Palm Treo smartphones have always had plenty of features, but support for Wi-Fi and built-in GPS navigation systems weren't among them. Not anymore. The new Palm Treo 800w smartphone, now available from Sprint, is the first Treo to ship with integrated GPS and Wi-Fi support.
With all of the buzz surrounding Apple's new iPhone 3G, it easy to overlook a solid contender like the new Palm Treo smartphone. But shoppers--especially those looking for a smartphone with strong business features--should take note of the Palm Treo 800w.
The Treo 800w sports a nice-looking, soft-touch midnight blue case that's comfortable to hold in your hand. The 2.5-inch touch screen and the full QWERTY keyboard on the front of the phone are separated by the navigation controls, including the send and end buttons.
PROS: The touch screen is easy to use, especially with the included stylus. With a 320-by-320 resolution, the display looks sharp, and colors look bright. Overall, the Treo 800w is a handsome phone, with a nicely rounded shape. It's much more modern looking than past Treos--especially those with the stubby external antenna.
CONS: The keyboard can be hard to use; I found the keys stiff and often slippery, making it harder to press them than I expected. At 2.5 inches (diagonally), the screen is decently sized, but not when compared to the generous 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone. The tradeoff, of course, is that you get the hardware keyboard, which many typists will prefer to the iPhone's on-screen keyboard.
PROS: Voice quality was, for the most part, very good. Callers said I sounded good and vice-versa. Sprint says the phone will offer 4.5 hours of talk time; that's not exceptional, but it's about average for a 3G smartphone.
CONS: The Treo 800w weighs a full 5 ounces. It's not especially heavy, but it can feel that way if you're conducting a lengthy conversation. It also feels slightly bulky when held next to your ear.
Browsing the Web
PROS: The Treo 800w offers a choice of high-speed connectivity options: Wi-Fi or Sprint's 3G EV-DO Rev A network. Setting up your Wi-Fi connection is a snap; the 800w even includes a button (albeit a minuscule one) on the top of the phone that allows you quick access to your Wi-Fi settings. The included browser is Internet Explorer mobile; this is a full HTML browser that is light years ahead of some of the proprietary browsers found on competing smartphones.
CONS: Internet Explorer mobile is designed to replicate a desktop experience on your smartphone, but it doesn't. It does a satisfactory job of letting you surf the Web on the go, but it just can't compete with the mobile version of Safari that the iPhone runs.
PROS: The 800w handles most messaging tasks like a champ. It supports POP3, IMAP and Web-based e-mail accounts. Setup is a snap; the phone recognizes most common e-mail accounts and handles the behind-the-scenes work for you. The 800w includes Sprint's instant messaging application, which allows you to connect to AOL's AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger. It also includes a basic text messaging app that's easy to use.
CONS: The only disappointment I had with the Treo 800w's messaging features was its handling of multiple e-mail accounts. The first account I added to the phone appeared on the Today screen, making it easy to access. I couldn't, however, figure out how to easily add another e-mail account to that screen. That meant that if I wanted to access my second account, I had to dig through the phone's menus to do so.
PROS: The Treo 800w runs version 6.1 of Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system, so its look and feel will be at least somewhat familiar to anyone who runs Windows on their computer. I have to admit that I've found some Windows Mobile-based smartphones a bit daunting in the past; they're not always easy to use right out of the box. But this latest version of the OS is a bit easier to use than past version.The Treo 800w also features the mobile version of Microsoft's Office suite, so you get Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, OneNote Mobile, and PowerPoint Mobile on your phone. This lets you access, create, and edit files and documents while away from your desk.
CONS: While Windows Mobile 6.1 feels more user-friendly than past versions of the OS, it still takes some time to get used to. If you've never used this operating system before, plan on spending some time learning your way around it.
PROS: You might be surprised at just how many multimedia tools this business phone features. For starters, it includes the mobile version of Windows Media Player, which lets you play back audio and video files. It also includes a serviceable 2-megapixel camera that captures still photos and videos. Several of Sprint's terrific multimedia features are available on the Treo 800w, too, including Sprint TV and Sprint Navigation for turn-by-turn directions.
CONS: The snapshots I took were slightly dim and looked washed out. Also, the Treo 800w doesn't include access to a music store that offers over-the-air downloads. But, really, these complaints are minor.
The Treo 800w is available from Sprint for $249 when signing a new two-year service agreement (after rebates and discounts). My two biggest gripes about the smartphone are its keyboard and its operating system: Both could be easier to use. But the density of Windows Mobile is what's responsible for some of the 800w's best features, including its great selection of productivity software. Overall, this is an excellent option for business users--especially those who might want to have a little fun with their smartphone.