12 Oct Treo 700w solves my smart phone woes
Readers of this column are well acquainted with my dislike of Cingular’s 8125 smart phone and its implementation of Windows Mobile 5. I lay much of the responsibility for the poor design at the door of Cingular and its ODM partner, HTC. Windows Mobile 5 is what it is – a platform – and in its raw form provides only basic phone functionality to complement the PC-like applications.
So when a rep for Palm called and asked if I’d like to review the Treo 700w, I welcomed the opportunity to evaluate a different implementation of Windows Mobile 5. Or, as I said to the rep, “I hate my phone – I’d love to give something else a try.”
The 700w arrived a few days prior to DEMOfall, so I had no time to read documentation or spend configuring preferences. Instead, I forwarded my mobile number to the new device, plugged the synch cable into my PC, and hoped that the version of ActiveSync I’d already installed would find the Treo and copy my contacts to the new phone. It did, and I was off and running.
From a design perspective, the 700w has some advantages over the 8125. It’s lighter and more compact. While its screen isn’t quite as large as the 8125, the basic interface puts most important functions (like dialing) up front. The touch screen sensitivity and button layout also protect against the random dialing problem I have with the 8125, where jostling the phone in my bag or pocket selects and dials contacts at the top of my phone list. And the 700w’s speaker phone is actually good – not something you often find on mobile phones.
Ready to make the switch
Giving credit where it’s due, the 8125 keyboard is bigger and much easier to type on than the 700w keypad, which is less than half the size than that of the 8125. But because the keypad on the 700w is on the front of the phone (the 8125 hides its keypad under the sliding screen) it’s much simpler to do contact look-ups.
But the software implementation puts the 700w head and shoulders above the 8125. The device is smart about handling call logs, for example. It matches incoming caller ID against the phonebook and invites you to add a number to your contacts if it’s not found on the list. The pop up call log goes the extra step to surface all the phone numbers of recent callers, making it very easy to call back to a preferred number.
By contrast, the 8125 demands contortions and a few incantations in order to move a number off the call list and into your phone book, and it takes an extra step or two to look up the contact of a recent caller. To be fair, this silly design flaw is Microsoft’s, not Cingular/HTC’s. But Palm was clever enough to make modifications that corrected this bad design.
In fact, Palm has modified Windows Mobile 5 in several places to make basic tasks much less obscure than they are in Microsoft’s native implementation. For example, in the text message application, Palm added a menu item to look up recipients. In Microsoft’s native version, you access the contact list by clicking on the not obviously clickable “To” header.
After trying the 700w for two weeks, I’m ready to make the switch. While the 8125 may be a better device for those who rely regularly on mobile documents – yes, Sherry R., I mean you – the 700w far surpasses the 8125 for people who want a smart phone to be a phone first, and a Pocket PC second.
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