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REVIEW: Compaq iPAQ GSM/GPRS Wireless Pack
Posted by Arne Hess - on Wednesday, 06.03.02 - 23:42:00 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 17451x
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Thanks to Compaq EMEA, several weeks ago I got a carrier test sample of the Compaq GSM/GPRS Wireless Pack. This means that it is fully functional and works as the commercial versions will works later. However, some features aren't available in the sample version or other features are available, which will not be included later.

The Compaq iPAQ Wireless Pack for GSM/GPRS Networks broadens the functionality of Compaq iPAQ H3600, H3700 and H3800 Pocket PCs to include data and voice capabilities. The Wireless Pack combines Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technologies to allow users to access the Internet and send and receive email and Short Message Service (SMS) messages, in addition to making wireless phone calls. The Wireless Pack essentially converts the pocket PC to a mobile phone and wireless data device that can be easily and conveniently taken anywhere also because it supports GSM 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz.
I'm using the Wireless Pack for 3 weeks now. But first some hard facts:

Performance
The Compaq iPAQ Wireless Pack enables impressive call and data functionality with a rechargeable 1000mAH integrated battery and Tri-band functionality. Users receive up to 180 hours of standby call time and four hours of talk time on a single charge. The Wireless Pack is a Multi-slot Class 10 data device that provides extensive, reliable, wireless data communication that is "always on" in GPRS-covered* areas and has packet-switched data at speeds of up to 144 Kbps in GPRS-covered areas. The GSM/GPRS network requires a SIM card to assure user authentication and enable private data transfers.

Key Benefits

  • GSM/GPRS, Multi-slot Class 10— 4 slots receive, 2 slots transmit, a maximum of five slots are active at one time
  • Simultaneous GSM and GPRS registration
  • Tri-band operating frequencies of EGSM 900, DCS1800, and PCS1900
  • Tri-band device suitable for use on GSM networks worldwide
  • Flash-upgradeable to facilitate the latest GSM/GPRS technology
  • GSM voice capability; GSM and GPRS data connectivity
  • Wireless Communication Manager software—provides SMS and phone utilities for the pocket PC
  • Vibrator alert enables silent operation

Compatibility

  • The Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC Wireless Pack is compatible with any Compaq iPAQ H3600, H3700 or H3800 Series Pocket PC

Specifications

  • Air interface GSM/GPRS
  • Operation Tri-band—EGSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900
  • GSM GSM Phase 2 + voice, data, SMS, ALS, SS, USSD to ETSI SMG31 recommendations
  • GPRS GPRS Class B, Type 1 GPRS MT, Multi-slot Class 10
  • GPRS session management (SNDCP)—seven connections, V.42bis, and TCP/IP header compression
  • PPP, PPP authentication (PAP and CHAP), 16-bit PPP FCS
  • Operating system support Microsoft® Windows for Pocket PC (2000) or higher. ROM version 1.69 or higher
  • Size < 3 cm thick, including basic device
  • Weight < 6 ounces (166 g)
  • Power 1000mAH integrated battery (rechargeable with Compaq iPAQ AC adapter)
  • 180 hours of standby time; four hours of talk time, depending on network/carrier conditions
  • SIM support 3.3V and dual (3.3V and 5V); GSM 11.11.12 compliant
  • GSM support GSM transparent (T)
  • GSM non-transparent (NT) data transmission using Radio Link Protocol (RLP) error correction
  • V.42bis data compression for GSM NT data
  • Enhanced AT command set to GSM 07.07 and 07.05
  • SMS for GSM and GPRS, for both mobile-originated and mobile-terminated SMS
  • Unrestricted digital information (UDI), V.110 rate adaption support for GSM data
  • Full rate and enhanced full rate vocoder support
  • Phase 2 supplementary service support Unstructured Supplementary Services Data (USSD) support
  • Plus caller line identification, call hold/call wait, call bar, call divert
  • GPRS support Coding schemes: CS1, CS2, CS3, and CS4
  • Class B GPRS (simultaneous attach to GSM and GPRS, operation on one at a time)
  • Simultaneous GPRS data and mobile terminated SMS
  • PPP protocol for GPRS packet switched data
  • Extended dynamic allocation support per GSM 03.64, section 4.7.3.1.1
  • Split paging cycle support on CCCH per GSM 04.08, section 4.7.3.1.1
  • Type 1 GPRS (no simultaneous transmit and receive)
  • GPRS phase 1 per ETSI/3GPP specifications
  • SIM Micro SIM access (from the top)
  • SIM standards, Phase 1, 2, 2+, CPHS
  • SIM Application Toolkit, release 98/99
  • MS power class MS power class 1 (one watt) operation for GSM1800/1900
  • MS power class 4 (two watts) operation for GSM900
  • Kit contents Wireless Pack, software CD and headset

