First Impressions of HP iPAQ Glisten Smartphone

HP Glisten

HP iPAQ evokes strong feelings of nostalgia in me. I think I’ve played with every iPAQ ever made, and remember fondly the move from PDA to smartphone. When HP offered to send over the Glisten for me to have a look, I admit to having feelings of yesteryear passing before my eyes. So how does HP’s latest offering in the smartphone space stack up? I’ll leave that assessment up to you, and give my thoughts on the Glisten to help you do that.

The HP Glisten is available in the U.S. on the AT&T network. It has all of the pieces you expect a good smartphone to have:

  • Size: 112.8 x 62.8 x 13.4 mm, 132 grams (4.44 x 2.47 x 0.53 inches, 4.65 ounces)
  • Radios: North America — 850/1900 MHz, GSM/GPRS/EDGE; 850/1900 UMTS/HSDPA; Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g), Bluetooth 2.0
  • Display: 2.5-inch AMOLED resistive touch screen
  • QWERTY keyboard, 5-way D-pad
  • Audio features: 3.5 mm headphone, speakerphone, dual microphones (bottom and back) with noise cancellation
  • Camera: 3.1 megapixel, 5X digital zoom, fixed focus
  • Battery: 1590 mAh, Li-Polymer
  • Memory: 256 MB SDRAM / 512 MB Flash
  • Storage: Micro SD slot (no memory card included)
  • GPS: Assisted GPS (software not included)
  • OS: Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Applications: Microsoft Office Mobile, Outlook Mobile, IE Mobile 6, Windows Media Player Mobile, MS Internet Sharing, MSN Money, MSN Weather, Facebook, and more

I have been using the Glisten for a little while and my impressions are mixed, I must admit. The hardware is typical iPAQ — first-rate. The phone is very well constructed and although a bit wide it fits comfortably in the hand. The hardware buttons below the screen are big and easy to hit, and the D-pad is easy to use.

The single best feature of the Glisten is the QWERTY keyboard. It may be the best thumb keyboard I have ever used, as the keys are decently sized with a nice curvature for fast typing. Everybody I have handed the Glisten to has immediately remarked how much they like this keyboard. HP has produced a winner with it.

The Glisten comes packed with Windows Mobile 6.5, and the user experience is a mixed bag. I love the attractive today screen, and it has been properly optimized to work with touch. The Home screen is another beast altogether, as try as I have I can’t get used to the honeycomb display of programs. That is further complicated by the fact that there is little user control over this display, and newly installed programs go to the very bottom of the screen. That requires constant scrolling to get to the app just installed, which is backward. You can move some icons to the top of the screen, but that’s the sum total of the control over the display.

Windows Mobile 6.5 is still very stylus-centric, and that’s the biggest problem I have using the Glisten. The screen is fairly small for a touch screen, and things can be so small on the display that the stylus is the only sure way to hit them. HP has included a stylus with the Glisten that stores neatly in the phone for this reason.

The lack of a good touch interface is constantly an issue. WM6.5 uses two soft buttons on the bottom of the screen that are context-sensitive based on the active program. That’s normally a good thing, but the Glisten lacks hardware buttons that correspond to these soft buttons. The user is thus constantly faced with needing to hit a soft button, and they are so small the only sure way to hit them is with the stylus. That involves stopping, removing the stylus from its silo, tapping the screen — well, you get the picture.

This leads me to the impression I get when using the Glisten. The smaller screen, even though touch-enabled, coupled with the large keyboard, makes it seem a natural that the user should be able to interact with the phone without needing touch. That’s not the case as I’ve demonstrated, and it feels unnatural to keep shifting between touching controls and using the buttons. It’s like the phone can’t decide what it wants to be: a touch phone or not.

Overall I find the Glisten to be a very good phone. Audio quality is very good and the speakerphone is quite loud. The noise cancellation makes voice input for programs that support it work nicely. The Glisten does what a phone should do very well, and that is make phone calls.

 
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