Palm did a great job with the tactile feel of the device, it fits naturally in my hand and it is easy to talk into and place the speaker to my ear (I often have to move the 8125 around to find the best location while on the phone). I love the full size stylus, it has a solid feel that is really lacking in every other PPC that I’ve messed with. I don’t use the stylus much but it’s nice to know that when I do I’m not going to be worried about it falling out or breaking. The button layout is optimized for one-handed use, and they did a great job with that (although not having a scroll wheel was a big mistake); using the device with two was awkward though. Where I didn’t notice the small key size with one hand, it was cramped and uncomfortable to type a lengthy email using both thumbs. The speaker location, recessed on the back of the device, was the only thing that I found unacceptable in the design. When it’s not in my pocket, I usually place my phone on its back, the placement of the speaker coupled with the design of the back of the device made it impossible to hear the ringer from more than a few feet away. I often heard it vibrating on whatever surface I’d put it on more loudly than it was ringing.
The best part of the Treo was all of the software enhancements made by Palm, they added a level of polish to the OS that really completes the experience; simple things like making the number pad active when it should be (in calculator, or when entering a zip code for e.g.) will make going back to the 8125 painful. There were several excellent additions like:
- Pressing the phone button from the today screen brought up the most recently used numbers
- A dialing widget on the today screen obsoletes the dial-pad (although I couldn’t figure out how to speed-dial, and the dial-pad has less functionality than the HTC version, but you don’t miss it)
- Holding the OK button brings up the Running Applications dialog
Unfortunately, all of the enhancements also seemed to make the device less stable than the post-MSFP-8125. I often had to do a soft-reset to get IE to render pages after using the device for a day or so. There were other oddities like that, where it would just start behaving strangely and popping the reset button fixed it.
The device included a voice command utility in the ROM, and it was nice; but I had a hard time getting it to do what I wanted sometimes. The biggest issue I had with it was that it didn’t report it’s state if it didn’t understand the command, the only cue that it wasn’t working was visual (i.e. nothing happened) which defeats the purpose.
I don’t really care for the Treo’s form factor (240x240 screen with keypad on the front); in many applications the screen felt cramped and in some, important information was displayed off-screen. It’s not really the device’s fault that the software doesn’t play nice with its screen, but one of the major reasons I like the PPC platform is all of the software that’s available to extend the experience; and the form factor in this case limits the value of the platform.
There were two things that killed the device for me. The biggest one was the way it connected to the PC, through a proprietary connector. Palm must have spent all their design money on the device, and left pocket change for the connector. It had a flimsy feel and required an uncomfortable amount of force to remove, often taking two or three attempts to get it to connect with the PC. As bad as it was, I would have been able to deal with it if the device could charge through the connection, but it required a separate AC power connection to do any serious charging (Palm claimed that the device will trickle charge over USB, although not fast enough to prevent a net loss while connected). When coupled with my other killer, abysmal battery life, this “feature” makes the device difficult to get along with.
On their website Palm claims 250 hours of standby time on the Treo, this number measured against the actual standby time is litigious. With UTMS enabled, I was lucky to get 16 hours between charges (15-20% battery), and that was when I purposely did nothing with it; make a few phone calls, browse the internet, and 14 was more the norm. The first day that I had it, I was using it a lot, it lasted 10. The culprit was easy to identify; setting the radio to GSM only (disabling UTMS), of course this tarnishes some of the appeal of the device, but with UTMS disabled the battery life was really good for a PPC device. I don’t have detailed measures of how long I when between charges, mainly because I didn’t need to worry about it. This was made easier by an application that someone wrote to automate the process of switching around the radio, but I can’t see anyone who isn’t aware of this shortcoming going through the trouble, and they shouldn’t have to.
I can’t decide if I like the device or not; as a phone it’s the best I’ve used so far (ignoring battery life), but as a PPC device it falls short.