I’d like to propose a simple scenario to you. What if your computing devices consisted of a laptop and a Treo-style Smartphone? You use the laptop to do all the normal computing tasks, as well as some extras such as play games or some sort of development work here and there. You have your Treo as a main data organizer and means of email management when out and about. You do the occasional budgeting and gaming, but for the most part it is an assisting computing device. Now, what if the laptop were no longer usable due to mechanical failure? Could a Treo, or any PDA phone for that matter, pick up the slack? Or, would you really find out that a PDA is just that, an assistant not really capable of starting for your championship team. Well, for this writer, this is my life right now, and so far, the pressed in starter has some bad points, but has some good ones as well. Let me explain…
Like many PDA ‘power’ users, I have liked to take advantage of the software and hardware that makes using a device more fun or more useful. For example, I purchased a keyboard when I bought a Palm T5 because I wanted to take advantage of the larger screen so that I could write more on the go. It didn’t matter that I would only write bits and pieces at a time, and only every once and a while, but I had that capability, and therefore enjoyed resting in that knowledge. When I purchased my first Treo last September, I realized the value of being able to attend to email on the go more. And for a guy who loves to be on the go, this too was a nice feature to have. But now I am in a position where I no longer have the services of my laptop and need some pieces of information to still be managed. I could go out and purchase a new laptop, or really hunker down and see how well the Treo functions as a stand in until something comes up where I really need a laptop. So for a little more than a week, I have done this. And I have been frustrated, amazed, and somewhat bewildered that such a little device is right on the cusp of something groundbreaking.
First the frustrations
Knowing that my Treo would not be backing up via a HotSync anymore, I needed to find some backup software. The problem was, there are so many out there, and choosing one is really hard. I ended up settling on NorthGlide’s On Guard Backup program. I chose this one because it did not require me to set a time to backup, but would do so to the programs that are on its watch list right after I exited the programs. This has made some things, like taking phone calls when in other applications, slower, but at least I have a backup.
I also have had to deal with an issue of not having enough space with which to archive items. I only had a 256MB SD card, so I found a 2GB SD card for $65 and made that purchase. The only problem with that was that I have only been able to archive a few programs from my laptop, while many others remain and need to be grabbed ASAP.
In terms of functionality, I only miss not having a larger screen when viewing websites. Having an EDGE connection has made many of the mobile formatted websites that I view a passable experience. But here is my biggest gripe. Instead of Blazer giving me the web free and fully, I have to deal with pages that do not work because they are not well suited for a small screen, or are in frames and those are not handled well either. Even an HTML page that I made for a group would not show correctly on Blazer, making the need to find a computer and develop and test there.
I am starting to feel the burn of not being able to multitask the way that I want to as well. Yes, I know that I cannot download email and talk on the phone at the same time. But it would be nice. It would also be nice to be able to save my emails to the SD card with VersaMail, instead of spending a ton of funds on a product that does.
Second, the subtle joys
There have been some really neat joys though about having all my computing filtered thru my Treo. First of all, I am finding that writing on my Treo is a more personal event than typing on my laptop was. I feel like if I want to type, I can either do something quick, or pull out my Palm Universal Wireless keyboard and find a quite place and write. It’s been really freeing, and quite enjoyable.
I have been getting more sleep by just using the Treo. Normally, I’d stay online reading site after site until the early morning. But because of the browsing experience of the Treo, that doesn’t happen as much and I just get online for some quick things before going to bed. It’s really been good to me in that respect.
Another subtle joy of the Treo that I have noticed in the past weeks of just using it is that there really had been a great effort at Palm to make the Treo work and work well. Besides the one-handed navigation, many of the programs just work. I have gotten used to hearing the beep for email and instead of pulling out a stylus to tap the star, I just hold the center key and then can see what accounts got mail. Downloading and trialing new software has been fun too, though I do very little of it. I can download and run instantly from places like mytreo.net instead of getting a zip file and then syncing it. I like not being tied to the desktop in that fashion.
But there are some things that confuse me
Like for example, I know that I am really using my Treo hard, but I would think that I would be able to browse websites and not get an out of space error message. I know that this has to do with the heap (dynamic) memory part of the Treo. But it is something that kind of that throws me for a loop seeing that this is marketed as a data and web device.
I wish that many of the programs were more integrated. For example, I would love to be able to send an email right to my calendar, but that is not something that VersaMail (or any email client to my knowledge) supports. One of the reasons that I use Outlook on the desktop is just that, I have nice integration with email and tasks.
I do understand the many discussions on the web that are looking for the next great device, but I really do feel that the 650 is about as close to perfect as one can get. It really is right there. But why that has not been pushed to the general public more is something that confuses me. The 650 could easily sell a lot more, and have even more of an influence on the Smartphone market if that were the case.
So, Does the Treo Replace the Notebook?
Yes and no. I would admit, if you are a person that just does email and the net, and really have no need to do anything else with a computer. You really could get away with just using a Treo. While living in a screen that’s smaller than 3 inches would be an adjustment, it would work. Having a dock similar to that of a laptop would make it work even better. But if you are a person heavy into gaming or computer development, this might not be for you. There really are too many compromises, and not just because it’s a Palm OS and much dev is Windows’ based. But, because there just isn’t that well of software yet that takes advantage of that workspace.
For me, I have made an uneasy transition to using my Treo nearly all the time. Battery life is only slightly worse because I am checking email for more hours in the day, and typing via keyboard more, but it is more than sufficient. Could I do more with WiFi or a larger screen, sure – anyone could. But does it take the luster off of the fact that the 650 is quite capable and more than enough to stand in, even if for a longer than short time? My answer is that that 650 can, and it’s that ability that makes it one of the best in its class.