Most technical reviews that one reads has to do with the technical and other features of a new product – the same holds true for the Palm Treo 700p phone.

My intent here is not to present a comprehensive technical review of the phone – but to talk about its usability – the experiences I have had with the Treo in the last couple of months I have used it.

The short answer to what my experience has been would be “mixed”. And I’ll explain this as I go along.

First the strong points – I upgraded to a Treo from a Samsung A760 – a pretty basic phone with Sprint. The reason I upgraded were very specific – I wanted a better mobile experience in browsing the Internet, especially given the fact that Sprint has started deploying its EVDO network in a big way. And I wanted my corporate email. I have a very demanding job as a consultant – and I spend about 80% of my time on the road at various client sites. I wanted the ability to check and respond to my company emails without necessarily having to power up my laptop. And the Treo was the single best-in-class solution for both my needs along with a reportedly decent battery life (which is important because I often have to get on long conference calls on my cellphone)

So coming back to my experience. Goodlink works wonderfully well as the “Push” technology based email client. My company has deployed the Goodlink Enterprise server and setting up and configuring the client on the phone was a breeze. It involved downloading the client and inputting the key my IS department sent me. And I was online. Actually, I receive my emails on my phone before I normally receive them on my computer – owing to the fact that I have Outlook set to check for emails every 2 minutes. So far so good.

The phone interface and the PDA functions work as promised – very smoothly. As a matter of fact, I am still amazed at how little I have to use the stylus for anything I am doing on the phone. Also, most options required for oft-used functionality is at most, one or two levels deep – its obvious a lot of thought went into designing the user interface. The phone reception is as good as I have seen it – limited only by Sprint’s own network – but nothing that I would complain about.

Now the bad – and note – the bad is really bad sometimes. In a word, it is instability. The Palm Treo 700p is far from a stable device. It has a tendency to freeze at random times – mid conversation, during call initiation, during call reception, during using PDA functions – and any permutions of the above. And the only way to reset is to take off the back cover and take out the battery for sometime – or to hit the reset button with the stylus (also inside the back cover)

Remember Palm mentions how some add-on applications can make the OS unstable – no such issues here. I dont have any outside application installed on the phone because I carry a separate PDA. This happens due to some glitch in the OS itself.

As to when it tends to happen – based on my observations, the following are the most common situations:

  • If you go out of coverage area – Power Vision (the EVDO service offering from Sprint) cannot authenticate your login information and will often hang on the pop up screen that informs about failed login. No response to any input – only solution is to swap the battery. ( I have had this at the Newark Airport every week I fly back home without fail – in the baggage claim area in Terminal C (where there is no Sprint coverage))
  • If you are receiving email and a call at the same time – the phone, more often than not, will freeze. Same problem – same solution. You wont be able to answer the call because the phone simply wont respond. Period
  • If you are talking on the phone for a long time – sometimes it will freeze without warning. Now, this does not happen all the time – but has happened to me at least 6 times that I can count in the last two months. Each time, a long conversation – the phone will stop working mid-conversation – and just freeze. Again same solution.

Like I mentioned, I am a pretty heavy cell phone user – and one of these situations ( or a combination thereof) happens to me every two days or so.

Would I buy the same phone again? Probably not. Would I consider buying a Palm device in the future – absolutely, if they can work out the glitches – and this time, I will get a 30 day review period before I buy. Would I go back to a regular phone – no – because, as much as I hate the instability, I love the fact that I am always online. So yes, maybe I will switch to another phone (Motorola Q?) but cannot imagine going back to a regular phone.

I am posting this here because I lacked this kind of information when I was evaluating a Blackberry vs. a Palm. Every review I read talked about how many pixels the screen had and how nice the device looked – and it does look very nice – but I missed the operational details of the phone – which would have made my decision making process a lot more informed.

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