Friday, June 09, 2006


Treo 650 First Impressions

Work was giving me some hassles about using my work phone for personal calls, so I felt I needed to just get my own phone. I did a lot of research. I already knew about the Palm Treo 650 from checking out Lyndal's phone, but I still looked at all the competing smart phones from all the major providers, comparing total cost of ownership (price of phone plus monthly plan charges), features, etc.

I looked first at T-Mobile, because Kim's phone was already on T-Mobile. T-Mobile, if you're reading this, the primary reason you lost our account is because your sales people are idiots. Kim was already getting 1600 minutes for $40 a month. They would not let us keep her minutes, we would have had to pay more money to get a family plan with less than half the minutes. That's just stupid. So that turned me off to them right away. Then after comparing their smart phones to the Treo and others, I determined that they didn't fully offer what I wanted. The only phone they had that I would consider a valid competitor to the Treo was the T-Mobile MDA. The MDA had a better camera than the Treo 650, and a very nice touch-screen and hide-away qwerty keypad. So ergonomically the MDA was I think probably at least as good if not better than the Treo 650. It also has Wi-fi support which would have made for faster browsing in wi-fi enabled areas. It used a Microsoft OS, so I assume there would be plenty of software for it, however from what I could tell you had to buy through T-Mobile. I was already partial to the Treo's software suite. The MDA was quite a bit pricier, though, at $400 with 2 year agreement versus $300 which is what I paid for the Treo via sprint. I guess the real deal killer was they treated us like 2nd class citizens when we had been loyal customers since 1998 or so, and their new deal they were going to offer us was less attractive than Sprint, our minimum would have been $90/mo, for 700 shared minutes. So we'd have paid a lot more, for a lot less, and that just ticked me off. Plus they were going to charge us $70 per phone for setup fees. Way to reward loyalty, T-Mobile!

There was also a phone called the Nokia 9300. Ergonomically, this phone is a very cool, with a bar-phone look including a color screen on the outside, but you can open it sideways and it has a really cool, extra-wide screen and full qwerty keyboard. But reading about it, the phone used Symbian which I didn't know much about, and the deal killer for me was that the reviewers I read said it wasn't very responsive compared to their palm-based Treo's. I also wasn't sure what kind of software I could get with it. Plus I could only get this from Cingular. So I passed on it.

The cheapest plan by far, which is the bulk of my expense, was Sprint PCS. To get a shared minutes family plan with free mobile-to-mobile calls and free evenings and weekends starting at 7 pm, and unlimited data for the Treo, it was only $75 a month. The next cheapest plan was Cingular, who had a plan with a few more anytime minutes with Rollover, but their data cost was higher and as a result the total monthly from them with unlimited data for the Treo would have been $110 a month, and their nighttime didn't start until 9 pm. Verizon's web site wouldn't even let me pair a Treo 650 into a family plan at all, and their cheapest single-line, unlimited data monthly fee was starting at $105 a month, plus we'd have to get Kim a plan on top of that!

The Treo does a lot of cool stuff. I've been using it to read my Bloglines feeds, it can do email, sync with Outlook, and of course, run Palm software, which I haven't got any yet but will soon. The phone comes with a USB cable you can use to sync to a PC or you can use BlueTooth for that also if your PC supports it. I haven't tried syncing yet, am about to do that today. Looks like I will definitely need a memory card, however, to store applications and mp3's.

The screen on it is just awesome. Very visible, even during the day, and in the dark it's nice because the qwerty keyboard is backlit. I like the heft of the stylus, it's fairly large and heavy, which is nice for my big ass fingers. Using the stylus is nice for navigation, but when you need to type something it is a bit awkward to have to hold the stylus while "thumbing" out what you want to type. I'm sure I'll get used to it.

The one downside to this whole affair is that they sent me the 650 sans camera, and I wanted the camera model. After about two hours on the phone last night with their support, I should be getting a new one with the camera sent to me sometime next week. Then I can ship them back the old one in a return box they are sending to me. I'll post again when I have tried more software for it, including... games!

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