Review: Treo 755p
May 23, 2007, 1:19 PM by Eric Lin
Our in-depth review of the Treo 755p, which updates the CDMA Palm OS device with modern styling.
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Palm OS users are loyal, possibly more loyal than Apple users. However, unlike Apple, it is not a growing platform. More people are not adopting the Palm OS every day like they are Windows Mobile, or Symbian or the Blackberry. The Treo 755p doesn't add any new features to attract new users to the Palm OS, nor does it give current users much of a reason to upgrade. However, the 755p it is a solid performer that addresses nearly every complaint we've heard from current Palm users.
The Treo 755p and 750w share the exact same body. The only thing that is different about it are the navigation buttons that surround the D-pad. Because they are the same shape and even color, they will be difficult to tell apart. The 700w and 700p were equally similar.
The body is a sleeker, and yet more comfortable take on the classic shape of the 700w and previous Treos. It is ever so slightly thinner and narrower than the previous design, but much more comfortable to hold thanks to concave sides and a soft-touch finish. And, of course, it looks sleeker too now that Palm has finally lopped off the antenna.
The 755p retains the thick profile and rounded back of previous Treos, which keep it from fitting nicely in your pocket, but helps it to fit nicely in your hand.
Although the 750w and 755p share the same body, they do not share the same specs, but believe it or not, they are the exact same specs as the 700p. Palm has simply taken the 700p's guts and wedged them in the 750w's body.
Typing with the Treo is difficult. Despite the fact that we now have more experience with its keyboard (having previously reviewed the 750w), we still had the same difficulty typing on it. The keys are small and spaced very close together. This tight spacing combined with the domed shape of the keys makes it very difficult to hit the right letter.
The 320 x 320 screen which Palm has been using for many generations now works well for viewing indoors and out. In bright sunlight colors are a bit washed out, making framing photos a bit difficult, but text is easy to read.
Despite the fact that the screen has more pixels than most cell phones, it does not appear to be capable of displaying any more text than the average phone displays on a QVGA screen. This is probably because of the Palm OS's fonts, the smallest of which is still quite large
The 755p got excellent reception everywhere we tested it. In fact the reception was so good that there was no discernible difference between the 700p and 755p. In our vault test, it displayed at least 2 bars and we were able to make calls as well as get online without a problem.
We have to wonder if they could have done away with the external antenna 6 months sooner. If so, there probably would have been no need for this minor update to the device.
The sound quality of the Treo in a call is among the best we've tested. Nearly every person we spoke to on the phone said they've never talked to us on a better sounding phone. And on the listening end every call was loud and clear. We were usually able to get away with keeping the volume under the halfway mark for most conversations, even outdoors.
The ringer and speakerphone are good as well, however not nearly as loud as the earpiece. We had to turn the ringer volume to halfway just to hear it in a quiet room, and almost to its maximum to hear it outdoors. Unfortunately the vibrating alert was too weak to get our attention in situations where the ringer had to be turned off or wasn't loud enough when it was on.
The 755p barely even sips the juice. The battery lasted a remarkable four days of use, including lots of data usage, picture taking, messaging and some lengthy phone calls. Turning on Bluetooth did not diminish the battery life significantly either. Although many power users often lament the Palm OS's lack of multi-tasking and other advanced features, those same features are power-hogs. Because the 755p is so conservative in its energy usage, you can easily go on a long weekend with the Treo on a single charge and have battery to spare when you get back to town.
For people who are not Palm OS users, the platform creates some initial confusion. Most users expect some sort of home or status screen on their phone, but the Palm OS does not have one. There are two default screens on the Treo 755p, the main application menu (reached by pressing the home key) or the phone dialer (which is accessed with the phone key).
The phone dialer is the closest the 755p comes to a home screen in that it can be customized to display a picture instead of a gigantic numeric keypad on the screen. It does not have plugins that can display specifics about missed events or, say, upcoming appointments like other smartphones - or even newer feature phones. The dialer also has an application launcher that eliminates the need to visit the main menu.
