Friday, June 29, 2007

If It Ain't Broke, Why Fix It? The Treo 680

I bought my Treo 650 in late 2004. Despite the occasional lock up and reset, I really enjoyed it. When people asked me how I liked my "phone," I'd usually reply, "Great! Except when it acts like a computer." It survived a number of drops and was pretty banged up by the time I replaced it. The case was cracked on either side of the screen and the limited memory was starting to fill up. I wasn't going to replace it though. Treo's are expensive and I was hoping that if I held onto it long enough I could skip a generation. Alas, it was not to be! I accidentally dropped it at The Mission Inn

driving range and it stayed out overnight. It was found but it had some water in the case --- not a good sign. It seemed to work fine except that one entire column of keys typed the letter to the left of the key pushed. I couldn't type "i", "k", or "m" and at least one other key had failed earlier. It was time for a new phone.

I picked up a new crimson Treo 680. Why crimson? Why not? I was tired of boring grey. I've had it for a couple of weeks and I'm a little disappointed. On the positive side, I haven't had any lock ups and I haven't had to reset it. The new screen is also a big improvement. Although some commentators complain about the camera, I took the picture of the brownies below with it and it seems better than the 650. I was surprised to read that the 680 lacks a reset button. I guess you have to remove the battery now for a reset. That's an example of what I meant when I said, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" The reset button worked fine on the 650. Likewise, I liked the interface of the 650. The changes to the 680 interface seem to be different for the sake of being different and not for improvement. Now the "Favorites" are one long scroll showing 7 buttons at a time. On the 650, the "Favorites" were arranged in pages of about a dozen buttons per page. You have to edit the "Contact" entry in order to assign a unique ring tone to a caller. Again, this seems more difficult than on the 650. The method for making a call is also subtly changed so that placing a call seems more cumbersome. You have to dial the number and then press send, but I keep wanting to push the button with the phone icon or the center button of the 5 way navigation button for some reason.

Now a scroll bar appears across the bottom of the screen. There are 5 buttons for the phone keypad, "Favorites", "Main", "Contacts:", and "Call Log." The keypad is particularly boring and doesn't provide information like time, number of new messages and emails or next appointment. The "Favorites" is a long. boring scroll. The "Main" setting let's you set your own background picture and shows the time, dates, next appointment, messages, and email. This is my default setting. The "Call Log" has some nice clear icons to show if the call was incoming or outgoing.

On the positive side, the 680 lacks the antenna protuberance on the 650, seems a little lighter, a little thinner, and easier to hold. The form factor is much improved. I was thrilled to discover the 680 comes with a car charger. The 650 was the only phone I've ever owned that didn't. The USB cable that you use for hotsyncing with your computer will trickle charge the phone while it is plugged into your computer. The USB cable also seems to be more sturdy as do both of the chargers. A lot of people have complained about a lack of battery life. That was never a problem with the 650 and hasn't been a problem yet with the 680. There are 3 ways to charge the phone (car charger, wall charger, and hotsync cable). I plug in my phones every night and that seems to be enough. Now I can also keep it plugged in while driving. Maybe the people who complain are like my wife, who never plugs in her Blackberry and is always running out of battery power.

Bottom Line: I like it, but I wouldn't have bothered to upgrade if the 650 hadn't reached the end of its useful life. If you've got a 650 in good shape and like it, then you might want to keep it. By the way, I checked out a 750 but I don't know Windows mobile and the interface seemed crowded and clunky. I've always liked the simplicity of Palm. We'll see how much longer Palm lasts.

For some longer more detailed reviews try The Gadgeteer,, or C/Net.

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