With the launch BlackBerry Bold LA last week and excellent Nokia E71 Before, other email phone manufacturers will have to work hard to keep up. It seems that it is quite easy to pack the features nowadays, but both RIM and Nokia manage to combine that fact with excellent ergonomics, design, ease of use and battery life.
So, with some concern, we approach HP’s latest effort: 914c Business Messenger. At first glance, it is very similar to the Bold and E71 models, with the Qwerty keyboard and the candy bar shape factor. And it is full of as many features as the two devices.
It has tri-band HSDPA for fast mobile broadband connection speeds of up to 3.6 or 7.2 Mbps, has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11bg), an assisted GPS receiver and Bluetooth 2.0. It has a three-megapixel camera on the back with LED flash and portrait mirror. It even has style cues similar to the BlackBerry Bold, with attractive silver bands running, like the frets on an electric guitar, between each row of keyboard keys and a chrome trim that spins around the front edge.
But elsewhere, the 914c has as much in common with Nokia and RIM phones as cheese chalk. It’s a much bigger device than the E71 and heavier than both – and the extra weight makes a surprisingly big difference in terms of feeling in your pocket. Its more angular corners don’t help, while the harsh blue characters on some of the keys complement some of HP’s more attractive features.
His keyboard is usable and, before using Bold, we would have given him a thumbs up. The rounded keys are relatively easy to press without pressing adjacent buttons and have dedicated period and comma keys, plus a few shortcut keys above it for quick access to email and calendar. But it just can’t compete with the top-of-the-line Bold keyboard, which is the best I’ve used on any cell phone.
And the screen is good. With a standard resolution of 320 x 240, it is not particularly special. However, further investigations show that it is a touch screen, which differentiates it from Nokia and RIM devices.
Once again, however, it falls short. It’s not reflective, as is the E71’s screen, which means it’s not as easy to read on the outside, nor can it compete with Bold’s luxurious screen. The latter has a higher resolution, is also much easier to read outdoors and is incredibly colorful and attractive.
Being a Windows Mobile phone doesn’t even help. HP has the latest version, 6.1, but it still seems dated with the new stylish BlackBerryOS 4.6. Some manufacturers, such as HTC, are trying to fix this by adding their own «skin» over the ugly front of Windows Mobile, but there’s nothing like it here. TouchFlo 3D by Touch Diamond .
Also, version 6.1 does not address the old issues of Windows Mobile devices. The touch screen here is difficult to use without a stylus, and annoyingly, you can connect to only one Exchange Server email account at a time. However, to be fair, Office document support is great – you’ll get Office Mobile complete with the ability to read and create Office 2007 documents, plus a PDF viewer. And with a rugged 416 MHz processor to power it, it feels more agile than most Windows Mobile phones I’ve used in the past.
On another positive note, the size of HP means that it can fit in an absolutely huge lithium polymer battery. With a capacity of 1,940 mAh, it is the largest cell I have seen on a Windows Mobile phone and larger than the 1,500 mAh batteries seen in E71 and Bold phones. It’s good enough to extend the life of your phone to three days of easy use with push email enabled, which is a very impressive performance. And unlike the Nokia E71, this phone can be charged via USB.
But is the HP 914c good enough to challenge the Nokia E71 or BlackBerry Bold positions on our A list? Oh no! It has the characteristics. It has a long battery life. It has a good screen and keyboard. But using Windows Mobile hurts you, and unfortunately it’s not as attractive as the competition.