You can stop squinting at all the blurry camera phone pictures and cease swapping stories about what a carrier rep told you in confidence, for the Palm Treo 700p is finally here. The new Palm OS-based smart phone was announced for both Sprint and Verizon Wireless, but is it worth picking up? We think so. The changes aren't revolutionary, but as the successor to the Treo 650, the 700p brings some welcome improvements, such as EV-DO support and increased memory. Of course, it isn't perfect. There's still no integrated Wi-Fi, and Palm OS 6 has yet to see the light of day, but with solid performance and enhanced connectivity and multimedia capabilities, the Treo 700p is a winner. Verizon's pricing is set at $399.99 with a two-year contract or $549.99 with a one-year contract. As of this writing, Verizon had not responded to our queries about whether it will offer a cameraless version.
From a distance, the Palm Treo 700p looks identical to its Windows-based cousin, the Treo 700w. In fact, they share the same dimensions (4.4 by 2.3 by 0.9 inches; 6.4 ounces), the same silver and charcoal-gray color scheme, and the same integrated QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is a slight improvement upon the one found on the Treo 650; Palm replaced the oval buttons with tactile, rectangular keys that are brightly backlit. The new buttons are more spacious as well, but since the layout overall is still a bit cramped, users with larger digits should give it a test-drive. That said, you can't beat the convenience of having a built-in keyboard for quickly firing off messages and notes, especially one that's integrated so well into the overall form factor. Like the other Treo models, the 700p feels good in the hand and is comfortable to hold up to the ear while in use, but we worry about the plastic battery cover on the back, which feels like it could easily crack if the Treo were to take a nasty tumble. To protect your investment, we recommend purchasing a protective case, since one isn't provided in the package.
Another incentive for getting a case is to prevent the gorgeous display from getting any scratches. As it is, the 2.5-inch, 65,536-color display has a tendency to hold smudges and fingerprints. But hands down, the Palm Treo 700p's display is sharper and more vibrant than the Treo 700w's, which has a 240x240-pixel resolution. You can change the color theme and the backlight time but not the font size.
Palm rearranged the navigation controls slightly from the Treo 650 and the Treo 700w. Immediately beneath the display, you'll now find the Talk and End keys instead of two customizable shortcut keys, while the quick-launch buttons for the phone, the calendar, messages, and the home page are below that, split into two groups by the five-way toggle. The layout is spacious enough, but we have to say that the 700w is easier to use with one hand. Yes, that's more of an operating-system issue than a difference in hardware, but it's worth noting just the same.
On the left spine, you have three unmarked buttons: the volume-up and -down keys and a customizable shortcut key (voice memo by default). The SD/MMC expansion slot is located on the top, along with the infrared port and a ringer/silent switch. When you slide the ringer switch to the sound-off position, the 700p automatically goes into vibrate mode, which is a new feature. Along the bottom edge, you'll find the multiconnector port found on all of Palm's recent PDAs and smart phones, as well as a 2.5mm headset jack. The camera lens is on the back, as well as a small self-portrait mirror and the speakerphone. We appreciate the fact that the battery is user-replaceable, and you can purchase an extra cell for $59.99 in case of emergencies. As far as included accessories, the list is pretty sparse. You get an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a desktop-synchronization CD, and reference material.
As the newest member of the already famous Treo family, the Palm Treo 700p has found a way to distinguish itself from its siblings in a couple of ways. First, it's the first Palm-based Treo to support 3G EV-DO networks so that you can enjoy broadbandlike speeds on your device--around 300Kbps to 600Kbps (see Performance for more). In other words, that means faster e-mail, messaging, and attachment downloads. In addition, the improved Blazer Web browser now includes a built-in streaming application so that you can enjoy music and video files in popular formats, such as MP3, WMA, WMV, and MPEG-4.
Yet another distinction is that the Palm Treo 700p is the first Treo to offer built-in dial-up networking capabilities (DUN). Yes, you can finally use this smart phone as a wireless modem right out of the box. What's more, you have the option of connecting via Bluetooth or USB. The latter, however, will require that you sign up for Verizon Wireless's BroadbandAccess Connect service. If you already have an unlimited data plan with qualifying voice plan, you can get unlimited BroadbandAccess Connect for $15 a month, otherwise, it will cost $30 a month. We like the fact that using the USB connection also charges the Treo--that way, you don't run out of juice in the interim.
The EV-DO support and DUN capabilities certainly soften the blow of no Wi-Fi, but we still wouldn't mind having that option. Other smart phones, such as the UTStarcom XV6700, have it, so why can't the Treo? Even worse, it won't support Palm's Wi-Fi card. The Treo 700p does have an infrared port and built-in Bluetooth 1.2--which gives you support for more accessories, including headsets, car kits, printers, and GPS receivers--and it can wirelessly synchronize with your Bluetooth-enabled laptop or computer.