Smartphones, Treos, and Cell Phone - Oh My!
September 21, 2006 11:29 AM   Subscribe

After eyeing my boss' new Treo 700, I'm toying with the idea of getting one. I have a few questions about Fancy New SmartPhone Technology that I'm hoping the hive mind can help me with.

1) I currently have Verizon (still linked through my parents' Family Plan). I understand that if I were to buy a new phone on eBay or from another retailer, I will have to get one that's setup to work with Verizon, correct? My contract has another year or so, so I don't think it's worth paying a fee to get out of it for now.

2) Do I need a fancy, expensive data plan to do things like send email from the middle of the dessert or surf the Internet on the bus? Are some smartphones equipped with Wifi as well, for Internet browsing? Will I get charged by the minute or kilobyte for data sent to and from my phone?

3) These Treos, they come in PocketPC and Palm flavors? I have an iBook; which is more likely to work with my mac? (I know all about syncing Palms with Macs, thanks to AskMe).

4) If I decide to get a Treo, should I spring for the more expensive 700 model, or save a hundred bucks or so by getting a lightly used 650?

5) Is a Treo really the way to go, or should I be looking at other options as well? [This is mostly addressed in this AskMe already]

Of course, any other smartphone-related comments and/or anecdotes are appreciated.

[As always, I apologize if/that this has been asked before. Past questions don't address Verizon customers, and Verizon seems to be pickier about their phones. Maybe. I think.]
posted by rossination to Technology (13 answers total)
#4: I've used the 650 and the 700p, and all things being equal except for the price, you should definitely go for the 700p. It's made better, it's more stable, and it can use EVDO.
posted by bshort at 11:32 AM on September 21, 2006

3. David Pogue, the New York Times' electronics critic said that the PocketPC Treo was far inferior to the Palm version.

4. I love my 650 and am not planning to upgrade any time soon (these things have an incredible lifespan... I regularly see people using Treos from the 400 series) but I have heard that the internet connection on the 700s is faster. The connection on the 650s is like fast dialup; I'm told that the 700s are closer to a high-speed landline conenction.
posted by chickletworks at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

2. My HTC Wizard (branded as a T-Mobile MDA, similar to the HTC Apache which is AKA the Verizon XV6700) supports 802.11b/g. Enabling 802.11g requires a registry hack.

3. You need Missing Sync or PocketMac to sync and install some software. Even then, some software will only install through a Windows desktop, which means you'll need to find one if you need that software. It's not always obvious what software requires a Windows desktop.
posted by revgeorge at 12:19 PM on September 21, 2006

My answer to 3 only applies to Windows Mobile/PocketPC/Windows CE/it's all the same OS smart phones. If my phone had offered me a choice between Windows Mobile and PalmOS I would have chosen Palm in a heartbeat specifically because of the Mac syncing thing.
posted by revgeorge at 12:30 PM on September 21, 2006

I'm also currently considering a Treo. I am a Mac user who has experience with both PocketPC syncing and Palm syncing on the Mac. Both work (PocketPC requires a tool like Missing Sync referenced above), but getting some PocketPC software on to the device from your Mac can be a major pain. Some PocketPC software comes packaged as a Windows installer package that must be run on a Windows desktop computer in order to do the installation on the device. You can likely do this from Parallels or VirtualPC on your Mac (if you have one of these), but who wants to load up a whole separate operating system just to put a new game on your shiny new handheld?

If I get one, I will be getting the Palm version primarily for this reason. I think the screen on the Palm version is higher resolution as well if I recall correctly.
posted by rglasmann at 1:00 PM on September 21, 2006

You'll need a data plan, without it the phone is pretty much a normal phone.

On top of that I don't think you can add a data plan on top of the family plan. I tried to do a similar thing recently.

Additionally, even if you use that particular phone number your parents legally own it. If you want to keep your same number you'll have to bring the master account holder (one of your parents) and have them sign the number over to you, a huge pain. I believe there is also a 175$ fee that goes along with that.

This is all just based on my experience with it, your best bet is to call them about the contract stuff (which is much too complicated to begin with).

