First hand experience of Treo 500v


With a stroke of luck, I managed to grab a good deal for a “brand new” Treo 500v. Like a 5 year old kid receiving his new toy, I wasted no time in setting it up and have been using it for the last 2 days. So here’s my candid impression of this smartphone.

The first impression of the phone is good. The phone feels well built and showcases high quality finishing, probably perceived by its glass ornament over its LCD screen. The battery cover has a perfect fitment and the phone does not creak as you hold it, as reported. On the otherhand, the QWERTY key buttons do not feel flimsy, every key press is firm but not hard, except maybe for the space bar. The key backlight illuminates the keyboard well in the dark. Interestingly, even the mini-USB charger socket is illuminated, although it is not known to me if this is purposely designed, or “a side effect” by the key backlight.

Hardware

On paper, the Treo pales in comparison to its competitors. With no WIFI, no HSDPA (High Speed Data Packet Access), just running a Windows Mobile 6 standard (rather than professional), it certainly looks like an entry-level smartphone as claimed. While many feels that Palm had not impressed them with such mediocre hardware offering, I have to say it has not created a dent in my expectation of the device (yet). Specifically, with a unlimited mobile broadband plan in place, I do not find Wifi any attractive these days. Plus, the Wifi@SG nation-wide project, isn’t that user-friendly and is slow in access.  On the otherhand, there is no doubt HSDPA (up to 7.2Mbps) would be better than a UTMS (384kbps) mobile phone, but hey, something got to give right?

Perhaps I should add what makes me think the lack of 3.5G (i.e. HSDPA) matter less in the whole equation. Firstly, form factor is definitely a plus point here. For once, I can really hold the smartphone like a phone, although I was not complaining when I had fatter devices before (iPAQ 6515, iPAQ 6965, Dopod C730 just to name a few). Secondly, the bright 320×240 screen display means that I no longer have to squint my eyes on the screen under the sun. Lastly, the usability of the phone, arguably achieved through its excellent software customization, remains to be Palm’s biggest forte, despite the glaring absence of its Threading SMS application.

Software 

The first thing that greets you when you turn on the phone, is the new user interface that Palm has put into the device. (There’s no two minute of boot time as claimed by the way!) There are reports which suggest the new UI is designed and developed by Vodafone, and another video clip which spots a Samsung phone with the similiar UI design. If that is true, it would be interesting to understand Palm strategy in its Windows mobile product line, given that they are better known as a creator of user-friendly mobile device, rather than hip trendy mobile device maker.

Nevertheless, the fact is the customised homescreen UI makes it much more easier to navigate around, not withstanding the original maker of the UI. A click on the left softkey (“start”) at the home screen, brings you to a slick navigation interface that glides from menu to menu as you browse the phone using the 5-way navigation button. The way how the interface displays and highlights the icons, is probably an attempt to mimick that of an iPhone. Regardless, it is a refreshing job that’s very well done.

 Elsewhere, you can see that Palm does not miss out the finer details that would otherwise affect the overall usability experience. From the brief display of character as you key in each of your password characters, to the display of the device status (e.g. bluetooth handsfree, bluetooth status, phone network, etc) on the home screen title bar. One may thinks that the latter is a trivial function that already exists in today mobile devices. But what Palm did so well here is to ensure it isn’t a half-cooked feature, as we see in other phone makers (e.g. displaying a BT handsfree icon when the headset is already not in range).

What I dislike about the Treo 500v, is its poor battery life, the missing Threading SMS application and lack of Chinese language support. The network settings for GPRS/MMS/WAP have to be setup manually, versus the automatic setup experience I had in other mobile devices. Perhaps that’s due to the fact the phone is designed for Vodafone M1, and therefore the lack of support for other telco settings.

As for the missing Threading SMS application, I got to say I did not miss it after awhile, since I found a decent replacement in BirdSoft’s ExtremeText. My main gripe is the Chinese language support could have been built-in, which was the case in my previous Dopod C730. Instead third party software installation is needed just to read and write Chinese. (there is a patch to enable read support, but I should not digress further) Guess it did not occur to the US makers that we in Asia (and probaby in Europe) are bilingual and thus, support of second language is essential in our market.

