Pocket-sized smart phone
Input methods aside, what impressed us about the steel-blue Treo 180 is that it's less than 1 inch thick (4.3 by 2.7 by 0.7 inches) and significantly lighter (5.2 ounces) than Kyocera's QCP-6035 Palm phone. The flip lid, with its built-in, see-through window, doubles as a protective cover for the device's monochrome screen, which is only slightly smaller than that of a standard Handspring Visor. This model, unlike Handspring's Visor PDAs, has a convenient scroll wheel on its left side for one-handed navigation of menus and lists. We also appreciated the switch that allows you to easily turn off the phone's ringer (you can choose between 10 ring tones and vibrate mode).
Flip open the protective cover, and the display turns on and defaults to the speed-dial menu, which can store up to 50 names. As with all Palm OS-based smart phones, including Samsung's SPH-I300 and Kyocera's QCP-6035, you can dial a person in the phone book by simply tapping a contact's number. But the Treo 180's phone book puts a space between entries for a look that's not as clean as the standard phone book's. However, it's easy to locate a desired contact: simply input the letter of the person's first or last name and a short list of entries appears. You can also dial numbers manually by tapping them out on a virtual keypad.
To access the standard Palm OS start-up menu, you tap the Home icon as you would with any Palm-OS based handheld. As noted, this Treo's screen is closer to that of a standard Handspring PDA, with the lower portion devoted to the Graffiti handwriting area. Users can also access a virtual keyboard if their Graffiti skills are shaky.
As far as PDA features and specs go, you're looking at a pretty standard Visor. The Treo 180g runs on a 33MHz Motorola DragonBall processor and comes with 16MB of memory and Palm OS 3.52, which is not upgradable. In addition to the address book and phone applications, you get the standard bundle of calendar, to-do list, memo pads, and other PIM applications. There isn't a Springboard module slot--or any space for adding additional memory--though most users will find the 16MB onboard to be sufficient.
Presently, the wireless-data features aren't as flushed out or as user-friendly as they should be. You get Handspring's Blazer browser, which allows you to access the Internet, albeit rather sluggishly: between 9.6Kbps and 14.4Kbps on current GSM networks. Handspring now offers a GPRS upgrade to for the unit, which will allow for faster Web access--but only for T-Mobile subscribers. Also, until the carriers become ISPs, you'll have to use your own ISP (EarthLink, for example) to surf. Another caveat: You can't use the Web-clipping applications developed for Palm's wireless handhelds on the Treo.
At the time of this writing, Handspring was offering a public beta version of its forthcoming Treo Mail application, which is able to forward mail from Outlook running on your desktop or your POP3 account to the Treo. The software can be configured to dial up and get new messages at regular intervals. That way, you don't have to wait through the whole process when you want to read your mail. We also had no trouble getting our AOL mail after we installed AOL Mail for Palm OS and were able to send SMS notes to e-mail addresses and other GSM-enabled cell phones in the United States and abroad. Handspring says you can use the Treo in Europe and Asia once you activate international roaming with your carrier.
Solid sound quality
Overall, as a phone, the Treo 180g (GSM 900/1900), like its keyboard-less sibling, performs well and is surprisingly comfortable to talk on; it feels like using a standard flip phone. We also appreciated the quality of the built-in speakerphone, which can easily be turned on and off by tapping an icon on the screen, and the inclusion of an earbud-style headset for hands-free conversations. Our only gripes are that the phone could sound a little louder, and battery life could be better. In our tests using Cingular's network in San Francisco, we managed to reach Handspring's rated talk time of 2.5 hours and 60 hours of standby, but that's fairly mediocre.