Palm Treo 700p review

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Palm Treo 700p review

Palm Treo 700pPalm's Treo 700p, the heavily anticipated successor to the popular Palm Treo 650, launched on Monday. Speculation and rumors has surrounded the Palm Treo 700p as far as which features it would and would not support. For instance, speculation was running rampant as far as whether Sprint or Verizon would be the exclusive carrier or if both would support it. Let me put one bit of speculation to rest - both Sprint and Verizon will carry the Treo 700p. I spoke with Palm on a conference call on May 9th to learn about the specs and features of the Palm Treo 700p. I plan on acquiring a Palm Treo 700p for a full-fledged review, so this is mini-review analyzing the features Palm told me about, along with some photos I acquired.

The Treo 700p runs on the Palm operating system unlike its sister the Palm Treo 700w which runs on Windows Mobille 5. This is music to the ears of Palm-based Treo loyalists that were dreading having to switch to the Treo's Windows Mobile version (700w). The Windows-based Palm 700w is already out, making the wait for the Palm-based Treo fans excruciatingly long. While the wait is over, one highly anticipated feature was not included, namely GSM support, the prevalent standard used by most countries except the U.S.  Fear not Treo fans - when asked about GSM support in the future, Palm replied "So the answer to that question is we don't talk about future products. [nervous laughter]" They didn't outright deny they were working on it, so there is still hope, but GSM users will have to wait..

What the Treo 700p does support is EvDO, a standard that supports from 400Kbps-700Kbps data transfer speeds and the Treo 700p is backwards compatible with 1xRTT. Of course Sprint is still mostly on CDMA2000 1xRTT which has a maximum speed of only 144Kbps. Sprint is migrating to EvDO and they have some coverage, but not nearly as widespread as Verizon's coverage at the moment.

Update: A reader points out that Sprint leads Verizon in EvDO coverage 113 Sprint EvDO cities to just 63 cities for Verizon. Wow, Verizon was first out of the gate to offer EvDO but now trails Sprint by ½ the number of cities? Who knew?

Update 2: Another reader points out that the CNet info I linked to & sourced is out of date and that Sprint now has 220 cities and Verizon has 180 cities. Guess they're a bit closer to each other now coverage-wise, but I'm still surprised Sprint took the lead considering Verizon had the early start on EvDO.

Ironically, the Palm conference call utilized the Windows Live online presentation system. There is something sadistically wrong with that. You won't catch Apple giving a briefing on Windows Live! In any event, the new Treo 700p has a 312MHz processor, Palm OS 5.4.9, EV-DO, 1.3 megapixel digital camera, a 320 x 320 pixel display, and Bluetooth 1.2. Too tell you the truth, I'm a bit disappointed they used the same 312MHz speed processor on the 700p as the Treo 650. I'd gladly sacrifice a little bit of battery life for a speedier Treo. Speaking of battery life, the Treo 700p has 4.5 hour talk time (30 minutes less than Treo 650) and 12 days standby (1/2 day less than Treo 650).

One nice advantage of the Treo 700p vs. the Windows-based Treo 700w is that the Treo 700p supports the larger 320x320 resolution. This is a better resolution than Windows Mobile 5.0 phones, which currently only support 240x240. Though I should mention the Windows Mobile OS will support 480x480 when the cost of these screens goes down. The Treo 700w, based on Windows Mobile 5.0 is of course 240x240.

The form factor is essentially the same as the Palm Treo 700w which is based on Windows Mobile. So from a hardware perspective these two products are nearly identical. Really the big difference between them is that the Palm OS of this product supports up to 320x320 high-resolution screen which Palm claims "makes pictures and videos pop out at you". Also the button layout is slightly different on the Palm OS-based product.

Treo 700p appsTreo 700p supports DUN
You can use the 700p as a Dial-Up Networking adaptor. Using a USB cable to your laptop or Bluetooth connectivity, you can have high-speed browsing using your "unlimited EvDO data plan".  This way you can avoid hotel or hotspot charges. Verizon  blocked the dial-up networking capability on the Treo 700w causing a huge customer uproar. Verizon claimed it wasn't compatible with their equipment (uh huh) but that they planned on supporting DUN mid-year. This meant subscribers who bought the Treo 700w and a $50 monthly subscription for EvDO service on that device must also purchase a second subscription for $60 monthly, plus an EvDO card to access the Internet using a laptop.

