Making the Treo switch – Palm to Windows Mobile

In April of 2006 I joined the smart phone craze, and got a Palm Treo 650 (along with making the switch from Cingular to Verizon).  I had owned a PocketPC since 2000 and had a cell phone since 2001, and was looking at this as an opportunity to consolidate devices.  I loved having a smart phone, especially the ability to go on the Internet (I actually have a bad habit of playing with my phone too much, but that’s another story).

However, one of the reasons my 650 was affordable was because newer models took over the top tier of Treos.  The more I used my phone, the more I realized how outdated it was becoming.  It was on the slower data network, there seemed to be an unavailability of software choices for the Palm, and the OS was really frustrating me.  It was really pretty, but was prone to rebooting at random times for no reason at all.  From some of the news I was hearing, it sounded like Palm was slowing development and updates on their OS.  From the way I felt the wind blowing, it seemed like time to jump ship.  Unfortunately Verizon wouldn’t offer any kind of device discounts (since it hasn’t been 2 years), so I went looking on eBay and picked up a refurbished 700w.

I’m about a month in from using the device and making the switch wanted to share my experience on a few things.

  • The Hardware: It’s funny just how similar the Treo 650 and 700 are.  Aside from subtle cosmetic differences (the 700’s buttons are a little more square), they’re essentially identical.  This is helpful because I now have a spare Treo battery, as well as 2 sync cables.  I’d also imagine I could raid the other phone for parts if need be as well (although I haven’t cracked the case on the old one)
  • Data Transfer: The 700w (and 700p for that matter) are now EV-DO capable, and compared to the data speeds on my 650 – it’s night and day, definitely worth the price of the upgrade alone.  Now I don’t feel ripped off when I’m paying my data plan bill each month.  As someone who uses the Treo as a PDA more than a phone, I appreciate this feature the most.
  • The Software: This is probably where I set my expectations too high.  I used Windows PocketPC from 2000-2006, and during that time there was a plethora software available.  While that still seems to be the case, there are slim offerings when it comes to software needed to accomplish my tasks:
    • MS Money: Microsoft has all but abandoned their integration from Windows Mobile 5 into MS Money.  The fact that they’re the same company and can’t support their software across all of their devices is appalling.  This was the biggest shock in this migration.  When I was on Palm I moved over to Quicken and was using a utility called Pocket Quicken.  I had to do a “slide-grade” from the Palm OS over to the Windows Mobile, and they did charge me upgrade pricing – a bummer, but understandable. The Windows Mobile version actually works better than the Palm version.
    • There doesn’t seem to be a good CBR (comics reader) application, bummer
    • IMPlus is a pretty decent IM utility, although I still miss Verichat.
    • NewsBreak is a fantastic RSS reader application
    • I had to reconfigure my home machine for Remote Desktop so I could use the Terminal Server utility built into Windows Mobile.  I still use VNC for remote administration from my laptop & browser, so both are running side-by-side.  I previously used Palm VNC on my 650.
  • The Phone Experience: This has been a step back.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m using a refurb unit, but when I make/answer calls, sometimes the phone just randomly mutes the mic.  I’ve done some reading and found out this is a common issue (with no fix of course), so that is annoying to say the least.  The Bluetooth works craptacular, and I went through 2 headsets to try to clear up the static – it turns out that’s a known issue as well.  Lastly, the phone doesn’t manage it’s memory very well. I don’t even know if the Palm device has a memory manager, but I never needed it.  On the 700w I’ve found myself completing each task with a trip to the memory manager to purge all running programs.  Palm/MS seemed to realize this and have the 700wx with a ton of RAM, but that was out of my price range for a short-term replacement.

Overall, I’m willing to put up with the minor annoyances to enjoy the EV-DO experience. The phone is far from perfect, but it does what I need it to do, and for $200 it’s a good geek replacement.  I’ll be counting down the days until my “new device discount” date, and will be looking forward to seeing what’s available in 2008.