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Treo 700w review

January 1, 2006

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews

Handheld PCs are often split into two competing categories: Palm and Microsoft. Palm devices are known for being fast, simple, and reliable. Microsoft handheld devices are known for their functionality, snazzy appearance, and better compatibility with other Microsoft software like Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

Competition between Palm and Microsoft handheld devices is rough-and-tumble. The two powerhouse companies slug it out with each new model, upgrade, feature and LED. At the end of the day, the brand you pick should be based on your needs and preferences, so there shouldn’t be so much fighting about which is better. But there is.

Or perhaps it’s actually about the fight. Tech geeks are far more opinionated than Average Joe or Joan. A bunch of people with opinions leads to long, intense conversations. Just look at the movie “Twelve angry men”, the United Nations, or any commercial with the catchphrase “tastes great, less filling”.

Some classic arguments are about to change. Microsoft and Palm, in an odd marriage of competing mega-corporations, have combined forces to give us theVerizon Treo 700w cellphone handheld. Based on Palm’s excellent Treo hardware, the Treo 700w runs Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. Press releases state this combination brings out the best: Each company’s strength overcomes the weakness of the other.

Let me state for the record, I’m experienced with both sides of the Microsoft / Palm debate, and am comfortable using the products of each side. However, when I first heard about the Treo 700w running Windows Mobile 5.0, my heart sank. I really like Palm OS. Yes, it’s not as functional as Windows Mobile, but that’s also a plus: It’s more stable, battery life is excellent and device speed is fast. I knew from past experience that Windows Mobile is less stable (program and OS crashes are far from rare), battery life is comparatively horrible, and response time (compared to the Palm) was mediocre.

So the Treo 700w news didn’t thrill me. I thought that each brand had their own advantages, the Treo line was excellent as it was, and adding Windows Mobile to the mix would cause problems.

Luckily, I was wrong. I received a demo Treo 700w from Verizon and was able to study it properly. My results and final opinion are close to opposite of my preconceived notions. (Note: I’ve seen many reports calling it a “Treo 700” or “Treo 670“, not a “700w”. The official model for the phone is indeed 700w.)


Here’s what you get:

The Treo 700w is close (if not identical) to the size and shape of the earlier Treo 600 and 650 phones. The keyboard design was improved, and quick-access buttons have been changed to accommodate Windows Mobile-specific buttons. The usual Treo volume control, mute/vibrate physical switch, infrared port, headset, sync / cradle port, camera, and expansion memory slot are all in the same places as in the 600 and 650.


Windows Mobile provides excellent functionality. Even though Palm OS has a gigantic software base, Microsoft has caught up fast – plenty of freeware, shareware and commercial applications exist for Windows Mobile devices. They’re also more compatible and friendlier than Palm OS applications.

The Treo 700w comes prepackaged with Microsoft Voice Command, an application allowing you to voice dial your contacts, display and hear upcoming appointment information, and other options. It’s a great value – I’d recommend buying it, so having it bundled with the phone is a nice surprise bonus.

Add extra digits to your speed dial calls. An excellent feature from the earlier Treos, this allows you to play extra speed dial digits after the phone connects. For example, you could set a speed dial number to check your office voicemail: “Speed dial 123-4567, wait 3 seconds, then type your password, “456”, then hit pound.” No problem on the Treo. This greatly improves speed and one-handed dialing. This obvious and handy feature is not available on, for example, the Audiovox 6600 or 6700 phones.


Very good. Not as fast as a bare-bones, simple-graphics Palm OS device, of course. But realistically I have no complaints. New users to the device or Windows Mobile should have no problems with speed.


Ooo, baby. Battery life shouldn’t get me this excited, but it does. Enjoy this frightening look into my life’s priorities.

I ran a fairly unscientific yet revealing test.

Step one: Charge a Treo 700w and an Audiovox 6700 Pocket PC (both Windows Mobile 5.0 devices) to 100%.

Step two: Let them both sit for 24 hours. Neither phone made or received calls, or did anything else. Neither phone was roaming. No Activesync or similar tools were run. Bluetooth was turned on for each phone, but apart from that and the cellphones remaining active, the units just sat there.

Step three: Look the resulting battery life. Here’s what happened to the Audiovox 6700 Pocket PC after those 24 hours:

Not bad. Sort of. I suppose. I’ve never been thrilled with the battery life on most Pocket PCs. Gotta charge them every other day even if you don’t use them. Make just a call or two, and you’ll need daily charges, and can easily burn through a full charge with one roaming phone call. I thought the Treo 700w running Windows Mobile would hurt the usually excellent Palm battery life. Here’s what happened to the Palm 700w after running for 24 hours:

Very nice. That looks like around 95% battery life remaining for the Treo, versus 70% for the Audiovox. A little hard to get detail, though. The Treo 700w just shows a bar graph of battery life, not percentage remaining. And the Audiovox 6700 shows the battery percentage only in increments of 10%. (And both phones spell the abbreviation for “Lithium Ion battery” differently. Odd.)

