A few weeks back, fellow Technoodling editor Art wrote about the Gmate, and to put it bluntly, he wasn’t very thrilled with it. I’ve had the opportunity to test out the Gmate for a few days now and well, let’s just say that Art was right and wrong at the same time.
Just to recap, the Gmate is basically a GSM phone modem that can be linked to an iPod Touch to turn it into a full fledged phone. Sounds like an unbelievable premise right? The way the Gmate works is that once a working SIM card has been inserted into it and then subsequently connected to an iPod Touch via Bluetooth, all of the phone calls, SMS and data connection is handled through the Gmate application that is downloaded on the iPod Touch. Sounds simple right? Yep, definitely in the realm of possibility. There’s one major hurdle though; the Gmate iOS application is only available through the Cydia app store which can only be installed on a Jailbroken iPod Touch. A hard pill for me to swallow since I have absolutely no inclination of Jailbreaking my iPod Touch. Supposedly, the Gmate also provides dual SIM capabilities to an iPhone via the same Cydia app but I couldn’t find anyone willing to jailbreak their iPhones either.
I was about to give up on testing the Gmate when I discovered that the Gmate also works on Android devices and as luck would have it, I have an HTC Flyer that’s just aching to be turned into a full fledged phone. The HTC Flyer is 3G capable, but since it’s devoid of a phone application, I can only send SMS and use the data connection on it.
I removed my SmartBro SIM from the HTC Flyer, just to make sure that it didn’t have any GSM signal running on it. I then borrowed a working SUN Cellular post-paid SIM card and inserted it into the Gmate. I then used the WiFi of the HTC Flyer to download and install the Gmate application into it (The Android Gmate application is currently in beta and isn’t available from the Android Market, I had to download it from the Gmate website).
With both my HTC Flyer and Gmate ready, I proceeded to pair the two devices using the Gmate Android application in the process. Once the two devices were connected, I started to explore what the Gmate had to offer. I was really taken aback as to how nice the Gmate UI looked. The phone functions are separated in tabs and the contact tabs was automatically populated with the contact list from my Google account.
The first thing I tested was the SMS function of the Gmate and was pleasantly surprised that it really works as advertised. Even the basic phone incoming and outgoing call worked flawlessly. I have to give credit to the Gmate application, it chugged along like a champ and never hung up on me. The way the Gmate interfaced with my Flyer was flawless. Once the Gmate device was connected to my Flyer, the Gmate application remained open at all times and successfully managed to wake up my Flyer whenever it would receive an SMS or phone call. I was really impressed.
Unfortunately, when the time came that I was about to start the 3G data connectivity with the Gmate and HTC Flyer combo, that was when the disappointment came in. While Phone and SMS functions worked without a hitch, the only way that I would be able to activate the data connectivity of the Gmate from my HTC Flyer was that I had to root my Flyer first. For the uninitiated, the process of “rooting” an Android device is a very complicated thing, more complicated than Jailbreaking an iOS device. I’m not that keen in learning the intricacies of “rooting” an Android device hence my testing of the Gmate came to an abrupt end.
Shame though, the Gmate + HTC Flyer combo was looking to be a good solution into turning any Android tablet into a working smartphone.
From the limited testing that I did, I have no doubts about the capability of the Gmate. The phone and SMS functionality that I tested out on my Flyer was flawless and I am quite sure that if I was able to root my Flyer, the data connection would work as well. The Gmate device itself is small and discreet, something that one can easily pocket, and I can easily see it as a viable solution for those who want to turn their non 3G iOS and Android device into a full fledged phone. If only Jailbreaking and rooting wasn’t required. Another negative against the Gmate is the price, at Php 5,799, I can just add Php 200 and I’ll be able to get a full fledged Android smartphone like the Galaxy Y.
I’m not saying that the Gmate is a total waste of money, but the hassle of Jailbreaking or rooting my device is something I really won’t bother with. Still, if you’re dreaming of getting an iPhone 4S but can’t afford, an iPod Touch and Gmate combo is definitely cheaper.
Price: Php 5,799
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