Palm’s Treo 750: A Review & Software Recommendations

January 9, 2007 by Lisa Oshima | Developers, Mobile, Review

I know, I know, this blog is meant to be about social media and social networking, but I couldn’t resist writing about another piece of new technology that I know well – the Treo 750, one of the newest GSM Windows Mobile phones on the market.  On January 5th, Palm, Inc. announced the launch of the Treo 750 on Cingular.  This is the second major release from Palm in the last couple of months.

I’ve been using the Treo 750 as my primary phone for the past seven months (I was a business development, developer relations, and marketing consultant at Palm, Inc., so I got early access to the device**).  The Treo 750v has the same hardware as the Treo 750 but the two devices are branded differently because they’re on different carriers (Treo 750v on Vodafone, Treo 750 on Cingular).  Despite having spent significant time working at Palm, I believe that the following review unbiased and fair.  In my opinion, as a power-user of mobile phones, the Treo 750v is the best smartphone on the market, but as with every product, there is always room for improvement.

Before I review the Treo 750, I feel compelled to point out something that many consumers don’t realize – There are two current versions of the Windows Mobile 5 Operating System (OS).  There are important differences between these two versions, and most consumers don’t know the differences. Here’s an overview, which I hope will help:

“Windows Mobile 5 – Pocket PC Phone Edition”

  • Used by all Windows Mobile-based Treos (Treo 750, Treo 750v, Treo 700w, Treo 700wx) and phones from other OEMs.
  • Comes with mobile versions of all Microsoft Office applications (Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and PowerPoint Mobile)
  • Touch Screen Enabled.  Users can use a stylus, touching the phone’s screen to navigate through the user interface and make menu selections.  With some phones, including the Treo 750, it is also possible to navigate through most of the user interface using 5-way button navigation and soft-keys
  • Phones using this operating system are often more sophisticated than the phones that use “Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition”. They typically have larger screens/form factor and increased computing capacity.

“Windows Mobile 5 – Smartphone Edition”

  • Used by Motorola Q, Samsung Blackjack, T-Mobile Dash/ HTC Excalibur and other slim-style phones.
  • The name of this OS is a bit of a misnomer because plenty of phones that use other OSes – including Pocket PC Phone Edition are marketed by OEMs and mobile operators as “Smartphones”.  The Treo 750 is considered a Smartphone by Palm, as is the Treo 680, which runs on the PalmOS.
  • Not as feature-rich as “Pocket PC Phone Edition”:
  • No Microsoft Office Mobile, so no viewing/editing of documents.
  • No Touch Screen capability.  Users must use 5-way navigation and soft keys to navigate through the user interface.
  • I think that Pocket PC Phone Edition is the easier of the two Windows Mobile 5 OSes to use – especially because of the touch screen capability. This puts the Treo 750 at a distinct advantage over competitors like the Moto Q that use “Smartphone Edition”.

And now, the Treo 750 review…

The Treo 750 on Cingular costs $399 with a 2 year contract.  If the thought of paying that much for a mobile phone makes your heart race, it may help to know that the Treo 750 is not your average mobile phone. Think of it as a hand held computer and phone – all in one.  Having used the phone extensively, I feel it is well worth the price – especially if you’re  a power-user of mobile phones.  If you’re not interested in getting 3G data speeds or having the Treo ease of use with the benefits of Windows Mobile, you may want to check out the Treo 680 (a lower-end GSM Treo,  that uses the Palm OS – recently released on Cingular and also available “unlocked”).

Out of the box, the Treo 750v works very well with PCs.  Using MissingSync by Mark/Space (sold separately), the Treo 750 also works great with Macs as well.  The Treo 750 is easy to navigate if you’re familiar with using a PC, but don’t worry if you use a Mac.  You’ll figure it out quickly.  I use a Mac and found Windows Mobile easy to use with a little practice.

