About a month ago, I went out and purchased a Palm Treo 700p (yes, I purchased it even after the release of the iPhone). Prior to the Treo, I had a regular ole’ LG (model unknown) that I used as a phone, and a BlackBerry (model 7250) that I used for my data needs (browsing and e-mail). I decided to use the Treo to serve both my phone and data needs. So far, there’s been good, bad, and ugly.
First, the good.
- The phone is decent, neither better nor worse than my LG through U.S. Cellular. Reception with Verizon is about the same, and I still experience the same volume of dropped calls and missed calls due to the phone failing to ring. The touchscreen keypad works well, with fairly large numbers that help prevent mistyping the numbers. The Treo is a bit large for a phone, and it’s shape doesn’t feel entirely natural pressed against the side of my head. The detailed call log is nice.
- The Blazer browser accesses most of the sites I need when in a pinch. For a more pleasurable browsing experience, I can always tether the phone to my Mac anywhere I get reception. The lack of built-in WiFi isn’t a huge concern because of the ability to tether the 700p to my Mac. However, after seeing Safari on the iPhone, I was a bit jealous.
- Initially, I used VersaMail as my default mail client, but quickly abandoned that experiement because of a few minor annoyances related to the user interface and my inability to configure VersaMail in a way that wouldn’t download duplicate messages without deleting them from the server. I installed a Java VM and went with the GMail client instead. Since I send e-mail using GMail (web-based), my Mac, and the Treo, the GMail client for my Treo is nice as I minimize the number of Outboxes I have that require searching when I want to find a sent mail item.
- I use iCal on my Mac which syncs well with my Google Calendar. While it’s pretty easy to sync between iCal and the Palm’s Calendar using iSync, since I use Google Calendar as my system of record, I preferred to sync with Google Calendar directly. GooSync allows me to do an over-the-air two-day sync with my Google Calendar. That’s a pretty nice feature, but I did have one instance where a future appointment wouldn’t sync correctly. I couldn’t repeat it and it hasn’t happened again, so right now, I’m treating it as an anamoly. It’s nice knowing that I can enter an appointment on my Treo or in Google Calendar and the two-way sync takes care of the rest.
- Messaging on the Treo is much nicer than my old LG as the display shows the entire history of a conversation.
- Tethering my phone to my Mac via a Bluetooth connections gives me web access anywhere I get cell reception. This is similar to how the Verizon Wireless Card works. Connection speed is suitable for most of my browsing needs (around 200k), but the connection seems to get lost if I remain idlefor longer than 30 seconds to a minute. While somewhat of a pain, it’s quick enough to reconnect that it’s tolerable.
- I really like the 1.2 MegaPixel camera as the quality is obviously much better than the VGA camera on my old phone. I’m constantly using it to snap pictures of the kids. The camcorder video is rather choppy, but capturing a precious moment in the absence of my Sony camcorder is better than not.
- Palm has a pretty healthy development community and subsequently, there’s a plethora of software available for the Treo 700p. Google maps is a definite sweet spot that offers turn by turn directions. BackupBuddyVFS offers a way to backup the entire contents of the device to my SD card.
- Mac integration is fairly solid with the 700p. Using iSync, I can easily sync with Contacts and iCal, though syncing for me is primarily for backup purposes over anything else. I use GooSync to sync with Google Calendar and have seutp iCal to subscribe to my Google Calendar, so there isn’t any need to sync my Treo Calendar with iCal.
Now, the bad.
- I find the keypad more difficult to type on than my BlackBerry. I’m sure a good part of this is due to a protective plastic case that covers my keyboard, but the keys do seem a bit closer to each other than on the BlackBerry. Text messaging on the Treo is better than my LG phone due to the QWERTY keyboard…obviously.
- The ergonomics and look and feel of the device and applications lack appeal. A good example of this is the Contacts, which is just a black and white listing of all contacts in the directory. The touchscreen feature works well if I use the stylus, but is marginal if I try to use my finger. I don’t really mind the stylus, but I’m always worried that I’ll lose it. Not so much with my finger. I’d think that a few UI and usability tweaks would go a long ways toward improving the aesthetic appeal of the device. As Neal stated during a conversation at the Green Bay NoFluffJustStuff symposium…”it’s so Phone 1.0″. True.
- Overall reliability hasn’t been terrible. Essentially, the phone works exactly as advertised, but unfortunately, with a few tweaks, it could work so much better. The boot loop and tethering issue are two examples.
- Performance is choppy and delayed at times. Attempting to access the web via Blazer or hanging up a call are two instances where the phone tends to lock up for a moment, causing some minor annoyances.
- Interoperability between applications isn’t great. At one point, I tried to impress a friend by accessing a webmail account and downloading a word document that had been sent. While I’d never tried it before, I figured since the phone came with Documents to Go, it’d be easy to download a Word document and open it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to save the .doc file, and when I clicked on the link, the Treo 700p opened it up showing nothing but a bunch of binary garbage. Why wouldn’t it just send it to Documents to Go? Don’t know. My friend was not impressed.
- Many folks complain about the feeble storage capacity on the Treo 700p, with only 128MB. Since I use my iPod for music instead of pTunes (and I don’t listen to music other than the radio all too often), storage isn’t a huge issue for me. I purchased a 2 GB SD card, and I suspect that’ll be plenty for me well into the future. I could be wrong, especially if I begin to load my Treo with custom applications. Of course, I can’t imagine increasing the storage capacity of the Treo would be a significant undertaking for Palm, and the number of users who desire more storage should serve as a compelling enough reason to do so.
And the ugly.
- Ah yes…the dreaded boot loop. For no apparent reason, the phone gets caught in an endless boot loop where the screen shows the “Access Powered” logo following by a startup screen followed by the “Access Powered” logo followed by a startup screen followed by the “Access Powered” logo followed by…ok, you get the picture. The only way to correct this nasty little bug is by performaing a hard reset, which in turn results in total data loss and restores the machine to it’s original state. The first time this happened, I freaked because I hadn’t done a hotsync recently. While a warm reset allowed me to backup most of my data before performing a hard reset, I immediately purchased BackBuddyVFS to hopefully avoid future loss of data concerns. It hasn’t happened again yet, but when it does, I’m hoping BackupBuddy makes recovery easy. Regardless, this is a serious issue, and not one that users of a well-built device should be worrying about. Fortunately, it’s only happened once over the past month of usage.
Overall, save for the few ergonomic and UI quirks, minor instability issues, and the dreaded boot loop, I’ve enjoyed the phone. Camcorder, tethering, and Mac integration were important features for me. My BlackBerry/LG setup had none of these (possibly newer BlackBerry models have some), Obviously, the iPhone fits the bill with great Mac integration. The iPhone appears to be an amazing device, and as it evolves, I’m sure my interest will increase. To this point, as a replacement for my LG and BlackBerry, the Treo 700p is working nicely.