Do you remember where you were the day Palm announced they were making a Windows Mobile device?
OK, so maybe on a global scale it wasn't THAT important, but i'm pretty sure that it shocked a lot of people in the industry when Palm annouced that they would be releasing the Treo 700w, their first Windows Powered Treo in the USA. It sure shocked me!
Although the announcement of the unholy Palm - Microsoft alliance, made possible by the sale of Palm's software arm - Palmsource - to Japanese firm Access happened in September 2005, it is only now that the first device is becoming available in Europe - the Treo 750v from Vodafone.
I've been running a 750v on Vodafone for a while now, and below you will find my review. I'd like to point out that I wanted to run the device for a good few weeks in this case to ensure that so far as possible I was giving the 750v a fair roll of the dice. It's very easy to look at the device, look at the specs and dismiss it out of hand, or even to go the other way and say it's great 'because it's a Treo'. I didn't want to do either, so I hope you find my review unbiased and informative.
For this reason my review has been a while coming and arrives a bit later than i'd hoped, please forgive me
Buying the Treo 750v
Using Expansys as a price guide...
The Treo 750v device is sold with a new connection, at prices ranging from £25 to £150 on a Vodafone Anytime connection, and from £25 to £175 on a Vodafone Small Business connection.
The device is only sold with a contract and is SIM locked, however imei-check do offer a SIM unlocking service, priced at £20.
Unboxing the 750v
The device comes packaged in a small - predominantly red (obviously) - box. Inside the box you'll find...
- the device itself
- a getting started CD
- a manual
- a screen protector
- a USB cable
- a charger with international adaptors
- headphones (2.5mm plug)
The getting started CD includes ActiveSync, Outlook 2002, Sprite Backup and Dynomite.
Hardware - overview
Chances are, as a MoDaCo reader, you'll know that the Treo 750v specs are, for the most part, 'OK' rather than 'Outstanding'. The specs are as follows:
- Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition AKU 2.3
- Quad band GSM / Tri Band UMTS + HSDPA upgradeable
- Samsung S3C2442 @ 300MHz
- 128MB ROM
- 64MB RAM
- 2.6" 240x240 65K colour screen
- miniSD expansion
- 1.3MP camera
- Proprietary sync / charge connectors, 2.5mm headphone
- 1200mAh battery
- 10 days standby
- 58.4mm x 111.8mm x 22.9mm
For the tech enthusiast, the specs don't make the most exciting reading.
The 300MHz processor loses 100MHz to the same processor in the HTC Hermes, the square screen is a lower resolution than the QVGA screen normally seen on Pocket PC devices, the 1.3MP camera (sans flash) is low end, and the properietary sync / charge connectors are certain to be unpopular. Finally, it's not exactly slim or compact
Of course, specs aren't everything... read on to find out if the Treo is more than just the sum of it's parts!
Hardware - around the device
Let's work our way around the device in the customary 'Paul Reviews' fashion
The top two thirds of the device is a matt silver finish, which looks very smart indeed. The whole of the rest of the device is a metallic blue colour. It's very hard to describe, but looks very nice in person!
At the top of the device sits a small LED. Only one LED on this device for all of the functions! To the right of this is the speaker, below this you'll see the Palm and Vodafone logos - the Palm logo in shiny silver, the Vodafone logo in grey.
Below this sits the screen. A 240x240 2.6" unit - the screen has excellent brightness and clarity. This really only becomes apparent when you use the device alongside other similar Pocket PCs - when held next to the Fujitsu Loox T830 for example, the Treo screen is considerably 'whiter' (which is a good thing!)
Below the screen sit the two hardware buttons that map to the on screen soft keys. Below the left button sit the 'green' key and the 'Windows' key, and below the right button sit the 'OK' key and the 'red' key. Between these sits the directional pad.
Next we come to what has come to define a Treo nowadays, the thumboard (or is it a thumbboard?). The thumboard is below the silver panel on the front, taking up just under one third of the front of the device. The keys are mainly black, except for the keys that double up as a number pad, which are silver. In addition to the letter keys, the Treo 750 has 2 shift keys, an 'Option' key, backspace and carriage return keys, an alt key, a dedicated full stop key, and a space bar approximately 2.5 times the length of a regular key.
Flipping over to the back of the device, at the top left you'll see the stylus silo. The stylus is a full size stylus (hurrah), that feels pretty good in use, although it is a little light for my taste. The top right is home to the external antenna connection, hidden behind a subtle black rubber flap.
