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> Treo 700w - MobileTrax Review
The Undude
post Feb 28 2006, 02:56 AM
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MobileTrax Review of Treo 700w

I was very impressed sitting there at the press conference last September 26 hosted by Denny Stargil (CEO, Verizon Wireless), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Ed Colligan (Palm). They were all together to announce the new Palm Treo 700w that has just begun shipping. It’s the first Palm SmartPhone to incorporate Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 and Verizon Wireless’ EV-DO broadband data network.

Overall, it’s a very well developed product. Sure, there’s lots of controversy over Palm selling a product with Microsoft Windows Mobile software. But, the product is designed for the enterprise market, and there are a lot of features that enterprises will like. There are also some very strange (and different) things compared to the Treo 650 that will drive many Treo users “batty.” Here’s my take on the Treo 700w after trying it out recently.

Here’s what I like about it:

- Google for search – with their number one position in search, this is a coup for Google but a good decision by Palm.

- Standard file and folder system – the one PC feature that makes referencing files and folders better than what’s on the PalmSource based devices. [We hope to see files and folders return to Palm when they convert to Linux.]

- Office compatibility and UI – seeing Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Office on the Windows Mobile desktop is pleasing and supportive. [Microsoft should license this to PalmSource.]

- Palm software enhancements – improved today view, Google Web search, photo dialing, improved voice mail and others. We commend Palm for making improvements over and above Windows Mobile.

- Verizon EV-DO – this makes Web page access at least 2x-3x faster than older generation wireless data communications.

- Outlook Mobile – While it isn’t the same UI as the desktop Outlook, it does work in a similar way as well as allowing you to access up to five POP3 or IMAP email accounts. Exchange ActiveSync provides direct access to Exchange Server 2003.

- 1.3MP mega-pixel camera – Finally, Palm has upgraded the camera for the Treo. [However, since it’s already 2006, this should have been a jump to a 2MP or 3MP digital camera with flash and auto focus.]

- Look ahead completion of typing – pop up gives you most likely word which is (typically) a positive experience. [When typing an email address and you want to add “xxx@yyy.com” the system presents “Complete” as the suggested word to substitute when you type “com”. If you make a mistake as I did and think that the word is a command, you get xxx@yyy.complete].

Here’s what I don’t like:

- Computer UI – the Treo 700w looks and feels more like a PDA (computer) than a cell phone. For example (there are more) –

+ Palm is more natural & intuitive vs. having to think what you should do more in Windows Mobile.

+ Turn on – there’s no numeric keypad. [They should have added that as an alternate start up to the Today screen.]

+ Contact look up not obvious – Although all you have to do is start spelling the first name, last name or the initials of the contact you want to look up the Today Screen, it’s simply not intuitive. Since you can’t see it or have a button for it like on the Treo 650, the more natural inclination is to go to the Contacts program through the Menu.

+ Although the Calendar can be accessed directly from the Today Screen, it’s again not intuitively obvious. I found myself going to the Menu and then Calendar. This might be a case of “Palm UI preference” as some who haven’t used the Treo before might find it natural to go to Contacts and Calendar offer the Today Screen.

+ No threaded SMS like the Palm.

+ Set up mail not obvious.

- Can’t use phone as a data modem for your notebook PC – this was a surprise as you’d think this would be an added benefit. We’ve heard that it will work even though they tell you it won’t. Verizon says they are going to review the policy around this issue. We expect to see them promote the use of the phone’s EV-DO modem with your notebook rather than deter it.

- No built-in Wi-Fi –Wi-Fi is available via a Wi-Fi card for the SD slot, but then the SD slot is taken up for communications and you can’t add storage to the system. Eventually, all phone are going to be dual mode.

- No native built-in support for Lotus Notes or Novell GroupWise nor for third parties like Good Technology. Yes, there are third party solutions, and some enterprises will load Good Technology which has a very good user experience. It’s just that you have to wipe out what’s built-in to get the alternate solution.

- 240x240 display – this is just plain inexcusable. The Treo 650 has a 320x320 display. Why didn’t they change the form factor just slightly to provide a one half VGA display of 320x480? We understand that Palm had to go with a 240x240 display due to the constraints of the Windows Mobile operating system. Instead of Palm having to accommodate, we would have preferred that Windows Mobile supported higher resolution displays and they did a breakthrough high resolution display, even if it changed the form factor a small amount.

- OK is not OK – the purpose of OK is not to confirm anything but, rather to act like Esc does on the PC – mostly to jump back to the previous menu. Why did they “hard wire” the Windows Mobile menu key and the OK key on the keypad? Palm has it right on the 650: Phone, Calendar and Contacts are the three most often used applications with “Fn+” overlay with the user’s ability to redefine any command key.

We commend Microsoft, Verizon Wireless and Palm for working so hard to create a solid product. It does work as designed. It didn’t crash once during my testing.

Here are a few things that Microsoft should do in order to make Windows Mobile be more natural and easier to use:

- Show a 10-key numeric dial pad when you turn it on.

- Allow users to easily designate the function of the main keys. Do not put the Windows logo on a key. Make the keys pre-defined for Phone, Contacts and Calendar.

- Overall, make it operate more like a phone than a computer.

If Palm had introduced the Treo 700w first and then introduced the Treo 650 later, most people would conclude that the Treo 650 was a significant improvement over the 700w. The Treo 700w simply feels more like a computer than a phone. Perhaps that’s not all bad for some enterprises, but Windows Mobile – even incorporated into a Treo package – simply isn’t as easy to use as a Palm-based product. But, for some enterprises, that may not make any difference. Can Microsoft ever make a phone product that’s better than what others have done? Perhaps, but we suspect that most users will elect to take the Palm-based Treo over the Windows Mobile version out of sheer simplicity.

We look forward to seeing how PalmSource will respond with their next rev of the software for the Treo.

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