During the spring of 2007, when I was still a 700wx user and a Sprint customer, I was more excited by the rumors of a possible “Palm 800″ than I was about any other upcoming Windows Mobile device. Some of the reasons for my anticipation included that the Palm Treo candybar with front keyboard has always been one of my favorite form factors; Palm seems to be the single most adept OEM at utilizing the WM OS without speed sacrifices; the 800w was supposed to be the first Treo with WiFi; it would have a better (2 megapixel, anyway) camera; it would include A2DP Bluetooth (for wireless stereo listening); it would have an updated form factor without sacrificing a tried and true design; and the 800w would finally have the (long denied to WM users) 320 x 320 high resolution touchscreen.
If all of these features actually made it into a Windows Mobile Treo, then I would have been the first to deem that particular Treo as a WM device too delicious to miss.
But fall 2007 came and went, and there was no new Treo; winter 2007 and Spring 2008 came and went, and there was still no new Treo. We did see the introduction of the Palm OS Centro in the US and the WM Standard OS Palm 500 overseas.
Finally the news came that the Treo 800w was coming soon, but by then I was no longer a Sprint customer (too many dropped calls), and I had long moved on from the Treo to other PDA phones and finally to a Vertu Constellation. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t still get excited at the prospect of trying out the new 800w, and so when it was offered I was quick to say yes please!
If you missed my unboxing post where I gave a description of the 800w’s hardware and mentioned my initial thoughts, then click here to read it and then come back; as always, I’ll be waiting patiently.
In this portion of the review we’ll cover my user experience, the 800w’s camera, and I’ll give a rundown of some of the included software. Let’s get started…
Using the 800w
One of the first things which impressed me about the Treo 800w was that even though the device’s design had obviously been updated, Palm still kept things true to the classic Treo styling which I have long found well suited for one-handed use. If anything, I found the new cluster and soft key button placement to be even more convenient than before, as well as more attractive. The Treo’s slate blue plastic body is finished with a soft-touch coating, which keeps the case from showing fingerprints and also helps the user keep a firm grip on their device. The device’s build is extremely solid; squeezing and slightly torquing the 800w does not yield any squeaking or creaking.
The hard plastic keys on the thumbboard have excellent tactile feedback, and the keys are spaced so that users with fatter fingers will have no problem entering accurate information. I was pleased to see that even though it was over a year since I had used a WM Treo, I picked up the keyboard placement and rhythm very quickly.
This Treo ditches the old Palm multiconnector in favor of microUSB; this will mean ditching all of your old accessory cables from before, but the upside is that the microUSB is a semi-standard connector, and it is quickly becoming as or more common than miniUSB. Another potential negative is that this microUSB sync/charge port is also the headset port; there is no 2.5mm or 3.5mm headset jack. The good news is that because the Treo 800w has A2DP, you will be able to wirelessly stream music or calls over a stereo Bluetooth headset.
The microSD card slot is accessed by removing the battery door, and since I had placed an 8GB card in the slot, I never needed to remove it. Those who use multiple cards and those with smaller cards who swap often will likely gripe about this “feature”. [Update: there is just enough room to wedge a fingernail under the side of the microSD door for opening without removing the battery door.] Almost as annoying is the fact that there is no reset button; resetting the device is done by removing the battery door and flipping the battery up so that the contacts are no longer touching. While this does give a sleeker case appearance, making both of these features rely on the removal of the battery door is bothersome.
The button with the dot on it is user assignable; it can perform up to two commands, recalled by a quick tap or by pressing and holding.
I really enjoyed the convenience of the WiFi button on the top; Pressing it once turned on the WiFi radio and called up the WM “Configure Wireless Networks” screen, showing all available access points. Getting on my home network couldn’t have been easier, and when I was ready to disconnect, it was simply a matter of pressing and holding the button again. One of the “Hot Treo 800w Tips” that came in my review kit was that you could improve battery life by enabling the Power Save Mode in the WiFi settings.
