Spend six days of traveling with the Palm Treo 700wx "smartphone," just released for Sprint customers, and you might come away with the impressions I've had: This is an interesting device and it might make my life a lot easier.
If that sounds a tad ambiguous, it's not meant to be. On its own, the phone is a very good, PCS-based cell phone and personal organizer.
It's handy not tiny, but handy and it performs its tasks well.
The uncertainty, and it's only a slight one, comes from the continuing merger of Palm's hardware with the Windows Mobile 2003 operating system from Microsoft.
As mentioned in an earlier review, the idea is for Palm to more easily penetrate the corporate market, which thrives on standards such as Microsoft's operating systems. Having one of those systems on a Palm device makes it easier to justify buying one, in the view of some corporate information technology (IT) types.
Fair enough, but at the end of every corporate purchasing decision is a user who has to live with the consequences. Living with the Treo 700wx may not be all that bad.
As a phone, it works as well as the Sprint network, which, I found in San Diego and Salt Lake City and briefly in Denver, is pretty good. Sound quality is good, and dialing is very easy. Start entering a phone number on the main screen and you are into the dialing process. Press the green "phone" button on the left front side (the "red" one on the right is for powering on and off the device and its phone connection) and you get a quick list of recently called people.
Phone numbers in contact records and e-mail messages are highlighted for easy dialing two taps with a stylus on the screen and you are calling.
This is a useful feature, and the contact side, of course, synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook, though I have not tried it with the Outlook 2007 beta version.
As with other Treo smartphones, the new unit has Web browsing capabilities, from a pocket version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Though not perfect you must navigate regular Web site windows on a very small screen it was good enough to allow me to sign on and use some editing tools and update a Web site I help manage. There is a "full screen" viewing option that widens the perspective a bit, but no "landscape" mode to let you see even more.
Using the device for e-mail I was able to set up a couple of accounts that way I had few problems sending or receiving e-mail. There is also a "messaging" feature that lets you handle short SMS messages to other cell phones or e-mail users.
The built-in, 1.3 megapixel camera was quite useful. On several walking tours of Salt Lake City, I carried it instead of a regular digital camera. The photo quality ranged from good to excellent, and I was glad I had this feature. Photos can be transferred via wired connection to a computer, via SecureDigital flash memory card or sent from the phone via e-mail.
Missing is the familiar Palm OS interface and the many Palm-friendly applications. Missing, too, is simple compatibility with Macintosh. Finally, an equivalent to Sprint's "Power Vision" service that delivers streaming audio and video is lacking.
If I were a Sprint customer and had to "make nice" with my corporate IT folks, I'd carry this device. If ITisn't too important, I'd take the Treo version with the neat video feeds.