Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Three weeks with the Treo 600

Posted by Michael Brown on February 22, 2005

This is my third week with the Treo 600, so I thought I’d talk about how I’ve been getting on with it. Just for background, the Treo is my sixth PDA; I started with a Sharp SE-300 back in 1999, then went to a Palm IIIx when I outgrew the Sharp, then to a TRG-Pro. TRG became Handera, and I bought the Handera 330 shortly after it became available in Canada (FYI, TRG/Handera was a licensee and manufacturer of Palm Powered Handhelds). I got my Tungsten T a couple of years ago, and the Treo – as you all know – 3 weeks ago.

All my other handhelds used ‘Graffiti’, Palm’s text input system which works much like handwriting. The Treo has a thumb keyboard, and doesn’t use Graffiti (although I could install software that would allow me to Graffiti on-screen). It’s taking a little getting used to, but I find I’m getting comfortable – and faster – with it. For those of you who haven’t seen a Treo, the keyboard looks like a mini laptop computer’s, minus a few keys. A normal computer or laptop keyboard has 101 keys, whereas the Treo has 35. Numbers and punctuation marks are available on the same keys as the letters by using an ‘option’ key. The Treo’s keyboard also features a differently coloured number pad, laid out like a telephone’s, which makes using the Treo’s phone functions really simple.

I really can’t say enough about this keyboard. It’s designed to be operated one-handed or two-handed, by “righties” or “lefties”. I’m a “rightie” myself, but when I’m reading e-mail over coffee in the morning, I use my left hand. I find it very easy to use no matter which hand I use. The shift and option keys are “latching”; one press affects the next keypress, two presses latches it on like a shift lock key. Applications that use menu shortcuts are two keypresses away, and that makes for faster use; many people have to tap their way through menus, or use the “command stroke” then the menu shortcut to activate a function using a Graffiti-based handheld. That means taking out the stylus and tapping or writing to get the menu function activated (like “command N” for a new entry), or tapping the titlebar, then record, then “new”. On the Treo, it’s as simple as pressing the “menu” button, then “n” to create a new entry. Very fast!

The integrated smartphone functions are stellar. In the “Contacts” screen you merely need to type the first few letters of a person’s first OR last names, or the first initial and a couple of letters of the last name, and you get a list of people. For example, typing “jeff” will get a list of people whose first OR last names start with “jeff”, while typing “mbro” will list my & my wife’s names, since we share the same first initial and last name. If I need to find all contacts in a particular company, I can do that to using the global find. That is the only oversight in the Contacts quickfind feature; in Contacts, if you type in the first few characters of a company name, it will display those companies that DON’T have a first or last name entered. For example, if I type in “bell”, it will list all the Bell World locations I have in my addressbook, but not any of the people I know from Bell. It’s not a big deal since you can use the global find to do that, but it’s an extra step for those people who are “company-centric” in their contact management.

Keeping in touch is also much easier with a converged device like the Treo, and you don’t realize how much easier it is until you own one. I knew what to expect from the Treo since I recommend it and train my clients on it, but you don’t really appreciate what it can do for you until you own one and use it in your daily life. It excels at contact management since it integrates your cell phone with your complete address book. You can select different ring tones for incoming calls based on whether they are known (in your Treo’s contacts) or unknown. This can be more handy than you think; the cellular system only transmits calling number and not name and number, like wired phones, so knowing who’s calling before you answer can be beneficial. You can also assign custom ring tones, and even pictures to favourite contacts. For myself, I’ve set one style of ring for people I know (so I know to look at the name, and customize my greeting), and the other style for unknown callers (so I use my standard business greeting).

The other benefit to the Treo is that, being a Palm OS device, you can add applications to customize your Treo to work the way you want it. In my migration from the Tungsten T to the Treo, I was able to move all my daily use applications over without problems. I then found other apps that made the Treo work more the way I want it too, like automatically silencing the ringer and system sounds after business hours and adjusting the screen brightness and keyboard backlight depending on the time of day. There’s over 20,000 applications available for Palm OS that allow you to have the device fit YOUR work and lifestyle… and you can’t do that with a Blackberry! See you next week!

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