I have read that it is not possible to charge the 800w with the USB/micro USB cable, but I beg to differ. It is a bit slower than I would like, but I have managed to completely charge the Treo from completely dead to a full charge, multiple times during my testing via this method. In fact, I never even unpacked the AC Charging cable.
Display – 320×320 pixel transflective color TFT touchscreen, supports 16-bit color (65K colors)
Radio – Qualcomm MSM6800A chipset supporting EvDO Rev A and mobile receive diversity
Wi-Fi – 802.11b/g, 802.1x (EAP-PEAP, EAP-TLS and EAP-TTLS)
GPS – Built-in GPS (standalone and assisted); Sprint NavigationSM; GPS-powered local search, maps, and navigation from the Today screen
Platform – Microsoft® Windows Mobile® 6.1 Professional Edition
Bluetooth® Wireless Technology - Version: 2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate Profiles: GAP (General Access Profile), GOEP (General Object Exchange Profile), SPP (Serial Port Profile), HSP (Headset Profile), HFP 1.5 (Hands Free Profile), ActiveSync® Profile, PBAP (Phonebook Access Profile), PAN (Personal Area Networking), BPP (Basic Printing Profile), stereo audio streaming (A2DP, GAVDP, AVRCP)
Memory – 256MB user memory (approximately 170MB available user memory), 128MB program memory
Camera – 2.0 megapixels (1600×1200) with 2x digital zoom and video capture
Battery – Removable 1150 mAh lithium-ion; up to 4.5 hours talk time or up to 200 hours standby time
Expansion – microSD/microSDHC cards (up to 8GB supported)
Connector – MicroUSB™ 2.0
As a straight-up phone, the 800w performs just as past Treos have; which is to say quite well. In all honesty, this is the phone that I would choose if I were to pick a WM device to return to. However I just can’t get past the fact that they are currently only offered through Sprint. Perhaps in a few months, after the new has worn off, AT&T will be offering their own version…in fashionable colors, of course.
Battery life was a little bit better than expected, the 800w is advertised as getting 4.5 hours of talk time, I found that in real-word usage that basically translated to me being able to make it through most of the day’s calls, texts, emails and a limited bit of instant messaging. The battery is not as large as I would like to see, however. At 1150mAh it can crap out pretty quickly, especially if you are using WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and oh boy…Exchange. If you are using all of the above, I think you would be lucky to get two hours…maybe.
As for standby time, Palm says 200 hours, but I beg to differ. It’s more like 36 hours before you start hearing the low battery warning tone. It’s never common for me to let my main device go that long without charging, so this isn’t a deal-breaker. I really think that a battery with a minimum capacity of 1500mAh would have been much more preferable, but I realize that Palm probably went with a smaller battery because they wanted to keep the Treo as thin as possible. Ah well; as long as you are careful, use the WiFi power saver feature, turn off any radios that aren’t needed, then you should be okay…but maybe you should also bring a charging cable, just in case.
The camera is meh at best; it’s better than the 1.3 megapixel Treo cameras of yore, but it isn’t as good as the iPhone’s 2 megapixel. Oh well. Here is a picture taken in broad daylight of a stock tank/swimming pool from across Kevin’s backyard. I think it looks pretty pretty darn washed out and unremarkable…
Here is a “macro” picture taken from at close range; once again, pretty darn meh.
A quick note about the stylus: Yeah, it’s thin; yeah, it’s plastic; yeah, it could be better…but guess what? The Treo is so capable and easy to use one-handed that the one and only time I ever felt the need to tap the touchscreen, it was with my FINGER. The stylus is lame, but get over it; you shouldn’t need it after a little bit of D-pad navigation practice.
Software that comes pre-installed on the 800w:
Check out the gallery of screen shots directly after this section…
Calculator – Same old calculator we have been seeing for years; nothing new here…move along.
Camera – Yeah. See above.
