TREO 650 – NOTES FROM THE FIELD

I’ve used a Treo 650 for a few months now. The Treo 650 is one of the most popular devices combining cell phone and organizer functions, and all of the major cell carriers are now offering their own versions of the Treo 650. Here’s a few notes for anyone considering them.

  • On the whole, I’m very impressed. It’s reasonably comfortable to use and most functions have worked reliably. It has successfully taken the place of my separate cell phone and Pocket PC. The keyboard is surprisingly usable.
  • Mine has been troublefree, but there are a disturbing number of people complaining online that they’ve had to return defective units. They are apparently fragile – dropping one on a hard surface is reported to be a death warrant. Cingular and some other carriers don’t offer any coverage for breakage or loss. You will absolutely need a case for it – take a look at TreoCentral.com.
  • The Treo runs on Palm software and syncing with Outlook works reasonably well. Like any Palm-based device, the Treo doesn’t really know how to handle Outlook contacts sorted into categories or into different folders. The Palm software has never handled that elegantly and the software designed to enhance the basic HotSync operations (Pocket Mirror Pro, for example) are pretty clumsy.
  • Sorting out Cingular’s options for an Internet connection is daunting, but the charges add up fast if you go online without signing up for a plan. Every customer service rep has a different opinion, every online forum has different advice, and Cingular changes the plans every so often to ensure maximum confusion. A few months ago I signed up for MEdiaNetUnlimited for $19.99/month, which includes unlimited data use – and which most sources claim will not work on the Treo 650. It works.
  • Internet access on the Treo is more or less useless. The screen is slightly smaller than 2 inches by 2 inches. What are you going to see on a web page that’s useful on a screen that size?
  • It’s technically possible for a Treo to use Bluetooth to feed an Internet connection to a notebook computer. That would be a modestly fast connection available to your computer anywhere you have a cell phone signal. But don’t get excited – all of the cell carriers have disabled that hardware in the Treo.
  • The holy grail is the ability to send and receive e-mail on the fly. It can be done! But I don’t envy you the task of figuring out how to set it up – and I’d be reluctant to offer to help. Two e-mail programs were included on my Treo; I have no idea why or what the difference is between them. If your e-mail is delivered to a conventional POP3 account, I know it’s possible to make it appear on the Treo – but boy, am I glad I didn’t have to set mine up to do that. Reading about it gave me the chills.
  • If your business uses Microsoft Small Business Server, though, you have an exciting option. The Treo 650 is one of the few devices to support Outlook Mobile Access – new Microsoft technology that lets the Treo reach directly into your Exchange Server mailbox to do a live sync with your Outlook mail and calendar from anywhere. It works like a charm, although getting it to work required the usual amount of headscratching and false starts.
  • The Treo has built-in Bluetooth support, theoretically allowing use of a wireless headset. I researched thoroughly, bought the expensive Jabra BT250 headset with the best reputation, and I use it as a paperweight. I gave up after a couple of wildly erratic and almost always frustrating weeks. Most people online report similar experiences; there aren’t very many success stories.
  • And finally it’s worth noting that Cingular coverage sucks with the Treo 650, just like it does with every other cell phone and every other cell carrier. My sales rep promised that Cingular coverage would dramatically improve this summer when Cingular added GSM technology to its newly acquired AT&T towers. Gosh! Not long now! I am breathless with anticipation! You bet! Or not.