My two week review of the Palm Treo 700w
Posted on January 30, 2006 by Chris Duke
I have had the Palm Treo 700w phone for two weeks now, and I’m severely blown away. I’m finally converged, and I love it. I knew this phone could do a lot, but I was surprised at how much it really can do.
There are some, but not many third-party apps that work with this phone. Understandable since it just came out at the beginning of this month. My favorite 3rd party apps so far are eWallet (been using that for years, since I had my old Compaq iPaq), PHM RegEdit, PdaNet, SmartVideo, and my favorite is Skype.
If there’s any reason to get this phone with unlimited EVDO, it’s Skype. For one thing, Skype is free and secure. If you opt for its pay services, as I have, including SkypeIn and SkypeOut, you can now receive calls and make calls through Skype/VOIP. I get 450 minutes per month on my plan right now. If I get low, I’ll just turn to Skype and make a call through there for $.02 per minute. Or, if I have a friend on Skype I can call him or her for free. Can life get any better than this? I submit that it cannot!
Having Word, Excel, PowerPoint are nice… but honestly, I will never use them. I would prefer to do all of that on my PC with a full sized keyboard. The one embedded app that I do love, however, is the Terminal Services Client. If you’re an IT guy like me who does need to occasionally access his Windows 2000 servers remotely, this app is a must-have. I have full remote desktop access to change configurations, restart services, or do some light troubleshooting. I have to thank Microsoft for embedding this app so I didn’t have to install it!
I admit, I’m not a huge gamer… I have yet to find a game that is sticky and entertaining enough for me to play more than once, let alone shell out $15-$30 for it. I did buy NFL Madden 06 through Palm (comes with a $15 rebate) that I received yesterday with the plan to slowly master it over time. I’d love to see some killer casino games with great graphics… even the VZW BuyItNow service had some impressive games. With the “large” screen and beautiful graphics on this device, I would hope that developers are coding their asses away right now. Atari graphics just aren’t going to cut it.
Good lord, what year is this? Cameras have been in cell phones for how many years? Can we please stop putting crappy P.O.S. cameras in our mobile devices? I’ve seen some amazing photos from cameras in some Nextel phones, but all the ones I’ve seen in the latest round of VZW phones are just complete crap. 1.3 megapixel photos are fine — I don’t see a need to have something larger, but please please improve the picture quality. I am also a photographer so maybe I have higher expectations, but when I take a photo with this built-in camera I expect it to at least resemble the scene I just shot.
I do have to commend Palm on one thing… there is no flash. Thank you for not forcing an unnecessary flash into this phone. My last phone had one and it was a joke. My only concern is that there isn’t enough attention on embedding a better CCD for the camera itself (and/or a better lens). This phone is so technically superior to everything else on the market right now, it’s a shame there’s such a lousy piece of technology within.
I understand the wireless headset functionality… that’s cool. I have a Moto HS850 from my last phone that works great with this phone, although I miss the ability to press the button on my headset and have the phone ask me what I want to do. With the Treo 700w I have to first dial the number through the phone, then talk through the headset. Am I missing something, or did Palm miss something?
I bought a D-Link DBT-120 (approved Palm BT dongle) last night to explore the other possibilities with this phone. I’m unimpressed. Using ActiveSync over BT is very cumbersome, and although I got it to work a few times I kept getting connection errors even though my BT dongle is less than 4 feet away from my phone. In order to get it to sync I have to navigate to ActiveSync on my phone, click menu, then click “Connect with Bluetooth”. It seems so much easier to jam the USB cable in and call it a day. Wireless is cool, but this seems like so much more work. More work is not cool.
I was hoping for an easier way to transfer files via BT. It seems you can only do it once ActiveSync is connected, and only through the Explore options that lies therein. Am I missing something… or is this the only way to transfer files to the phone? I’m so used to Verizon crippling BT-enabled phones (like how they disabled file transfer OBEX profiles in the Moto V710) that it’s hard to tell what should and shouldn’t work.What else am I missing? I’d like to use (or test) the BT capabilities to its full extent, but I’m having a hard time finding what all it can do… and based on my initial tests of ActiveSync over BT, I’d rather stick with the USB cable for speed and reliability.
