I switched to the dark side…

Sunday, December 19, 2004 4:22 AM

To cut to the chase, I got a Treo 650 from SprintPCS last Thursday and I love it. Now the narrative (aka: rant):

I haven’t heard the end of this… but if you knew my background, you’d probably understand. I’ve always fought Palm devices. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, it’s that I preferred the Microsoft PDA’s so much more. Previously I always saw Palms as just informational devices… not a real portable functional mini-computers because that’s what they were. I tried a few PocketPC based applications… an iPaq and HP’s first Jornada. While I used them quite a bit, I think the biggest thing I got out of them was that they kept my home & work Outlook calendars & contact lists in sync. Eventually, I chunked them… too heavy and I wasn’t thrilled about carrying another device around daily (laptop, phone, PDA).

Then late last year, the Motorolla MPX200 came out through AT&T Wireless. It had the 2002 version of Microsoft’s SmartPhone OS on a nice flip-phone form factor (see image below). I loved it… best phone I ever had and I said it at the time. However the last few months I’ve grown a little frustrated with the phone, and finally the service. At first the phone started to get a little sluggish. I tried a few hard resents, resynced everything, installed the 2 apps I used frequently on it (Ilium’s eWallet & a blackjack game) but it was still very slow. It would get to the point where it wouldn’t even let me accept a call because the OS got so unresponsive. Not sure what that was all about. Then AT&T merged with Cingular… and that did it for me. I was a Cingular customer before I was with AT&T and I hated the coverage. Then, literally like the week the merger was effective, my service quality went from ok to horrible. 40% of my calls would go through… I’d stand in the same spot and dial the same number 10 times in a row. 9 of those times it would tell me “unable to dial the number as dialed” but the 10th time, dialed the same way, would go through. Calls would get dropped… etc. Drove me nuts. Finally I decided I had to break down and do something about it because of one single event…

My wife (who’s 8 months pregnant) and I had a 7pm childbirth class, but we decided to grab a bite at 6:15p close to the hospital. On the way to the resteraunt, I got stuck at a train… for 30 minutes. The whole time I had 3 of 4 bars, but I couldn’t accept or make a single call. When I finally got there, it was 6:50p. So, no food, a frustrated wife (who wasn’t mad at me anymore after I expalined it was the damn phone’s fault), and we’re both hungry (and class wouldn’t be over until almost 10pm. Did I mention she’s 8 months pregnant with our first? What happens when she can’t get ahold of me when she goes into labor? Why do I spent $45/month for a phone I can’t rely on or use?

So I spent about a week looking at all the different carriers (omitting Cingular & AT&T) and different SmartPhones (not just Microsoft’s, but any SmartPhone). A friend got the Treo 650 and raved about it… but it was a Palm so I discounted it at first. Then we had lunch last Wednesday… WOW, I was blown away. So I took advantage of the 14-day trial with Sprint and got it Thursday. I’m just blown away… this thing is awesome. The screen is VERY bright, it’s much faster than I expected, and everything is layed out in a very easy to understand way. It has Bluetooth support, a pretty decent camera/camcorder, and an SD slot for memory & hardware accessories. It doesn’t have embedded WiFi, but a guy on the TreoCentral.com website has already solved that. I love this phone… it’s incredible and everything I needed. That QUERTY keyboard look hard to work with? It’s not… very easy to type on. And just because it’s a touchscreen with a stylus, you can still use your fingers for one handed operation in most cases.

So now I’m a happy Palm user. This is ~not~ a slam against Microsoft… I just think the guys at Treo got it right… so far, this is the best SmartPhone out there (sorry Scoble… I know you love your Audiovox, I looked at it and I still thought the Treo won it over hands down). I’ve already had comments like “the world must have stopped, Andrew got a Palm” and my favorite by a Apple/Linux/PHP friend (one day last week when the low was around 27 in Florida): “It’s 20 degrees in Florida and you just got a Palm? Hell has certainly frozen over.”

For a size comparison (because I was surprise how small it is in real life).. that’s the CD that came with it, the Treo 650, and my Motorolla MPx200 (soon to be on eBay for anyone interested (there’s nothing wrong with the phone… the lady at Cingular confirmed they have bad service in Jacksonville).

Now what? I want to develop on it. I still have some research to do in order to build my own apps. So far I see two options: learn J2ME and build little Java apps for my phone as outlined on PalmOne here (Treo 650 support coming soon) or fork over an arm & a leg for a nice VS.NET solution… and it IS a nice solution:

AppForge has a development platform/suite called CrossFire. It integrates nicely into VS.NET (goto the link and watch the short 3m video). You can build apps in VB.NET or C# that will run on PocketPC’s, Palms, etc. Very slick. To run them, the device needs to have the CrossFire Client installed. Very cool… but there is a huge downside: CrossFire is $1,000 … the clients are $25/device. The client doesn’t bother me… but the suite is what will keep me from using it… can’t justify that cost.

Other than finding some development resources, a good RSS Aggregator for the Treo, and a blogging app for the Treo that will post to my .Text based blog, I’m good to go.

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