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Below these sits the camera mirror for self portraits, the 1.3 megapixel camera, and the loudspeaker. The remainder of the back of the device is taken up by the battery cover, which includes a smart looking Vodafone logo and Vodafone branding.
The top of the phone is home to a unique Treo feature - a hardware switch that puts the device in silent mode. Like many of the features found on the device, this is a hang up from the Palm days, and an attempt to bring the familiar Treo experience across to Windows Mobile - and proves to be a nice addition.
On the bottom of the device we have the connectors for charging, sync, headset etc. - and this is where our first major disappointment comes in. Palm have opted to use their own proprietary connector for sync / charge. While this does provide backward compatability, in these times of miniUSB on everything, it is a let down for me personally, meaning I have to carry a specific sync cable and charger for this device and purchase another car charger should I want one. Don't think you can get away with charging it over USB either... but more on that later! The headphone socket is a standard 2.5mm socket.
The left hand side of the device is home to the up / down volume buttons and a press-hold button for the camera.
On the right hand side of the device you'll find the infrared port and the miniSD socket, behind a plastic flap. The same flap also hides the reset button. Clearly Palm don't think you'll be needing that very often
Underneath the battery cover sits the 1200mAh Lithium Ion battery and the SIM holder. With external miniSD, there's no need to go snooping under here for your Storage Card. Hurrah!
As well as the additional software mentioned above on the included CD, you'll find the following on the Treo 750v:
- Contacts - View / edit contacts either created on your device, synced from your desktop or synced via Exchange
- Calendar - View / edit your calendar either created on your device, synced from your desktop or synced via Exchange
- Inbox - View your mail synced via your desktop or over the air. This does NOT hold your SMS / MMS
- Internet Explorer - Pocket Internet Explorer for viewing web pages
- Messaging - This is the palm threaded SMS app / MMS composer - more on this below
- Pictures & Videos - You will find pictures and videos you have recorded here
- Bubble Breaker - Coloured ball popping game
- Solitaire - The old favourite!
- ActiveSync - You configure your synchronisation options in here
- Calculator- Simple calculator
- Camera - Simple camera application
- Download Agent - A waste of an icon
- Email Setup - A link to configure Vodafone email online
- Excel Mobile - A mobile version of Excel
- File Explorer - A simple File Explorer
- Modem Link - An application to allow you to use your device as a modem
- Notes - View / edit notes either created on your device or synced via a desktop PC
- PDF Viewer - A PDF viewer by Picsel
- PowerPoint Mobile - A mobile version of PowerPoint
- Quick Tour - A quick tour of the device
- Search - Search your device
- SIM Manager - Manage your SIM contacts
- Sounds - Configure your sounds
- Tasks - View / edit tasks either created on your device, synced from a desktop PC or synced via Exchange
- Terminal Services - Terminal Services / Remote Desktop control client
- Vodafone (SIM Toolkit) - View the Vodafone provided services on your SIM
- Windows Media - Windows Media Player 10 Mobile
- Word Mobile - A mobile version of Word
As you'll see from the list above, I have pointed out that the Inbox does not handle SMS / MMS, unlike on other Windows Mobile devices. This is because Palm have included their own messaging application. At last, the famed 'threaded-SMS' experience so loved by Palm users in the past makes it's way to Windows Mobile!
A few screenshots for you...
In a nutshell, the messaging app is absolutely brilliant, and by far one of my favourite things about the 750v. Aside from the threading (which is awesome), the emoticon support is good, it supports queuing SMS when out of service that are then sent later, starting an SMS then turning it into an MMS... the list of features is impressive. I now find when I go to another device I miss it... and there's not many device customisations where I can say that (I think HTC's now-extinct 'Phone Pad' T9 is the only other one).
The Camera application on the Treo 750v is the standard Windows Mobile 5 fare. It's 'adequate' rather than good, and cements the opinion that this really is a business device, and there hasn't been a lot of focus on the camera (no pun intended).
The provided Picsel PDF viewer seems to view PDFs very well indeed, far better than Clearvue PDF found on most other devices.
The quick tour application is an extension of the tour that is presented after a hard reset of the device. It is split down into Using Your Smartphone, Phone Basics, Email Messaging & Web, Office On The Go, Personalizing Your Device, Multimedia & More and Try It. The 'Try It' is an interactive guided tutorial, that works particularly well! The tour as a whole is informative, very well presented and an excellent addition to the device for Windows Mobile newbies, or even those just hoping to get the most from the Treo customisations
The 'Sounds' application takes you to the 'Sounds & Notifications' applet in 'Settings', which - you guessed it - has been customised by Palm! As the last application on the list above worthy of note, now is a good time to talk about this and then the other custom 'Settings' applets.