I’m on the fence with this one. I’m not a PalmOS user, and never have been (that’s why this is my first Palm), but one valid complaint I’ve heard is that the phone should come first. I still find myself fumbling unnecessarily to dial a number, however I think every day I use it things start to become easier to use. I handed my phone to my wife the other day for the first time after a “can I borrow your phone?” I watched her scratch her head for a minute trying to figure out what the hell to do with it.Voice Command OMG! This thing is the killer app if I’ve ever seen one. Remember my complaining earlier about the BT capabilities (being able to easily press a button on my headset and “talk” to the phone)? Well this makes up for it so much more (although I’d still like to be able to do this through my phone). “Call Bob on mobile” or “Call Home” couldn’t get any easier. I love “start browser” and adding in shortcuts so it recognizes “start google mail” or “start weather”. Navigation couldn’t get any easier. One thing that makes me laugh is that there’s a “what time is it?” question you can ask the phone. However the only way you can ask this question is if the phone is on, and you press the voice button. At this point you already know what time it is if you just look at the top of the display. This brings me to my final comment about voice command. The assigned voice button does not work if the display is off. So first you have to wake the phone up, then press the voice button. If my phone is in my holster or buried in such a way that I cannot see the display, I’d love to be able to press the voice command button to ask it questions without having to wake up the phone first. I can see why this is the way it is… so that you can’t accidentally press the buttons on the side and wake it up while you are carrying it around. Still, it would be nice to override that so the voice command button can be used whenever I want.
If you are unfamiliar with Voice Command or simply haven’t configured it yet, check out the Microsoft website for some tutorials and it’s easy to configure… just assign your side button (the one that by default fires up the media player) to Voice Command and you’ll be on your merry way. Now if I could just program it to carry on a conversation with me with I’m really bored!
It’s definitely too small, but I’d rather have a small keyboard than to not have one at all. I still find myself accidentally pressing the key next to it and having to back up and try again, but again, perhaps over time I’ll master the art of typing on these chicklett keys. My wife has given up altogether, and just uses the stylus to press the buttons (thank God the holster’s clear plastic protector covers the keys).
Awesome, awesome, awesome. It has worked everywhere for me in San Diego, and during a recent trip to Minneapolis I had no problems at all. It’s faster than I would expect for a mobile device, and I have no complaints about the speed. Yes, it can ALWAYS be faster, but as long as I can access web pages quickly and stream audio & video, I’m a happy camper.Streaming I can listen to my favorite local radio station, or radio stations around the world. I can watch TV from around the world, live or canned. I can view my webcam hooked up to my computer to keep an eye on my dogs, and as soon as tech support at orb.com helps me out, I’ll be able to watch all of the same Time Warner cable channels on my Treo that I do at home (I believe Slingbox is also working on something like this). Streaming through EVDO makes this device an entertainment machine…. can you watch TV in your car right now? I bet you can’t… but now you can (albeit on a small screen). I’ve also tested the XM Radio and Sirius Satellite radio apps that essentially use EVDO streaming to the Media Player to listen to your satellite radio… what can’t EVDO and the Media Player do? Very little.
If you want to hook up headphones or some other audio device to your Treo you are going to need to buy this 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter (I bought one at eBay for less). Stereo headphones work great, and my initial tests with a Belkin TuneCast II Mobile FM Transmitter (F8V3080-APL, purchased at Circuit City for $45) have proven to be successful. I’d like to hard-wire it into my stereo one day to get better sound quality.
The bad news is that the engineers didn’t put in enough RAM in which to load and successfully run your apps. This means that you can run IE or Skype or the Media Player, but don’t bother to run all three or you will get an out of memory error. With RAM being as cheap as it is these days, this is a huge oversight! It should have at least double what it has now, or even more. This is a converged device… but we are limited to what we can converge.
The great news is that there is an expandable SD (secure digital) card slot at the top of this phone so you can plug in external devices such as WiFi cards (a WiFi card is really useless if you have unlimited EVDO) and I’m sure other devices such as GPS navigation and bar code scanners, etc. (However this does not solve the low program memory issue). By adding a SD card you can load it up with your MP3s, movies, install more apps, and even use your Treo as a backup device if you get a large enough SD card. I currently have a 512MB card, and the biggest you can buy (retail) is 2GB for around $200, but if you go hunt around on eBay you can find 4GB cards for just under $200 and that is what I plan to do.
I’m really impressed how loud this phone can be… both in the external speaker for ringers, speaker phone, etc., and for the built-in headset. I often have to turn the volume down which is great because with my last phone I couldn’t make it loud enough.
Run (don’t walk) to pqdvd.com and spend $40 on their “Pocket DVD Studio” product (not the Palm edition). Why? Just do it and stop asking stupid questions. Seriously, if you have a SD card in your Treo and want to watch full length movies with amazing video and audio, do it. It is extremely configurable, allowing you to compress a full length movie down to 100MB or less, while still retaining the quality. Plus, you don’t have to “rip” the movie to your hard drive… just put in your DVD, set the start & end points, and let it rip it to a WMV then transfer it to your Treo (I’m sure you can have it trip it right to your Treo although I have not yet tried this). I have a 512MB SD card (currently) loaded up with MP3s and software, and I was still able to fit two full-length movies and a few TV shows onto my Treo. Simply amazing.