Installation

The whole Wireless Pack is pre-configured, you don't need to install any additional drivers on your Pocket PC. That means that you can just slide the pack over your iPAQ and everything is going by itself. How is this possible? It's because the pack is recognized by the iPAQ and the Wireless Pack has an additional Flash ROM. That means, that all required drivers and applications comes with the Wireless Pack and runs from there from the first time.

Booting the Wireless Pack Launching the Voice
Center and the added
Wireless Pack folder
The Voice Center
with different options

Depending on your regional settings, you are using on the iPAQ, the Wireless Pack provides you the proper language based on this settings. By default it includes English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. This is interesting as it means that you can run a German Wireless Pack user interface on an English iPAQ.

After you've connected the pack you have to enter the SIM card PIN as you know it form your GSM mobile phone.

Entering the PIN Verifying the PIN

Now you are in the telephone application. Looks, feels and smells like a mobile phone. The display shows you the current network operator and on the top bar you see on the left side the signal strength and two batteries. the left one with the "i" is the battery status of your iPAQ, the right one is the battery status of your Wireless Pack. The green LED means that you are successful connected to the GSM network and it blinks - for example - if you setup a voice call. The "G" above the signal strength indicates if a GPRS network is available and accessible.

Logging into the network Logged into a Network
without GPRS access
Logged into a network
with GPRS access

The phone GUI is skin-able and Compaq delivers various skins for the Wireless Pack. Currently I didn't see how to customize this but this should also be possible.
The Tools menu gives you the most options you already know from a GSM mobile phone.

Under "Voice Settings" you are able to set the Ringer sound and volume. The kind of call indication (the Wireless Jacket can indicates rings by vibration also) but you can also select the skin here or change the PIN. A little bit irritating is, that the frequency selection (the Wireless Pack isn't an automatic triple band device but you have to switch between 900/1800 MHz and 900/1900 MHz by yourself) is part of the voice settings and not of the network settings.

On the "Network Settings" menu you can select the operator to use, setup the call barring and forwarding.

Setup the Wireless Pack
like a mobile phone
Define network services
like call barring and
forwarding

Voice Calls

Okay, that's how the Jacket works in conjunction with its software but how does it works in the real life, specially for voice calls? Well, the basic functionality, setting up a voice call can be done without an additional stylus. Just tap the number on the large keys with your thumb and press the green key. To finish a call you have to press the red key.

Setup a voice call Receiving a voice call A missed call

One of the most interesting functionalities is that the Wireless Pack also receive phone calls, even if the iPAQ is switched off. In that case, the Wireless Pack wakes up the iPAQ and launch's the voice application to indicates who is calling. This is fantastic and makes the Wireless Pack unique since other solutions like the Nokia Phone Card requires a running iPAQ to receive voice calls.

However, Compaq isn't using the Microsoft Wireless Phone Edition of Pocket PC 2002 but implemented the whole interface by itself. Therefore it completely differentiates from what we have seen on Wireless Pocket PCs like the O2 xda. Because of this, Compaq also has to use its own SMS solution. Microsoft made some huge changes in the Inbox application, that it isn't possible for external companies to use the Inbox for SMS. Therefore Compaq built it's own SMS application which looks and works like the Inbox anyway.

Select the recipients
from Pocket Outlook
Tap you message or
use predefined templates
Tap Send to send the
SMS immediately
 
New SMS are indicated
by an envelop in the tool
bar and pops up
automatically
The SMS Inbox stores
every received SMS
for later reading or
replying
 

Data Calls

Even if the Wireless Pack supports voice calls, the strength is - for sure - it's data capabilities. It is today's fastest available GPRS device and surfing with the Wireless Pack makes real fun. Even if it doesn't support HSCSD, it supports everything the road warrior needs today to stay in contact. Setting up a GPRS account is easy.

In the Connections menu you got an additional icon for GPRS/GSM. Here you have to setup your wireless data connection, not a in the Connections menu as used to use for the Pocket PC 2002. On the GPRS - GSM Connections menu select if you want to setup a GSM CSD or GPRS account.

