Secret Hero device: the HP 910. Can it beat the iPhone?

After all the fanfare, excitement and expectations for Steve Job’s iPhone 3G announcement, many people were left wanting more. From a device perspective, there were no surprises: the iPhone had everything people already knew: 3G, GPS, lower price. Still, the media went crazy about the iPhone, as expected.

One element of the keynote that surprised me is that it was completely devoted to the iPhone. Who would have thought, 18 months ago, that Steve Jobs’ keynote at WWDC would not talk at all about Macs or OS X (except for a small mention of Snow Leopard). Mobility is that important.

That same week, in Germany HP launched the iPAQ 910 Windows Mobile phone. Most people have already discounted HP after the 6925 was so late to market and the 510 failed to impress. Honestly, when I looked at photos and presentations from HP I was not impressed.

Then, a few weeks ago my friends at HP sent us a few 910s for our team to play with and show to customers. Wow. I am not going to say it is an incredibly beautiful phone, but it is not bad looking. In fact, it looks very solid and professional. Imagine a device the size of a Motorola Q9, with a full exposed QWERTY keyboard, Windows Mobile 6.1 professional edition and a touch screen.

Based on my current understanding of the iPhone 3G specs, here is how it would compare with the HP 910. Before getting into it, let me start by saying these are two very different devices because they will beappealing to two different kinds of users. The point I am trying to make is how much hype Apple enjoyed with the iPhone and how the media ignored the HP phone. True, I would have recommended Hp to pick any other week in the year other than the one the new iPhone launches.

  • Coolness   - Obviously there is no contest. The iPhone wins. It is the coolest phone . Still, no one will be embarrassed by carrying an iPAQ 910.
  • Speed - The iPhone is 3G, the HP 910 is 3G HSDPA 7.2 Mbps, so the HP is a quitefaster
  • GPS – All indications point to the iPhone having Assisted GPS, the HP has true GPS.
  • eMail – The iPhone connects to Exchange, iMAP, POP and MobileMe. The HP has a full ActiveSync implementation (including support for things like rights management protected email), POP, Hotmail and many others. Instead of Mobile Me (Exchange for the rest of us) anyone could get a full enterprise-grade Exchange 2007 email account for about the same price from providers (Funny how Apple was ridiculing middleware (BES servers) to ten launch their own).
  • Input – The iPhone has an OK touch screen. The HP has also a touch screen, a real QWERTY keyboard, plus voice commander so that you can speak your commands to your phone.
  • Camera – Many people are disappointed Apple did not upgrade the iPhone’s 2 megapixel camera. I think it is OK for most people, after all megapixels are like dpi in scanners: people think more is better but have no need for them. 2 megapixels is enough for a 4x6 print. Still, the HP has a 3 megapixel camera, photo and video capture, and PhotoSmart mobile software.
  • Connectivity - Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and A2DP, WiFi with WPA2 security, ability to use the phone as a 3G modem for your laptop. The iPhone has basic Bluetooth and WiFi and does not support any of these advanced features. No MMS either.
  • Applications – Steve showed about a dozen beta applications demoed at WWDC, which looked nice. The HP has well over 18,000 applications available today. So whether you are a real estate agent, student or nurse, there are dozens of powerful applications to help you do your job. The iPhone’s application platform is powerful, much more than the Blackberry outdated J2ME platform, the HP phone has the full .net compact framework and SQL Server compact edition.
  • Security – It took hackers a few days to hack the iPhone to unlock it. The software is unproven. Most analysts (Gartner, J Gold, etc.) warn IT departments about the unknown security in the iPhone. Windows Mobile 6.1 in the HP 910 has been though the security development lifecycle process and has received certification from the US government (FIPS 140-2) as well as international governments (Common Criteria certification). Thousands of enterprise customers trust Windows Mobile for their security.
  • Management– iPhone lacks most corporate management tools, implementing an unknown subset of ActiveSync features. HP phones can be managed using Exchange 2007, SCCM, SC MDM, or any one of a handful of third party applications like Odyssey software or Good technologies.
  • Coverage – The iPhone is available only though AT&T, who offers international roaming ($1+ per minute in most countries). The HP is available unlocked, meaning it should work in about 180 countries. Just pop in a SIM card, and the device will try to auto configure network settings. You will pay $300 more for the iPAQ 910 but there is no contract required and you can use your own SIM. Over time the savings can be significant.

I don’t intend to minimize the coolness or the importance of the iPhone: it is a beautiful device with a revolutionary user interface. However, for business users, the HP iPAQ 910 is a more powerful and functional choice.