To be fair, the Treo does have a slightly better battery – 1800 mAh capacity versus the Audiovox’s 1350 mAh. (Also odd is that even though the batteries are slightly different capacities, they both take up about the same volume.) Just shows what I thought to be Windows Mobile sucking up batteries seems mostly the fault of hardware design.

The short story: The Treo 700w battery life runtime is significantly longer than the Audiovox 6700 (and most other Windows Mobile devices, from what I’ve experienced).

Usage and comfort

A good bonus when using the phone is the speakerphone: It’s loud.

I like that when the phone is on vibrate (which is almost all the time for me), the phone vibrates continually until you stop it. None of this “vibrate, pause, vibrate, pause”, causing you to ask, “Is the phone vibrating? Hm… Maybe I mistook that pothole bounce for a ring.”

One-hand use is still the name of the game with the Treo 700w. Dial contacts right from the Today screen. If it’s a phone number, the phone knows. If it’s an existing contact name, the phone knows. When you find who you’re looking for, hit the call button, and you’re connected.

My only Treo 700w usage complaints have to deal with the intrinsic differences between Palm and Microsoft devices. Windows Mobile simply isn’t as streamlined as Palm OS. You need more button taps in Windows Mobile to do the same thing on a Palm OS device. Certain functions on the Treo, like calendar entry, could be done with one hand, but not on Windows Mobile. More functionality also requires more effort. Until Microsoft puts more work into the user interface, we’ll just have to get used to it.

Treo 700w problems

The Treo 700w’s 240×240 screen resolution may be an issue for some. Windows Mobile devices like to show off their graphics capability. And they should. Visually, Windows Mobile is very impressive, especially when compared to Palm. However, the Treo’s display, great for handling Palm OS information, is a little squashed with Windows Mobile. Probably not an issue if you’re new to Windows Mobile, but if you’ve had other Microsoft handhelds, you’ll notice the difference. Examine the two shots below.

The first screen shows the Today Screen from the Treo 700w, 240×240 pixels. Notice the amount of information displayed, particularly the appointments / calendar area, where we see tomorrow’s important meetings. The next picture is a screen shot of the same data, from an Audiovox 6700 Pocket PC, with a resolution of 240×320. While the Today screen on the Treo can be customized, like removing the Voicemail and 411 Connect buttons, you’ll notice the amount of information is far more limited (even when comparing to the 240×320 screen, a fairly small resolution itself).

A minor problem is the button settings. Some Windows Mobile devices allow you to get full use out of your buttons, some don’t. For example, you could set a button to start Word Mobile when you pressed it, or open Excel Mobile when you held it down. This delayed hold is very handy, as it allows you to have multiple functions for one button. And while you can get double-duty on some buttons on the Treo (by combining button presses with the Option key), the delayed hold was only implemented on one side button on the Treo. In fact, if you just press it normally, nothing happens. And you can’t program it otherwise. To Microsoft: Please give us full control in customizing the button interface.


The Treo 700w is a Windows Mobile device on a Palm Treo platform. If you’re comfortable with the Treo line’s layout and size, you’ll be comfortable with the hardware. If you know Windows Mobile, or are willing to learn a more complex (but more rewarding) operating system, you’ll enjoy the interface. Both the hardware and software have their own faults – nothing is perfect. But the war cry of the Treo 700w was to establish success in merging Palm and Microsoft technologies. And they’ve done it: The Treo 700w is an impressive, powerful device, that does indeed seem to have more benefits and very few drawbacks.

And it looks cool, too. No cellphone review is complete without a colorful night shot! What is it about LEDs that (to me, at least) is endlessly fascinating?

My biggest concern is something completely my fault. Throughout this Treo 700w review and analysis, I continually compared and contrasted with my current cellphone, an Audiovox 6700 Pocket PC. While it says great things about the Treo, I’m now disappointed in my Audiovox. As I completed this article, I let out a deep sigh, looking longingly at the Treo. I’ve got the wrong cellphone.

Here they are, the kissing cousins, side by side with a Leatherman for sizing.

I’d definitely recommend the Treo 700w over any Windows Mobile 5.0 device I’ve seen so far. (But there’s no way I’m giving up my Leatherman.)

The Treo 700w cost is $500 with a 2-year contract from Verizon.

Readers Respond

Disgruntled says:

Letting a phone sit for 24hrs and then claiming 1 has a better battery life than the other based on 2 separate programs measurement of that battery life is hardy a fair test.

I disagree. Assuming both programs are accurate, why should this make a difference? Though in this case, the programs were indeed the same, or very very close: Each battery monitor you see was the built-in code from each phone’s Windows CE operating system. For each screen shot, I went to Start -> Settings -> System -> Power, and took a picture of the result.


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