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nickcornaglia

Treo 700w: Could it sway you from your Smartphone?

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Treo_promo.jpg

INTRODUCTION

As we all know by now, Palm have recently made a bold decision to equip it's latest version of the Treo, the Treo 700w, with the Windows Mobile for Pocket PC Operating System. This has users in both the Palm OS and Windows Mobile camps anywhere from ecstatic to angry, based on their own OS preference.

The Palm 700w was officially released at CES on January 4th (available on Verizon in the US HERE and HERE) and there are already a ton of reviews out there. And as a result of the merging of cultures, everyone has a different opinion of it based on which OS they are coming from, (and you know what opinions are like!) Palm users review the device comparing it to the Treo 650 and it's ancestors. Microsoft Mobile users review the device comparing it to existing Pocket PC Phone Edition devices to see where it ranks, trying to convert previous Palm users to adopt, to what Palm now agrees is the wave of their future.

One intention of Palm & Microsoft's release seems to be to take what both sides certainly agree to as, a highly successful form-factor of the Treo 600/650 and upgrade it with a more powerful OS that is built to integrate & synchronize better with the Windows PC Operating Systems today and in the future.

We Windows Mobile users know by now what the Windows Mobile 2005 for PPC platform can do/not do by now, so I won't bore you with those details that are readily available here on MoDaCo and everywhere else. In addition, the OS is still growing and more importantly, moving toward the convergence of the PocketPC Phone Edition and Smartphone platforms. Form-Factor has always been up for debate on this point. How to get Pocket PCs to behave and interface more like phone-centric Smartphones but retain the PDA power that is Pocket PC?

The Treo 700w may be the device to pave the way to do just that, (well, at least for Verizon users in the US.) But there will hopefully come a day when GSM users will rejoice as well.

I'm not a HUGE techie but rather a gadget FREAK. You can rattle off processor and internet speeds all you want. I just need to know, "Is it fast?". You can show me hardware specs and I will ask, ”Is it on the cutting edge of function and really really cool looking?” In short, this won't be a hugely technical review/commentary. I'll leave those details and comparisons to the uber-geeks. Or you can check some of them out HERE or HERE.

What I will attempt to do is compare the Treo 700w to Smartphone/Pocket PC devices I've used over the past few years to see if this device is a suitable replacement for a Windows Mobile Smartphone or Pocket PC. Think of it as a "Smartphone for the Regular Guy" type of review, where I will try to ascertain if this is THE Pocket PC that will convert me from a dedicated MS Smartphone user to a MS Pocket PC user.

FRONT VIEW

Treo_fronts.JPG

SIDE VIEW

Treo_side.JPG

FRONT VIEW

Treo_width.JPG

FORM FACTOR

Up until now, making the leap from Smartphone to Pocket PC has been very difficult for me. Size has always been a factor. PPCs have always been larger due to their larger screen size. Sure, HTC and others have done a great job with the likes of the JAM/KJAM in bringing size down, but it still wasn’t the same. You still needed to pull the stylus out to get things accomplished, and the slide-out keyboard of the KJAM was more of a nuisance to me than a convenience.

Well the Treo 700w packs the PPC into a small form factor, not much larger than my current imate SP5m. In fact it’s about the same height (plus antenna) and depth as my SP5m and only about ½” wider. So I really can’t complain about that. It is a of course, bit heavier, but nothing I can’t live with, as heaver in a small form always gives me the impression of a more solid device. The Treo 700w body is made of plastic. It would be better if it were made of a light weight metal, but it’s also nothing I can’t live without, as it truly feels solid in one’s hand and not cheap and toy-like.

KEYBOARD AND BUTTONS

When I compare to the KJAM, the bright back-lit keyboard on the Treo 700w rules as it is always available. For this availability, I will sacrifice some screen size to accommodate it on the front of the device. This also makes the Treo more Smartphone-like in that the phone pad is incorporated into the keyboard (see darker grey buttons), so I’m not needing to dial via the screen as on a Pocket PC.

In the short time I’ve used it, I can say that I am already typing faster than T9 on my Smartphone. And until now, I thought I was fairly fast with T9.

They keys of the keyboard can also be used as Contact Shortcuts. This give you at least 18 more shortcuts than on a Smartphone, if you could remember them all. Though I could not figure out if Program Shortcuts could be associated with the keys or not. I’ll need to further look into that one or maybe a tweak could be created to do so.

The Windows button for activating the Start Menu and the OK button for closing windows truly make one-handed navigation on the device a breeze. (Except when typing text, of course, unless you have one long, fast and agile thumb). I’ve been using the device for three days and have not pulled the stylus out once. There were a few specific program clicks here and there that I needed to do with my finger, (like switching tabs in settings), but all other uses, especially communication, were easy and natural.

