New Phone

As some people have noted (and my previous posts suggest), I'm a little uptight about my mobile phone. I've been used a Palm device of some sort since 1998 and am a pretty big fan. I've used the Treo 270, 600, and 650 so far, and have had the 650 for a couple years now. However, due to some recent events, I had the opportunity to live in the Windows Mobile world for a while. Here is what happened, and my conclusions.

For various reasons, I ended up switching service from Sprint to Verizon. While Verizon has great coverage, their phone selection is much less impressive than Sprint's. Those two may be linked, but that's a post for another day. So, my choices where essentially, an outdated Treo (700p or wx), a WM device, or a Blackberry. There were rumors the 755p release was immanent, but after holding out a few weeks it sounded like it would be delayed a few months. So, I had to choose a backup. I didn't give the Blackberry much attention (we don't have a BB server setup at work) so I pretty much resolved myself to getting a Windows Mobile device. At the time, the only WM6 device Verizon offered was the Samsung i760. After becoming mostly accustomed to the i760, Verizon finally released the 755p. Luckily, I was still able to swap out the i760, so I made the choice to go back to my old friend. Here are the devices (From left to right: Treo 650, Samsung i760, Treo 755p):


Quick Summary

i760
Pros:
  • Mail Application (Exchange Integration in general)
  • Voice Commands
  • Interface Eye Candy
Cons:
  • Form Factor (Mostly Button Placement, Slider Keyboard)
  • User Interface
755p
Pros:
  • Form Factor - The Keyboard and button layouts are vastly superior
  • User Interface - The small things that make navigation between tasks easy
Cons:
  • Exchange Integration - Good enough, but not as 'cool' as WM
  • Voice Command - Included as an extra app that simply isn't worth installing
Detailed Version

The i760 was a big improvement over the Tre0 650 I had been using in a lot of ways. First, the 'push' Exchange integration of mail, calendar, tasks, and notes was great. I immediately felt much more connected. The mail client was also vastly superior to what I had been using on the Treo and provided great integration (you could move email to any folder in exchange). The data connection speed was also a big difference. The 1.3 megapixel camera was a moderate improvement over the Treo camera. I say moderate because a 1.3 megapixel phone camera is still only marginally useful. The Voice Command feature also worked surprisingly well. I almost never had issues and found it to be reasonably useful. However, this is were the positives end. As far as user interface goes, I was unimpressed. First, the button layout was simply tragic. The power button is on top of the device, there are buttons down the right side (Windows, OK, and Camera), and 3 'soft' keys, a dial pad, and a D pad on the front. The keyboard is accessible under the slider. I'm a huge fan of the Treo/Blackberry form factor. Having the keyboard available on the front at all times makes so many activities more accessible and faster to access. I found myself frustrated every time I had to open the keyboard slider. The bottom line is, I believe these phones should be nearly fully functional with single handed use. The Treos are made for this, and the slider form factor, or (to a lesser degree) the full touch screen (ala iPod and knockoffs) are simply not.

I was also frustrated by Windows Media Player. I use my mobile phone to listen to podcasts whlie I commute and WMP doesn't 'save' your place in an audio file between executions. After some searching I found MortPlayer which was serviceable, but not really clean. You couldn't turn off the device and have the player continue, but you could set it to automatically turn off the screen after a period of time. It worked, but wasn't 'natural' to me.

In the end, I'm glad I switched back to the Treo 755p, but there certainly pros and cons to the Treo 755p and Samsung i760. While the 755p also supports Exchange integration, there are a few minor shortcomings. It does not support syncing tasks, and it doesn't (by default at least) allow you to move mail into any of your exchange folders. However, it does the main functions just as well. It pushes email, calendar, and notes in real time, and you can handle calendar invites. Other than this, the 755p is superior. The form factor and user interface is simply easier and more intuitive (to me). While I like having a fully featured device, I use it as a phone and audio player 80% of the time. Dialing a phone number on the Treo is dead simple, and while the i760 isn't horrible, it just isn't as easy. A specific case, on the Treo you can dial the first letter of the first name and then the first letter (or couple) of the last name. You can kind of do this on WM, but you need to put a space between the letters. Not earth shattering, but an example of how the Treo is just 'easier'. The Treo home screen with the default 'speed dial' buttons that can be assigned to applications or contacts (or other choices as well) make every commonly used contact or application available via a few D Pad clicks.

In the end, I'm glad I ended up with the 755p, although it is clear that Palm needs to get its act together with the OS and come out with the next generation that will provide better support for advanced features (WiFi, better multitasking, sexier displays) without sacrificing the existing 3rd party application catalog or usability. But for now, I'm still on the Palm bandwagon.

See my next blog post for the Treo 755 Initial Config and Must Haves

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