i-mate 810-f, Centurion and Legionnaire/ Warrior. An impressive comeback

Among all the fancy touchscreen, HD, high megapixel phones being announced right and left at MWC 09 in Barcelona, there was one small company which stood out from the crowd. And not because of the fancier touchscreen UI, HD video or higher megapixel count in the camera. It’s because they took a different approach in designing their new phones, and made some really interesting products.

It’s a  company  named i-mate. And their first announced handset was 810F – a well specc’ed,  rugged Windows Mobile phone. Except for the smallish – 2 mpx – camera – the 810-F specs (HSDPA, 2.5” QVGA touchscreen, full QWERTY keypad, Wi-Fi, GPS, Compas, etc;) looks quite good. But it’s story is not about specs, it’s about toughness.

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I-Mate 810-F comes with a lifetime guarantee and can be put through incredible abuse. You can drop i-mate 810-F from ten feet, put it into water or even run it over with a  car (which guys at BBC’s Click show actually did) and the phone will still work.

Here’s a video of impressive demo of 810-F abuse that i-mate has put up during MWC 09 in Barcelona:

Another phone that i-mate had on display in Barcelona is called Centurion. It’s a credit card sized full QWERTY keypad Windows Mobile smartphone. At first try, the keypad (and keys themselves)  on Centurion feel on the smallish side due to the compromises made to reduce the overall size of the device.

But that’s the whole point – you’ll by a smartphone such as i-mate Centurion if you are looking for a small, light, easy to carry around handset with enhanced messaging capability. And you may get used to Centurion’s keypad, just as you got used on the keypad on your Nokia E71, which is of comparable size.

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We’ll tell you more about it when we get our hands on Centurion for a thorough review.

The last and the most interesting i-mate device wasn’t actually fully presented on it’s stand. Well, part of it, called Legionnaire, was there. But it was pretty hard to figure out what the heck it was.

Well, turns out there’s not much mystery to i-mate Legionnaire device itself. It’s a full featured Windows Mobile full touchscreen phone. Good looking, powerful (with 800 mHz CPU, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, GPS, etc;),   but not that different from  any other full touchscreen WM device out there.

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It becomes interesting when the second part of the set-up, called Warrior – is added to the mix. It’s a laptop shell with a full featured 10” XVGA diplay, laptop keyboard, huge battery that can also charge your phone, memory card reader, some external USB ports and not much more.

i-mate “Warrior” looks just like any ultraportable laptop, except that it isn’t. Instead of the trackpad it has a slot where you slide in the “Legionnaire” touchscreen phone and it becomes the navigation device for the whole set-up.

All the data and processing is done in i-mate “Legionnaire” running WM 6.5,  but you’ve also got yourself a full notebook display and keyboard. Plus some ports to connect various peripherals

After installing various Mobile office apps this set-up can already meet a big part of your computing needs. But it also lets you connect to the Net and use various “cloud” services or your company virtualization software, which may soon make your computing experience on Legionnare/Warrior not that much different from what you already have on your laptop.

It really does sound very impressive on paper, and a non-working mock-up of the device looked really good and solid. Of course, we’ll have to check it out in action to give you the final judgment.

Overall my experience with i-made was very interesting. Their new offerings look different from competition and should find their niche in a fast growing smartphone market.

For the past year or so i-mate was pretty quiet. Jim Morrison, i-mate CEO told me that this was because they have been changing their operating model. Earlier they were working with ODM companies that took i-mate’s designs and made them into a working phones. Last year i-mate boosted it’s engineering and development teams and switched to contract manufacturers. Now all the new phone design, drawings, schematics, board layouts, etc; are developed inside the i-mate and only the manufacturing part is outsourced.

Well, looks that after a year of silence i-mate may be coming back. 810-F, Centurion and Legionnaire/Warrior are pretty interesting products, so  i-mate might be off to a good restart.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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