I am not a huge fan of Windows Mobile. I am, however, a huge fan of Palm and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m befuddled by their recent decisions. As a blogger I’m full of half-baked opinions and prejudices and no where is this more prevalent than in my understanding of Palm and its various incarnations over the years.
That said, I’m going to try to be calm and objective and state, for the record, that the Treo 800w is one of the better Windows Mobile phones I’ve seen in recent years, even surpassing phones like the HTC Touch Diamond. and the T-Mobile Dash in terms of performance, price, and durability.
The phone has a large, bright 320×320 pixel touchscreen and a full keyboard with the standard easy-to-tap Treo keys. Four dedicated buttons around the central directional button offer a Windows menu, an “OK” keypress, access to your calendar, and access to your messages. A central “Palm” button seems to mimic the OK button, a design choice I would not have made.
The phone runs Windows Mobile 6.1 and all of the applications were snappy and worked well under heavy multi-tasking conditions. The Instant Messenger app, which you must download before you can use, worked well in the background. In these two basic functions, the 800w excelled. The default home screen shows you your current unread mail count and offers two different search systems, one based on GPS – which is built-in – and other based on Windows Live Search.
There is a full-sized stylus that hangs out in the phone’s right corner. The stylus feels a bit flimsy compared to the rest of the phone. The entire phone is built like a rock with lots of battery – you get about 4.5 hours of talk time and 200 on standby, which I confirmed by carrying this thing for about a week with only one or two recharges – and it weighs five ounces. It has a 2-megapixel camera with video capture.
I know that for many Windows Mobile is the only way to go when it comes to corporate network interaction. I am aware that it is quite popular in Europe and that it plays nicely with Exchange server. To that end, I can recommend the Treo. It is sturdy, handsome, and easy to use for the vast majority of smartphone users. It is not quite a “casual” grade device – it’s too thick for that and the Palm Centro already has that space sewn up. At $249.99 with two-year contract the 800w is a direct competitor to most of the BlackBerry offerings and, taken as a whole, the phone can be taken as a proud member of the smartphone community. What it lacks in good looks it makes up for in utility.