Fortunately, Verizon has decided to support DUN on the Treo 700p. My guess is Verizon decided to support DUN on the Treo 700p or risk losing customers to Sprint who has never blocked Bluetooth DUN. Of course, as previously mentioned, Sprint's data connection maxes out at 144Kbps since they just recently started adding EvDO nationwide in select metro areas, so Verizon would still be my carrier of choice should I buy a Treo 700w.

I should mention that the nice thing about using the USB cable for DUN is that it features a 500mA trickle charger so your Treo doesn't lose juice and in fact charges while connected over USB (albeit slowly).

One great thing about EvDO on CDMA networks is you don't have to worry about missing calls. The Treo 700p will suspend the data session, the call will come through and then you can resume the data connection. This is especially important if using the DUN feature for an extended period of time and you don't want to miss any calls.

Palm Treo 750p Ignore Text

Palm Treo 700p Ignore Text Feature

Another nice usability feature is that if an incoming call comes in, you can see who is calling and then click the "Ignore with Text" button which will send them to voicemail but simultaneously pre-popular an SMS message with their phone number and type out a quick message such as "I'm busy right now, will call you back in 10 min." (see screenshot)

Palm added more feature-rich ringtones that allows you to assign ringtones not to just contacts in your favorites list, but to any contact in your address book. You can even assign a ringtone to a "category" if you have organized your contacts into categories.

Multimedia Features
The Treo 700p can send photos on the fly – no need to switch from the camera to the MMS or email application. You can also associate a photo to a contact directly from an album so the person's photo displays on an incoming call. While displaying a slideshow, you can add music or a voice recording and transitions to the slideshow.

The Treo 700p comes with its own multimedia application that supports both streaming audio and video called Pocket Tunes. The Treo 700p sports a new Pocket Tunes UI from Normsoft, however you will have to pay for an upgrade to Pocket Tunes Deluxe for "licensed" WMA/PlaysForSuresupport. Of course, the most interesting multimedia feature is support for streaming audio and video (Windows Media Player format including MPEG4, H.264, and others) which the Treo 650 lacked. Although I should point out that there are third-party video players for the Treo 650 such as the Core Pocket Media Player (TCPMP) The Core Pocket Media Player (TCPMP), but even this video player doesn't do streaming as far as I know. No word on whether the Treo 700p dropped the RealPlayer "lite" version included with the Treo 650, but there was no mention of it during my conference call.

Treo 700p Features:
    General Features
  • Palm OS platform
  • 128MB memory total, 60MB nonvolatile memory available to user
  • Battery: Removable, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, 4.5 hours talk time, 300 hours standby
  • Expansion: MultiMediaCard/SD/SDIO card slot
  • Display: 320 x 320 color touchscreen with support for 65,536 colors
  • Keyboard: Built-in backlit QWERTY keyboard, plus 5-way navigator
  • Dimensions: 4.4" x 2.3" x 0.9" (111 mm x 58 mm x 22.5 mm)
  • Weight: 6.4 ounces (180 g)
    Phone Features
  • Personal speakerphone, Hands-free headset jack, Microphone mute option, TTY/TDD compatibility, 3-way calling
  • Processor: Intel XScale 312MHz
  • CDMA 800/1900 MHz digital dual-band EvDO and 1xRTT

    Internet access
  • Wireless access to Outlook email
  • Wireless access to AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo! email
  • Fast mobile web browser
  • Functions as a high-speed modem for your laptop Dial-Up Networking (DUN)

    PDA Features
  • Integrated Contacts and Calendar
  • Create, edit, and view native Word and Excel files
  • View native PowerPoint and PDF documents
  • Support for 2GB SD cards, possibly 4GB SD (still testing)

    Multimedia features
  • 1.3 megapixel digital camera also captures video
  • Still image capture resolution 1280 x 1024, 2x digital zoom, Video capture resolution 352 x 288, Automatic light balance (non-camera version also available)
  • Plays music, pictures, and video
  • Built-in Bluetooth 1.2 wireless technology and Infrared (IR)
Enhanced Messaging and Email
Palm made some UI improvements to MMS and improved addressing for SMS and MMS. More importantly it can connect to Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange ActiveSync includes contact sync for keeping your Outlook email client contacts in sync with the Treo. It has out-of-the-box support for Yahoo!, AOL, and Gmail and includes VersaMail 3.5. They've also added improved Smart Addressing which remembers recently used email addresses, a sort button on main inbox page, and improved Scrolling – simply press and hold down button to page-scroll.

