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Palm Treo 700P – A First Impression
Posted on 25-Jul-2006 22:53 by Jack Cook | Filed under: Reviews

I have been a Windows Mobile enthusiast for years so for me to “break away” from the OS that I have been used to and have loved for so long is amazing… at least it is to me. But it was time I took a look because I have been so impressed with the folks I have met from Palm on several occasions since January.

My first introduction to Palm was years ago when my brother and I were comparing our “devices” one evening as we were having dinner at a restaurant located halfway between our two homes. He with a Palm IIIx and me with my iPAQ and both of us were “touting” the benefits of each device. He didn’t convince me nor did I have any effect on him but we did have a great dinner.

At CES this past year, I was introduced to the Palm 700W where I saw a demonstration on the devices capabilities. I was impressed with the device, not only with the Windows Mobile 5.0 platform but in particular, the hardware. It had an incredible “feel” to it… as if it was made for the “Palm of your Hand”. I guess there was no mistake in name they picked for the company… lol.

When I stop and reflect on the devices I have used over the years, all of them were too wide, too fat, or too small. The iPAQ was great but you had to open your palm a little wider to comfortably hold it. The JasJar, although unquestionably an outstanding device because of its form factor, was just too wide as a phone. The KJAM, a favorite of mine because of its versatility had an almost perfect form but one handed operation was just non existent and frankly, it was a bit too fat to hold. It was however the best device I had ever used up to now (I still have to thank Jerry Gold for introducing it to me).

But the Palm, I kept thinking about it because it felt right way back in January and all the folks I had seen that were using one always talked about how easy it was to use.

So when I was given the opportunity to try out the new Palm 700P, although it was a different OS than what I have been used to using, I had to yes. I have to tell you, that I am impressed! I’m impressed with the form factor, I’m impressed with the OS and I have been very impressed with the phone service from Sprint. As for “web” access, it has been an interesting adventure. When in a Sprint area, it is incredible…when outside of the Sprint area, the phone is still fabulous but I have had poor luck with web access but more on that later.

When the phone arrived, it was just in a white box so I was not able to get that “first impression” that you experience when opening a product for the first time. After all, this was just a “reviewers unit”; one that is shipped from person to person by a PR firm every three weeks or so. I opened the box and found the Treo, an AC charger, a Sync cable, earphones, a manual for reviewers and an installation CD.

I must admit I was excited because I wanted the opportunity to use the device, get a feel for the Palm OS, surf the web, and use the Sprint features.

As I held the device in my hand for the first time, I was again amazed with the “feel” as it rested in my hand. More than any other device I have held in my hand, this one just had the perfect feel. It sat in the palm of my hand as if it were made exclusively for me. It was a perfect fit! It seemed a little heavier than my K-JAM but I credited that to the battery which seemed pretty substantial in size. For those that have a need to know, the device measures 2.3" W x 4.4" H (excluding the antenna) x 0.9" D (58mm W x 113mm H x 23mm D) and has a weight of 6.4 ounces (180 grams).

The Look
The top has a stubby antenna that rises about ¾ of an inch. Centered on the top you find an expansion slot for a SD card, the red plastic covering the Infrared Port and the Ringer On/Off Switch (which is excellent to have and does a little vibration routine when you place it in the mute mode). On the right side, neatly blended into the body of the device is the stylus, which by the way, I have used three times in three weeks. The ease of operation of the device has allowed me to rarely use this tool.

Looking at the front of the device you have a 320x320 Color Screen with a Status indicator, the Phone Speaker and a Sprint Logo above it. Below the screen, you find a Send Button, a 5-Way Navigator toggle and a Power/End Button and below those buttons you find the Phone Button and Calendar Button on the left side as well as the Messaging Button and Applications Button on the right. All these buttons are neatly placed for looks as well as ease of use. The QWERTY Keyboard is slightly rounded up to provide adequate access, ease of use and I am sure because of its “smooth look”, there was a design factor. Overall, it has a very slick appearance.

The bottom of the device has an integrated Headset Jack, Multi-Connector for syncing and charging and the Microphone. When you turn the device over, you see the Stylus as well as the Digital Camera with self-portrait mirror, the slots for the External Speaker and the cover for the Removable Battery.

There is a small ACCESS POWERED logo on the battery cover. There were two rubber plugs located near the top that were covering something but I was not going to remove them and then find myself stuck because I couldn’t get them back on. It is not my device so I felt it was better to leave well enough alone.

The right side had no buttons but the left had the up/down Volume Button as well as a Customizable Button. The volume button has a “groove” that gives the appearance of two separate buttons but it is really one button that “rocks” back and forth. The location of these buttons would be a slight inconvenience for a left handed person.

What is “Under the Hood”
With a 128 MB of memory (60 MB available) and an Intel XScale 312MHz processor there is an appearance that there is plenty of power and from my initial experience, there has been. I was very impressed with the 320 x 320 color TFT touchscreen and kept wondering why that same screen was not on the 700W. A very definite difference in image clarity!

