The HP iPAQ Glisten sounds more like a teenage accessory than a straightlaced business device, but it’s actually targeted toward the latter crowd. While HP has never been a major player in the smart phone market, the staid $179 Glisten is one of the first devices to feature Windows Mobile Professional 6.5, Microsoft’s latest attempt to keep pace with Android, Apple, and Palm. But the market may have already passed the Glisten by; while it’s a decent Windows phone for e-mail, featuring a bright AMOLED display and fast browsing speeds on AT&T’s network, the level of functionality and innovation doesn’t match up with the high price.
The 4.4 x 2.5 x 0.5-inch Glisten is aesthetically reminiscent of BlackBerry devices, with its rounded corners, curved top and bottom edges, and generously sized keys. The phone is about the same size as the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and the Samsung Jack, though it takes more design cues from the former. The lightweight device fit comfortably in our hand, and weighs just 4.7 ounces. A rubber-feeling plastic graces the top and bottom of the device and extends across the back of the phone, lending the Glisten some durability.
Just as with the Bold 9700, the Glisten sports four buttons above the keyboard: Send, Start, OK, and End. In the middle rests a circular directional pad with a selection button in the center. This button reminds us of the optical mouse on the Samsung Saga, but it doesn’t include this functionality.
The 2.5-inch AMOLED touch display is certainly bright, offering vibrant colors. However, the large fonts looked somewhat pixelated on this relatively low-res screen (320 x 240 pixels). The BlackBerry Tour, for example, has a high resolution of 480 x 360 pixels. We’re also not fans of the resistive touchscreen on this device. The Glisten often confused scrolling for selecting items on the Today screen, and we found ourselves relying on the directional pad to cut down on frustrating mistakes.
You’ll have to remove the rear cover to get at the microSD slot (the phone takes up to 32GB cards). A camera (sans flash) and speaker also sit on the back. The phone’s stylus is securely stored on the bottom right of the device. Silver-blue metal accents the sides; on the upper left are volume controls, while the right houses the charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack.
The Glisten comes with Windows Mobile Professional 6.5, which includes an updated Today screen. Today has undergone a vast change from WinMo 6.1, and was designed to put your most important information up front. A cylindrical bar sits in the middle of the screen, magnifying items one at a time for a closer look at the details of each app, such as the number of unread messages, new voicemails, last picture taken, or last video played. Users can either scroll down the list via touch or use the directional pad just under the screen. The order of the apps is customizable, allowing users to choose which information they want displayed first.
No longer an imitation of its desktop cousin, the Start menu on the Glisten is now similar to the home screens found on Android devices and the iPhone. Apps are represented by chunky icons in a staggered pattern instead of a grid. However, there’s no visual distinction between icons for apps, folders, and Web shortcuts, so we often couldn’t tell which lay behind an icon until we clicked on it.
The changes may take long-time Windows Mobile users a while to get used to initially, but overall we like the updates to the interface. Once you open the apps themselves, though, things look much the same as in previous generations—and that’s an issue. On the Glisten’s small display programs often felt crowded with information or menu bars on the top and bottom of the screen.
The Glisten’s QWERTY keyboard has large keys that curve in a half moon shape (like the BlackBerry Bold 9700) and stretch almost to the edge of the phone. The bottom row contains shortcuts to AT&T’s Web site on the left, and the calendar, messaging, and GPS apps on the right.
Though we appreciate the size of the layout, the keys themselves felt a bit stiff, and HP opted to cover them with a clear, slick, rounded plastic layer. This made typing harder than it should have been. Don’t get us wrong. The keyboard on the Glisten is good, but the layout on the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is better.
E-mail and Messaging
As a Windows phone, Microsoft Exchange is natively supported, so you have access to all of your Exchange server calendar entries, contacts, and e-mail accounts. Gmail and Yahoo Mail were easy to set up without having to enter the settings menu. There is a different process for adding accounts Windows Mobile 6.5 can’t set up automatically; this is similar to desktop Outlook, and only took a few minutes to complete. The Glisten has a quick access button to messaging on the bottom right of the keyboard. Attachment support is handled by Office Mobile, which lets you view and edit Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files. You can also view PDFs.
Unlike the simplicity of the iPhone’s App Store or the Android Market, the Glisten contains links to the app store for Windows Mobile as well as multiple icons for accessing AT&T’s AppCenter. It was difficult at first to tell whether the different links, found on different screens, took us to different sections of one marketplace or to different ones under the AT&T/Cingular umbrella.
The AT&T AppCenter links (applications, games, graphics, multimedia, tones, and video) merely launch different areas of AT&T’s MEdia Mall in the browser. We found MEdia Mall difficult to navigate, and poorly designed when compared to the Android Market or the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Apps, downloads, and music in the AT&T AppCenter were sorted into categories, but were also jumbled together, making it hard to tell at a glance what kind of media a listing was or how much it cost. In the end, we turned to the Windows Marketplace for Mobile for both our entertainment and productivity apps.
There are just over 600 apps in the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, with games as the most populous category. Though Microsoft indicated early on that the primary focus of its market would be business apps, currently there are only 34 listed under that category. Of these offerings, the MSN Money and Salesforce CRM apps are the most compelling.
