|Executive Summary: Palm’s Treo 750 runs Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition. It features not only 3G but also GPRS connectivity, and it supports Bluetooth 1.2. The device uses Microsoft Outlook Mobile and ActiveSync, so you can sync the device with Outlook and—thanks to Microsoft’s Direct Push Technology—receive push email from your business account, and synch with personal POP3/IMAP accounts. Additionally, you can use the embedded Microsoft Office Mobile application to view and edit Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word documents. However, there are some challenges with battery life you might want to be aware of.|
Like many enterprise admins, you’re probably enjoying the increasing benefits of smart phones in your environment. (You’re probably also struggling to keep up with their challenges!) Can you imagine getting through your day without the ability to receive email on your phone? And what good is a phone in the bathroom if you can't surf the Internet? Very few IT folks can resist the seduction of texting on their smart phones while in meetings, and in fact the devices’ portability and instant communications access can be crucial in the midst of a software upgrade. Network-monitoring tools almost universally offer the ability to send Short Message Service (SMS) messages to a smart phone when something goes awry. Some smart phones even let you access the VPN and take charge of remote desktops in emergency situations. With increasing business use of the smart phone in mind, I checked out the Palm Treo 750 to see how it might benefit systems administrators. Palm has set aside its Palm OS in favor of Windows Mobile 5.0, making it particularly interesting for Windows IT pros.
How’s the Look and Feel?
Removing the Treo 750 from its packaging, I was immediately struck by its appealing design. It’s sleeker than its predecessors, with a dark blue, metallic-and-matte luster that’s eye-catching. The device’s rubberized side panels give it a nice grip. The familiar five-button navigation buttons dominate the center of the device, and below those are Send and End buttons, as well as small Windows Start and OK buttons.
The Treo 750’s 2.5" touch screen is comparatively big and bright. Its size seems standard, but the weight veers toward hefty, at 5.4 oz. I admit to a certain clumsiness while using the device’s diminutive keyboard. It’s nice to have a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard here, but I couldn’t muster the dexterity and needle-sharp aim necessary to use it. I much preferred using the included stylus and the easily accessible onscreen keyboard. The Treo 750 isn’t a great one-handed device for IT people with large fingers and thumbs.
On the Treo 750’s right edge, you’ll find an IR port, as well as a miniSD card slot, primarily for increased storage. That miniSD slot will prove useful, because the device doesn’t offer built-in Wi-Fi. You can plug a Wi-Fi miniSD card into this slot to gain wireless functionality outside the 3G network. On the back of the Treo 750 is a basic 1.3-megapixel camera with no flash.
What Can It Do?
The quad-band Treo 750 runs Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition. It features not only 3G but also GPRS connectivity, and it supports Bluetooth 1.2. The device uses Microsoft Outlook Mobile and ActiveSync, so you can sync the device with Outlook and—thanks to Microsoft’s Direct Push Technology—receive push email from your business account. You can also synch with personal POP3/IMAP accounts. Additionally, you can use the embedded Microsoft Office Mobile application to view and edit Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word documents—admittedly, the Treo’s screen isn’t ideal for productivity apps, but this capability is cool to have when necessity demands it. One of the more impressive business features is the threaded SMS chat client, which lets you view SMS messages in easy-to-follow IM conversation style. Another nice feature is the ability to decline incoming calls and send a template-based text response.
From the Treo 750’s home screen, you can quick-dial contacts by clicking on their photo, search Google, place a one-touch call to voicemail, and enable full-page web browsing through Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 2.0. The device includes Windows Media Player (WMP) 10, although memory limitations limit its streaming-media capabilities.
How Does It Perform?
First, the basics: Call quality is impressive. Equally fine is the device’s fluid responsiveness to touch and to stylus. A more pressing concern while testing the Treo 750 was battery life. According to Palm, the device’s removable 1200mAH battery provides as much as 4.5 hours talk time and 10 days standby. In my tests, I averaged about 4 hours talk and a week standby—and those stats seem low.
I spent a great deal of time navigating Office applications on the smart phone. I don’t have a lot of experience working on the tiny 240 X 240-pixel screen, so it’s with that caveat that I admit to frustration while navigating files. And although I admire Palm’s efficiency in cramming usability features into such a small form factor, the Treo 750 seems too busy for its own good; its main screen is crowded with features and menus. But that’s the old-school tech guy in me talking.
After working with the device for an extended period, I felt I really had a handle on navigating the main Today screen, with its quick search functionality. I accessed my contacts by typing a few letters of a person’s name, and the device narrowed down the list to the right person. I could access the primary number or other modes of communication, including email and SMS messages. I didn’t enable photo-based calling, but if I had the device as my own, you bet I would take advantage of that cool feature.
Synchronization with my desktop email and calendar was seamless. Receiving a call, I could create a new contact for that caller, and the contact synced back to Outlook effortlessly.
Windows IT in Your Palm
Overall, I’m extremely impressed with the business usability of the Treo 750. It’s a sleek, spiffy device that will quickly become essential to your day-to-day administrative lifestyle. The lack of built-in Wi-Fi is a minus, but you can work around it easily with a Wi-Fi miniSD card. And although limited battery life is a concern, it’s not surprising, given the Treo 750’s bevy of features and functionality. Just keep the charger handy. Palm’s inclusion of Windows Mobile makes the Treo 750 a terrific choice for the IT pro.