This is a CDMA EVDO device that has totally blown me away. I was never convinced that getting the high speed package was worth the extra money in the past. With the experience I have had over the past several weeks, it is an item that I now consider a “must have”!

Using a Bluetooth headset has been terrific and the speaker phone has also been pretty good although I wish there was a bit more volume…my ears are getting old. There is a hands free headset with a mic mute but I did not use that feature. I have become entrenched in using either a Bluetooth headset or the speakerphone. The truth is that I dislike sticking things in my ears…I feel as if I am being locked out of my environment.

It should be noted that there is TTY/TDD compatibility which is a feature I am glad to see has been incorporated for those that might have the need. A feature I did like was the ability to have two calls in a three-way conference.

The camera is a simple 1.3 megapixel with 1280x1024 resolution and as you would expect automatic light balance. As simple as it was, I was pretty happy with my pictures. The picture shown here on the right was taken on a dark cloudy day. The 2x digital zoom is OK, but not something I would tend to use. I would like to see cameras in devices like these to be just a bit better…it would really make a huge difference and would give cause for not even thinking about taking that extra camera along for short trips.

The video capture was decent with a 352 x 288 resolution. Again, not for those special moments but for a quick, “I got it” moment, it was terrific.

In the past three weeks, my battery experience has been outstanding. I have given this device some heavy usage and have always had sufficient battery power. It is an 1800 mAh removable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery that has a talk time rated up to 4.5 hours.

I have never spent 4.5 hours on a phone in a day so it is fine for me although if I was ever in that position where that amount of time was required, I think I’d probably tend to get to a place where I could plug in the charger. The standby time is rated for up to 300 hours. I will say that I had left the device unplugged and sitting for three days. When I turned it on, the battery drain was negligible…I was impressed.

Power Up, Service and the Web
After placing the battery in the device, it powered up immediately with an ACCESS POWERED logo, then the Palm logo and finally a Preferences screen asking if I wanted the date and time from the mobile network. I was immediately struck with the signal strength from the Sprint Network… almost full signal strength. Where I live, that has never happened with any phone or any provider that I have ever had.

With such a full signal, why not give it a try? So I called my house phone and proceeded to have a conversation with myself…my wife definitely thought I was going off the deep end. It was crystal clear on both ends! When I hung up, immediately there was a screen that appeared indicating that the number I just called was not a contact and would I like to add it. I liked that although it disappeared too fast.

So I had service, it was very strong and worked well. The real test will be how well it works in my normal everyday routine travels as well as when I travel to Maine. For the most part, signal strength in Maine is totally dependant if you are near a major highway or city. Where I am located, signal strength generally varies from bad to none at all…it has to be the pine trees!

As I looked at the device there was a button with a picture of a home…that had to be the “home” screen from where I was going to navigate. Of course I could have read the directions from the manual…but that would be no fun! If the device is going to pass my “user friendly” test, I should be able to see and figure out pretty close to everything easily. Yeah, the manual is important for those special features or settings but for the most part it has to be intuitive….and it was!

Pressing that “home” button, I found my self looking at a screen with twelve items and the ability to scroll to get the remainder (another eighteen). There was a lot to look at to start!

I saw the web icon so I immediately pressed it and was given a browser called Blazer. It had opened on the as the default home page. I entered a site I wanted to visit and the Sprint Network FLEW! I was impressed with the speed!

Blazer was very intuitive and worked flawlessly on the sites I visited. “Mobile optimized” sites as well as “full size” websites displayed nicely. There is no question that CDMA EVDO data connection made a difference in my browsing experience but even in areas that the speed was reduced to 1X, I was very satisfied.

Over the next few days I drove through a myriad of places that typically have either poor or no signal strength…not so with this phone. I was (and continue to be) amazed with my ability to get a cellular signal as well as my ability to connect to the net. However, at my house in Maine, it was a different story---sort of. I was always able to get a cell signal for calls, the roaming ability was terrific but an internet connection was non-existent with the roaming signals --- too bad because if I had both, it would be perfect.

I did take the time to call Sprint to see if it was something I had not done but they confirmed my suspicions that if I was outside of their network I would not be able to browse the web. As an aside, the folks I chatted with at Sprint were helpful, knowledgeable and just plain terrific….thanks Sprint!

Interestingly enough, two days after the call, I had a follow-up call from Sprint asking if the question I had was resolved. I was impressed that they did that…other carriers should take note.

Pre-installed Applications
So I am really happy with the phone reception, it has been the best I’ve ever experienced and I am very happy with the speed of the web (as long as I am in a Sprint network area), but now the question is how good are the rest of the “pre-packaged” applications that come loaded on the device. In a word – TERRIFIC!

After using the device for a bit, I finally decided to peruse the applications that were installed. After turning on the device, the first application that appears when you get to the Home screen is the Quick Tour. At first I was not going to look at this but after a few times using the device, I decided to give it a try. It was well done and certainly gives the first time user a nice introduction.