The small screen on the Glisten didn’t allow us to see many apps at a time, but here the browsing was far more satisfactory than on MEdia Mall and, for better or worse, more like the Android and iPhone stores. At a glance users can see app names, prices, ratings, and info. One click goes to a longer description, plus easy access to reviews and the Install button.
Installing apps was easy—just click, download, and confirm installation; icons appear on the Start screen at the bottom. When installing paid apps, we were presented with the option of charging the purchase to our AT&T account (which is convenient) or adding a credit card.
Internet Explorer Mobile 6 is the only browser preloaded on the Glisten, though others are available through the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The newest version of Microsoft’s mobile browser is an improvement over previous versions, but it isn’t as slick as Opera Mobile (even with the interface updates).
Instead of taking up screen space with an ever-present address and menu bar at the bottom, IE does away with the menu bar and replaces it with icons for Back, Favorite, On-Screen Keyboard, Zoom, and More Options. The browser goes full-screen once the user starts to scroll or after a few seconds of inactivity, leaving a grey menu icon in the right corner to bring everything back as needed.
Over a 3G connection, we loaded the mobile version of CNN.com in 10 seconds, ESPN.com in 5 seconds, and NYTimes.com in 5 seconds. Over Wi-Fi, we loaded the same sites in 3, 3, and 2 seconds, respectively.
Zooming was easy, but it requires too many steps to complete. If the menus aren’t visible, users have to click on the menu icon, then the zoom icon, then adjust a slider to find the optimal text size. We prefer double-tapping to zoom in, such as on the Droid, iPhone, and Palm Pre. Double-tapping on the Glisten will return a zoomed page to the default zoom size, but it doesn’t zoom in further.
The Glisten comes with AT&T Maps (powered by TeleNav) and offers unspoken turn-by-turn directions, a directory of POIs, and a few extras, such as access to your contact’s addresses. The app pinpointed our location down to where we were standing on a New York City block, and was able to give accurate directions, but it lacked the ability to simply show our current location on a map and point us to nearby ATMs or restaurants. Users have to input a location manually when searching for nearby POIs.
AT&T Maps is the free version of the AT&T Navigator app. Users can upgrade the service, which offers spoken turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic alerts. The full Navigator app costs $9.99 per month or $2.99 for a day pass.
We downloaded Google Maps from the Windows Marketplace for Mobile for comparison. We were pleased to see that, even though Google’s app wasn’t able to place our current location as accurately, it was always close enough that we were able to find nearby businesses and restaurants without having to give the app an address.
The Glisten’s focus is on business users, so it’s not surprising that there are few multimedia goodies loaded beyond the stock apps that come with Windows Mobile, such as Windows Media Player Mobile. A trial of XMRadio can be found in the AT&T Music folder. Pandora is available for Windows Mobile but not this device, and Slacker isn’t yet available for Windows Mobile.
Streaming video is also available, and users have access to thousands of clips from major broadcast and cable networks such as CNN, ESPN, Fox, and Nickelodeon. The streaming player can also tap into YouTube’s mobile Web site. Quality was decent in a five-minute clip from The Colbert Report, but sometimes the video became pixelated. With only two bars of 3G service in our midtown offices, the video played without hiccups most of the way through.
The Glisten has a 3.1-megapixel camera with a 5X zoom and fixed focus. The maximum zoom resulted in decent pictures, but was only available for the two lowest resolutions. At 1280 x 960 or higher, 2X zoom was the highest the setting would go. Shutterbugs can take pictures up to 2048 x 1536, and the settings offer a decent number of adjustments, filters, and features such as delay timer and burst photography. Colors were accurate both indoors and out, and we found that the white balance setting greatly improved the image quality in different lighting environments.
Users can capture video at either 320 x 240 or 176 x 144 in normal video mode, and 176 x 144 in MMS video mode. The videos captured weren’t very sharp, and objects that moved quickly ended up a blur.
Call Quality and Battery Life
Over AT&T’s network in the New York City area, we noticed some fuzz on our end when placing calls, and our voice sounded muffled and indistinct when we left voicemails on our office and cell phones. When we called other landlines and cell phones, recipients had a hard time hearing us clearly in both noisy and quiet environments, even when we raised our voice. The Glisten’s noise cancelling feature did eliminate most of the background noise while we walked down a busy New York City street, but it also seemed to dampen our own voice. Our friend on the other end said that listening to us on the Glisten was one of the worst-sounding calls he’d ever heard.
The rated talk time on the Glisten is up to 5 hours, and standby time is up to 17 days. We used the phone to check e-mail, browse the web, navigate around town, play video, and stream music intermittently for about a day and a half before needing to recharge.
At $179, the HP iPAQ Glisten is somewhat overpriced for what you get. Power users looking for a work and play device are much better off with a less expensive BlackBerry such as the Bold 9700 ($129), and mainstream consumers are better off with an OS and user interface that feels friendlier. Microsoft is trailing behind every other major competitor not only in its number of apps, but also in the look and feel of its venerable operating system. The Glisten is a decent option for mobile professionals, but its resistive touchscreen and multimedia features leave much to be desired.