Ruggedised mobile phones are usually targeted at a very specific group of users. Because of the limited market, they are more commonly sold to companies which will then allocate them to employees who need to use these devices in harsh conditions. The i-mate 810-F announced at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is, however, somewhat different from the rest. Though able to withstand extreme conditions, it doesn't have a design that makes you feel like you have to carry it in a large backpack and, best of all, it is meant to be easily available to the regular consumer.
According to i-mate, the 810-F can withstand temperatures from -10 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius. The metal screws you see in the picture are not just to make it look tough but are there to keep the smartphone's waterproof rubber casing in place.
Phones designed to work in such conditions are usually very bulky, but looking at the 111x66x15.5mm dimensions and approximate 150g weight, i-mate has done a good job keeping it relatively compact.
The company is so confident of what this device can handle that it's providing a lifetime warranty for the 810-F. This is "subject to warranty terms and conditions", details of which we do not have at the moment. But rest assured that when we do get our hands on the product for review, we will explore this aspect exhaustively.
Other features of the 810-F include a full QWERTY keypad, touchscreen QVGA display, GPS, Wi-Fi and 2GB of built-in storage. For your cellular needs, it has tri-band UMTS with HSDPA for high-speed data transfers and a quad-band GSM radio so it should work in most countries you happen to travel to.
Though it has 2GB of on-board memory, there doesn't appear to be an expansion slot in the 810-F. This could be because of the need to keep inputs to a minimum to reduce the chances of water seeping in, but it would have been great if such an option was available.
The specs sheet lists the handheld as having a 1200mAh battery. This may be comparable to many other smartphones, but for something that may be used in extreme conditions, it's probably not enough. This is because batteries drain faster in cold weather, and furthermore, those who need such a phone are more likely to have trouble finding a power source to charge their phones.
i-mate doesn't have definite dates for shipping to Australia, but assures us that it is working on tying up deals with distributors and operators throughout the region. The device has an estimated price of US$699.
It's excellent that i-mate has designed something that stands out from the competition. There are simply too many "me-too" products in the Windows Mobile space, so this one is a breath of fresh air in the industry.