My take of this device? At RRP of S$698, it is not exactly a cheap smartphone. I reckon the price will reduce further. That said, it is a worthy smartphone (if the price could be lower that will be sweeter) that would serve well to anybody who needs a reliable and user-friendly convergence device (minus the GPS function that’s it). While I purchased Treo 500v as an interim phone in anticipation for the upcoming iPAQ 900 mobile phone, I think I may end up holding on to this phone for a longer while than I had planned initially.

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19 thoughts on “First hand experience of Treo 500v

  1. sanji_17 says:

    hello zenkinz, how stable is the Treo 500v as a phone? Does it hang as often as a normal PDA? Moving between non-reception area, so you have to manually twitch it to get the signal back? How long can a full charge last?

    Thanks.

    sanji_17

  2. the Treo has been very stable so far. In fact, I have yet to encounter any need to restart due to reception problem.

    A full charge can last between 1 day (if I turn on 3G network) to minimum 2 days (if I switch to 2/2.5G network, after 2 days, my phone battery shows 2bar)

  3. sanji_17 says:

    Thanks for the info. Basically, after my last pda-phone(818), I lost almost all confidence in WM & dopod. I understand that for pda or smartphone running on wm, it is a norm for signal re-sync problem… so thinking hard if i want to buy another wm phone or just go back to a normal phone…

  4. my main worry about Dopod is their aftersales service (long lead time for part replacement), thus my replacement of Dopod C730 with Treo 500v.

    So far, both phones (Dopod C730 and Treo 500v) has been very stable for me, I am not sure if it’s because of WM6, or it’s a smartphone (i.e. WM6 standard). But I understand even earlier version of smartphone can be rather cranky, and to my pleasant surprise, the phone (Treo 500v) has been very stable, and predictable, no lost call, no hang phone application (that leads to call unanswered or lost)

    The form factor also makes it feel like a phone! despite being a QWERTY phone.

  5. sanji_17 says:

    This really sounds too good to be true! if the treo 500v is super solid even in reception/phone application, then it beats all smartphone.

    True, dopod aftersales service is a nightmare. Out of 18months i had the dopod 818, almost more then 10months, it is spolit or lying in SIS. Nightmares…. lost all confidence in dopod or wm6..

  6. I’m with Starhub. maybe it’s time to switch telco? Just kidding.

    So far, have not had any problem with reception. As a matter of fact, my phone will always have 1-bar or no reception when I go to my apartment’s underground carpark (known to have deadspot even for other non WM phones), but I am able to get back the reception once I’m out of the carpark.

  7. Jon says:

    Nice review

    I think I’ll stick with my Treo 700 for now.

    Here are the deal killers for me I noticed here for me at least.

    -no HSDPA
    (although you probably never really see the speed difference most of the time since the lag is usually the CPU lag)

    -no Mobile Professional
    (can you copy and paste ok? That’s the only real thing I would miss for touch screen)

    -poor battery life
    (it’s really bad huh? Yuck)

    -no threaded text messages (this is MUST must MUST for me now, I cant live with out threaded since 99% of my chat is via text with friends)
    (Is the birdsoft one really pretty good? Looks interesting, what about MMS though?)

  8. actually, when viewing live tv on a 3G, you do see a difference in video quality, versus a 3.5G. But as you said, most of the time you won’t notice the speed difference, so I can live with a 3G for now (with my unlimited broadband plan)

    no provision for copy/cut and paste in Treo, but I know DOPOD C730 has that ability. So it varies from device to device.

    battery life, turns out okay if I stick to GSM network, can last me easily 2 days with still 1 to 2 bar of charge left.

    for Threaded message, glad that you find it useful now 😉 One advantage Birdsoft over the original Palm version, is that it make use of the Windows mail database. Which means you can still use the default messaging application to access your messages. Which also means you can change from devices to devices w/o worrying your SMS are lost, and you can use application like Jeyo Mobile or Outlook extender because they are only designed for standard Windows mobile messages.