Not only is it good at doing this, but you can also convert other media to your Treo, including (my favorite), TiVoToGo files. With TiVo Desktop I can transfer shows from either of my two TiVo boxes (which are on my network) to my desktop. Once those shows are on my desktop, Pocket DVD Studio can convert them to a 240×240 screen and I can then move them to my Treo so I can watch episodes of my favorite shows at my leisure. If you are a train, bus, or carpool commuter (and you don’t have to drive!) getting caught up on your favorite shows and movies doesn’t get any easier.
I miss being able to toss my flip-phone into my pocket. Seems with this phone I’m destined to be a geek and have my geekness exposed externally for all the world to see. This is fine, as the trade off is a fully converged device… the downside is that I don’t always wear a belt, and come summer-time when I only wear shorts, I’m going to have to figure something out. I’m still looking for a fully-enclosed pouch-like case so that I can put the Treo in my pocket without any risk of filling the keyboard up with pocket lint. To my knowledge, such a case does not exist. For now, it looks like a zip-lock bag will do the trick (LOL)
Thanks to its predecessors (Treo 600 & 650) there are plenty of accessories out there. Problem is that most retailers (Circuit City, Best Buy, Frys, etc.) don’t have any in stock, due (I’m guessing) to the popularity of these devices. I know that if I was a manufacturer of cases and such I would be investing heavily and getting my products to market as quickly as possible. Some of the Treo sites have great product listings with beautiful descriptions and such, but many products I want are out of stock. My suggestion: turn to eBay — products I found out of stock at the Treo sites were readily available at eBay for half the price. I have a few on the way already. Go eBay, Go.
The first week for me was pretty rocky. I had frequent lockups with my phone. Thanks to some smart people in these forums and elsewhere I was able to resolve them quickly. The first problem had to do with ActiveSync always running, which made my Treo lock up every 15-20 minutes. There’s a sequence of steps you can take to resolve this problem and once I did that, the problem was solved.
The 2nd problem had to do with my SD card. For some reason when it was in, things would slow down quite a bit. I cleared my card off and added the same files back on and all was well. Not sure what the problem was, and I hope this isn’t something that I have to do on a frequent basis. My best advice is that if you are having problems with your Treo, one of the first things you should try doing is popping your SD card out of your Treo and use it for a day or so to see if the problem has gone away.
Now it’s to the point where it locks up maybe once a day, if that… and that’s only because I’m still loading it up and testing things out (call me a “power user” — guilty!) Once I’m done futzing around with this thing I’m sure it will behave a bit better.
However, through the first week of hell, trying to work out problems that Microsoft/Palm stshould have fixed out of the box, my other nag is that to do a soft reset of this phone requires that you remove the back cover in order to get to the reset button with the stylus. Some people have cut holes in their back cover for easier access (not me!). This is a bad design flaw… just like a PC, a Pocket PC is going to need to be reset frequently. Also there’s no hard reset button — you have to remove the battery, then put it back in. I had one problem that was only solved by a hard reset (can’t remember off-hand what it was).
The included stylus is great… a nice thin metal object that can easily poke an eye out. “It’s a PDA and a weapon!” It’s not like the plastic pieces of crap that I’ve used in the past. My only complaint is that once it is fully inserted into the Treo, it sits so flush with the case that it’s not exactly easy to remove. You have to get a fingernail in just right in order to pull the bugger out.
The case itself seems quite sturdy, the keyboard keys seem sturdy as well. I’m afraid to drop the thing, though… so I always keep it in its leather case. You will definitely want to get a screen protector otherwise you will be mad as hell when you get your first screen scrape. I’ve had a screen protector on since day 1 and it’s held up nicely.
The status light on the front by the antennae is great — you know the phone is working. Outside of that it is useless to me and when you are watching a movie or looking at the display for any length of time, the angle of the light is such that it is like a laser beam pointed straight into my retina and is annoying as hell. Someone needs to find a registry hack quick (I’ve tried 3 or 4 that don’t work) to turn this light off before I go blind. My temporary solution is to cover it with my left thumb while I’m holding my Treo.
Overall, I’m totally impressed with the Treo 700w. I’m not sure how I lived without it in the past, and I hope I don’t lose it (it’s expensive and took too much time to configure!) I always said that once someone comes out with a Microsoft-based PDA with unlimited bandwidth I would buy it. Palm and Microsoft finally did with the Treo 700w and I couldn’t be happier. There are some incredible technical advancements with this phone, and some (noted above) mystify me as to why in this day and age such oversights were made. Still, for the first real converged device available to us, it’s a complete package with everything I had hoped for. I can’t wait for the 750w — hopefully they will have some of the technical inadequacies solved and more technical advancements.