Palm OS is much more reliant on the the touch screen than other modern smartphones, which may lead to some confusion for new users. There are no soft keys to press, which is frustrating and confusing at first. All applications had a fairly consistent navigation setup, so after you've had some time to familiarize yourself with how things work, they are easy to use.
Navigation is definitely not optimized for one-handed use; the Palm OS still shows its PDA roots with buttons all over the screen and its reliance on a stylus. Application menus remain hidden until you tap the title bar or hit the menu key in the lower right hand corner, and once revealed work much like on a PC. Although you can navigate the menus and all the on-screen buttons and boxes using the D-pad, it often required scrolling through so many choices that we found just using our thumb to be a much faster solution.
The phone dialer is the only place to display a customized picture, which is shown in place of a giant on-screen numeric keypad. By default the numeric keypad part of the keyboard can also be used to dial numbers. However, in one of the many menus is an option to enable contact search using the keyboard, the same way one can on Windows Mobile or phones like the Sidekick and Ocean. We found the on-screen keypad plus contact search to be an unbeatable combination, even if it did mean a dull lack of wallpaper.
In call options are all accessed using on-screen buttons that are big and easy to read, though not necessarily as large or well organized as other touch screen smartphones. But they are still very easy to use for all common functions.
The contacts application has not changed much since the days of Palm PDAs. Options for photo caller ID and a customized ringtone have been added, as well as spot for IM buddy names. By default there are spaces for 4 phones numbers, one email address and one IM name, but more can be added by clicking on the plus sign button.
It is easy to make a call or start a message or email from the contact list. This is also the same view used when sorting through contacts on the dialer screen.
Just as on the Windows Mobile Treo, Palm includes two messaging applications - one for email and a second for SMS/MMS. The SMS application is a very simple affair, made even more simple by a seemingly advanced feature - threaded messaging. Messages to and from a contact are displayed in a single window like an IM chat, with a list of ongoing conversations and an option to start a new one on the home screen.
The email application maintains a traditional inbox view instead of the threaded one. It can be configured for one account and offers helpful default configurations for a number of services. As with all smartphones it can be set up to retrieve mail automatically at timed intervals.
The 755p comes with a third party music player called Pocket Tunes. It has an interface similar to Windows Media Player for Pocket PC, including a space to display the the current track and artist, on-screen controls, and a small playlist preview for a few upcoming tracks.
Although the stand-alone version of Pocket Tunes has been upgraded to support many modern features, the Treo still ships with version 3.0.9, which has a significantly more limited feature set. It can only play mp3, WMA and Ogg Vorbis encoded files - not AAC.
Pocket Tunes can sort through tracks based on ID3 information, but can only load tracks into the playlist from one folder at a time. So if you like to skip around a lot, we strongly recommend putting all your music in a single folder. If you are a neat freak and can't stand to have all your tracks co-mingling then you can create custom playlists on the device with tracks from anywhere.
Despite Palm's limitations on multitasking, Pocket Tunes plays music in the background flawlessly. It didn't skip a beat when we were browsing or doing any other common tasks - not even using the camera.
Listening to the music is a bit disappointing. Sound through the built-in speaker is pretty poor, and because the Treo has a 2.5mm headset jack, the only way to listen using headphones was by using the included set. There is no support for stereo Bluetooth.
The camera on the 755p offers virtually no options, other than selecting a resolution and turning a 2x digital zoom on or off. There is no flash, no night mode and no special effects.
Whether it's because there are no options or simply because the camera application is well written, the one thing we can say is that the camera is fast. Starting up the camera takes about 2 seconds. Once the select key is pressed to take a picture the shutter is snapped immediately and the picture is displayed on a review screen. There are four on-screen buttons, the first of which is save. Pressing this saves the picture and returns you to the review screen in a second or less. You can also send or delete the picture from here as well as go to the gallery.
The gallery offers a surprisingly advanced set of features, especially when compared to the camera. In addition to the typical sending, file management and caller ID or wallpaper options, the gallery offers a surprising set of tools. You can rotate the photo, or use the stylus to draw on it, or even record an audio annotation to go along with it. You can also display all your photos in a slide show from within the application.
The gallery application also lets you choose a whole album to modify or send in addition to single or multiple photos. Bluetoothing a gallery full of pictures to our PC required a total of three clicks.