There were 5 quick, well presented tips that explained clearly (and gave sufficient information) the Basics, Phone, Email & Messaging, Video, Songs & Photos and lastly, some cool Tips & Tricks. There was a full User Guide that was easy to navigate and one gets a very quick acclimation to the device and its features very quickly.

After the Quick Tour, I decided to pair my Motorola S850 BT headset. The process was straightforward, easy and very quick. As soon as I had paired my headset (which was easily accomplished), it was connected and has worked very well. Of course I called myself again and got spectacular results …my wife really thinks I’m going off the deep end. A few calls to friends confirmed my belief that sound on either end was excellent.

Over the next several days I used the calculator, calendar, contacts, Memo, DataViz Word to Go and email programs. All performed well and of course were easy to use. The camera and video worked very well but what impressed me was the clarity of the display. The specs indicate that you get a 320 x 320 color TFT touchscreen display with 16-bit color and displays up to 65,536 colors. The screen is bright and gives very pleasing results as you look at photos you have taken…I was impressed!

There were a few other programs that I liked and would consider upgrading to get their full potential. One is On Demand which is a special edition of Handmark’s Pocket Express. It is a terrific program that combines most of what you want like News, Sports, Weather, Maps and a feature my wife liked, TV Guide. Upgrading the service to have access to all the services will cost you about US$7 a month. Some might find this expensive but to have pretty much everything you want in one simple program might make it worth it.

Another is Sprint TV. Imagine, watching TV on your device when you want and what you want. News, weather, videos clips, movies…it goes on and on. It was OK but the quality could have been better. I am sure in time the technology will improve to give great reception...when that happens, I will consider it.

Overall Thoughts
This was truly a “first look” for me at a different OS. I was impressed with the hardware and equally impressed with the OS. I found it easy to use, comfortable to hold and impressive with its features. Although I would find it difficult to leave using a Windows powered device, I can now see why so many folks have enjoyed their Palm products.

I chose not to install any desktop software primarily because I knew my time was short with this device and I did not want to add programs to my PC that I would not use again. Nor did I want to purchase software (Games and Utilities) that would be used for one OS experience…I hope you understand that. There are however a myriad of Palm software support sites that would answer any and all question or concerns about “the good and the bad” software that is available. I did spend a little time looking at sites and was impressed with the number and quality of these forums.

During my time with this device, I spent a lot of time using P-Tunes and found it to be very satisfactory but I did miss the "feel" of Media Player.

I am convinced that the software to sync is first rate only because of my initial experiences with this device. There is no question in my mind that this device is designed not only for the person who wants to maintain all their business areas (contacts, phone, calendar, tasks, etc) but also for those that want to enrich their experiences with music, video, email and web browsing.

The Palm 700P is an excellent device and coupled with the Sprint Network, my ability to Experience Mobility has been outstanding. I do hope that Sprint can improve the users ability to experience the web when outside of their network. When that happens, it will be perfect.

My intention on this "First Impression" was to give you my thoughts after using the device after a three week period of time. Because it was my first time with the Palm OS, I am not sure it would be fair for me to give Pros and Cons because of my prejudice towards Windows Mobile. Given the opportunity to spend several months with it, I would not hesitate to express Pros and Cons. With that in mind however, I can can tell you that this first look has left me with several strong impressions:

  • The design of the Treo is without question the best that I have had the opportunity to use. It is a perfect fit giving total comfort with each use.

  • The operating system is extremely easy to use and there is, if needed, an incredible amount of resources available for help.

  • The pre-installed programs worked flawlessly for me providing a rich experience.

  • The Sprint network was FAST for web access and the cell coverage was the best I have experienced...there were no dropped calls and I always had a signal! If they improve the web access, it will become the provider of choice for many of us.

  • And lastly, as much as I think TV is cool, the available networks are just not ready for "prime time"....I'd pass on that option.

    Palm has created an A+ device and I have no hesitation in giving it my highest recommendation.

    About the author: Jack spent 35 years teaching mathematics, worked as a Dean of Students, and completed his career as a Principal of a suburban school just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout his years in public education, the computer field has always sparked an interest in him.

    In his early years as a teacher, he became proficient with computers by teaching himself "BASIC" with an old HP card reader. Handheld computers soon became his passion where he eventually focused his attention on the HP iPAQ.

    Always the teacher, Jack participates in several discussion groups and is currently serving as Senior Editor on Mobilitysite, participates in the Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine Blogs and maintains his personal site, Experience Mobility. Jack brings to the mobile device community, news, events, and reviews that generate the same passion in handhelds that he has had.

    Retirement has not slowed Jack down, he finds himself busier today than ever before. Traveling between Massachusetts and Maine, he is continually writing, reading and working with his iPAQ. In addition, Jack serves on the board of advisors for SCOTTEVEST.

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