Internet Sharing – Allows you to tether your Treo to a laptop and…share the internet. Works pretty well, great if you have EVDO and no wireless card.
Bubble Breaker – This one is pretty fun…
Solitaire – There are no WM devices that ship without this, to the best of my knowledge. Is this really Bill G.’s favorite game?
Astraware Sudoku – I love this game! I can’t believe that they included it for free on the Treo.
Aces Texas Hold’em – Practice your Casino moves…
Maps – Allows you to find addresses or businesses from the search page; works very well with the Treo’s built-in GPS
Messaging – It’s threaded! Yay!
Microsoft® ActiveSync – Yep; it’s still available for anyone who hasn’t upgraded to Vista.
Microsoft® Internet Explorer® Mobile – It still works better with sites optimized for mobile browsing.
Microsoft® Live Search – Allows you to do internet searches from the Today screen suing the Windows Live search engine.
Microsoft Office Suite - includes Notes, Outlook® Mobile, Excel® Mobile, PowerPoint® Mobile, Word Mobile, and OneNote Mobile…but NO Outlook! What is up with that?
Microsoft® Windows Live - Mobile versions of Windows Live Mail and Messenger.
Pics and Video – Allows you to see all of your picture and video media in one easy viewing center.
Picsel PDF Viewer – As the name implies, it is a PDF viewer… As anyone who has ever tried reading a PDF on a 2.5″ screen will tell you, it is doable, but not much fun.
Quick Tour – Shows you around the Treo; it’s great for newbies.
Sprint Navigation – The pay service for Sprint GPS with maps and voice prompts; it’s TeleNav, and it works well.
Sprint TVSM - Hey! You can watch Hanna Montana on here! I suspect that there will be many a pre-teen asking mom (or dad) to pass the Treo to the backseat. It’s pretty sketchy in 1X areas, but in an EVDO area it should stream fairly nicely.
Sprite Backup – Another full version of third party software included for free; nice! This one allows you to back your Treo up, in case of a hard crash. Not that those ever happen…right?
Windows Media® Player Mobile – It’s version 10.3, and it will list every navigation voice prompt as an available media file.
I’ve got to tell you that the 800w really did impress me on many levels. If it were available in a GSM version today, then I would pick one up. I absolutely love the keyboard, the brighter and tighter screen, the higher memory capacity, and the snappy performance. I coud live without the lower capacity battery and the microUSB connector, and the camera could definitely use a dose of B12 – it is that anemic. Even so, this is the Windows Mobile device that I want, implemented in the most productive way I think a Windows Mobile device can be implemented. Without getting off too much on a side rant, let me simply say that:
1. The Palm 800w is not meant to compete with the Apple iPhone
2. The Palm 800w is not meant to replace your iPod
3. The Palm 800w is not meant to wow you with slick graphics and smexxy web browsing
However, the Palm 800w will:
1. Wow you with its amazing one-handed navigational skills and excellent keyboard
2. Allow you to be more connected that you possibly want to be, through the use of Exchange, Instant Messaging, Email, Texts, Voice, and Internet Sharing
3. Remind you of the things you like about the Windows Mobile Operating System, while providing a surprisingly stable experience
If you can get past the fact that the Treo 800w is not an iPhone and it is not trying to be an iPhone replacement, then you will find yourself enjoying all that it is capable of doing. Do I want one? Yes. But not enough to go back to Sprint…
The Sprint Palm 800w Windows Mobile Phone is available directly from Sprint.
MSRP: $249 (after rebates and service agreement); $599.99 without plan
What I Like: Updated styling while retaining the classic and comfortable Treo form factor; the addition of WiFi and its dedicated on/off button; high resolution screen (finally); GPS; A2DP Bluetooth enabled; includes several full versions of premium software titles
What Needs Improvement: Resetting does, and microSD access may require removing the battery door; no 3.5mm jack, it’s microSD dependant (ick); only available on Sprint…one can only hope that it will soon be available to GSM customers; battery is a bit anemic; camera is meh, at best