New on the Connections
menu, the GPRS/GSM icon
Add there a new GSM-CSD
or GPRS connection

In the following dialogs enter all required GPRS settings, from the APN to the IP and DNS server. That's it. More tricky is that you have also to change the Connections Setting. Beside the Internet Settings, you will also find there the Compaq Wireless Pack. To make a data call through the Wireless Pack, this have to be selected.

Setup GPRS in a
dedicated form
Select Compaq Wireless
Pack to use it for data calls

While the Wireless Edition of Pocket PC 2002 still doesn't provides any information about the data sent and received or even the throughput as you know it from Windows on your desktop PC, Compaq added this functionality to the wireless pack.

The built-in data counter 26.7 Kbps is even slow
for the Wireless Pack

The data speed is enormously, it's the fasted GPRS device I've used so far. Surfing the Web and getting E-Mails isn't a problem with the Wireless Pack. However, because it use mostly one channel for up-streaming only, sending E-Mails takes as long (sometimes even longer) as using a CSD connection through GPRS. What I really like is that the GPRS module/stack is working very stable. I've never seen this phenomenon that I have to reboot the jacket if I disconnect from GPRS and want to reconnect later again. This is a typical bug on today's mobile phone but not on the Wireless Pack. Even if you interrupt the connection by switching of the device you can re-logon to the GPRS network next time without any problems. That's great and mature. That's how I expect to work a GPRS device!

Size, Weight and Stand-by

The Wireless Pack is a little bit thicker than a CF card jacket but thinner than the PC card jacket. With its 166 g it adds the double of the weight of a modern GSM phone to the iPAQ (for example the Ericsson T68 weights 68 g only) but on the other side Compaq added a 1000mAH battery to the jacket. This is one reason why there are no additional expansion slots (everything which isn't the GPRS module is the battery) which lets the Wireless Jacket itself runs up to 180 hours of stand-by time and four hours of talk time. The stand-by time isn't marketing nonsense, it's real. At least in my tests the jacket runs up to 3 days without any recharges including additional usage (voice calls and GPRS connections). My iPAQ required a power plug every day, while the jacket worked fine on the next day, even if I forgot to recharge it in the night.

From top: Wireless, PC card, CF card Jacket

From the handling, the Wireless Pack/iPAQ combination fits perfectly into the hand. However, it's for sure a little bit thick and heavy to carry it in the pocket of a shirt. What I really miss is a case; but as Compaq told me, there will be an option available later this year which allows you to carry the Wireless Pack on your belt.

Final Conclusion

The Wireless Pack isn't a replacement of a mobile phone, it's complementary as the whole Wireless Pocket PC 2002s are complementary, doesn't matter if it is a O2 xda or a HP WDA. It is made for road warriors and professionals who needs Internet access. If you are looking for a new device instead using your mobile phone, you can stop reading here.

If you are looking for a serious solution to access the Net to use Web, E-Mail or even the Intranet via VPN, the Wireless Pack could be your solution. I like the whole data functionalities: it's easy to configure, fast and works very stable. Even voice calls are no problem. However, the voice interface has some weaknesses as I also saw before on the xda. It's not made to interact with the SIM card in the traditional way. So it's not possible to dial numbers from the SIM and as I'm more the traditional mobile phone user, my SIM card contacts differentiates from my Outlook contacts. That's a real weakness for me. However, the Wireless Pack allows you to make phone calls even without a headset as the loudspeaker and the microphone are included. That's important for me as I used to loose/forget my headsets. Unfortunately a Bluetooth headset will never works with the Wireless Pack. Even not if you are using the iPAQ H3870 as the voice interface isn't connected to the iPAQ by itself.
A pro is the "wake up" functionality. You can switch off your iPAQ to save battery but it wakes up if you get a mobile call. However, this needs some time and you shouldn't use a redirection to the voice box less than 15 seconds. Otherwise you will be often to late to get the call.

The data integration is - as said before - perfect. It takes only some minutes to configure the GPRS and if you use GPRS it's really fast and stable; which is the most important for me.

I can recommend the Wireless Pack for everybody how needs professional access to the Net. Non professionals, or user who want to access the E-Mail from time to time only should better think about a Pocket PC/Mobile Phone connection; but again the philosophy behind all Wireless Pocket PCs (doesn't matter if integrated or like the Wireless Pack) is data centric with voice support, while the new Smartphone 2002 is voice centric with data support. Everybody has to make the decision for himself and I will still use it in future regular, even if I have Bluetooth enabled Pocket PCs and Bluetooth enabled mobile phones.

Cheers ~ Arne


 

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