On a side note, I personally went with the Q and I love it. I don't have to do any word editing so not having the Palm OS isn't that big of a deal. Its so thin and light you can actually keep it in your pocket. The extended battery is a must though since the normal one last about 5 hours with normal use.
posted by aznhalf at 1:14 PM on September 21, 2006

I picked up a Treo 650 a few months ago from eBay, I got a great deal on it, I just wanted a phone and PDA (and didn't want to carry two devices), but Verizon requires a dataplan, and when you add it together I was paying for Treo all over again every few months. The actual hardware purchase is a small part of the price. For me it was way too much. I sold the Treo and used the money I was spending on the data plan to buy a PalmTX (with WiFi) and a bluetooth enabled phone, and it paid for itself in 6 months. Internet usage via cellphones is WAY overpriced, and browsing the web on those tiny screens is an exercise in futility. For me, WiFi is common enough that I can do everything I want via my Palm. It's not as compact a solution as I would have liked, but it's saving me hundreds of dollars a year in usage fees.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:44 PM on September 21, 2006

I have both a Treo 700p and a Sidekick 3.

My recommendation depends on what you want to do. If you have lots of custom, rich apps you want to install, yeah, 700p all the way. But if you're just looking to web surf, email, IM, and all the typical cell phone stuff - the Sidekick 3 destroys the Treo.

Here's the short version of why:

- The unlimited data plan for the Sidekick is $20/mo on top of your voice plan. Treo is through the roof, comparatively.
- The keyboard (where you will be spending oh so much energy) is far easier to thumb type on the Sidekick.
- I've had my Treo crash repeatedly running the bundled apps; more crashes in the first week than Sidekick crashes I've had in 2.5 years. It routinely locks for 10-30 seconds if I'm underground when it thinks it might catch a signal - no response to input, not even the power button. The Sidekick is way more graceful about drifting out of coverage.

So, yeah, if you need a really rich device - and I do mean need - I don't have any problem recommending the Treo. But I still love my Sidekick way more than I would've thought after trying the other side.

Just my experience, though.
posted by Remy at 2:23 PM on September 21, 2006

sprint's data plans are much more affordable. i switched from verizon to sprint when i got a treo650... $15/mo unlimited data.

i only recently got missing sync, and boy is it the shizz. works like a charm.

there is lots of freeware for palm... i am doing things with the treo that would probably be impossible on most smartphones, and since i hate microsoft with a passion i wouldnt consider a windows mobile device.
posted by joeblough at 3:32 PM on September 21, 2006

also verizon has a habit of crippling bluetooth on their phones. not sure if the verizon treos suffer from this or not, but i do know that my bosses verizon treo650 just does not work right with his prius but my sprint 650 against my prius works well.
posted by joeblough at 3:33 PM on September 21, 2006

sprint's data plans are much more affordable. i switched from verizon to sprint when i got a treo650... $15/mo unlimited data.

Just to second JoeBlough's comment, I have a Treo 650 with Sprint, and I only pay $7.50 for data, with the deal that I never use it as a wireless modem with my laptop, as that is billed differently.

Either way, the 700 is capable of that EVDO high-speed stuff, which may cost more for the data plan. It may be worth it to go with a used 650 in the long run.

It may also be worth it to take a long look at that Motorola Q before going with the Treo.
posted by 4ster at 6:29 PM on September 21, 2006

Yes, Sprint's data plans and customer service are both significantly better in my experience. And it is just a Sprint-vs-Verizon debate, since Sprint and Verizon are currently (and for the near future) the only providers of EVDO. Between the two, I would very strongly recommend switching to Sprint -- especially if the post above is right that Verizon would charge you a $175 switching fee anyway.

I've been using Sprint phones as modems since the beginning (since two network-generations back, when dialing up via your phone got you a sub-14K connection... if you were lucky). Now you get broadband speed with EVDO. As mentioned above, you can only get this with the Treo 700 and above, not the 650. It's absolutely worth it to spring for the 700, since for the same monthly rate you'll get many times better speeds.

For the Treo, I heartily third/fourth the recommendation of Palm OS over PocketPC.
posted by allterrainbrain at 9:32 PM on September 23, 2006

As for the Mac compatibility, the phone-as-modem usage is perfectly simple on Mac; here are excellent step-by-step instructions.
posted by allterrainbrain at 9:35 PM on September 23, 2006

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