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Palm Powered Mobile: GSPDA Xplore G88 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mohd Nazley Mohd Fadhley   
May 09, 2004 at 12:41 PM

Mobile phone manufactures are keeping themselves busy churning out models of mobile phones with built-in Personal Digital Assistant functions. Companies like Symbian, Microsoft and PalmSource(PalmOS) are licensing its operating system to mobile phone manufactures to power these smartphones.

A Hong Kong based company, Group Sense PDA (GSPDA), entered the smartphone market recently with a PalmOS powered smartphones to claim "a slice of the cake". The latest model introduced by GSPDA is the Xplore G88. A dual band 900/1800 GSM smartphone. And I happend to get hold of this model for a few days recently.

It's Got The Looks...

Design wise, in my opinion, the Xplore is perfect. The overall size of this smartphone is like an ordinary mobile phone. Comparing it to my Sony Ericsson T68i, the Xplose G18 is not much bigger. The elegant matte silver finish, matched with smooth polished frames and buttons, make the G88 stands out making this smartphone sleek and sexy. The 160x240 touch screen colour LCD covers about 80 percent of the phone's facade, doing away with the numeric keypads. The touch screen LCD displays a virtual keypad only when necessary.

Well, some people will prefer to have a "hard key" to press, so GSPDA designed the G88 display panel to slide up and reveal the classic 12-key numeric pad ... a-la the Nokia 7650.

Coming back to the display size, it does look small for a PDA but you hane to remember that this device primary funtion is a phone and the PDA part is added in for enhanced capability. I'd like to compare this to a device like the O2 XDAII, which is primarily a PDA with the phone part as enhancement, the display is great for entering/reading data, but I think it's a little cumbursome to put it to ones ear when receiving a phonecall. (The Handspring Treo600 takes a "middle road" reducing the size of the display, which is big enough to be a PDA and small enough to make the device feels like a phone ... but, I digress)

The Engine

GSPDA chose to power the Xplore G88 using PalmOS version 4.1.2 and 33MHz DragonBall processor as its engine. The processing power seems unimpressive but emough to handle the voice and data transfer over the GSM network fairly well. Basic computing power for PIM functions is agreeable with the specifications.

The Xplore G88 comes with a 16MB RAM to store the SMS, emails as well as PalmOS applications and data. A 24MB Flash Memory embedded in the device for users to use as backup memory. There's no additional memory slots built-in in case you need more storage space. Users need to buy a separate attachment to the phone to be able to use SD/MMC cards for more storage. Rather dissappointing, doesn't it? I guess the decision was such to keep the Xplore G88 size small.

Also a dissappointment is the lack of Bluetooth connectivity. The only way to move or copy data to and from other devices is limited to only IRDA (Infra Red) connectivity. Bluetooth connectivity on the phone would be next in the G88 funtion wish list. Being a high end mobile phone, having Bluetooth connectivity is a great plus for power users, especially to those who handles a lot of data transfer between the phone and a personal computer.

The Test Drive ....

One thing I forgot to mention about the G88 design is the antenna. While the latest phone models does not have an entenna protruding, the G88 decides to have one. The antenna, although not really desirable design wise, is there for a purpose. The G88 picks up the cellphone wireless signal very well, giving better voice reception. Even, data transfer via GPRS for that matters

Dialing could be done in two ways. One way, is to slide the display up to reveal a numeric keypad for dialing. Doing so will automatically switches on the phone from its standby state. The other way, is to use the virtual keypad on the phone display. Just tap on the numbers to proceed with a phone call, as you'd normally do. Text input is accomplished using Palm Grafitti2 character recognition.

Other mobile phone functionalty such as handling incoming and outgoing messages, albeit SMS or email comes built into the G88 system. There is however, some stability issues when sending SMS. Within the short two days of using the G88, the phone locks up twice and in both occasions, it was during SMS outgoing transmission.

The G88 has GSM-GPRS connectivity built in, logging to the internet is hassle free. Just set the GPRS connection parameters, you are set to go online.

Being a PalmPowered device, the intreface is very intuitive, and simple to learn with a low learning curve, even for a first timers. The built-in PIM (Personal Information Manager) applications, like Datebook and To Do handles calendering and task management well. To add more functionality to the phone, one could just search the internet for thousands of PalmOS applications. I have installed a few like Blazer(web browser)and HandyShopper (shopping utility), and both application runs perfectly well on the G88. The G88 160 x 240 resolution with virtual input area is not a standard display for PalmOS devices so there are a few applications that has some compatibility issue with the G88.

The G88 160 x 240 resolution with virtual input area is not a standard display for PalmOS devices so there are a few applications that has some compatibility issue with the G88.

The Xplore G88 comes with a built-in camera able to snap photos at CIF resolution (352 x 288 pixels),and with Palm HotSync technology all data and photos are synchronised to a personal computer with ease. All software and application for the G88 to link to your PC is included in the box.

Being given a short two days to test out this phone, I did not have a chance to do a G88 to PC synchronisation. I guess, being a PalmPowered smartphone, the setup and use should be easy.

Last Words

The Xplore G88 is a mobile phone with PDA functions. overall, the Xplore G88 performs well. Having a good balance of "form" and "function, the G88 works well as a mobile phone and the PDA functionalities enhances the usability of this device. GSPDA, however needs to iron out some stability issues, like the glitches while using the SMS and email applications, requiring a phone reset.

Pros:
  • Attractively priced at RM2,088.00
  • Small in size and sleek design
  • Very good GSM signal reception

Cons:
  • instability issue
  • no bluetooth connectivity option
  • no built-in memory slot to add additional storage flash card


Mohd Nazley Fadhley
Last Updated ( Oct 30, 2005 at 02:15 AM )