Overall, the Treo 750 rocks.  My favorite parts include:

  • It integrates easily and almost seamlesly with Microsoft-based PCs and back-end systems.
  • It is fast – very fast.  It downloads data quickly on 3G networks, making email and web browsing a breeze.
    • It includes MSFP, so it is push-email enabled.  It is easy to check e-mail – both corporate/ work email (Push or Pull) and consumer email like Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo (POP3 or IMAP).  Blackberry Connect (sold separately) is also supported on Vodafone, though I noticed it has not been released on Cingular.  I use gmail’s mobile web-based email and find it exceptionally easy to use on the Treo750.
    • Mobile web browsing is easy and quick.  You can do a Google search from the “Today” screen (that’s what the main screen is called on Windows Mobile phones).  Most websites render very well… including popular social networking and web 2.0 sites like: Yelp. The only improvement I’d like to see on web browsing is the incorporation of Adobe FlashLite (as seen in the Nokia E60 and E62), as flash-based websites like YouTube don’t render on the device.
    • There is no external antenna like the earlier Treo 700w, Treo 700wx, Treo 700p, Treo 650, and Treo 600, and it is slimmer and lighter than these other models.
    • Lots of memory – more than any other Treo.
    • It is stable
    • It is durable – I’ve dropped it… a lot. It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. By far the most durable Treo design thus far.
    • Mini-SD expansion slot supports up to 2GB cards.
    • Streaming music and videos on-line using Windows Media Player
    • Dial by name, number or picture. You can set up speed dials on your Today screen.  I’ve got pictures of five friends on my Today screen, and when I tap a particular picture, it automatically dials the preferred number I’ve set up for that friend.
    • The ability to use the Treo 750 as a modem with a PC.
    • There is a TON of third-party software available (make sure to ensure that the software you buy supports Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC edition and screen independence/ is compatable with a 240×240 screen).
      • The following sites are great sources for software Astraware (especially for games), Palm’s Software Connection (Palm’s store), Handango, Motricity, Mark/Space (sells Mac synchronization software and other popular titles), and Handmark.
      • I enjoy the following software on my Treo 750** (It is important to note that data rates may apply.  Make sure you chose a data plan with your carrier if you plan to purchase any software that accesses content wirelessly. I pay “all you can eat” data plan from Cingular that allows me to download as much data as I want on a monthly location for a fixed price.):
        • Astraware –  mobile games
        • ScanR Whiteboards – Take pictures of a white board using your Treo in lieu of taking notes at your next meeting. Use the ScanR Whiteboards application for Treo 750 to send any whiteboard picture to ScanR’s image servers, which will cleanse that image, remove vectoring, glare, etc. and send it out in .pdf format to whomever you designate.
        • Windows Live for Mobile (Live.com, Live Search, and Live Messenger)– So many great tools to try. Get traffic, directions, restaurant recommendations, IM with friends, create a custom mobile web page with gadgets, and more.
        • Tube 2 maps and Rough Guides (travel guides) from VisualIT – Make sure you know where you’re going with the latest transport and city maps and guide books on your mobile phone
        • Vox for Windows Mobile – Blog on the go
        • MobiTV – Watch streaming TV from your treo. Available through Cingular.
        • TeleNav– GPS mapping from the Treo 750… no need to mess around swapping and loading miniSD cards or suffer through outdated maps. Telenav gives you a GPS puck which communicates with your Treo via Bluetooth and downloads maps over the wireless networks as you drive. So, your maps are always up-to-date.

There are a few downsides with the Treo 750, but given the upsides (and when compared to the competition), they’re fairly minor:

  • Certain parts of Windows Mobile 5 are frustrating – namely small, fidgety things, which are easier on PalmOS devices (like cutting/pasting items between calendar, contacts, the internet, tasks and email).
  • I don’t like the way that call waiting and voice mail notification work.  When you’re on a call and call waiting informs you of another call, the phone vibrates/buzzes very loudly while the ringer switch is on “silent.”   If the ringer switch is on, the phone dings very loudly. Either way, the caller on the other end can hear what’s the noise, which is irritating.  If you chose to ignore the call waiting by pressing the “ignore call” button and the ignored caller leaves a voice mail message, a similar loud ding or buzz can be heard when the message arrives – even if you’re still on the original call. It is frustrating to ignore a call when you’re busy only to be interrupted for a second time when a voice mail is left.
  • No FlashLite: Flash websites don’t render on the Treo 750.  I’d like to see FlashLite included in Rom like it is on the Nokia E62.
  • No Wi-Fi.
  • No built-in GPS.
  • A 1.3 Megapicsel camera. If the Treo 750v had a 2.0 Megapicsel camera or higher, it could be used as a document scanner, business card scanner, and Fax machine using ScanR.