  9. sanji_17 says:

    How about the ring tone? Understand the loud-speaker is at the back. Had this problem with dopod818, the ring-tone was barely audible when lying on back. Also had to set ring volume at 3/4 mark, else speaker will die. Same issue in Treo 500v? Thanks~

  10. ring tone is reasonable, and if its too soft when you are outdoor, select the outdoor profile usually do the trick.

    I always set my ring tone to the max, never have problem with speakers in my previous WM devices, be it iPAQ 6900 or 6500.

  11. ChiaFong says:

    Nice review there. MoiShang just got a Motorola Q9h, a WM6 device as well. After playing with it while she is not using, I can say that it is a solid phone as well. The only gripe is that the icon is jagged (no anti-alias?) and that there is no animation (can you believe it, after iPhone came out, there are still phones around that don’t care much about UI).

    Speaking of iPhone, I’ve the luck of playing with one just after iPhone hit the shelves in US (knowing where I worked, you should know why I’ve the luck, ha!). After getting past the woooo and the ahhhhhh of the UI, users that are looking for a good smartphone will be disappointed with this new toy. Keypad! It’s one thing to be cool and another to be pratical. You simply can’t do any good messaging with a touch pad! iPhone’s predictive text also left me wonder what it is trying to do. And then there is the part whereby it only work with Outlook, it won’t work with Outlook express. How smart is that? Unless you just want a iPod that can do web browsing and make phone calls, I would say wait for iPhone 2.0.

  12. Bob says:

    Great review! I currently have the Dopod 900. Altho Dopod900 is a great device overall, the support by SiS is bad.

    I used to have the Treo 600. And Palm has one of the best support around. I will buy the Treo 500v as an additional mobile device for me when I don’t have to lug the big Dopod900 around 🙂

    I need to know a few things and hope you can help.

    1. Does the phone switch from UTMS to GSM easily? Especially in train tunnels when I usually lose signal halfway thru talking?

    2. Where did you get the configurations for the GPRS? I am on singtel, and would face the same configuration issues.

    3. What does the centre pad do? The Samsung i620 centre pad is cool, I wonder if it is the same?

    Thank you in advance for your time.

  13. was away so pardon me for this late reply.

    1. Phone switch from UTMS to GSM easily w/o problem. Although I have yet to encounter any drop in call (unlike yeez’s samsung phone where drop call is uncommon), it could well because I have yet reach that ‘twilight zone’. 🙂

    2.you can easily find the singtel config from trendsmobile.com

    3. center pad is just a button, nothing more.

  14. VIRTUOSO says:

    Hi,

    Nice review! I bought the Treo 500v the first day it was released here in Singapore, and must say it’s a much better phone than my previous O2 XDA Atom Exec, running WM5 PPC. WM6 Standard is much better, usability-wise.

    I have a problem though, which I’m wondering if you also face. The ‘Upcoming Events’ tab on the carousel never displays any appointments, even though they are recorded in Calendar. I face the same problems when running AgendaOne from DeveloperOne. I’m wondering if this is some firmware problem…. no firmware update for this phone is available at the moment.

    Also, I’ve tried ExtremeText from BirdSoft. It’s a great app, but I’m having problems with the contacts list. I’m unable to navigate to a contact by pressing the first letter of a name. Do you also happen to face any problems in the contact list when running ExtremeText?

    Thanks for your time!

  15. yes, i have the same problem with the calendar, and the extremeText apparently have problem with the contact which the author mentioned he’s looking into it the last time I spoke to him, not sure if he had released the newer version now.

  16. Reading other reviews of this phone, some people experienced problems with 3rd party apps because of the screen resolution, and the apps not adjusting from 240320 usual resolution. Has anyone noticed and/or overcome this problem?

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