The Settings Applets
The 'Sounds & Notifications' applet on the Treo has an additional tab when compared to the standard Windows Mobile devices. This tab allows you to add new sounds from files, record new sounds, beam / send sounds, and delete sounds that you are not using. What is particularly interesting, as you'll note in the screenshots, is the format support.
On the Treo 750v, MID is a supported format for notifications! This is a great enhancement by Palm, I have to say. MID files are small, easy to find, and very well suited to mobile devices. An excellent assortment is included and again, when I switched away from using the Treo, I really missed this functionality. The MIDI playback itself is very good, with a good instrument set, so it all hangs together perfectly.
When you view the 'Buttons' applet, you'll notice that you can assign applications to a press of the 'Option' key on the keyboard when pressed with a selection of other keys. For example, pressing 'Option' and 'OK' opens up the list of running programs. Very useful.
Palm have implemented their own keyguard application on the 750v. When the device is off (incidentally, you turn it off by tapping the red button), only the red button will turn it back on again. In addition to pressing the red button, you need to follow the on screen instruction to 'Press Center button to unlock'. It works well. Again, kudos to Palm. You can also disable the touchscreen when in a call, useful if you have an ear that is particularly fond of pressing buttons in call I guess
Finally in our whistle-stop tour of Settings, Palm have included Microsoft Voice Command 1.5 in ROM. This application is streets ahead of the Cyberon Voice Commander favoured by so many OEMs, and it's great to see it in there.
So that's settings done... let's move on to the Today screen! The Today screen, and more specifically Palm's enhancements to it, are absolutely key to the user experience on the Treo, and the differentiation between the 750v and it's competitors. Let's start by looking at what plugins are enabled as standard on the Today screen.
To the right, you'll see the Today screen as it comes out of the box.
At the top is a custom plugin that shows the currently Operator status, and Bluetooth status. It can be tapped to enable / disable Bluetooth. Also, when in call, the status is displayed on this line.
Below this you will notice a 'Type a name or number' box. This box has focus on the Today screen by default, and it means that for the first time (that I remember anyhow), you can have a user experience similar to Smartphone on a Pocket PC. If you start typing a name or a number on the keyboard, it will filter on the fly in this box. When the contact you have is in view, just hit 'green' to dial. It works very well indeed... and this plugin married with the thumboard ensures making calls is a breeze.
Next comes the speed dial plugin. You'll notice that the only entry in this screenshot is 'Voicemail', however this is fully customisable. As well as adding simple speed dials like the one shown, photo speed dials can also be added. Another worthwhile addition.
The following plugins will be more familiar. The first is the unread e-mail plugin, and the next is the unread plugin for the new Messaging app - this displays unread MMS / SMS. It's a shame that 2 lines are now needed for unread messages - Palm should have integrated the two into one plugin. The Calendar appointments plugin follows.
The next plugin with the picture of a globe and a magnifying glass is a Web Search plugin. My moving focus to this box, entering some text and hitting the center button, you can initiate a Google search in Pocket IE. Quite useful!
A simple 'Picture' plugin is also included (but not enabled by default), that allows you to display a picture of your choice on the today screen.
You'll notice that the right soft key is labelled 'menu'. Pressing it brings up a, er, menu, as shown in this screenshot. You can carry out a whole host of useful functions from here, completing what is, without doubt, a very fully featured and usable Today Screen.
Finally, when you press the 'Green' key while at the Today screen, you get a Palm-enhanced list of previously dialled calls, allowing you to easily select the person you wish to call again from a cascading menu. You can also bring up the dial pad, or access the traditional Windows Mobile Call Log.
There is one final software customisation that I would like to talk to you about, and that is the initial configuration / post hard reset configuration (aka the 'out of box experience').
Let me take you through the process on the 750v.
When you first turn your device on after a hard reset (and my advice is you should always hard reset a brand new device too), you're greeted by the traditional Pocket PC start up wizard. After calibrating the screen, you begin to see the first Palm specific tweaks. Firstly, the Treo 750v includes the often requested feature that allows the device to automatically adjust it's time using information from the current mobile network. A useful feature for international travellers... you step off the plane in Spain, and the clock automatically adjusts itself.
After choosing whether you would like this feature enabled, you are presented with another customised screen, the 'Regional Settings' screen. As you pick your region, you are shown the number / currency / time / date formats for that location. Neat.