The black option button on the keyboard also has some handy uses other than as a second “shift” key. Additional shortcuts are available when it is pressed. One example is hitting Option-Windows key will lauch the Calendar, or Option-Right DPad will send you to the bottom of a webpage and Option-Left DPad back to the top. Little details like this show Palm are actually using the device and adding little pieces of value here and there.

Additional buttons, now mandatory in WM5 devices are the two soft keys under the screen, further adding to one-handed experience and keeping the device more Smartphone-like. There are also volume control buttons on the side and one programmable button under them that can be mapped to anything, but I find it best mapped to the pre-installed & excellent Microsoft Voice Command to further ease navigation and dialing. (c’mon Microsoft, where is the Smartphone version?)

So previously thinking I could not get comfortable with anything but an MS-Smartphone form factor, I certainly have found comfort in this one.

PHONE APP/TODAY SCREEN

Aside from the OS which we all know and (mostly) love, Palm has focused it’s software efforts on using/customizing the today screen as a communication center. While any Pocket PC Today plugin is available to use, Palm has made best use of this space with some cool little plugins.

The first is a big deal and the core of the Phone portion of the device. The Speed Dial plugin replaces the dialing application in previous Pocket PC Phone Edition devices. Dialing is done via the Today Screen (as on MS Smartphones) and T9 Contact lookup is working as well as ever from this screen.

Along with this feature is a Menu Selection on the Right Soft Key which allows quick access to Contacts, An On Screen DialPad, The Call Log, Speed Dial Options, Phone Settings Shortcut, Today Settings Shortcut and the option to hid the Lookup Field when not in use.

Along with the Contact Lookup/Dialing field, the Speed Dial Plugin also includes…um….Speed Dial buttons. These are a nice touch on the Today Screen and allow for dialing based on the custom photo associated with your individual contacts. (I wish the Smartphone had this plugin).

Palm has also included the ability to ignore an in-coming call with a text message. This is basically supposed to ignore the call while opening a new text message already addressed to the caller. This would be a very convenient added feature….if it worked. It seemed to open the messaging app with caller’s phone number included….but never ignored the call. The incoming call pop-up window never closed and didn’t allow me to type or send the message. :D

EDIT: Although I tried this several times in testing, I tried this agin and it worked. Don't know why I had the problems before. If anyone else sees a problem, please mention it in this thread.

Along with the Phone Plugins Palm also included a Web Search plugin which is basically a Google Toolbar. During a presentation on the device a reviewer pointed out that it was odd that Google was chosen as the default search engine instead of MSN for this option. The Palm rep noted that they were adamant that it be Google, and I don’t think anyone would really complain. This kind of shows that Palm had a lot to say as to what functions were specifically branded to Microsoft. But Microsft offsets this by including their PocketMSN plugin which allows for quick access to PocketMSN, Mobile.MSN.com, MSN Messenger, and Hotmail Messaging (which is stored as an account in the built-in Messaging application.

Veteran Pocket PC users may need to rethink the way they use the homescreen as a result of the square 240 x 240 screen and Palm embedding the Phone app into the Today screen. I personally would use one of the popular Today Screen plugins like PocketBreeze or SPB Diary to tab the Today Screen interface to view more Calendar and other plugin data in addition to the phone apps.

All-in-all, when looking at the Today Screen in this light, as a communications center, along with the Messaging plugin, I have no problem with the smaller screen size, though I wish, like everyone else that it were a 320 x 320 resolution instead of 240 x 240.

SOFTWARE

Other software worth noting is that, along with the already included Office Apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Palm decided to include the Picsel Viewer for viewing PDF files. Along with the already include image viewer, there should be no email attachment that you won’t be able to view.

On the disk is also the puzzle game, Cubis by Astraware. A nice little addition.

Palm has also pimped up the Sounds settings a bit by adding the ability to add true Polyphonic MIDI Ringtones. This can be found under the “Manage” tab under the Sounds & Notifications settings. (New WM users will be happy to know that you can also use WMA, MP3, WAV files as ringtones as well.) There is also the ability to add ONE ringtone for all KNOWN callers and another for all UNKNOWN callers. Nice.

Last but not least, Microsoft Voice Command 1.5 is included pre-installed on the device. For those who don’t know, it’s the best Voice Recognition software for dialing and information out there. All without having to train the app to recognize your voice. (Unless you have a REALLY heavy accent or need the app to recognize some hard to pronounce names.)

One more note is that Microsoft is still including Outlook 2002 with it’s PocketPCs. Why don’t they start including higher versions of the software if for no other reason than to synchronize contact photos with PocketOutlook? Oh well. Maybe on future devices.

