The Treo 700p was the first device I used in the 81-day-experiment. It was August 14, 2006, a nice day in San Farncisco when I headed to the Verizon store, and about 1 hour later, and $600 later, I was back to my office with a Treo 700p (the Palm OS version). Of course, the advertised price was $399 with the 2 year plan, but one has to have the Bluetooth headset, the nice leather carrying case, the car charger, and you name it.
The Treo 700p was relatively easy to install and setup. This was a relief and a major improvement from earlier versions of the Treo. Finally, you don’t have to buy 3rd party software to synchronize the Treo with Outlook. I was almost able to complete the installation and the synchronization without any technical support calls, which would have been “shocking” to me. However, in the final stages of the synchronization, I got some errors that would not go away, and I ended up on the phone with technical support as expected.
Navigation and usability
If you are familiar with Palm OS, and if you are a fan of the “stylus/touchscreen” input method, the Treo 700p would be a very familiar and easy device for you, and maybe even a natural choice as you consider a smartphone. If you are not familiar with Palm OS, and/or not a fan of the “stylus/touchscreen” input method, then it is more likely that the Treo 700p would require some getting used to.
I found that usability has been significantly improved in the Treo 700p as compared to the Treo 650. I found it easier to navigate through the screens, make selections, enter data, save change, or escape back to previous screens. The e-mail applications have been significantly enhanced. First of all, the Versamail e-mail application now ships with the Treo 700p, and you have a choice between Versamail and Wireless Sync, which is another e-mail application provided by Verizon. With Wireless Sync, you can have your e-mail pushed to your device, the BlackBerry way!
A computing powerhouse and a laptop replacement
The Treo 700p does it all. It pretty much performs all the business and multi-media functionality that one can imagine. It ships with a long list of add-on applications and there are thousands more available out there from 3rd party developers. If you still cannot find what you want, and you have a few smart and “geeky” friends, you can probably get together and develop the application you need.
Does this mean we can throw away our laptop and just get by using the Treo 700p or a similar device? I would say the day when we can do this is not too far from now. I can imagine having our applications and data on a tiny mobile device (the size of an iPod Nano) that we use when we are on the go, and then when we get to our office or guest workstation, we just connect via Bluetooth to the local appliances and accessories such as a comfortable keyboard, a large monitor, a local network, a printer, and the like.
Back to the Treo 700p, depending on your needs and knowing that it is a pretty full featured device, it might serve as a laptop replacement at least in some situations. For instance, if you are away for a couple of days and you want to stay connected, potentially write some e-mails, review some Excel attachments, and occasionally edit one, the Treo 700p can replace your laptop on such a trip. However if you need to do more serious work and for a longer time period, then you probably would want the comfort, convenience, and speed of the larger keyboard, screen, hard drive, and you name it.
The Treo 700p ships with “Documents-To-Go” which is a 3rd party application that allows you to fully edit and manage documents including the popular document formats such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. “Documents-To-Go” also makes it easy to synchronize documents between the desktop or laptop and the Treo 700p.
High speed internet access
The Treo 700p coupled with the Verizon’s EV-DO network (with speeds of 400 to 700 kbps) got me “googling” at high-speed anywhere and anytime. And with the ability to connect the Treo 700p as a modem to my laptop, suddenly I found myself not needing to seek the hotspots, but instead, having the freedom to venture into new and less “techy” territories that are quieter and more charming than the Starbucks. All this means more choices, more freedom, and information when I need it.
At the end of the day, what does it all mean?
The Treo 700p is a full featured device that can even satisfy the needs of the super power user. The Treo 700p ships with a rich set of applications that can perform many if not all of the business and entertainment functions that would you expect or imagine. Now talking about usability, Palm OS is Palm OS. You love it or you don’t. So it is all up to you. And relating to the network, the Verizon network, and related services, provide some additional advantages such as Wireless Sync and push e-mail, and great coverage in the U.S. However, plan on taking your GSM phone/pda with you if you travel overseas.
For my personal taste and needs, the Treo 700p would not work even though it has many of the right elements. The main showstopper is the network. I do travel internationally and it is critical for me to stay connected both voice-wise and data-wise. Second, I am not a stylus/touchscreen fan and find the Treo 700p interface not as streamlined as it can be. Finally, I am not seeking a laptop replacement, but rather an efficient smartphone.
And now what is up with the Treo 700w?
On August 23, which is exactly 9 days later, I headed to the Verizon store again to get the Treo 700w, which is the twin device that runs on Windows Mobile. This is also a full featured device with all the business and entertainment features that you would expect. It is a “laptop replacement” kind of device, and if you have a Windows laptop, it will look very familiar. The Treo 700w is like having Windows in your palm wherever you go.
Having Windows in your palm is an advantage and a liability at the same time. It is an advantage because it is a familiar interface (for Windows users, that is). It has the same applications you’re used to on the Windows desktop and it allows you to easily synchronize your documents. It is a liability because Windows is a desktop operating system and not necessarily the most streamlined operating system for handheld devices. It is a huge liability if you are a Mac user, and if you are, you probably already skipped this section anyway.
Overall, I found the Treo 700w interface and usability not very straightforward and not well optimized. It seemed to me that it took too many clicks to get to places. Then when I got to a screen, and if I wanted to “escape” back out, my only choice sometimes was to press the “Ok” button which is next to the 5-way navigation key.
Does the “Ok” button save my changes? What if I don’t want my changes to be saved? Well, I got the close box that I can click, which is the little “x” icon on the top right corner of the screen. But this means I have to suddenly get the stylus out. In addition, the close box is not always available. These are the kinds of ambiguities and decisions that a well designed user interface should not expose me to. So even though the interface in the Treo 700w is a Windows-like interface, it is not exactly Windows, and it takes some work and some time to feel comfortable with it.
In terms of the network and services, you get the same Verizon advantages I mentioned above (good coverage in the U.S. and high speed access) and unfortunately the same lack of international support. One thing you don’t get with the Treo 700w is the ability to use it as a modem for your laptop out-of-the-box. I had to install an add-on application (PdaNet) to enable this capability.
And how about the Treo 680 and the upcoming Treo 750w?
If you are following the news about the Treo 680 and Treo 750w, you are probably aware that the Treo 680 has been released already and that the Treo 750w is around the corner (so they say). They are both GSM devices (offered by Cingular) and while the Treo 680 supports the EDGE network (2 to 3 times modem speed), the Treo 750w is a 3G device (with download speeds of 400 to 700 Kpbs). The Treo 680 uses Palm OS and provides some consumer-friendly user interface enhancements. The Treo 750w is a Windows Mobile device.
Treo 680 also comes unlocked and in additional colors. When you buy the unlocked device, you can use it with any GSM/GPRS/EDGE network provider worldwide.
Is the Treo world for you?
If you are a Palm OS fan, then a Treo 700p or 680 is probably waiting for you. If you are not a Palm OS fan, but a Windows user, and seeking full functionality in your smartphone, you probably want to consider the Treo 700w, and the 750w when it is available. If you are looking for simplicity, the Treos are not for you. In this case, and especially if you are interested in some of the multi-media capabilities, you probably want to check out the business/social devices I wrote about a few weeks go (the BlackBerry Pearl, Cingular 3125, Cingular Blackjack, and T-Mobile Dash) or the Motorola Q which I used during the 81-day-experiment. If however your needs are strictly business, then the BlackBerry 8700 might be the answer.
Stay tuned for next week’s post as the exploration of the smartphones continues.