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Palm Treo 700p

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The Palm Treo 700p, which includes features introduced in the 700w but which runs on the familiar and easy-to-use Palm OS, seeks to offer something for everyone. As a PDA, the 700p is designed to appeal to both consumers and business users, with e-mail and Microsoft Office functionality, a 1.3-megapixel digital camera that shoots better-than-average cell phone pictures, and MP3 music playing software that, when you add a high-capacity SD memory card, might make you reconsider buying an iPod shuffle.

In addition, this model uses the popular Palm OS (version 5.4.9)—a relief to Mac users—rather than the Windows Mobile OS that runs its sibling, the 700w. Like other Palm OS handhelds, the Treo 700p offers good syncing capability with your Mac, either with the Palm Desktop software that comes on a CD-ROM with the device or Apple’s built-in Address Book and iCal applications; and, although the included Palm software isn’t Universal, it worked fine on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.

The Treo 700p features a high-resolution 320-by-320-pixel screen, a built-in 1.3-megapixel digital camera that also captures video, and a slightly sleeker, slightly thinner design than its predecessor, the Treo 650.

But the real draw is the phone’s support for the EvDO (evolution-data optimized) cellular data networking standard, which promises higher bandwidth and faster retrieval of e-mail and Web pages. After all, you’re probably not investing in a smartphone just to talk to people.

Although you won’t mistake EvDO for the DSL or cable line that runs into your home or office, it’s a noticeable improvement over the sub-dial-up speeds that most cellular data plans offer. With the Treo 700p, it’s actually feasible to surf the Web using Palm’s built-in Web browser, even if the smaller screen doesn’t accommodate most layouts well. (Sprint and Verizon , the companies currently offering the Treo 700p, also have text-based Internet services that give you news, sports, weather, and other information.)

What really makes EvDO attractive is its support for Internet access, where the phone acts as a wireless modem—you can get online without having to locate a Wi-Fi hotspot. This is significant because, while many cellular phones offer this hardware capability, the benefit is lost because some service providers don’t allow it. Sprint and Verizon are supporting it on the Treo 700p.

The downside for Mac users is that this feature works only via Bluetooth, which has slower performance than a USB cable (which is supported under Windows). When I tested a 700p on Sprint’s EvDO network using Bluetooth, I saw fairly unimpressive average speeds of 429 Kbps (download) and 41 Kbps (upload)—but it’s still better than dial-up speeds, and it’s a boon if you have no other connection. Of course, you’d need to have Bluetooth on your computer to begin with, and if you don’t, you’d have to purchase it, an additional expense.

But using this device is expensive any way you slice it, and you have to be located in an area that has EvDO coverage—and pay $40 to $60 for data transfer on top of your cellular plan’s cost.

Macworld’s buying advice

The Treo 700p is one of the best smartphones on the market, despite its relative expense. And it’s even better if you want to take advantage of its speedy EvDO Internet access.

[ Jeff Carlson is managing editor of TidBits and the author of Palm Organizers, Fourth Edition: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2005). ]

Palm Treo 700p
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