It is important to note that even with the Windows-based Treo, Palm stressed their commitment to the Palm operating system. According to Steve Sinclair, Senior Product Manager for the Treo, "It’s really important for people to understand that Palm is a company that has a very strong relationship with PalmSource and plans to support the Palm OS and this (Palm 700p) and is evidence of that. That we continue to work on Palm-OS-based products and the Palm OS platform has such a strong installed base and the expectations of that installed base that we continue to innovate on usability and simplicity for our products." Steve Sinclair added, "But we want to make sure that people understand our commitment to the Palm OS. Our message at Palm is one of choice. Some people prefer Palm OS and some that have an affinity for Windows Mobile and we can offer both of those. We can put the Palm name it because we have the ability to innovative on top of both of those and make sure that they have our signature usability built into the product."

They pointed out their market growth and loyal customer support for the Palm operating system as reasons to continue to support the Palm operating system. In fact, according to a 2005 Canalys report, Palm's year-over-year smartphone growth from 2004 to 2005 was 111%. Their market share in 2004 was 26% and in 2005 grey to 33% or one-third of the smartphone market. The overall smartphone growth was 65%, however RIM, a Palm competitor saw its market share dip from 57% to 53%.

Shockingly, it does not support the WiFi card and it does not have WiFi embedded. By all appearances, WiFi is "blocked" on the device. Palm tap-danced around the issue by stating that it wasn't worth the hit to battery life to operate two radios (cellular + WiFi). I inquired about VoIP, such as supporting the Skype client and Palm replied, "That's related to the WiFi question. Because we're not supporting WiFi, we're not supporting VoIP. It's not to say it's not something we wouldn't look into in the future. Usability and being able to use your phone at the end of the day is probably the most important thing we consider." Bummer. But this doesn't preclude a third-party from developing a VoIP application for the Treo. Alas, the most popular VoIP client, Skype, has no plans to support the Palm operating system.

With the 700w, if you combine it with Exchange SP2 you you get additional administrative security features, such as remotely wiping a phone. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell the 700p doesn't support the IT administrative features.

  • Finally added streaming support with built-in streaming application
  • First all-in-one Treo smartphone with EvDO and Palm OS
  • First Treo to support PDF format natively
  • 320 x 320 color touch-screen (better resolution than Windows Mobile 5.0 phones which currently only support 240x240, but will support 480x480 when the cost of these screens goes down) (Note: Treo 700w, based on Windows Mobile 5.0 is 240x240)
  • Supports Bluetooth and USB DUN (Dial Up Networking). Note: the Treo 700w doesn't support Bluetooth DUN.
  • Better compatibility with Macintosh OS vs. the Windows Mobile version
  • works with 2GB cards but they said they are only "testing with 4GB SD cards". Hopefully, their tests go well.
  • No GSM support. When asked, they wouldn't comment on future GSM plans.
  • Kept same 312Mhz Intel XScale processor. They should have went with the newer Intel PXA27x XScale processor which can be clocked as high as 624Mhz.
  • So Skype support or plans for a VoIP client. (Skype runs on Windows Mobile)
  • No WiFi support
  • No EVDO Revision A support and will not be upgradeable to this new high-speed spec
  • Cannot use voice dialing via Bluetooth headset.
  • No built-in VoIP support
It's worth pointing out that the Treo 650 (Palm-based) was plagued with stability problems and many reboots, so let's hope the Palm 700w with its newly updated Palm OS 5.4.9 Garnet operating system solves most of those issues. I like the additional memory on the Treo 700p and the streaming audio & video support, as well as the added EvDO and PDF support. In some ways the Treo 700p looks more like an incremental upgrade to the Treo 650, especially since they are using the same speed 312 Mhz XScale processor (though slightly tweaked to run faster with less battery consumption). However, Treo fans will certainly love the new multimedia capabilities which will quiet the Windows Mobile users that taunted this as a key advantage over the Treo. Add in the fact that the Treo 700p supports EvDO there is no doubt that Palm will sell many Treo 700p's in the near future.

Pricing: Pricing will be announced later by Sprint and Verizon.

For Amazon pricing and reviews on the Treo 700/750, click here.

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