I am not a big fan of handsets running on Windows Mobile. Nothing personal, but having cut my teeth on a slew of Symbian OS-based devices (OK, OK, Nokia phones then), and now that great email phone, the BlackBerry Pearl, I have seldom felt the need to invest in tech that exceeds my needs—work wise or for play. Nokia phones served me well with their quick SMS inputting, ease of navigation and good call quality when that was all that I needed my phone to do. The BlackBerry, in my opinion, is the best email phone and the native Web browser is unfussy and seldom crashes, making it suitable for my current needs—till a few months ago.
OK, time for a shameless plug. Along with my current responsibility as creative director of Man’s World magazine, I have recently been appointed managing editor of the Indian edition of the iconic Rolling Stone magazine, the first issue of which should be out in a few months. So there is much more travel, many more meetings, coordinating writers and photographers, and a lot more editing. And now, I need help in managing my life. So, is it time to look at a new smartphone that meets all my requirements?
The smart and innovative Palm Treo 750 has certainly caught my eye. Launched about three weeks ago in India, the Treo 750 runs on, surprisingly, Windows Mobile operating system, but Palm has enlisted its PDA expertise to greatly enhance the Windows Mobile experience far, far beyond my expectations. Palm had been publicly entertaining the notion of a Windows-based device to woo corporate customers, who are accustomed to Microsoft products and who have been reluctant to buy Palm OS-based gadgets. To bring their fiercest competitor into the Windows fold, Microsoft permitted Palm to modify the core of the OS, so the tweaks are built into the OS rather than clunky additional overlays. This is Windows Mobile like I’ve never experienced before.
Palm’s enhancements are smart and superb, making the phone far easier to use. You can search your contacts list or Google right from the home screen, send text messages to callers you want to ignore, or see text messages in attractive, chat-like threads. The main Today screen’s fast search capability zeroes in on contacts in your address book, narrowing the search as you type each successive letter, and you have the option of dialling the primary number or tapping the centre of the D-pad to either call other numbers, send an SMS or an email to that person. This is a very big deal for me as I disliked delving deep into a traditional Windows Mobile menu to accomplish the same simple task. Any number can be made accessible as a speed dial button on the Today screen, with similar flexibility in how to contact that person. Palm also allows users to include a photo for each contact on the screen. For Internet-related tasks, the Treo 750 has mobile versions of Internet Explorer and Outlook. Outlook supports multiple email accounts, POP and IMAP protocols, various kinds of authentication and MS Direct Push email (MS Exchange Server 2003 SP2 required). Extra applications include the Picsel PDF viewer and a full version of Microsoft’s very good Voice Command software.
The Treo 750 is billed as a smartphone, but it’s much more the PDA that I am currently in need of. From personal information management to Microsoft Office and other applications, this is really an accomplished mobile device.
Though the review unit is yet to be made available, I was really impressed by the Treo 750 at a round table meeting organized by Palm India. With its colour touch screen and QWERTY keyboard, the device is similar in appearance to the existing Treos though it adds some Windows-specific buttons, such as an OK button that takes a user back to a previous screen. The Treo 750 has a hand-friendly shape with softer, almost rubberized side panels plus similar treatment for the stylus for a comfortable grip. I found the Treo 750 exceptionally easy to use one-handed with its D-Pad controls, making the stylus almost a vestigial accessory.
Palm says it designed the Treo 750 for the mobile professional on the go who needs the ease of one-handed operation. The right side of the Treo 750 has the IR port and miniSD card slot—the first miniSD card on a Palm device. In addition to the standard miniSD memory card, the slot supports IO cards with functions such as barcode scanning and Wi-Fi. The Treo 750 has no Wi-Fi, so a Wi-Fi miniSD card should be on your shopping list if you want to hook up to home or office networks or public hot spots. You can use the Treo 750 as a wireless modem for your notebook over a Bluetooth 1.2, USB or infrared connection. The Treo 750 is equipped with a 1.3 megapixel camera for stills and low-res video clips and is no better or worse than anything else in its range. But then, I’m not going to buy the Treo 750 for its camera. Palm rates the Treo 750’s battery as being good for four and a half hours of talk time and 10 days on standby.
Currently only available with Airtel, the Palm Treo 750 sells for close to Rs27,000. Goodies included are one month’s free data plan from Airtel and a very smart and very useful folding keyboard worth Rs6,000.
So, now, two very powerful smartphones in the market—the Motorola Q and the Palm Treo 750—are powered by Windows Mobile. Time for a head-to-head? Watch this space.
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