A side note mentioned to me is that Palm will offer all firmware upgrades directly from their site or via a link on Verizon’s site. But it will come from them directly so there is no need to wait for Verizon to test and test and test while users wait and wait and wait for any firmware updates in the event a glitch or two may pop up.

CAMERA & VIDEO QUALITY

The Treo 700w includes a 1.3 MP camera. The quality is above par to comparable resolution cameras on phones today. One note is that it takes much better photos in low-light conditions than my SP5m. And photos are much clearer all around, though the colors are a bit duller in comparison.

You can adjust brightness and resolution but that’s it. It would have been nice if they added more adjustability for different lighting conditions and effects. Video is smooth at 352 x 288 and again, slightly better in low light than my SP5m.

EDIT: Actually, the camera is even better than I thought. It helps if you take the protective film off of the lens before taking photos. :oops: See photos below (Sizes adjusted for the purposes of this review, but you can see the quality difference).

SP5m Indoor

SP5_indoor.jpg

Treo 700w Indoor

Treo_indoor.jpg

SP5m Outdoor

SP5_outdoor.jpg

Treo 700w Outdoor

Treo_outdoor.jpg

CONNECTIVITY

EVDO is killer fast and rips EDGE to shreads...at least in my area. The initial startup could be faster, but once it’s going, there is no stopping it.

Bluetooth 1.2 is included and SHOULD connect with most devices and carkits. I had no problems using my BlueSpoon headset but there was no option to initiate a call or VoiceCommand via my headset as you can on the ETEN M500.

No WiFi is built into the device but can be added via Palm;s WiFi SDIO card. I can understand that not everyone want WiFi on their phones, especially when you have a fast data service like EVDO. Experienced users know that most programs are best installed on the SD card. But they all become unavailable when the card is swapped out for something like a WiFi Card. So why, oh why, don't manufactures include 2 SD slots or 1 SD/1 MiniSD for ocassions when you need to drop in a SDIO GPS or WiFi Card?

VERIZON'S SERVICE/SOUND QUALITY

There is no doubt that in the US, you can’t beat Verizon for crystal clear reception in almost all of the country. The volume is clear and free from background noise but a hair low than I am used to. The speakerphone volume could be bumped up a bit as well.

ACCESSORIES

Negative: There is a proprietary Palm port for connecting chargers, sync cables and accessories.

Positive: It is the same connector as the Treo 650, so many of Palm’s previous accessories will work with the 700w.

It would have been nice in this day and age to use a mini-USB port for charging and synchronization. But Palm is attempting to sway it’s previous 600 and 650 users to upgrade to the newer device, so I understand their choice.

I should also note that there was also a TripKit included with my review model which includes a BlueTooth headset, Universal Charger and Extra Battery for what I believe is a price of $199. This is a nice option for overseas business travelers in a great leather-ish rollup case.

QUICK SPEC OVERVIEW

TalkTime: 270 minutes (4.5 Hours)

Standby Time: 300 hours (12.5 Days????)

Size: 4.4”H x 2.3”W x 0.9”D

Weight: 6.0oz

Processor: Intel 312 MHz

Memory: 128MB/60MB Storage Capacity Non-Volitile

Data: 1xRTT/1xEVDO

Memory Expansion: SD Card

Screen: 240 x 240 16-bit color screen

Camera: 1.3MP w/Video Capture

TTY Compatible: Yes

Hearing Aid Compatibility: M3

SpeakerPhone: Yes

Conference Calling: Yes

Bluetooth: 1.2

Price: $649 (no contract) $549 (1-yr contract) $499 (2-yr contract) $399 (2-yr contract NEW CUSTOMERS)

must unclude a minimum calling plan w/EVDO Package.

CHECK WITH YOUR VERIZON STORE OR WEBSITE FOR UP TO DATE PRICING.

CONCLUSION:

If you are a Pocket PC user….and can accept a 240 x 240 square screen...this is a great phone for you. The built-in keyboard is a great addition in the phone’s still small form factor. You know you envied Treo users before…now there is no reason to any longer! You can be one.

If you are a Smartphone user….the Treo 700w's size and Palm's focus to phone-centric functions, as well as the convenient keyboard make this a healthy device choice to (almost) seamlessly switch over to. If you wanted to switch to a Pocket PC but couldn’t find a suitable replacement because of size and function; the easy, one handed (almost) stylus free navigation makes this the device for you.

If you are a Palm OS Treo 600 or 650 user….the phone may take a tiny bit of getting used to the new OS, but Palm included enough software enhancements to entice you to switch over and hey....it's Windows Mobile...you'll be stepping up! ;) C’mon, you know you want to! :D

The Treo 700w seems to have been marketed toward Business Users, probably because of it’s many features such as ease of use, familiar form factor, secure corporate access to Email, Contacts and Windows Office files as well as it’s Super Fast EVDO Broadband access. This phone is a great addition to the Windows Mobile line, and a well rounded communication device/PDA for ANY user.

