Saturday, June 30, 2007

Treo 755p Review

So, after all of the pain that I went through to get my Treo 755p, what do I think of it?

Well, it ain't no iPhone. And that's okay with me. Let's start with the physical features. It's slightly smaller than my boss's Treo 700p, and unlike the 700, it has no visible antenna. The chassis has a slightly rubberized blue coating, which makes me believe that it has a little extra durability. In fact, in jumping over a high step yesterday, my phone came flying out of my shirt pocket and went skidding across the pavement. I was worried that I had already killed it, but it showed no sign of wear or problems.

I like the Qwerty-style keyboard. It's less awkward to use than I expected it to be, and while I generally avoided text messages before, now it feels almost like sending a quick email. In fact, the software treats text messages almost like an email conversation, even including an inbox with messages sorted chronologically by contact person.

The buttons above the keyboard feel like a perfect marriage between the old Palm-style button layout and a traditional cell phone button layout. I have yet to open the manual, but using the extra functionality (shift keys, alt keys, etc) was obvious and intuitive. The number keys share buttons with letters, but in most cases, the phone can tell which you're trying to use and use it correctly without having to use the alt key.

I've always kind of liked Palm OS, but I've never liked only being able to use one program at once. I was afraid that when I was on a call, I wouldn't have access to anything else on the phone. This was not the case. The phone will background the call application seamlessly while you do whatever else you need to do, such as sure the web while waiting on hold for customer service. When you need to go back to the call, you hit the key with a phone icon on it and you're back, with access to all of your call-related options. On-screen options to hold, switch between call waiting calls, hang up, etc are easy to use.

Few of the Palm applications that I've gotten so used to on both of my Sony Clies are available. Of course, as with any cell phone these days, Bejewelled is installed. For those who are unfamiliar with this game, it's vaguely reminiscent of Tetris, and I imagine almost as fun if you're drunk. If you're sober, it is more likely to make you wish you had Tetris instead, or some other game that didn't suck nearly as much as Bejewelled.

There is no import/export application, other than the IR port (which I haven't gotten to work yet with other Palms, including a 700p) and the Blue Tooth application (which I also haven't gotten to work yet). My J-Pilot application in Linux refuses to talk to my phone as of yet, so I haven't been able to install anything or sync with my notebook. For a company that's so excited about Linux that they're dropping the old Palm OS altogether in favor of it, they sure did a lousy job so far with Linux support. The connection on the phone end for the USB cable is bulky and awkward. Would it have been so hard to just give me a standard mini-USB port and some built-in driver to make the phone act as a standard USB storage device?

The phone does have an MP3 player, and accepts mini-SD memory cards. Unfortunately, CostCo only sells SD and micro-SD cards right now, and not a whole lot of places carry the 4gb mini-SD, so it looks like I'll be buying a few 2gb cards from NewEgg. Fortunately, it also lets me listen to music while doing other things, plus I can turn the screen off and still listen to music, so it saves me from having to get a separate MP3 player. Unfortunately, I don't know how to manually turn the radio off on the phone, so I don't know if it's technically legal to use on airplanes. But I do know that the radio can be turned off without turning off the rest of the phone because the phone has actually asked me at least a couple of times if I would like to turn the phone radio back on. The earbuds/hands-free set included with the phone is a little hard on the ears, but I've gotten used to it.

The phone has a camera, but it's about as useful (or useless) as most phone cameras. Good for quick pictures of your friends, but not much else. You can send pictures to your friends other phones, but if you don't have a plan that includes that option, then the phone will prompt you to sign up for it with an additional monthly fee.

The phone's email client seems to support multiple email accounts, and I've already set it up to check my work email for me. If it finds new messages, a little light flashes on the front of the phone to let me know there's an alert, and then I can download and read the email.

The web browser is laughable, but a far cry from that of my old V-180. It does work really well for Gmail though, which is largely what I use it for. Google Maps comes pre-installed on the phone, and something about it seems really, really cool. Unfortunately, I have yet to use it for anything other than playing around. There is a plan available from Sprint that lets me use the phone as a GPS, and with the travel that I do now, I may sign up for it.

The phone comes with IM support for AIM, MSN and Yahoo. I get the feeling that extra charges are associated with using these, but since I refuse to have anything to do with Yahoo or MSN, and I'm trying to get away from AIM as well, this is likely a moot point. I have attempted to install a couple of Jabber clients, but web-based Palm OS installs are tricky and thanks to a lack of import/export applications, I have no other way to get files on there. This phone lacks a file manager, and the free one that I downloaded from Sprint only supports SD cards, not the Palm device itself.

The ringstones are a joke. There is not a single ringtone that I can actually stand, and I have yet to find any through the Sprint store that don't make me want to hurl. I have yet to load any MP3's on the phone, but I suspect I can use one of those when that time comes. With luck, I'll be back to Dead Man's Party, just like my old phone.

The phone has something on it called Sprint TV, and if you're not signed up for a plan that supports it, there still are some free movie trailers that you can watch. The first time I tried to watch one, I was dropped into a page on the Sprint Store in the web browser that told me that I had a $15 media player in my shopping cart, and would I like to check out now? I cancelled of course, and then out of curiosity tried to watch the trailer again. This time it just played it. If I find that it charged me when I declined the offer, then I'm going to be really unhappy. The trailer itself was for The Bourne Ultimatum, which looks to be a good show so long as it's not nearly as choppy as the trailer. In short, watching TV on your phone is still pretty much a worthless prospect.

After playing with my phone, the first application that I installed was TuSSH. For those Linux geeks out there, this (or a similar SSH client for Palm) is essential. Because my old Sony Clie did not support the ESC key (even when you had TuSSH enter it for you), it was entirely useless for any kind of remote system administration. With my Treo, I can log into a bash prompt on any of my servers anytime I have a signal. And yes, I've already used this more than a few times.

My phone hasn't crashed yet, but friends of mine tell me that the more that I use it, the more it will crash on me. I've been hearing reports of this for years, and makes me sad that the Treo has become known for its instability among even its most loyal of users. I hope they did a better job on this one.

All in all, it's not a bad phone. I'm still pretty excited about it. In fact, I think I was more excited about getting this than I was when I heard the first iPhone announcements. The majority of the default applications are pretty crummy, but since it runs Palm OS, there are thousands of others already out there to choose from. Good luck getting them loaded from your Linux desktop. This was one thing that I hated about the iPhone: no 3rd-party applications. Period. What a waste. The large, somewhat mature library of existing apps for Palm OS already puts this phone ahead of the iPhone, at least as far as I'm concerned. I'm still searching for the right ones to use, but I'm sure they're out there. Initial problems aside, I'm looking forward to using this phone a lot.


  1. To sync your Treo (at least the 700p) with your machine you'll need to add the 'visor' module.

    sudo modprobe visor
    echo "visor" >> /etc/modules

    Hope that helps with your syncing and what-not. Have you checked out my tutorial on dial-out internet via the USB cable?

  2. To turn the radio off press and hold the red button. This is different then turning the device off, which you would tap the red button to do.

  3. If you want to do video on it, I'd suggest you try TCPMP. It's free.

    It works on my Sony Clie PEG-TJ37, and I have my MythTV box transcode everything into MPEG4/XVid, and I can watch things on the Palmpilot.

  4. best buy has a micro-SD with a mini converter for $30-40

    2Gig even

  5. Compusa has sandisk 2gb mini-sd for $25 this week (50% off)


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