Treo 650 Review Part 1

I've been thinking how to best structure my experiences with the Treo 650. I have a lot to say on the topic, too much to write in one sitting and too much for a single blog post. As such I'm just going to start now. Expect a Part 2 later this week, and a Windows Mobile vs Treo at some point. I'll also write about all the programs I'm using.


I ordered the Treo 650 unlocked. Because I am an ATT Wireless subscriber, I was unwilling to change my calling plan (breaking my shared plan) to get the carrier subsidized version (it was $399 from ATT, $599 from palmOne (locked)). Plus if I ever change my plan over to Cingular I would have to get a new phone. So, I ordered the carrier unlocked version ($699). Of course that left a crater in my checking account. My Treo 650 arrived 2 days after I ordered it. By the way, Cingular/ATT have royally screwed up this acquisition.

Along the way palmOne would send me lots of updates in mail. This included a final email the day I received my Treo that was pretty helpful in getting started. Nice touch. Free FedEx shipping and no tax made the purchase less painful than it could have been.

Out of Box Experience

The Treo 650 comes in a nice box, with a charger, cable, installation CD and manuals. The first thing I ever do when getting a new PDA type device is order a screen protector from BoxWave. This ensures that I don't inadvertently damage the screen as I tend to keep my phone devices in my pocket.

The first thing I did was start charging the device. I also installed the Palm Software from the CD. Installation was smooth, and I configured synchronization with Outlook. One nice thing is that the conduit is now provided by Palm, and not by a third party.

Synchronization Setup

Before synchronizing with my computer using HotSync, I decided to configure my Exchange account in VersaMail. I found it a bit strange that Exchange ActiveSync configuration is managed through VersaMail. Once you configure the account, you get mail and calendar Synchronization. I wish that contacts also synchronized as well, but if I were to pick I think I would have gone with mail and calendar. More on Exchange support in Part 2.

After entering my account settings I sync'ed to Exchange. I have to say, EDGE makes sync much faster than using GPRS. After I did this I connected the Treo to my laptop using the sync cable and got my contacts, tasks and notes on the device. So far so good.

Bluetooth Synchronization

Bravo palmOne for not making Bluetooth sync suck. It took me < 2 min to sync via Bluetooth and this is the only way that I sync now. Contrast to ActiveSync which throws an epileptic fit when you try and use Bluetooth. It's some sort of punishment to try. In fact, I managed to get Bluetooth sync on my 5600 working once in 6 months. It required enabling 2 checkboxes on my phone, a horrible pairing experience, and thousands of dialog boxes from ActiveSync whenever I rebooted or resumed from standby. Constrast to HotSync which only throws up one dialog box. This all stems from the fact that the bluetooth stack in XP can take a long time to boot, often after ActiveSync or HotSync have already decided that something has gone horribly wrong and annoys you about it. Thankfully though, HotSync will continue to work after things have gone back to normal.


What can I say about the hardware. I LOVE the device form factor. For a while I thought that maybe it was a bit large, but after using it for a few days I cannot imagine it being any smaller. I can operate the device one handed very easily. In fact, it was much easier than my Audiovox 5600. And light years better than any Pocket PC device. I have only used the stylus in my Treo 3 times in a week, and that was just for applications that didn't support the keyboard navigation on the Treo.

The screen is bright and beautiful. Its resolution is 320x320 which is 4x greater than the old Treo and way more than my Audiovox 5600. This makes reading emails, browsing the web etc a pleasure. Everything looks really nice due to the pixel density on this device. If only palmOne would license ClearType so they could have some nice anti-aliasing.

The keyboard is wonderful. I can't believe I ever used a device w/o a keyboard. I am much more efficient. And it's not just about writing emails, but writing sms messages, entering URLs in the browser, configuring my account settings, entering passwords. Its a million times better with the keyboard.

I keep the Treo in my right pocket, and to be honest, I don't feel like I have a PDA in there. It's probably 30% larger than the Audiovox 5600, but much smaller than every other Pocket PC device I've used.

Operating System

This is an area that took some getting used to. And to be honest, this is an area where Windows Mobile kicks Palm butt. This device comes with Palm OS 5, which is really a hack built on a long old foundation of hacks. The OS is not multi-threaded, on occasion has crashed and rebooted spontaneously, and does not have some of the basic things I'd expect from a PDA operating system. The navigation is a bit strange, you are constantly launching and quitting programs, there is no back button (which I like). If you are doing a HotSync you cannot receive phone calls, practically everything is "modal", which is very annoying. It's like using Windows ME after using XP for 3 years.

However, because of some of these limitations, some things actually work better. Phone calls work 99% of the time. I have never gotten "Unable to answer call" or any other lamo error message about the fact that the phone part of the device wasn't working. Because Windows Mobile is multi-tasking I've always believed that the radio stack had to fight to get any attention from the OS. On the Treo it feels as if the radio stack can hog the device as much as it wants, which is a good thing on a phone device. Actually, when I call my device from any land line it rings on the first ring that I hear on the phone. My Windows Mobile devices had this 1-2 ring lag, which always resulted in me answering my phone towards the end of the ring sequence, and missing calls a lot.


Generally speaking, the address book integration is great, dialing, answering, switching to call waiting etc are all great. I don't have any complaints about the phone features. I will also add that the default ringtones are all excellent, and Palm has done a fantastic job picking different and unique tones for different events. For some reason, the Windows Mobile devices use the same tones for 80% of the events, so you never know if that was an SMS, Voice Mail, System Alert etc.

The audio quality of phone calls is good, and for some reason it works much better with my ETY*COM headset. Another nice touch is that the device will sync the time with GSM services that provide time synchronization (Cingular and ATT). I can't stand any "network" device that cannot do this basic functionality. Windows Mobile does not do time sync over GSM and I believe this is because it's implimented in an operator specific manner. Whatever, I just want it to work.

Finally, the Treo does not cause the super annoying radio interference that my 5600 caused. That phone could make speakers in any room start to make strange noises. I assumed this was due to my constant syncing with exchange, but it doesn't happen with the Treo 650.


This is where the Treo shines. SMS integration is sweet. I love how they make everything a conversation. For SMS'ing my wife it's wonderful. I am using SMS much more than before because it's so darn easy and convenient. It's also much faster to SMS some one from the phone book then it is on my Windows Mobile devices.

To Be Continued... (PIM, Exchange, Applications, Battery Life, Camera, IM)

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