Treo 650 Review Part 2
It's been a month now since I received my Treo 650, and I couldn't be more happy. There are some minor warts on this device, but I firmly believe this is the best and most usable PDA/Phone device I have used. It easily meets my needs better than any of my previous Windows Mobile devices, and while it has a few shortfalls, they pale in comparison to the positive features I've come to rely on.
If you missed it, here is Part 1
The PIM applications are probably the one weak area of this device. I have a rather high bar for these types of things as I like my data to round trip from desktop to device and back. The most frustrating aspect of the device has been that not all the data in Outlook maps to the Palm. The specific shortfalls are mentioned below. In part 2 I will talk about some third part applications that circumvent some of these issues.
This is the biggest limitation I have experienced on the device. I am a heavy user of Categories, and have about 25 categories in my task list. These are the categories I use to define my Getting Things Done projects. Most are greater than 15 characters each. The Palm limits me to 15 characters per category, and a total of 15 categories per Palm Application. This means that once you reach 15 characters it truncates. Also, once you reach 15 categories it stops sync'ing the 16 onward.
In previous versions of the Palm OS you were limited to a single postal address for a contact as well as 5 phone/email addresses. Palm finally addressed this limitation and allows you 3 postal addresses and more phone numbers and email addresses. However, they do not support synchronization of many other contact fields.
In previous versions of the Palm OS you could not have All Day events that spanned multiple days. For example, I may have a vacation event that starts on a Monday and ends on a Thursday. The Palm conduit will break these up into 4 individual events. This is problematic because sometimes it will actually span an extra day and end create an event for Friday. This has not been resolved in the Treo 650.
Support for recurring events with exceptions has improved, but they did not add features such as "Accepted", "Tentative" accept statuses for meetings. The Calendar views have not fundamentally changed, but a new "Agenda" view was added which is a bit like the Today page on Windows Mobile.
I am a big user of tasks, and while I find that Tasks feature to be fairly usable, the category limitation really makes it painful for me. Furthermore, there is no way to set a reminder for a task on the Treo. This is a huge limitation. I don't understand why Microsoft and Palm pimp tasks so much on their respective mobile platforms.
Thankfully the Palm OS has better support for Notes than the Windows Mobile platform. Notes are real first class citizens, and not objects that live in the file system like Windows Mobile. I use notes a lot more (much like I would use paper in a Moleskine) to jot down all sorts of random things. Because the Find feature of the Palm is pretty decent it means I can find all sorts of stuff easily. It's super easy to "filter" the list down to what you are looking for by typing the first few characters of the note.
Mail is where the Treo shines. The included Mail application, Versa Mail, is hands down a winner over Windows Mobile. Not only can you see much more data on the screen, but small things that DRIVE ME NUTS about the Windows Mobile mail experience don't exist on the Palm. The best example is that with a Windows Mobile device, when you reply all to an email via your Exchange account, your email address is included in the reply. The excuse that I've been given over the years is that Windows Mobile doesn' t know your email address in order to remove it from replies. Well, Palm solved this by asking for my email address during account set up. Imagine that! Seriously, if you work in the Mobile group and are listening, this is one thing that should have been fixed long ago.
The Palm mail app supports your normal options like Signatures, reply options, folders, and HTML! Yes, that's right, you can use HTML markup. Sadly this is not supported if you are using Exchange ActiveSync.
Lets be honest. The only reason I even considered buying this device is because of Exchange ActiveSync now found in the Treo. This keeps my device in sync with my corporate exchange box 24/7. This makes my device incredibly useful as I can keep connected to work when I'm mobile. When compared to the Windows Mobile platforms, Palm has a long way to go, but the good news is they have a baseline set of features that suffice for now, and the hardware makes writing emails a real joy (compared to using T9 or a stylus).
All synchronization is managed via VersaMail. You can configure the device to sync ever x minutes and define peak times for synchronizations. VersaMail can sync in the background, however, any manual sync must occur as a modal process (not sure why). Finally, VersaMail does not support Automatic Up-to-Date whereby the Exchange server can send SMS notifications to your device that there is new data waiting and that the device should sync. This is not a true push model, but it's pretty close and I used to use this feature on my Windows Mobile devices.
Sadly, there is no support for Contacts synchronization at this time. There is obviously no support for Tasks or Notes sync since Exchange does not yet support synchronization of these PIM apps.
The supported PIM apps are:
You can synchronize your inbox to the Treo. Sadly you cannot synchronize other folder, nor can you move messages to folders on the server. This is a bummer as I used to file a lot of messages on my Audiovox 5600. By default the first 5 k of messages is downloaded (Windows Mobile is .5 k). Also the default reply options do not use the Smart Reply feature of the platform. Smart Reply is an EAS feature where the reply you compose does not quote any of the text in the original message. When the client uploads to the server it appends the original message to your reply. This is more efficient then quoting the original message (if it is large) and uploading the whole thing to the server. To use this feature you must change the default reply options.
Calendar sync works fairly well. On occasion I have seen exceptions to recurring events not sync to the client till I forced a manual sync. Not sure why this is the case.
I have on occasion experienced the random sync problem. It seems that once a week I get a message from the device that an error occurred on the last sync to the server. The device then forces me to re-download all the mail and calendar events from the servers. This isn't so bad except that if you were to create a new calendar appointment after the error occurred and before the resync, you would lose that event and likely not notice it.
I've also seen the inbox get out of sync with the server such that I had to delete my Exchange account and recreate it to get the right inbox contents.
To Be Continued... (Applications, Battery Life, Camera, IM)