Prada phones, phones studded with diamonds and fashion phones are a regular sight in the moody, glass-fronted emporia of the average high street. Yet this kind of glamour rarely casts its golden glow on the world of smartphones.
The iPhone was a rare bright spark, and there has been the odd flicker of light from HTC, E-TEN, Samsung and Blackberry, but other than that, smartphones have largely conformed to the bland business template over the past year or two. HP's latest handset, alas, does nothing to change this.
The iPAQ 614c Business Navigator is a large and ugly phone that's all drab black and grey plastics with no brushed aluminium highlights or chrome trim to set it off. It's pretty chunky, too, with porky dimensions of 60 x 117 x 18mm. And it's hardly a design masterpiece in other respects - its integrated numeric keypad has a rather cheap-looking, shiny finish and is topped by a pair of 'soft', context-sensitive keys that look like a pair of malevolent eyes leering at you as you write a text or surf the web.
It does at least try to balance out its design shortcomings with a few clever tricks. The first of these is its touch ring (don't laugh) control. Embossed in glossy relief on top of the numeric pad keys, it enables you to sweep a thumb or finger in a clockwise or anti-clockwise motion to control the navigation through lists and the like. An innovative addition, to be sure.
The phone has support for the latest super fast HSDPA mobile data networks at up to 7.2Mbps. It also has a GPS receiver built in... but this is no ordinary satellite receiver. It uses the new Assisted GPS (A-GPS) technology, which is designed to combine location information gleaned from the phone's cell location with the data from the satellites themselves to speed up initial satellite lock. The phone is, alas, only supplied with Google Maps - no sat-nav software to speak of - but it did do a decent job of locking onto satellites in central London taking a reasonably quick one minute to lock on to five satellites and provide a position.