Email2go: Handspring Treo
Review The Treo starts from a position of strength. Handspring uses the Palm OS which is the most popular PDA operating system in the world and has a vast amount of software available. Handspring has also got a lot of experience with mobiles, thanks to the Visorphone add-on which is available for existing Handspring PDAs.
One shrewd move by Handspring was to buy the Blazer web browser. The result of all this integration is a unit which a lot of palm users will see as their next mobile phone. Treo does the three jobs of phone, PDA and email. The last element hasn't really come together yet. While the Blackberry is always up-to-the-second with your latest email, the Treo mail software has to be set to go and collect your mail. What's more the Treo doesn't yet use GPRS so the dial-up process is slow. The Treo hardware supports GPRS but is waiting for the software to drive it. This is currently in beta test and Handspring expects to release it as a downloadable upgrade in the summer.
There are two versions of the Treo available the 180 and 180g. The 180 has a small keyboard much like the Blackberry and is aimed at non-Palm users, the 180g uses the Graffiti handwriting system beloved by Palm users. It's quick to learn and works very well.
The Treo is significantly the largest of the devices here, and thanks to the open operating system does the most. The phone feels a bit odd but is well designed with a good large keypad and quickdial buttons. You can dial easily enough without using a stylus. Support for text messages is good and you can read whole messages easily on the large screen. There are sensible options for reply and delete.
The Blackberry does exactly what its makers claim. It is the best possible device for receiving and replying to corporate email while on the move. It will sync with corporate calendars but there is no spreadsheet, POP3 email, web or WAP browsing. Even voice is a coming-soon extra. You can edit text but it's not a word processor, there are no formatting options, search and replace or spell check.
The unit is dominated by a huge screen and keyboard. You can see 19 lines of 33 characters in the smallest font. It's mechanically very high quality. There are no cursor keys or menu button, just a jog dial which presses in to select an option. It works very sensibly, hold a letter key down to capitalise and automatic capitals after a full stop and space.
The user interface is excellent. You can easily create contact cards for people who've sent you mail, and it is quick and easy to mark a number of mail messages and delete them. There is a selection of ring tones and vibrate functions, which can be set to be different when the Blackberry is in or out of the exceptionally secure holster. While all other devices have a timer which goes and checks for mail every five, ten or thirty minutes, the Blackberry just gets mail when it arrives at the server.
Battery life isn't great, although this is down to how much you use the vibrate and backlight. I found it lasted about one day. Among all the devices here the Blackberry is the most life-changing. You never get into the office and think 'I must check my mail', you've already read it. Quick deletion of marked messages means you can easily get rid of any messages you've already read on your PC.
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