smaller than that of course. Another good thing is the screen size and brightness, which never proved a problem in any situation. Oh, and for all you travel fanatics who want to use your smart-phone in the air, you are given the option to switch off the phone capability but keep the PDA functionality active.

I hope you’re still reading, cos there’s “One More Thing”:

This phone is a Voice Messenger. Yeah, so what?
Well, HP seems to have gone to quite some length to make this phone work very well via voice commands only. Even wiff a horrible sarf efrikan aksent.

One press of the Voice Command button on the side of the phone, and you can literally use just about any of the phone’s features!

It is super-impressive!

I could fill a weeks worth of blog entries examining in-depth each of the features available here – name dialing, application launching, email display, sms composition, getting the time, playing music, voice email composition (i.e. send an audio attachment to an email destination), even profile switching can all be done with one button press and the use of your voice! Later on I even discovered that the initially clunky digit dialing can be tweaked and trained for your voice, and any application you install can be given a custom voice tag too. Wow!

The HP iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger is certainly a coup for any person who is visually impaired. With the shortest amount of time and practice it could prove to be a communications delight for someone who prefers to use their voice.

So what about the price? The phone I’ve described above is certainly a communications tool of high value. Most of the bells and whistles are right on-board. The phone is aimed at the business end, for sure – you wouldn’t expect it to come along cheaply, but if you pay more than in the region of R2500 you’re probably getting ripped off.

If you’re on a tight budget and you want every feature current phones can give you, with the iPAQ Voice Messenger 514 you’re shopping in the right place.

Got any questions about the HP iPAQ Voice Messenger?
Call me on it: +27 74 115 9505

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