If I could change anything, I would give it a higher resolution screen (320x320), I would have added a dedicated camera button on the right side as well. More memory would be nice for storing apps and data. The speaker phone is a hair low, especially when holding it as the speaker is on the back of the device. Also, call initiation via BlueTooth headset would have been a nice handsfree addition on ANY “slightly-larger-than-the-average-phone” device. Lastly, the price is a bit on the high side, probably since it’s targeted toward business users. But a lower price would bring in the masses, which, with a device like this, would be easy to do.

Nick’s Rating: Damn! That’s a nice phone! 8)

Edited by Paul [MVP]

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Awesome review encece, nice one!

One final question for you... if Palm said you could keep it, would you want to use it as your everyday device (YOU personally...)

;)

P

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Sorry but a brick with a stubby aerial is still a brick with a stubby aerial

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I would love to keep it if it were a GSM Device. Though EVDO has tempted me to switch over to Verizon, their phone choices are not always the best, but that seems to be changing lately.

Still, I like the flexibility of GSM as I can always get the latest and greatest overseas as you guys always seem to get the cool stuff waaaaaaay before we do here in the US. (most times).

Verizon's service can't be beat here in the US, and as I said, EVDO is the fastest data service anywhere. The Treo is a great device but I'm sure I'd regret the decision to switch carriers in 6 months when something newer/cooler is out!

In short...I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to keep it, but can't bring myself to make the switch at this time.

THANKS for the positive comments on the review itself. Though I have reviewd software before, this was my first hardware review. ;)

Edited by encece

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Hmmmm....i dont know. I may need to try that. But I'm sure there will be some non-compliant apps that will need to be updated for the square screen.

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@encece,

Nice review--thanks for posting it. It's a tempting device, but it's hard to beat my i730. ;)

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Now that's just bragging! ;p

I did notice a problem with EVDO today that I saw mentioned somewhere else but can't find where.

I was running a speed test on DSLREPORTS.com

EVDO is so fast that it the 5K, 10K, 50K 100K and 200K were too small to even register a result.

The 600K test downloaded VERY fast but kept hanging up just before 500K.

There seems to be a little bug where EVDO lags for a bit around 500K. Does anyone know if this is a problem on the Treo or on all EVDO?

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I have just ordered the Treo 650, yeh the Treo 700 seems a little better but it has windows on it.

The 650 also had a 320x320 screen the 700 only has 240x240 according to your review.

The 700 may have a better camera but VGA is good enough for MMS

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Not much use to Tim in the UK basically ;)

Hey, you know, we need little flags that display next to our names indicating which country we're in.

That'd be neat... :D

P

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The Treo 700w allows for EVDO high speed data access as opposed to the Treo 650 which can only handle 1xRTT

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Won't make a differece for us UK users as we don't use either method

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Didn't see he was from the UK when he made his comment. Seemed as if he was debating between the 650 and 700w. Now I'm just confused why he would debate as one is not available to him. That is, until a GSM version is available. Maybe I just read it wrong.

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Hey Nick, Isn't this the phone you always said would come and you wanted forever??? I remember when I first joined MoDaCo and you had a different screen name and were saying it's only a matter of time...

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Hey Nick, Isn't this the phone you always said would come and you wanted forever??? I remember when I first joined MoDaCo and you had a different screen name and were saying it's only a matter of time...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Indeed it is. I have a tendancy to predict the future of WindowsMobile waaaay before things come to be. :D

I predicted PPCs becoming small enough to compete against Smartphones as well as the eventual merger of the two OS's (though that wont come true until photon)!

While they nay-sayers didnt believe me! ;) Pat!Pat!Pat! :D

After another day or two with the Treo, My honeymoon may already be over. I just like the Smartphone size much better. Every little mm helps! (That's what she said!....sorry!)

It is a great device, and I like the keyboard alot. It's still up in the air. But If I switch to PPC, this would be the one. I'm very fickle. Definitely if it were a GSM phone with no antenna. That would take the extra little bit of bulk out for me and make it easier for me to commit to the phone without needing to switch carriers and be locked into CDMA.

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Antennas always put me off a device. Far too painful in the pocket!  :shock:  ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I understand. :D In the States, we have a lot of CDMA and it seems we can't get away from antennas. GSM must be better suited for built-in antennas. However, I just bought a very small Nokia candybar phone for by daughter which has no external antenna for our Verizon Wireless CDMA service. It seems to have no problems so it looks like we're getting there!

Edited by scottb

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Good news! Tis true that external antenna are extremely rare here in the UK these days.

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