Recently my dad?s company bought several of their employees Dopod 838 Pro mobile phones (based on Judie?s review actually :-D). His device arrived at the office a few days ago, but he is in Vietnam for work, so one of his colleagues dropped it off. For the last 3 days I have been using it instead of my Treo, to see if I made the right choice months ago. I have come to a somewhat mixed decision based on several things that I?d like to describe below. My basis for these ?ratings? is that I like a device that functions well as both a phone and PDA.
First up is the design. The Treo simply is amazing in this department. Starting with the Treo 600, Palm had a winner. For years I had considered getting a Treo, but going back to Palm OS after using Windows Mobile for so long turned me off. When I think of the Palm OS, I think of simplicity. When I think of Windows Mobile I think of expandability. If I were to give a PDA phone to my mum I would seriously consider the Treo 680, but for me (and recently my dad) I think Windows Mobile is the way to go.
I was very happy when Palm released the Treo 750 with Windows Mobile and UMTS, as I could finally jump on the Treo bandwagon. They always looked comfortable to use, and playing with one a few times in shops gave that impression, but in every day use it is just brilliant. Everything is laid out perfectly and within thumbs’ reach. The Treo takes ?thumboard? to a whole new level, allowing all of the controls on the face of the device to be pressed easily with the thumb of the hand that is holding the device, but it is even easier and faster to use with two hands (and thumbs) because it is easily possible to type out messages using only one hand, the Treo already starts at a big step ahead of the Hermes. There is simply no way to enter data with a single hand on the Hermes out of the box, as the T9 input panel which was included in several previous HTC devices (my Wizard had it and it was good) is no longer included (although can be found on xda-dev). Even then it doesn?t match the Treo in this area.
While the Treo sits perfectly in the hand, it is also further aided by the rubberised casing. Not once have I feared that the 750 would slip from my hands, but every time I tried to go one-handed with the Hermes I was hesitant, as to do so meant holding the Hermes at it’s bottom, furthering the chance of dropping it. As you can see the Hermes doesn’t have that nice curve.
The lack of thumboard on the front of the device does give the Hermes the advantage in screen real estate. While the 750 packs in a square 240×240 display, the Hermes packs a more standard 240×320 display. When I bought the 750 I was using a Nokia N73, so I didn’t realise the difference that the extra 80 pixels make. Using the Hermes felt like it had a huge screen; and for my standard use (email and web surfing) it felt great!! Going back to the 750 wasn’t too bad, but I do miss that extra screen.
In my normal usage (Internet Explorer, FlexMail, Windows Live Messenger, SMS, Calendar all open) performance on both devices is quite good. I didn’t really notice much if any difference in this regard between the two. Switching between applications was fine too, with maybe a second’s delay.
The Hermes edges out the Treo 750 in terms of connectivity by having WiFi (802.11b/g) builtin. I expected to miss having WiFi on the Treo, but soon after buying it I wasn?t missing it at all. I have always found WiFi to be a somewhat painful experience on Pocket PC Phones (not so however on my imate SP5, the first WM Smartphone with WiFi) with the connection dropping whenever the device would go into standby. I only turned the WiFi on once and my previous annoyances returned. These days I have a data plan on my phone account so WiFi really doesn?t do anything for me; I couldn’t care less if my next phone had WiFi.
I?m sure a major reason that you are considering either the Treo 750 (or other Treo models) or the Hermes is because of the integrated keyboards, or more appropriately ?thumboards?. I loved having the thumboard on my imate K-JAM, and I sorely missed it when I bought the imate SP5. I think they make such a huge difference if you have any interest in entering more than small amounts of data into your device. Unfortunately I only had the Hermes for a few days so I wasn?t able to totally adjust to the different thumboard, but in my 3 days of testing I was still faster going back to my Treo 750. I was surprised that I wasn?t faster on the Hermes due to the larger keys, which I expected would be easier to press. I actually found it to be the exact opposite. I found the Hermes keyboard slightly harder to use because the keys were so spaced out. What would really slow me down is when typing keys towards the centre of the keyboard. My thumbs just couldn?t decide quickly enough who should go for it.
The Treo keyboard, while smaller, simply feels easier to use, but I?m not exactly sure why. It is definitely more cramped, but still is great to type on. This assessment may have changed if I had had the Hermes for longer, but I still think they would have been neck and neck in the area.
BUT, the biggest advatage to the Treo keyboard comes into play when you are trying to type with one hand. Simply put, it is impossible to type one-handed with the Hermes keyboard. The keyboard is far to wide, and holding the device while trying to type with only one hand will very likely see the device heading for the pavement.
While nowhere nearly as fast as typing with two thumbs, it is quite easy to typing with just one, leaving your other hand free to carry a bag or something. I think some SMS addicts could beat one handed typing on the Treo with T9, but at least you can do it. Out of the box there is no one-handed method of entering data into the Hermes. Even just to fire of a couple of words in an SMS message requires two hands.
