PDA phone or not, it seems that Motorola has come up with the goods this time with the A388. While the V70 just boasts the circular looks and motions, and the V.66 being nothing more than a standard upgrade to the V8088 only, the A388 seems to come with all the necessary improvements and additions that required for a phone in today’s very-mobile environment.
This new-generation PDA phone from Motorola still carries the “A”, but drops the “Accompli” title altogether. Even so, the A388 comes with a list of new additions that I know many will welcome into a phone for today’s environment.
Tri-band compatibility would probably top the list for users who roam the world, and the A388 is probably the first PDA phone to come with this feature. Never again would you need to carry two devices with you, and saving the trouble of having to synchronise contact and date book details with more than one device!
WAP over GPRS, J2ME (Java) applications support, email and voice notes support are some of the other offerings that attempt to make this PDA phone complete.
Probably the biggest improvement on the A388 is its looks, when compared with its A6188/6288 predecessors. The grey flip and back panel colour contrasts with the silver casing, giving this new model PDA phone a new sense of style it truly needs.
The minor reductions in size and weight of the A388 make it easier for the average person to carry the phone around in their pocket or hand. I did find previous Accompli models a bit too bulky, and didn’t like the thick active lid that protected the touch screen LCD. On this model though, a new lid with a clear window has been provided that allows information such as caller ID and date/time to be shown with a press of either volume buttons.
User Interface (UI)
The A388 retains the “look and feel” of similar Accompli model phones, a relief for many that are afraid of having to learn how to use a device from scratch. For users who are looking to buy their first PDA phone, this phone isn’t hard to get along with - simple enough to use if you’re willing to spend a bit of time interacting with its functions.
Performing actions on the A388 is done mostly via the touch screen with the provided stylus (neatly tucked away on the bottom right of the phone). The high-resolution greyscale screen provides for a very high level of clarity, which makes text and graphics virtually jagged-less!
For Chinese users, the A388 comes with support for Traditional and Simplified Chinese display and input (such support will depend on the market where the phone is sold in). The high-resolution screen displays these characters with very high precision, and probably one of the best I’ve come across so far.
There are also several buttons located on the bottom and both sides of the phone, allowing for easy navigation of menus and respective applications that utilise such buttons (the rocker switch on the A6188 has been removed). But there are some items on the screen that you can select only by tapping - where the finger may just come in handy here :)
Making and receiving calls
Being a PDA phone doesn’t change how calls are managed. The active flip lid allows for calls to be answered and concluded simply by opening and closing it respectively. And with the clear window, a user can gain the full potential of the active flip lid by being able to see who’s actually calling before deciding whether to take the call or not.
As there is no numeric keypad, the dialling pad can be activated by tapping on the phone icon on the top of the screen, which brings up a virtual one. The buttons are probably large enough for you to tap with your fingers without resulting in too many errors. “No thumbs” would be a good rule here :)
A headset is also provided in the A388’s sales package. This means you’re not restricted to taking calls from the phone itself.
As the A388 doesn’t come with a 12-digit keypad for you to type with, the only input methods available are either through tapping the virtual keyboard (displayed on the screen) or writing each character out in the provided text box. The A388 that I reviewed supported Chinese Pinyin/Zhuyin and English keyboard, and Chinese and English handwriting input methods.
Good and bad points here. If you’re the type that prefers writing rather than pressing buttons, the handwriting method is definitely for you. On the other hand, if tapping on a QWERTY keyboard is more your style, you may just find the one displayed at the bottom of the A388 screen a tad small. For those who do quite a bit of SMS-ing, you may just need to get use to not having predictive text input for a change.
In addition, the A388 also comes with concatenated SMS and EMS messaging support (an editor for EMS animations, pictures and sounds is also available on the phone).
The battery on the A388 gave me a surprising average talk and standby times of approximately 3-4 hours and 5-6 days respectively. By using the provided lithium polymer battery (when compared to a standard lithium-ion), the overall weight of the phone becomes slightly less - which means it’s a good thing for your shirt pocket! :)