We've been waiting for the HP iPAQ 6300 ($599) for quite some time. It was finally released back in July of 2004, together with their new 1700, 3000, and 4700 Series. The 6300 is HP's first Pocket PC Phone. There had been prototypes of a Jornada-based Pocket PC phone a couple of years ago, but that was before HP bought Compaq. This is the first Pocket PC Phone not only for HP but also the first iPAQ that has phone functionality.
We generally have mixed feelings about Pocket PC phones. For example, a long governmental review process means Pocket PC Phones often use dated technology. That was the case when the industry switched from StrongARM to XScale a few years ago. Pocket PCs quickly adapted, but PPC Phones continued to use the older chip. Same for displays and other related technologies. Did Hewlett Packard manage to avoid this trap with the new 6300?
When it first arrived we had mixed reactions. It looked just like another old h2200 Series model. And compared to a new Palm or iPAQ the h6300 is big. However, it is also a lot smaller smaller and handier than earlier Samsung and Hitachi Pocket PC Phones. Problem is that while "real" smartphones get ever tinier, Pocket PC Phones remain rather hefty pieces of equipment.
However, compared to the original T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone, the h6300 is smaller and lighter and has more features. It has a built-in 640 x 480 pixel digital camera that works a lot better than what you find in today's smartphones. The h6300 also has internal Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless LAN. This provides excellent connection and communications flexibility. On top of being a GSM phone with GPRS data service, the h6300 can instantly switch to high speed WiFi service as soon as it is within reach of a WiFi Access Point. And you can use Bluetooth to connect to all sorts of devices.
Having all this extra wireless connectivity available is nice. GPRS alone is too slow to browse today's websites. A WiFi connection makes it more bearable. The same goes for email. With all the spam and attachments today, using WiFi for email is less painful because it takes a lot less time.
In terms of functionality, Microsoft managed to seamlessly integrate the phone functions into the overall Pocket PC platform, which is not an easy thing to do. Instead of getting a pseudo PIM on a tiny cellphone, you get all the power of the full Pocket PC platform. And you get it all on a large 3.5-inch transflective display instead of a microscopic smartphone display.
There's really a lot to like on the h6300. It looks and feels friendly and familiar, especially to those who have used iPAQs before. It has rubber strips along each side. On the left they include the recording switch and the headphone jack. On the right there are the SD slot, volume control, and the camera shutter. An antenna nub sticks out and adds a bit to the length. The controls are the same as on all Pocket PCs, but two of the application buttons are used for the phone. A green one starts the phone application or picks up a call. Red ends a conversation.
The spec sheet is not that impressive. Instead of the speedy chips found in the latest Pocket PCs, the h6300 has an OMAP 1510 processor from Texas Instrument that's fast enough but not more. Of 64MB of RAM 57 are available for programs and storage. A SD card slot serves to complement the 21MB of internal iPAQ File Storage. The h6300's 64k color screen is as good as those of the new 1700 and 3000 series iPAQs. You can't rotate the display into landscape mode--a disadvantage for web browsing. The h6300 has a large removable 1,800mAH battery and an optional 3,600 mAH battery is available. A snap-on thumbtype keyboard specially designed for this model is included. It is a good solution, though all thumbtype keyboards require some getting used to.
The h6300 comes with a well designed dock that also holds and charges the extended battery. We didn't like the case that comes with this phone. It is big and bulky and doesn't provide easy access to the screen or even the answer buttons.
There is plenty of good software, including AIM, Yahoo, and ICQ messaging clients. You also get HP's excellent camera application and equally impressive HP ImageZone. With them you can take and manage pictures, and then send them to friends and family via email, IR, or MMS.
If you don't mind the size, the HP h6300 Pocket PC Phone is perfect for people who wants a real Pocket PC that is also a phone. The h6300 is expensive, but the actual cost depends on the service plan you sign up for. All in all, I consider the HP h6300 the best Pocket PC Phone on the market today. -KL