For those of you who are considering getting a GSM Treo but aren’t sure which one to buy – the Treo 750 or the Treo 680 (recently released as well),  the following may help you compare features**:

  • Price
    • Treo 750 – Starts at $399 in the US with a 2 year subscription to Cingular. (on Vodafone in the UK from free to £212.77. Pricing on Vodafone outside the UK varies by country/ Vodafone operating company.)
    • Treo 680 – Starting at $199 (with a 2 year subscription to Cingular).
  • Size
    • Treo 750 – 4.44″ H x 2.3″ W x 0.8″ D. Weight = 5.4 ounces
    • Treo 680 – 4.4″ H x 2.3″ W x 0.8″ D.  Weight = 5.5 ounces
  • Speed
    • Treo 750 – 3G Phone: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS.  It is able to take advantage of 3rd generation mobile network speeds where available, resulting in faster downloads of data
    • Treo 680 – 2.5 Generation phone. It is not capable of achieving 3G UMTS speeds from 3G networks. It downloads data at slower speeds than a 3G phone like the Treo 750.
  • Processor
    • Treo 750 – 300MHz Samsung processor
    • Treo 680 – Intel® PXA270 312 MHz processor
  • Operating System
    • Treo 750 – Uses Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition 5.2.  This is a multi-threaded operating system. (Note: Palm Inc’s Treo comparison website says that it uses Windows Mobile 5.0, but the Treo 750 actually uses 5.2, which allows for push email).
    • Treo 680 uses the Palm OS (5.4.9) and is a single-thredded operating system, which means with few exceptions, users cannot multitask with applications.  Users must close down one application before starting another.
  • Memory
    • Treo 750 – 128MB / 60MB persistent user storage
    • Treo 680 – 64MB non-volatile flash memory available for user storage
  • Expansion Slot
    • Treo 750 – miniSD card slot
    • Treo 680 – MultiMediaCard, SD, and SD I/O cards
  • Camera
    • Treo 750 – 1.3 megapixel with 2x digital zoom. Automatic light balance. Integrated self-portrait mirror. Video capture support.
    • Treo 680 – Has a less-sophisticated camera than the Treo 750  – a VGA camera with 2x digital zoom
  • Email: Push vs. Pull (“Push email” means that when an email arrives at the server it is automatically pushed down to the phone.  With “Pull email,” a users must ‘ask’ the server whether email has arrived. Email doesn’t automatically “push” to the phone when it reaches the server. Users can do this manually or set up alerts for the phone to check with the server after the desired number of minutes or hours have passed.)
    • Treo 750 – Windows Mobile 5.2 (with MSFP) included: push-email comes standard for those accessing email systems that use Microsoft Exchange Servers on the back end.  This means that unlike RIM, which charges users a monthly service fee to get “push” email and requires their enterprise customers to purchase a separate Blackberry server to get ‘push’ email on their Blackberry mobiel phones, Treo 750 users who work at companies that have a Microsoft Exchange Server can get ‘push’ email for free with no additional hardware costs.  Those users who do not have a Microsoft Exchange Server on their back-end can still ‘pull’ down email or check it over the web using Internet Explorer Mobile.
    • Treo 680 – Without purchasing additional 3rd party software (like Good, Visto, etc.), users must “pull” down email from their network or check email using the Blazer browser.
  • Network Availability
    • Treo 750 on Cingular
    • Treo 680 – Available locked or unlocked to the Cingular Network.  When you buy the unlocked version, you pay more because the cost of the phone is unsubsidized.  When you buy the version that is locked to Cingular’s network, Cingular subsidizes the cost of the phone because you must also sign up for a service contract.
  • Battery & Talk Time
    • Treo 750 – Removable 1200 mAH Lithium-ion battery. Talk time: up to 4 hours. Standby time: Up to 250 hours. Data preserved by persistent file system.
    • Treo 680 – Removable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Talk time: up to 4 hours. Standby time: up to 300 hours.
  • Screen Resolution
    • Treo 750 – 240 x 240 color TFT touchscreen
    • Treo 680 – 320 x 320 pixel TFT touchscreen
  • Accessories
    • Treo 750 – Includes stereo headset
    • Treo 680 – No headset
  • Colors
    • Treo 750 – only available in 1 color (depending on carrier)
    • Treo 680 – available in 4 colors
  • Comparison of primary in-box software: *may vary depending on carrier. List shown includes some trial versions.
    • Similar software: Treo 750 (WM) vs. Treo 680 (POS):
      • Similar but different Clocks and Alarm Clocks
      • Similar but different integration between Outlook Calendar and Contacts on a PC and the calendar and contacts software on Treos. (In my opinion, Windows Mobile offers better calendar integration than PalmOS, but the features are very similar).
      • Similar but different Calculators
      • Similar but different search capability
      • Similar but different Solitaire game
      • Similar but different voice command capabilities
      • Similar but different Word document, Native PDF, Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation capabilities:
      • Microsoft Office Mobile Suite and also Picsel PDF viewer (WM) vs. Documents To Go® 8.0 (POS)
      • Syncing with PC: ActiveSync® (WM) vs. HotSync® Manager (POS)
      • Internet Browser:  Internet Explorer Mobile (WM) vs. Blazer® Web Browser (POS)
      • Electronic Book Reading Capability: eReader vs. eBook Reader
      • Remote File Access
      • Handmark Express
      • The ability to listen to cached or streaming digital music: Windows Mobile Media Player vs. PocketTunes™
      • SMS / MMS Messaging with chat view
      • Audible®
      • Adobe® Acrobat® Reader
      • Xpress Mail
    • Software features available on Treo 750 not available on Treo 680:
      • Games:
        • Bubble Breaker
        • Dynomite!™ by Astraware
      • Similarity to Windows PC Operating Systems and seamless integration with many Microsoft back-end systems. Microsoft® Office Outlook® Mobile (The Treo 680 offers similar features, but in my opinion, the integration isn’t as seamless to Outlook on the PC as with the Treo 750)
      • Email
      • Calendar
      • Contacts
      • Tasks
      • Notes
      • Good Mobile Messaging stub application
      • Pocket MSN
      • Windows Media Player Mobile (allows users to play audio and video)
      • Outlook 2002 for desktop
      • Spritesoft backup and restore
    • Software features available on Treo 680 not available on Treo 750
      • Game: Bejeweled 1.0 by Astraware
      • Pictures and Videos
      • Tasks (similar to 750 but syncs to different program on Palm Desktop on PC)
      • VersaMail®*
      • Voice Memo
      • Traffic for Treo™ smartphones (Microsoft offers a similar program via Microsoft Life Search Beta)