Although it scored a 20/50 on the vision test, which is average for a 1.3 megapixel camera, the 755p was a huge disappointment in this field. Pictures taken outdoors were washed out. Pictures taken indoors, even in very bright light, were grainy. And pictures taken in dark rooms or at night were simply black blotches.
If the pictures were bad, the video the 755p takes was even more disappointing. The video recorder puts a greenish-blue cast on every thing so it looks like a cheap movie from the 1970's filmed under fluorescent lights. And it seems as though the recorder drops every fourth or fifth frame, so motion is smooth for a split second, and then it jerks.
3GPP2 / MPEG-4 format (viewable with QuickTime)
File size: 519 KB
The browser is just about the only application included on the 755p that does not start up instantaneously. It takes a second or two for the application to launch, and even longer for it to start a data session. Users of Treo 650p or 700p will be pleased to hear that the 755p launches the browser significantly faster than older models.
The Treo comes with Palm's Blazer browser, which uses a server to scrape regular websites and reformat the content for the Palm's screen. Although the 755p has EV-DO high speed data, the extra trip that websites take before they get to the phone slows things down. Although desktop formatted websites probably load quicker in Blazer, mobile formatted websites do not.
As previously discussed, the phone dialer can be replaced with a wallpaper, although only a portion of the picture is displayed, and there is no preview or choice of how it will be cropped.
There are a huge number of color themes which change the color of the background, title bar and text, and you can choose from one of four fonts in most applications (though you can't set this globally). These fonts, which have been part of the Palm OS for many years, start at large and go up to positively huge. None of them are smoothed or take advantage of sub-pixel rendering. The Pocket Tunes mp3 player can also be customized with different skins.
The 755p ships with a large number of ringtones and alerts, most of which sound dated. Even though this is a smartphone, you cannot load your own mp3 ringtones on this Treo. Instead you have to use one of the services that send the tunes as an MMS as you do with the majority of Sprint's other phones. You can, however, record your own ringtone (up to one minute long) using the built in sound manager.
There is no native file manager for Palm OS. Each file type is managed from within the application used to access it. Applications are managed from the PC using the Palm Desktop, however they can be downloaded and installed directly on the Treo from the browser.
When the Treo is in standby, only the four appication keys or the end key will turn the screen on. No other key presses will even temporarily turn the Treo on to display the time. Only using the Phone or Home keys are useful when trying to tell the time. The phone dialer dedicates a line to the date and time while the main menu displays the time in the title bar.
Pairing the 755p to a headset was simple and worked as expected. The Treo also played nicely with computers and other devices as far as file exchange goes. The only odd behavior was that even when set to discoverable, one of our macs refused to recognize it could send files to the Treo until the two were paired. We were able to send contacts, pictures and even mp3s to the Treo. Sending from the Treo was equally easy once we learned that the term "beam" was strictly reserved for transfer using IR. Instead you have to choose send, which then almost always gives you a choice between Bluetooth and email.
The Treo does not natively run Java applications, though there are Java engines available for the Palm OS platform.
The 755p comes with the full complement of Palm OS applications including a calendar, to-do list, memo pad and other utilities. It also comes with a version of Google Maps and Sprint's On-Demand. The world clock displays the time in two additional time zones but only supports one alarm.
There is a large library of Palm OS applications from third party developers to supplement what is included on the phone.
Most faithful Palm users have already upgraded to a Treo 700p, and since the 755 does not have any new or even upgraded features, it's unlikely this device is meant for them. Even if it was meant for current Palm users, it's unlikely they would upgrade knowing that Palm will unveil new devices running a new Linux-based OS later this year.
Which means the 755p is probably designed to bring new users to the Palm OS, like the Treo 680p for GSM networks. However, despite the update to a more appealing form factor to attract the mass market, the 755p is still a higher end smartphone both in model number and price. The Palm's simplicity, even when considering the learning curve, could be appealing to new smartphone users. Knowing that the Palm OS is in its twilight months, however, this seems like an odd time for Palm to try to attract new users.
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palm 800p or any upgrades after 755?
755p or wait for 700p update