Treo 700w Phone Usability
Verizon Wireless as a Provider
Verizon has upset a lot of people in the past by crippling SmartPhone and Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in the interest of helping their business. For instance, disabling wi-fi while the phone is in use for the Samsung i730, disallowing Dial Up Networking (DUN – using a cell phone as a modem), and crippling Bluetooth in phones has been standard practice in the past for Verizon. Many of these “adjustments” to devices were basically to prevent users from doing an end run around paid for services Verizon wanted to sell. The term Verizon is evil has been uttered more than once I suppose.
Verizon has certainly upset people in the past with some of its practices in disabling phone functionality
But let’s give Verizon credit for having the foresight in the business of building fast data access over cellular networks. I was with T-Mobile before getting the Treo 700w, and although TMO didn’t cripple devices like Verizon did in the past, TMO is a no go in terms of offering fast internet access over their network anytime soon (or, one wonders, ever?). And so wanting a device that offered fast data transfer, it was a choice between Verizon or Sprint — and Verizon had the Treo 700w with EVDO so that sealed the deal on who I wanted to transfer too to get away from T-Mobile and their non-existent roadmap for a high speed data network.
Having been with Verizon for over a month now, I can’t believe how much better the reception is than T-Mobile for the area I live in. In New York City Verizon is king for reception. T-Mobile is awful, and I mean AWFUL. You don’t realize it until you try a service that actually works. With T-Mobile I’d have to sit next to a window in a building to get good reception. With Verizon I can be in an elevator and at times even on the subway and be able to get good enough reception for a phone call or to download data. Just today I was sitting on the subway and my 700w started vibrating to indicate a new email, I take the 700w out of my pocket and sure enough it indicated 2 bars of reception — that’s through a steal subway car and a few feet below the street, wow!
Listening and Talking
And so reception wise thanks to Verizon and the antenna in the 700w, there’s simply no complaints. Calls are never dropped, data transfer is fast and reception always good. The volume on the speaker is certainly loud enough when holding the 700w to your ear, and volume is easy to adjust via the rocker on the left top side of the phone. It’s so nice to have a hardware button for volume control on calls, although you’ll probably find you have it set to the loudest volume if you’re like me. The speakerphone is excellent, it’s very loud, and amazingly clear at the same time. To turn speakerphone on simply click the top right control button (indicated as “Menu”) when in phone mode, then click the action button to select “Speakerphone On”. The same action turns it off. This is simple and easy to do. Included with the 700w is a wired headset, it’s very basic but it at least allows you to have a handsfree conversation without having to rely on the speakerphone. Since the 700w has Bluetooth built-in you can of course opt for a Bluetooth headset to pair with the device.
As far as people on the other end of the phone hearing you, well my folks who live overseas call me once a week so I setup my old T-Mobile phone and service to redirect to my new Verizon number (I had to switch numbers and have a couple of months left with TMO — annoyingly long story and irrelevant) and my family actually commented that I sounded much clearer, that was without my prompting or asking. Proof positive that a combination of Verizon and the 700w nets you very decent and clear communication abilities.
Actually Using the Phone to Dial
The 700w is a SmartPhone but it does not run the Windows SmartPhone flavor OS. It runs the Pocket PC Phone flavor OS. With Windows Mobile 2005 the SmartPhone and Pocket PC Phone OS flavors are supposed to be much more compatible and similar, but the differences are still large. With the SmartPhone OS there is no touchscreen navigation or support for full fledged keyboard as that OS runs on much smaller candy bar style devices. With the Pocket PC flavor you have support for a touchscreen dial pad, tap screen dial shortcuts and QWERTY entry for text messaging to name a few.
The last time I used a Pocket PC Phone flavor OS was with the HP iPaq 6315 — a couple of years back. I found the 6315 simply too big as a phone, it was a large PDA with a phone thrown in. I felt like a dork using it and it was frankly quite clunky in use as a phone. One complaint that of course carries over to the 700w from the 6315 is that you’ll get “screen gunk” from your face when holding the device up to your ear to talk. The oilier and sweatier your face, the worse the screen on the phone looks after talking — nice hey? Using a headset or the speakerphone to talk eliminates this problem entirely, or just wipe the screen on your cotton shirt, use a screen protector or carry a screen wipe if it’s a huge deal for you.
The iPaq 6315 sure looks clunky with its “strap-on” keyboard compared to the 700w
The Treo 700w isn’t perfect in terms of phone usability, but it is certainly very good with some odd quirks for those of us that have used Pocket PC Phones and SmartPhones in the past. On most Pocket PC phones when you hit the “Call” button (button with green phone icon) it brings up the dial pad (see below screen shot for what comes up on the iPaq 6315 screen when you hit the call button). With the Treo 700w this is not the case, Palm adjusted it so that when you hit the Call button you go to the Today screen — it’s like hitting the Home button on any other Pocket PC. From there if you start punching number keys you’ll enter a number to dial (it shows up in the “type a name or number” field). If you hit the Call button a second time a menu will display that has a list where you can choose from “Dial Pad”, “Call Log”, or select a recently dialed or received known caller’s number:
On most Pocket PC Phone when you hit the Call button you jump to the dial pad application
On the Treo 700w Palm made it so that when you hit the Call button you go back to the Today screen, not the dial pad
If you hit the Call button again when on the Today screen, you get a menu that pops up with recent call numbers (edited out for privacy purposes!) or the option to view your entire Call Log or go to the Dial Pad
Here’s what the Dial Pad looks like on the Treo 700w, you have to hit the call button twice and then select “Dial Pad” to get to it
The first time I started using the 700w I was baffled by this, I had a number I needed to call that listed letters (say 1-800-GO-FEDEX), and I don’t have the letter to number association memorized — I needed a dial pad that showed me the letter to number association for phones. The keyboard on the Treo 700w does not provide such information. It didn’t strike me to hit the Call button again to bring up more options, I was in fact baffled as to how to get to the full screen dial-pad I so needed at the time. Of course, I hadn’t read the manual (shoot me) but this usability paradigm had me stumped for a bit and I started to think that the Today screen was the only place you could enter a phone number or choose a speed dial.
This is neither a good nor bad aspect, it’s just something Palm has done differently and takes some getting used to. Palm really emphasizes doing things from the Today screen and so there’s great options for setting up speed dial buttons and associating pictures to them (go to Start > Settings > Today > Items > Speed Dial > Options to add speed dial buttons and pictures for your contacts).
Some niceties are if you have a picture associated to a contact, their picture shows up when they call. You can also set a differing ring tone based on whether the caller is “Known” (in your stored contacts) or “Unknown” (not in your stored contacts). Turning off the ring tone completely is easy to do via the hardware button on the top right of the device. Placing a call on hold is done simply by hitting the left top button during a call, the screen displays Hold right above the button so you know its function. Conferencing is fairly easy, you simply hit the Call button while in a call, select the contact you want to dial — meanwhile the other caller is automatically put on hold — and then when the second caller picks up you can conference in the first by hitting the top left button that now displays “Conference” above it. It’s all much simpler than any complex office phone system I’ve used where you have to memorize agonizingly complex button stroked to conference together even just people within your office.
Voicemail is also very easy to use, when you dial voicemail it displays VCR style buttons — if you have different voicemail boxes you can actually customize the button number to function mapping so you don’t have to memorize what certain numbers do in various voicemail boxes you might have — just enter it into the 700w once and forget about it.
So overall, the Palm Treo 700w as a phone is highly usable, even a pleasure I would say, to use as a voice communication device.