As mentioned yesterday, I've decided to pickup a Palm OS device just for kicks, if nothing else, this will help me round off my mobile experience for this site. I picked up a brand new, unlocked Treo 680 off of eBay for $200 shipped; the seller had a bunch available out of Jersey, so it got to my apartment in NYC within 1 day, amazing. While this phone is brand new as promised, I did noticed the firmware is up to date with a UK version at 2.12 as opposed to the US version at 1.12. Regardless of where its coming from, I got a solid smartphone, unlocked at an amazing value.
In so many ways, I can see where the iPhone has drawn inspiration idea from the Palm Treo such as the user interface, side-mounted button to switch between ringtone and vibrate; as I go on to document my mobile experience and learnings from this smartphone, I will call out the resemblances.
The Treo 680 is a sturdy phone; weighing in at 5.6oz, it is drastically heavier than my N95-3 but feels more solid as well. I really like the construction and feel of it. The one thing I can complain about is that the center button in the 5-way D-Pad feels a little lose, or not precise (compared to a BlackBerry's trackwheel supression). The 320x320 LCD is gorgeous and fully functional as touchscreen; I love between the touchscreen and buttons, I have so many ways to perform basic tasks.
Palm OS is vastly different than anything I've ever used before; for the most part, it is best described has having a floating structure. There isn't a centralized home screen, whatever application you are using (phone, camera, calendar, program menu, or etc...), that is the running application for the moment. Because there is no "home screen" to return to, you can never quit or exit an application. You may simply move on to the next application (and the previous application would be closed out). Therefore, you would not have the ability to switch amongst launched applications. In a sense, I recall having to go through the same realization as I first played with an iPhone. Programs can never be 'closed'; just returning to iPhone's home screen.
As far as the default applications that came with the Treo, they are plenty sufficient. The most frequently used app would be the browser, aka Blazer. Using EDGE, it was sufficient to let me check the weather, email and stocks. I read somewhere that one of the updates in Palm Garnet OS is a cache function which allows visited websites load faster. I noticed a drastic difference with the mobile web experience from when I first launched it and later on in the evening, so it worked! The "World Clock" application is a fun way to look at different times with a globe that very much reminds me of iPhone's clock widget. Camera's simplicity and operation reminds me of the iPhone as well. Versamail, Treo's email application has already gotten a series of POP email profile built-in (again, I can see where iPhone draw the idea from), its unfortunate that Gmail IMAP is not officially supported for the Treo(only Centro) The threaded IM-styled SMS text is again, something iPhone has been inspired from. Palm's supporting software (firmware) and HotSync (Palm Desktop) is pretty easy to use as well. Since I keep my contact and calendar in Outlook 2007, Palm as built an extra conduit software to ensure a smooth synchronization. While Palm may not have an iTunes like efficiency, I find myself enjoying my experience visiting their site and get all the necessary information at my finger tips.
When it comes to third party applications, I was really counting on Google Maps, Gmail Application and Opera Mini. Google Maps runs almost like a default application just as it would on every platform I've ever tried, the only complain is the lack of support on My Location feature (only available on the Palm Centro). Gmail Application is just like the same way it is on a Windows Mobile device where you have to run it as a Java Midlet inside a Java Virtual Machine. Speaking of which, as of Jan 2008, Palm no longer distributes the IBM Websphere Java Virtual Machine, fortunately I was able to find two of the latest versions from here. Once this is installed, Oper Mini will work as well.
I will spend more time in the next couple of weeks to test out other third party appolications and other functionalities, as it stands, I like the Treo 680 and very happy to have add it to my smartphone collection. I hope this phone can be more reliable than my N95-3.