Vodafone New Zealand is introducing the Palm Treo 750v Smartphone into the market. The device is the first Palm Treo model running Windows Mobile to be available outside the U.S and the first Palm Treo Windows Mobile in New Zealand. While Vodafone is making the Treo 750v available from 1st November, Telecom New Zealand has announced the Palm Treo 700wx but did not provide a launch date yet.
The Vodafone Treo 750v seems small but it's very similar in size and weight to the Apache or Jamin Pocket PCs. It measures 111 x 58 x 22 mm (4.4" x 2.3" x 0.8") and weighs 154g (5.4 oz). The body is finished in a dark blue rubber coating, which makes it really good to grip - albeit a bit strange to start with when you are used with other Pocket PCs. The keys have a nice space between them and glow a white background when in the dark.
Vodafone Treo 750v: front
Vodafone Treo 750v: back
The non-standard USB plug
The Palm Treo 750v is a nicely done business device. It provides a great one handed functionality, which I had the pleasure of experience for a month. First it’s the directional pad with an independent action button in the middle. Then the small keyboard, which allows for easily hold and type with a single hand. I had the opportunity to try this every day during the last month, while pushing a baby pram around the mall and replying to e-mails with my free hand.
It takes a bit of time to get used to "thumb typing" but after a while it's easy to use. Also interesting to note is that the first instinct of a PDA user is to reach for the stylus, but in a day or so you will learn there's no much use for it and almost all the functions can be reached via the directional pad and the soft menu keys.
Volume control and camera key
Detail of back with 1.3 megapixel camera, speakerphone, mirror for camera self-portrait
Infrared port and mini SD slot
Mini SD flap open showing slot and reset button
i-mate Jasjar, Vodafone Treo 750v and TNZ Apache: different keyboards, only one can be used with one hand only
One of the new features that allow for this easy of use is a new “Go To” menu option in Outlook Mobile. It allows you to navigate through all your e-mail folders using only the directional page: up and down to move through folders, and left or right to expand and collapse the folder tree. Very ingenuous!
Single hand operation and navigation of menus
And talking about e-mail, during my trial I had the Palm Treo 750v synchronising seamlessly with my Exchange Server, taking advantage of Direct Push, Microsoft’s push e-mail technology.
Attachments were handled with easy, and I was really impressed with the Picsel PDF Reader. The Treo 750v also had no problems handling the different office files I receive (not very frequently), including PowerPoint files and Word document files. There is also an Excel Mobile application, but I had no reason to use it during my tests.
Excel Mobile: office documents on-the-go
The fact that this device is a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and WCDMA (3G 850/1900/2100 MHz) helps too. It can be used almost anywhere in the world.
Receiving an e-mail with attachments
Opening a pdf file with the Picsel viewer
The surprises don’t stop here though. Albeit not publicised in Europe, I was told by representatives of Palm and Vodafone New Zealand that the Palm Treo 750v is indeed HSDPA-ready, and a ROM update will be available sometime around Q1 2007 enabling an even faster connection from this device. Great news for people wanting to use it as a wireless modem for their laptops and desktop, which can be done easily over Bluetooth.
And it’s fast too, not only in terms of mobile data but in operation. I’ve noticed that Internet Explorer Mobile renders Web pages faster on this device than any of my previous Pocket PCs, even when comparing the Treo 750v (300 MHz CPU) with a nominal faster CPU, such as the one on the i-mate Jasjar, at 520 MHz.
The Palm Treo 750v also comes with an interesting SMS application, that allows for “threaded” communications over SMS. Your messages and the replies received are show in a single dialog, with each message and direction. It makes it very easy to follow a conversation this way.
SMS discussions: easy to follow
Can you see I sound excited about this device? When I first got it I was disappointed with its small low resolution screen. If you ever have a Pocket PC with VGA resolution you know how great those screens are. But also know how large and heavy the devices are. The Palm Treo 750v comes with a small screen, it’s lighter and not so large.
This is actually the main difference between this and other models: try using the HTC Universal or HTC Apache with a single hand and you will see what I mean. The Palm treo 750v screen is pretty good for use outdoors actually. I had no problems reading e-mails while walking under the sun.
Of course there are some things I didn’t like at all. For example using a non-standard USB connector. It means discarding all my investments in mini USB retractable cables, so useful when travelling. Also missing is Wireless LAN capabilities. Even though the fast cellular data will be more than appropriate when using the device outside, sometimes you are at home or office and have a faster (and cheaper) data access option. And the fact that there’s no built-in Windows Live Messenger client is appaling. At least this last bit can be easily fixed by using one of the many Messenger clients available today.
You can obviously use it for the usual multimedia stuff, like playing songs stored on a mini SD card, but the small screen size and unusual dimensions (240 x 240 pixels) are not inviting you to watch a movie though. The support for Bluetooth stereo headsets is a neat feature though. It means you can listen to your song collection through wireless stereo headsets, and if a call comes in the music is automatically paused while the call is in progress, resuming immediately after the call is disconnected.
Supporting Bluetooth stereo headsets by default
The media player pauses to receive a call
According to a study commissioned by Palm (yes, I know), tracking the uptake of some common activities, before and after users moved to a Treo smartphone reveal that 93% of users browse the Internet on the handheld device, against only 20% who used to do it with their previous device. At the same time SMS usage increased from 52% to 87% and e-mail utilisation grew from 15% to 93%. Pretty good numbers here.
Don’t be fooled, even though Palm calls the Treo 750v a “smartphone” it is actually running Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition OS, not Windows Mobile Smartphone. It means that we have the benefits of well designed single hand operation with the benefits of touch screen. This comes handy (no pun intended) when using the new Today plugin for speedial.
It allows you to create on-screen buttons with frequently called numbers, and if you have pictures associated with contacts you can use those as icons. Simply grab the Treo 750v, touch one of the icons on screen and the call is initiated.
A row of icons with contacts pictures, plus a search box, right on the Today screen
You can also initiate voice calls from the Today screen, by simply typing a number, or a contact’s name. The selection will be shown on screen, filtering names as you type. And if you are a Google fan, a Search box on its Today screen will give you quick access to search results powered by Google and shown in the Internet Explorer Mobile browser.
While typing you will see a Shift and an Option key (the white key in the keyboard). The option key brings up different values for the characters in the keyboard and can also be used with some of the hardware keys to start applications. For example the combination Option + Send will start the Messaging application while Option + OK will by default start the Task Manager. These options can be changed through the Settings panel.
Also note that this is the first time the Microsoft Voice Command application is available in New Zealand. With this application you can issue command using your own voice, with no training being necessary. You can use sentences such as "Call John Doe at home" or "Dial 215 111 1234". It will also announce appointments and understand other commands such as "What time is it?" or "What is the battery level?".
If you are into capturing moments, the built-in 1.3 megapixel digital camera won’t disappoint you. Although not a high-end camera by any measure, it actually products really nice shots and good mp4 video recordings.
New users have nothing to worry about: a mini tutorial is available on the device itself, showing all the potential and the basics for the best operation.
Tutorial: put down that stylus!
And last, its memory. Even without a mini SD card I was able to capture quite a few images and videos, store a rather large database of contacts and e-mails and still have some space available, which is really nice. But I certainly recommend a large memory card if you are seriously into taking pictures or bringing your music with you on your device.