Windows Mobile marries the Treo


It may seem sacrilege to diehard Treo fanatics, but Palm has launched its first mobile device to run on the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system in Canada.

A previous Windows-based Treo was available in the U.S., but not in Canada. With the Treo 700wx, launched in Canada by Palm with Bell and Telus last October, Canadian Treo aficionados now have an alternative to the legacy Palm OS platform.

From a hardware perspective the 700wx will be quite familiar to regular Treo users. A 240×240 transflective touch screen is navigable by stylus and a five-way navigation button is also included, along with dedicated call start and end buttons, Windows start and OK buttons, and two dedicated shortcut buttons for messaging and the main menu. External volume buttons are also included on the side, along with an assignable shortcut button. The full QWERTY keyboard is backlit to allow for easy use in low-light situations.

I found navigation relatively simple with the stylus but frustrating without it, meaning one-handed use beyond simple phone functions isn’t practicable. Alternating between a caps key for upper case letters and a shift key to access symbols took getting used to but otherwise typing with the keyboard was easy, although when composing longer e-mails my hands began to cramp-up and become sore. Probably best to keep your messages short and concise.

Internally, the 700wx boasts 64 MB of RAM and I experienced no performance issues. This is important as the Windows OS doesn’t make it easy to end programs. Holding the OK button will bring up a list of active programs and allow you to close them. Bluetooth is integrated into the device and an expansion slot compatible with SD, SDIO and MMC is also included to expand the 128 MB of internal memory. I found the built-in 1.3 megapixel camera, capable of shooting both still pictures and video with audio, to be of low quality but within the ballpark for mobile devices.

It’s the OS that is new about the 700wx however. The device features the Pocket PC edition of Windows Mobile, rather than the Smartphone edition, which means mobile versions of applications like Excel and Word are included. The Windows OS experience will be a relatively easy transition for those who use the OS on the desktop. Palm users will find it a more busy OS than the Palm OS they’re used to, with better support for corporate functions. On the other side, many Palm users appreciate the simpler look and feel of the legacy OS. Palm has also made a number of modifications to the standard Microsoft OS, including a re-jigged today screen and improved smart phone functionality.

I had no trouble configuring both my work and Hotmail accounts with the Outlook mail client, and e-mailing was a breeze.

An MSN messenger client also allowed for messaging with my chat contacts. Web surfing was acceptable with Internet Explorer, with the usual limitations of the speed of the network, the small screen size, and the fact most Web sites are not yet optimized for small mobile device screens. Battery life is acceptable, although quickly drains with more than light Web surfing. Stick to e-mail and phoning, though, and you’ll be fine for a few days between charges.

Speaking of phone, the telephony function worked well, with good sound quality, speaker phone capability, ease of use and smart phone features like assigning photos to contacts for caller ID.

Having never been a regular Treo user I’m not married to the older Palm OS, so the familiarity of the Windows OS is compelling. With many Windows devices now available in Canada, however, it’s the hardware that is more of a differentiator, and I like the Treo form factor. It’s smaller than the UTStarcom PocketPC and packs more of a punch than the too-slim Motorola Q. It’s a good alternative to the current generation of Blackberries, and the Windows OS could give it an advantage.

Availability: Available now

Pricing: Promotional pricing $199.99 on a three year contract with Bell or Telus

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