First Thoughts on the Treo 600 1

Here are some reactions to my new Treo 600. I’ve only been playing
with it for two days, so this is more a stream of observations than a
thorough review.

To cut to the chase, I like it. The little things really stand
out. With its
excellent hardware and software engineering, the Treo 600 is what
Apple would build if it were a telecom equipment company. Of
course,
therein lies the challenge for Palm. The Treo, like most
groundbreaking Apple products, is expensive, and its comparative
advantages are qualitative and experiential. One the
early-adopter geeks like me all rush out and buy one, it will be a
challenge to crack the wider market.

Specific comments:

  • It looks smaller than it really is. The illusion is striking. When I took the device out of
    the box, it looked about half the size of my old Treo 300. It’s
    actually narrower but longer, heavier, and slightly thicker. I
    don’t care. The subjective experience is what’s important, and
    that’s where good industrial design comes in.
  • Subtle user-experience tweaks abound. The keyboard now has
    well-labeled “home” and “menu” keys for those common Palm
    functions. You can create “favorites” that launch calls,
    applications, and Web links by holding down a key on the
    keyboard. There are several new and modified preferences elements, such as the Sound item with built-in ringtone manager.
  • The “fit and finish” is outstanding. It just feels solid. Everything from the
    tiny caps on the screw wells on the back to the soft blue backlighting
    of the keyboard screams quality and sophistication.
  • Runs faster than the slow-as-molasses Treo 300, though
    functions like searching through a big address book (mine has over 2000
    contacts) are still not instantaneous.
  • Web connection speeds on the Sprint CDMA network seemed a little
    better than with my Treo 300, though not radically different.
    This will probably vary based on location and Sprint’s 1xRTT upgrade
    schedule.
  • The
    five-way navigation pad does allow you to avoid using the
    stylus most of the time, which is a welcome change. However, most
    non-bundled software (e.g. Snappermail) doesn’t take advantage of it yet. The
    built-in Web browser does, but awkwardly. For example, to scroll
    down a numbered list of options, you pus the pad to the right (not
    down). To use the browser “back” button you click down to the
    bottom of the screen, then to the right to the “back” icon, then
    click the select button (instead of just clicking to the left). Some of
    the other applications support the nav bar for some functions but not
    others (e.g. scrolling down), which is annoying.
  • The camera is nicely integrated. Sending a photo as an
    email attachment is a one-click selection after you capture the
    image. You can also add photos to people in your contact list, or
    make a photo your background wallpaper image. The image quality isn’t
    great,though pictures look better when you transfer them to a PC than
    on the Treo’s 160×160 screen.
  • I don’t love the keyboard. Early reports were that it was
    as good or better than the one on the earlier Treos, despite being
    smaller. I find it hard to get my (admittedly big) fingers onto
    the right key quickly. This may get easier as I use the device
    more. Given the form factor, Handspring probably made the best
    tradeoff they could.
  • One of the four function buttons below the screen is assigned by default to power
    on/off, duplicating the power switch on top of the unit. This
    replaces the button for the Web browser on the previous Treos, which for me is a pretty
    important function. It was easy enough to reassign the button
    back, but I wonder why they felt the need to change it.
  • The
    sound output (for ringtones and so forth) is excellent, much improved
    over the original Treo. I’m ordering an SD memory card so that I can
    play MP3s on the device.
  • If you’ve used a previous Treo, you
    know that Handspring did a nice job integrating the phone and PDA
    features. Nothing really different here from the earlier models, but
    if you’ve used other phones you’ll like the way this one works.
  • What I didn’t like:
    • I actually find the Treo 600 less comfortable to hold up to my ear
      as a phone than the older Treo 300, despite the much-reviled
      clamshell. On the other hand, it does look and feel more like a phone
      when you use it that way.
    • The
      screen is slightly
      off-center to the left, though not enough to cut off any pixels. Not
      sure why, though this is apparently the way all Treo 600s are, not just
      mine.
    • The
      stylus is harder to pull out than the previous Treo, because the top is
      more smoothly recessed into the back.
    • The Sprint Vision services (ringtones, games, screen savers,
      etc.) need some work. I couldn’t preview the ringtones before I
      bought them, and only after downloading one and being charged, was I
      told that (allegedly) the Treo doesn’t support MP3-format
      ringtones. Which begs the question why they are offered on
      Sprint’s own service.
    • Despite
      all of Handspring’s subtle efforts, the fact is that the screen and
      keyboard are small for what they do. I noticed that I was getting a
      headache from focusing in on the Web browser screen on a half-hour
      commuter train ride.
    • As
      noted, integration of the five-way navigation pad isn’t
      universal. This should change as software vendors release
      updates.

All in all, as expected, the Treo 600 is the best smartphone on
the market today. It’s an excellent phone, a good PDA, a serviceable wireless
email and Web device, a decent cameraphone, and with the expansion
slot, your choice of an MP3 player, a WiFi/Bluetooth node, or a
location-aware GPS device. If you only want to carry one electronic device in your pocket or purse, the Treo is for you.

So, should you buy one? Well, it depends. It ain’t
cheap. You can get a Treo 270/300, which has about 80% of the
functionality (though much less of the cool factor), for $99 or less.
The Treo 600 weighs in at $449 with activation from Sprint, or $399 if
you upgrade from a previous model. If wireless email is essential to you, get a Blackberry. If you make tons of phone
calls and rarely use PDA features, you’re better off with a smaller
phone-only device. If the camera is what excites you, get a Palm
Zire 71. If you want to do lots of rich media stuff, get a Clie
or a PocketPC phone. The laws of physics mean there will never be One Device to Rule Them All.

Me? I wouldn’t want to carry anything else.

One comment on “First Thoughts on the Treo 600

  1. Deegs Jan 3,2005 11:24 pm

    I have used Palm for a long time. My enitre marketing databse is on palm, a true life saver at a trade show (but that anouther story).

    A few negative obervations:
    1. No address, note pad and a few other primary icons. Don’t understand why they didn’t put them in. Wouldn’t be that hard!

    2. No pop up grafiti area. I agree the keyboard works very well to my surprise but a screen write or something wouldn’t have been hard to put in.

    3. A biggie, no glass screen. I would of gladly taken the extra weight for the durability. Everything feels and looks VERY solid. Thought it was cheap not to put it on when you pay the big dollars for it.

    Positive comments:
    1. Thankly they didn’t put in a higher res screen. My girlffriend has a Tungten E. It has a better screen but it SUCKS the power. Screen is a higher res than my now old m515. Nice as my database screen still hold the same number of record lines.

    2. Use aps while on the phone, switch to speaker phone and talk at the same time. Bliss with my applications.

    3. Camera, I have been told with regular camera phones you can’t download the images to your pc without signing up on the picture plan. Doesn’t seem worth the money for me. Treo 600 automatically downloads the images to your pc. Very cool.

    4. Acts like a flash drive when connected to your computer. Get a big memory card and throw away your flash usb memory. A great selling feature I did not know it had till I brought it home.

    Final comments:

    Glad I waited till now to buy a plam phone. Everything I dreamed about and more. I do not use a data plan for surfin the net. Text messaging is fine alternative for the money. I use the database more than anything.

    Exceeded my expectations. If you use your palm and cell allot buy a treo 600. You will love it.

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