The Hermes does have something that I missed from my Sony Ericsson M600i, and that?s the scroll wheel. It is similar to the ones you see on Blackberry?s, but its usage and implementation are greatly under-utilised. While great for scrolling through lists or web pages, it is not terribly useful for navigation. Of course you can scroll through menus with it, but it is hard to use it one-handed. I would forever be readjusting the phone in my hand so that I could push other buttons, and then adjusting again to use the scroll wheel. The OK button just below the wheel helps, but it is hard to press either the Start Menu button or soft-keys, obviously limiting its usage.
The Hermes uses a standard miniUSB connector as opposed to the “Universal Connector” that the Treo uses. I love devices that use the miniUSB connector, as I have stacks of those cables around, and they are all interchangeable. Need another sync cable? Just grab one from the draw, share one with another device like a card reader, or pick one up cheap from most computer stores. With my Treo I only have the one charge/sync cable that I bought off eBay. Come on Palm, dump that silly connector (for that matter every company should dump these proprietary connectors) and join the miniUSB crowd!
Call quality on both phones is excellent. I chatted with several people on the Hermes, and it sounded just as good as my Treo, and talking to my dad with my Treo to his Hermes sounded great too. But we have both hit a wall with regards to our Bluetooth car-kits. We both have Nokia CK-1W Bluetooth car-kits installed in our cars (obviously), and he has always said that I sound crackly and broken up when I use it. This happened both before and after he got the Hermes (he was using a Nokia N70 previously). It also happens if just one of use is on the car-kit, and the other on the handset. I have been looking for some explaination of fix, but so far I haven?t found anything. Has anyone else had these kinds of problems with Nokia Bluetooth Car-Kits and Windows Mobile Phones?
The camera on the Hermes is definitely superior to the Treo camera. Not only does it have the macro mode (which is actually useful) but it takes reasonable shots. I wouldn’t want to do any more than MMS photos from my Treo, as they are pretty bad. The camera interface on the Hermes is pretty slick too!!
Now for stability, and as Judie can confirm I had been having some ?problems? recently (thanks for listening to my rants Judie!). For the three days that I had to Hermes it didn?t lockup, slow down, drop calls or do anything else unusual. It was great. Quite a change from my recent Treo problems. Dropped calls, lockups when trying to end calls, inability to connect to GPRS/UMTS, dropped GPRS/UMTS connections (in excellent signal areas, not swapping between GSM/UMTS networks), random freezing, slow resume from standby, and extremely poor battery performance are the main issues I have had with my Treo 750. What really annoys me is I love this phone, it is a brilliant design and looks great. But these problems are KILLING ME!!! I can?t remember how many hard resets I have performed over the last few weeks, but it has been at least three or four. With my daily commute to and from university, I use my Treo for about 45mins on the train to uni, for about 1hr at uni, and then about 45mins on the way home. My Treo is typically dead before I get on the train home, or throwing up warnings every 10 seconds that it is going to die very, very, very soon. Starting usage at 7:30am, and having it dead at 1pm really isn?t very encouraging. I am going to try using it with absolutely nothing on it and see if this problem continues.
So which device would I choose? Well after the last paragraph it would seem my mind is made up, but I am kind of on the fence. The Hermes has the nice big screen while the Treo has the better design. The Treo also scores major points in regards to Palm?s usability enhancements, that for me went partially unnoticed until I was without them on the Hermes. Things like the today screen dialer with contact search instead of a useless additional screen, threaded SMS (this gets mentioned a lot and rightfully so, it’s great!!), and the excellent one-handed usability really make the Treo a winner. I haven’t read about a lot of people having the problems I am having, so I may just have a buggy piece of software or something that I need to weed out (I will update on this if I discover the culprit).
Which is a better PDA? The Treo is an excellent PDA (as are more Windows Mobile devices), but the Hermes larger screen gives it the advantage of being able to display more on the screen, and feel less cluttered. The Treo really should have had a 480×480 screen (or even 320×320), as 240×240 really is small considering the high resolution of many of today?s feature phones, and the relative bulkiness of the start/notification bar and the soft-keys.
Which is the better phone? The Hermes is a good phone, but not as good as the Treo from a usablility perspective. Doing away with the standard phone screen and integrating everything into the today screen was an excellent idea, and simplifies using the Treo as a phone. While not technically a ?Smartphone? as Palm calls it, it can definitely compete in that space as it is almost as good as a Smartphone when it comes to using just the buttons for one handed navigation. The Hermes design falters here as it is awkward and rather dangerous to use it one handed, as the grip on the phone just isn?t there. But that?s not HTC?s fault, the traditional PDA Phone design just isn?t meant for true one handed operation in my opinion. Two hands without the stylus: yes.