Next you would expect to see the mind number tutorial on how to click and hold on a dentists appointment right? Wrong At this point you are told to put down your stylus, and learn how to use your device with one hand... A short tutorial follows, after which you'll find yourself at the Today screen.
Right... so you and I both know that the Treo 750v is going to live or die by it's 'In Use' evaluation right? So here we go.
When I first read about the Treo 750v, I have to confess, I wasn't excited. I was pleased, in a way that I knew the device would be important in the corporate space, but I wasn't excited for me personally. When I looked at the size, shape and the specs, it didn't do much for me. I have to say that when the device arrived on the doorstep, my feelings were the same. I unboxed it, fired it up, and thought 'Kinda cool, but that's about it'. However, something told me that with this device, perhaps more than any other, I needed to use it for a good length of time, and as my main device (although I do that with all devices I review). As mentioned above, that's why this review has been so long in the making
As time went by, my appreciation for the Treo 750 grew, and I realised that I was almost 'missing the point' in my initial assessment.
Here's what I liked about my time with the Treo, and what I didn't.
- My top positive, unsurpisingly, is the software customisations. The Messaging application is genius, and the today screen enhancements are brilliant. The focus on making the Treo 750v a viable one-handed device is obvious. I can honestly say that I have never had a Pocket PC that has felt so 'usable' from the start. Moreover, virtually all the customisations would be removable if you didn't like them (maybe with a bit of hacking in some cases).
- I like the fit and finish of the device. Regardless of the size / weight, the Treo exudes quality. In the same way that my Hermes feels a feature packed but mass-produced-built-to-last-6-months device, the soft touch finish on the Treo, the colour and the general build makes it feel like it will last a decade. And it probably will!
- I quite like the thumboard. With the exception of the fact that there is no colon accessible without bringing up the alternate-symbol list, it's as good as any I have used. It's not as good a keyboard as the Hermes, but then it's a different proposition - it's a thumboard, not a keyboard. I also like the fact that, like every Windows Mobile device SHOULD have, the Treo has the full complement of hardware buttons (in particular the Windows / OK keys).
- I like the miniSD expansion, and the fact it's external.
- I like the performance of the device, both from a speed point of view (the 300MHz Samsung processor makes light work of running the device), and the fact that in my experience, battery life is very good.
- I like the fact that the device is (supposedly) HSDPA upgradeable in a future software release.
- Whichever way you look at it, the device is a bit chunky. Palm have clearly set out to make this device look like the previous Treos - fair enough - but I can only imagine what a hit it would have been if it were, say, 15mm thick instead of 23mm thick. Were that the case, then the compromises on specifications might be easier to overlook.
- I'm still not a fan of the 240x240 square screens. Although the majority of applications work fine on 240x240 (especially now the Treo range is running Windows Mobile), I still find it restrictive.
- The lack of WiFi is a real blow. Many will argue that it's not needed in the world of high speed 3G connections, and for some people that's right. But for a good deal of people, particularly in the corporate space, WiFi is important, and it's a shame that Palm didn't include it.
- The inbuilt camera is poor. I acknowledge that in the target market this is probably of less important, but for me personally, a better camera would have been nice.
- Video calling would have been nice to have on the device, taking into account the fact that it is 3G.
- Here's the worst sin of all for me... PROPRIETARY CONNECTIONS! I'm absolutely and completely in the miniUSB world now. All of my other gadgets have miniUSB sync cables and miniUSB mains chargers. To find that the 750v is a proprietary connection is a let down. Couple this with the fact that the 750v doesn't charge over USB, and this is almost a killler blow in my relationship with the device.
And so to the conclusion.
Whether the Treo 750v is the device for you depends massively on what you want from a device. If you want the latest specifications including a high quality camera, WiFi, video calling etc. etc., then the Treo 750v is probably not for you.
If you need a device that is as thin as possible, then the Treo may not be for you... but be really sure that size is the most important thing to you before dismissing it! It may be a little on the large side, but compared to devices such as the Fujitsu T830 it's not, and it is still very pocketable.
If you need a workhorse device with a good thumboard, great one handed use cusomisations and build quality that means it should be able to take the strain like no other, then the Treo 750v could be what you need. Make sure that the proprietary connectors and lack of charging over USB aren't going to cause you a problem, then make your choice
The Treo 750v is a good first effort in Europe for Palm, hats off to them for making a device that in the end I am rather fond of, despite my reservations.
I'd like to close the review with a plea to Palm.... PLEASE recognise that you can still make great devices without making them look EXACTLY like the last Treo
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Extra pic: The Treo 750v and friends...