You would think Palm’s first phone that uses Windows and EVDO would be a big deal. Yes, you read that right — Palm has joined the Borg. Their latest SmartPhone is packed with a ton of features, but one thing missing is the Palm OS. I think it is mostly a bad decision.
Overall, the Treo isn’t as cool as the Sidekick, doesn’t do iTunes like the Rokr, and isn’t as addicting as a CrackBerry, although just about as big and with an even smaller micro-QWERTY keyboard. Call it a phone designed by committee, and subject to many compromises.
It sits squarely in the middle of the Rokr-kick-berry axes. It has the cumbersome duo of Windows Pocket Media and Microsoft Synch (rather than the elegant iTunes) to manage your music, should you have enough room to store any number of tunes to your phone, for example. The first thing you’ll want to do is boost its internal storage with a SD card.
The synch program is annoying in what it does: you can view the filesystem on the phone, sort of. You can move programs and data back and forth from phone to PC and from phone main memory to phone SD card — if you can find where Windows puts things. This can make a Unix admin grin with sympathy. And while you can synch via Bluetooth rather than the supplied USB cable, I couldn’t get it to work with my HP dv5000z notebook. That USB cable is good for charging the phone, but you have to turn the phone feature off (what Palm calls “flight mode” — meaning that you can’t get calls).
Next, the Treo doesn’t do email as well as the Berries: if you want to synch up with a POP mailbox on the Internet, you’ll need to download some software and spend some time messing around with the configuration. On the other hand, if the DOJ shutters RIM next month, Treo does have a viable solution. In the device’s defense, it did allow me to grab my email from my IMAP server without doing much more than entering the account information. And you can grab emails from multiple accounts, something the Blackberry doesn’t do.
Finally, the range of communications applications isn’t as rich as with the Sidekick: there is no AOL IM and the support for SMS is a bit cumbersome. There is just their stripped down Windows counterparts including Explorer for the Web, Pocket Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and Pocket MSN Messenger. If you want to spend a lot of time scrolling down to view your documents, then you’ll like this. Otherwise, it will drive you crazy.
For a $400 fancy phone ($500 minus $100 rebate), I would have liked a few more things. For example, the ability to use it as my EVDO broadband connection for my laptop (what Palm calls Dial up networking via USB): it hogs the broadband for its own pocket apps, although Verizon might add this feature eventually. In the meantime, buy PDA.net and you can get around this limitation.
Another thing missing is the ability to stream my music to my Bluetooth headset: nope, that’s just for the voice calls. And it would be nice to have a little bit more internal memory, or a way to manage it better: when I tried to download all 6000-some contacts into it, it rightly complained. The only way I could clear them out was to delete them over on the PC side, and then synch up.