Do you own a Treo 750 or have thoughts/feedback on this review? If so, post a comment.

**Note: I am not, nor have I ever been a Palm employee. The facts contained in this blog are in the public domain.  The views expressed in this blog are my own opinions and are not endorsed by Palm, Inc., Microsoft, Cingular, or Vodafone.

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  • [this is good]
    Great review! The only thing I want to say is the lack of innovation between the 600 and 750, apart from the jump to Windows Mobile. I used to have a 650 and I loved it for what it is but it is no way as good a phone as others, such as Nokia E61 or BB 8800.

  • The E61 is quad band with 2100 UMTS. I got it unlocked from Europe. E62 is the crippled version for Cingular 🙂 I think the Apple iPhone has just blown most phones out of the water for now. No 3G though but Steve Jobs said WiMAX is coming.

  • And I mean 8700, though the rumored 8800/8900 looks really good too. Going back to the keyboard, I agree that the Treo keyboard is better than the E61 but I much prefer the joystick than the 5 ways. I don't miss the touch screen because having only one mode of navigation actually make it faster. Now I don't have two different input modes for me to decide which one to use.

  • Herbert

    Lisa, do you know, if the Treo 750 is working in Japan?

  • [this is good]

    THANK YOU!
    THANK YOU!
    THANK YOU for this blog topic!

    I spent a good chunk of time on the phone with Cingular and learned more from you re: the difference between the 680 & 750 than the gal I was drilling for info. I found it so hard to believe that she could not give me firm & definative answers, yet the price difference was so broad it was imparative that I the phone tailored exactly to my needs even if the cost was over what I had planned to pay. Your post/input is greatly appreciated in this community and all over the web.

