I’ve used Palm handheld computers for several years: 2 Handspring Prisms, a Handspring Pro, a Palm T3, and the Sony TH55 (still the most advanced handheld computer, and the device I use as a backup). My fondest memories are of the Visor Prism, which was my first Palm and a remarkable computer in 2001 (I can’t believe that was six years ago — it seems like just yesterday). I also purchased a Dell Axim X30 a couple of years ago to explore whether all the hype about Windows Mobile being the more advanced operating system was true (WM2003SE wasn’t). I did find some things to like about Windows Mobile, and purchased the Windows Mobile Palm Treo last January, 2006.
My optimum choice, for many reasons, is a separate cell phone and pocket computer that talk to each other via Bluetooth. However, most U.S. cellular companies throw roadblock after roadblock in your way, so I gave up and purchased a converged device (Treo 700w) from Verizon Wireless (T-Mobile is the one US carrier that doesn’t severely cripple their phones’ Bluetooth, and allows data to flow to any Bluetooth-enabled device you choose. However, TMO’s data speed is much slower than VZW’s EV-DO network — slow with any device, REALLY slow when using your device as a wireless modem tethered to a notebook PC).
Verizon Wireless has the best wireless network in my part of the US, so they’ve been my carrier for several years. I had looked at, researched, and tried about every cell phone Verizon had available, and found deficiencies in each one. The Treo 650 works well for some; others experience frequent crashes and resets. I tried a RAZR (very unsatisfactory) which I returned the day after the Treo 700w became available. I couldn’t find a phone I liked and could live with, so buying a brand new phone/pocket computer I knew little about was really an act of faith, or insanity. It worked out; I am quite pleased with the 700w. There were some problems early on that disappeared after a ROM update last spring, and some things you must know and do — read the 700w Internet forums.
What’s not to like about WM5? 1} The Windows Mobile Calendar program isn’t as good as DateBook 5, and Microsoft Outlook isn’t as “smart” as the Palm Desktop. Duplicates, times changed, things disappearing…lots of problems here. Many Windows Mobile users are businesspeople in large corporations, and I can’t imagine them having the time or patience to frequently check and restore missing/mangled info. Pocket Outlook is the weakest, buggiest part of Windows Mobile (I sync with Outlook 2003 on my notebook). I’m not sure if desktop Outlook, the mobile component, or both are at fault. 2} To be usable, Windows Mobile requires several third-party utilities, to actually close programs, clean up temp files, recover memory, perform backups, and other functions. 3} Surprisingly, WM e-mail programs lack features of PalmOS programs such as VersaMail or SnapperMail. 4} It takes more keystrokes than on a plain vanilla cell phone to look up contacts, redial a number, and other common tasks. So why did I choose the Windows Mobile Treo?
1. Stability: My TH55 is quite stable; even my Visor Prisms rarely crashed, but most people I know who own a Treo 650 suffer from occasional or frequent crashes, freezes, resets, etc. Not good if your cell phone is important (another reason why I prefer separate phones and handheld computers — when did your “plain vanilla” cell phone ever crash or reset?). I soft-reset the 700w several times daily, but this is usually for the Pocket PC functions, not the phone.
2. MightySync: Sync data files on an expansion card as easily and automatically as you sync data on the device’s internal memory. Better and more flexible than ActiveSync > www.mydocsunlimited.com.
3. Word Mobile: I use word processing more than any other program on my handhelds. The ability to refer to numerous documents, and create and edit docs, is one of the main reasons I carry and use a handheld. Previous versions of Pocket Word were almost unusable. PW changed formatting and fonts, deleted page elements — it was a disaster! I purchased TextMaker for the Pocket PC, which handles documents properly, but seems clunky and cluttered compared to PW and WordSmith. I prefer WordSmith over other handheld WP programs, but WordSmith saves documents as .pdb files, a format you can’t send “as is” to anything but a PalmOS computer. Likewise, if I receive Word files as e-mail attachments or beamed to me, WordSmith can’t open them. Documents To Go solves these problems, but isn’t as WYSIWYG as WordSmith or Pocket Word. When I add a document to my Palm handheld, I must decide whether the document is strictly for me (sync with WordSmith) or for others (sync with Docs To Go). The WM5 version of Word Mobile isn’t as full-featured as desktop Word, but it doesn’t change or delete things, or otherwise destroy Word files. It’s in ROM, so I don’t have to reinstall it, enter registration codes, etc. if a hard reset is necessary. AND one program, Word Mobile, does it all.
4. Excel Mobile: Several pluses here. First, the compatibility issue. No file conversions to worry about; Excel Mobile works with desktop Excel files. I’m only a basic spreadsheet user, but Excel Mobile does everything I need.
5. Internet Explorer Mobile: There are things to dislike about PIE, but it’s more stable than the browser on my Clie. When I tried the Treo 650 in several VZW stores, Blazer had problems with some web sites. PIE lacks many features of the PalmOS browsers, but rarely crashes or “stalls” on a web page.
6. EV-DO data speed. Different carriers call their fastest wireless data network different names — with Verizon it’s EV-DO, but whatever you call it the speed difference is amazing. No more waiting for each page element to appear, or several seconds waiting for each incoming e-mail. If you tether your device you’ll really see a difference on the laptop PC!
7. StyleTap Launcher: The PalmOS has the largest selection of truly useful software, much of it freeware or inexpensive shareware. Many PalmOS programs don’t have a WM counterpart, and if they do, it usually isn’t freeware or cheap. StyleTap allows most Palm software to run on WM handhelds, so you CAN have it all — run both WM and Palm programs on the same device! The device screen looks and acts just like a PalmOS device until you exit StyleTap.
8. Voice Command: Works well; nice to hear appointments announced; MUCH SAFER while driving to talk to the device instead of taking my eyes off the road to find a phone number. I understand that Voice Command v1.6 in Windows Mobile 6 is even better.
The Treo 700p and 680 have enhancements, but they weren’t available when I purchased my 700w, so I don’t know which Treo 650 problems have been solved and what new problems these models suffer from!. Several reviews say the newest version of Blazer is much improved, which would eliminate item #3 above. I hope that PalmSource/Access, Palm, and third-party vendors soon bring us solutions that put PalmOS handhelds solidly back on top!