  • enjoyed reading your post. I bought the treo 750 3 weeks ago. I am having a major problem with the calender notifications. i set an appt and get no reninder at ll. I have checked everything and am about ready to return it to CIngular. On another site someone posted they had the same problem but installed a $20.00 software program that fixed the problem however he did not say what program.

    can someone help me with this. other then that I love the treo 750. I have to have reminders on things such as reports due for work, scheduling. I cannot seem to fix this. went on the palm site and followed all instructions and this did not work. read that cingular is having problems with alarms and notifications. any help would be appreciated.

  • Gary

    I love my my Treo 750!

    It was a refurb from Cingular for $100 and was added to my plan for $18, no additional fees. I am not adding any extra until I am used to the phone. I primarily use it for linking to Outlook calendar and contacts and it works great! The 'pocket' Office

  • [this is good]
    whats up with the treo 750 windows mobile 6 update it wont load onto my device ?????

  • Amy

    Can I download a 3rd party IM software application to this phone? I work for a very small company and we are all very mobile. We actually have our own internal IM system. It works on any Windows platform. I called Cingular and asked them if they thought it would work. They said they couldn't give a definitive yes or no. I then called Palm and the lady didn't give any hesitation in saying that it WOULD work. Any comments or suggestions before I actually purchase the phone? Thanks for any help.

  • Thanks for your comment, Alex. I see where you're coming from on the form factor front, but in my opinion, the Treo 750 is a whole lot more stable and reliable from a software hardware perspective than the Treo 600 and Treo 650, and I like it better than the others you mentioned. Re: BB8800 – do you mean the Blackberry 8100 Pearl? I like the Blackberry Pearl's small size and 1.3MP camera with flash, but the Treo 750 gets 30 minutes more talk time and still takes great pics in low lighting conditions w/o a flash. The Treo also has a full QWERTY keyboard and touch screen, which I personally find easier to use than the rocker keys on the Pearl. Plus, email options on the 750 are a lot easier and cheaper than those available with the Pearl. I also like the Nokia E61 and E62, which I think are the closest rival to the Treo 750. It is thin, has great talk time, form factor, and FlashLite. Though, I would prefer a touch screen, and I don't think it is a Quad band UMTS-enabled phone like the Treo (though not positive about that last part). I also find the keyboard on the E61 and E62 more difficult to use than the Treo 750, and the joystick is a little figety… I like 5-way nav better for usability.

  • Hi Herbert. I don't think you can get it in Japan – unless Vodafone offers it there. Right now, it's only available in the US on Cingular and elsewhere on Vodafone.

  • Herbert

    Thanks for your quick reply, Lisa. Basically I do not want to get the Treo in Japan, but use it in the Japanese networks when on business trips. My experience with older blackberrys was, that there was no service available. Do you know anybody, who has ever used his Treo in Japan?

  • If there is a GSM network, you should be able to use the phone, but you can check with Vodafone to ensure that roaming is allowed in Japan on the Treo 750 and find information out about pricing. The only issue would be if Japan uses CDMA networks, because the Treo 750 is a GSM phone.

  • I thought there is a WCDMA network in Japan, even then 750 may or may not work there, depending on the frequency (750 uses 1900 vs. the rest of the WCDMA world uses 2100).

  • Herbert

    Thanks for the hint, Alex. I guess I should check with my Japanese buddies, whether Vodafone or DoCoMo provide appropriate network coverage.

  • I can confirm that an unlocked Treo 750 works in Japan.

  • [this is good]

    I have been told by the distributor that 680 works in Japan since its a Quad Band phone.

  • You can add 3rd party software to the Treo 750. Make sure the software is square screen compatible and works on Windows Mobile Pocket PC Edition phones. It's hard to give you a definitive answer on your specific needs without knowing what software you're using. You can't load computer software onto a phone – even if it's PC software. It has to be “Windows Mobile Pocket PC Edition” specific. As a side note, I was in the AT&T store last weekend, and the store manager told me the Treo 750 just “end of life-ed” with AT&T, so you may have difficulty getting one.






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