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Treo 680 Review Part 4: New Phone Application

Following the Treo 680 Review Part 3 which looked at my new Unlocked GSM smartphone and the review before this which detailed the new Treo 680 form-factor design it appears that Treonauts are significantly less concerned about the hardware equation than the software one.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s obvious that everyone will use a slightly different rationale for buying or upgrading to the Treo 680 and today I will focus on the “unique” new software found on it – specifically the completely redesigned Phone 3.0 application which has been described by Palm as better and more intuitive.

As before the main Phone 3.0 is accessed by pressing the Phone button at the top left of the keyboard but it has now been improved so as to provide direct and easier access to key applications via five buttons/tabs at the bottom of the screen.

1. Treo680ButtonPhone Phone Tab
As default, the new Phone tab serves as a kind of ‘landing page’ through which you can quickly see the date and time, see upcoming Calendar events and set a background image of your choice.

 Treo680PhoneApp 

The first thing that you’ll probably want to do is customize your Treo with an image that is more meaningful than the four standard ones provided by Palm.  Like me here you’ll simply need to go to Options > Phone Display Options then press on the Wallpaper image and select another image.  In this case I chose a 320x240 pixels graphic of this Treonauts Wallpaper.  I also ticked the ‘Show Calendar Event’ option to display these on the Phone tab below right and you can change the Default View (ie. which Tab the Phone button lands on when pressed) to either one of the five available tabs.  

  

Although I naturally love the fact that I can place any image that I want here I am quite frustrated that neither Palm nor another third-party developer have yet found the energy or imagination to create a Wallpaper application that could randomly select (every hour or day) any one of the images so that the display is not always the same.  A little more imagination might even allow random images from Flickr for example to be fetched wirelessly and displayed here…

Please also note that because the Wallpaper only allows you to select an image from within either the built-in albums or one found on the DCIM folder on your SD card (now works with 4GB) you will need to transfer the image there first (with an SD card reader for example).

  

Additionally, by pressing the green Call Answer button while on this screen you will get a pop-up with your last 10 outbound calls (above left) and you can use the Up/Down 5Way to choose the one to redial then press Call Answer again to dial out.  Also, by pressing the Menu button at the bottom right corner of the keyboard you will have access to more Phone options such as Beam Business Card and Sound Preferences (above right).

Overall I really like the new Phone tab with its modern and clean graphics but I believe that it could also be significantly more intuitive than it currently is.  For example, once on the Phone screen the Phone button could have been enabled to cycle through the five tabs instead of or in addition to using the Left/Right Nav button.  It’s a small detail but one which would have made sense to implement for me from a usability perspective.

2. Treo680ButtonDial Dial Pad Tab
The new Treo 680 Dial Pad (below left) in my opinion offers a much more refined and modern look than the previous one found on both the Treo 650 and 700p (below right).

  

As before you can either simply use your thumb on the touchscreen or by using the number keys on the keyboard.  Also, pressing the Menu button on this screen will provide you with access to the same Options as Phone tab to the exception of the Beam Business Card.

3.  Favorites Tab
Replacing the old multi-column and multi-screen Favorites is a new single column one (below left) which can hold an infinite number of your favourite shortcuts from Applications, Speed Dial, Message (SMS), Email and Web Links.  Additionally as before each Favorite can be assigned a unique Quick Key but with the improvement that it can be launched anywhere by simply using Press+Hold (for example to launch TakePhone from within Applications I would just have to Press+Hold my “T” Quick Key).

  

However, where I like the new Favorites’ “look & feel” it does suffer badly from certain poor usability features.  For example, once on the Favorites screen I cannot press “L” on my keyboard to quickly cycle through and jump directly to all my Favorites starting with this letter (for example List Pro).

Additionally, where the options to add a “New Favorite” and “Edit Favorite” are fine and remain unchanged from the Treo 650/700p, the option to “Organize Favorites” is one of the worst and unnecessarily complicated that I have come across with the moronic need to “Press Option + Up or Down” instead of having built either a Drag&Drop or simple Up/Down buttons directly on screen.

4.  Contacts Tab
The new Contacts application has changed considerably but unfortunately not for the better.  For starters where the previous Contacts screen on the Treo 650/700p (below right) could display 11 lines the one on the Treo 680 only has 8 because of the space required for the new five Phone tabs and the categories which have now moved to the left even further away from your thumb (?!?!?). 

 

Then there’s the fact that the important “New Contact” button which was always within easy reach of your thumb at the bottom of the screen has now entirely disappeared because the space is required for the new five Phone tabs – instead you’ll now have to press Option > New Contact or “N” on your keyboard.  This is far from a usability improvement.

  

Dialling out a number from within your contacts has become even crazier – closely bordering the moronic.  Whereas before you could simply scroll Up/Down between the various numbers contained within a Contact (above right) then press Center 5Way or Call Answer (Green) button to dial out.  Now on the Treo 680 [only when using the Center 5Way] this will require not one but two clicks since you will also have to select whether you want to Dial or Message the number (above left). 

[Updated] On the Treo 680 there are now two different behaviours for the Center 5Way and the Call Answer (Green) button within Contacts – the first brings up the pop-up Dial/Message box while the Call Answer button will dial the number directly – for existing Treo 650/700p owners like me it will just take some getting used to.

As if this wasn’t bad enough this two click process applies to ALL numbers and not just mobile numbers as before – as far as I know I can’t actually send a text message to a landline so what’s the point of this (?!?!?). [Updated: To my utter surprise and amazement I’ve actually managed to send a text message to a landline in the UK and it works extremely well…  Not all landlines might work though.]

5.  Call Log Tab
Again, where the previous Call Log screen (below right) provided 11 lines the new one only provides 9 but to be perfectly honest in this case it really is not that important.  Again, for some obscure reason, the “All” pull-down menu has been moved one line down and to the left – further removed from easy access with my thumb.

  

Other than this you can [corrected] however now simply add any of the numbers in your Call Log by selecting any number not currently stored in your Contacts then select Options > Add Contact and you will be able to “Create a new contact or add this number to an existing contact” – a small improvement which is actually extremely nice to have.

Conclusion
I think that it’s fairly obvious from this review that I have not been particularly impressed by the new Phone 3.0 application.  There are some new features that I like but a great many others that I certainly don’t. 

Having said this I’m not about to revert to my old Treo 650 anytime soon.  I categorically LOVE my Unlocked Treo 680 but simply not the new Phone app.  Additionally, I believe that only existing Treonauts like me will find some aspects of the Phone application annoying while new Treonauts will likely not. 

Knowing this now, I feel that Palm could/should have built an option with the Treo 680 to allow existing Treonauts to choose between using the new Phone 3.0 or the previous Phone 2.0 application and I hope that they may be able to still do this in a future update or simply fix the issues that I have pointed out here.

[Please note that the MacOSX skin look and feel of my screenshots is thanks to an add-on application called PalmRevolt which I very highly recommend.]

Treonauts are always extremely picky


Posted by Andrew on November 29, 2006 at 01:33 PM

Treo 680 Review

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Comments

1
by Bob O'Shaughnessy | Nov 29, 2006 1:50:51 PM

I guess the biggest question is going to be how badly current apps that are PhoneApp hacks will break.

I'm actually waiting on getting a 680 replacement for my 650 because CallFilter has become one of my most important apps, and it is essentially abandoned.

2
by Fred | Nov 29, 2006 2:36:03 PM

Has anyone used the blackberry connect feature with the treo 680. I downloaded the 650 application, installed it on my cingular 680 and got an error message that "your blackberry account was not provisioned". any help is very much appreciated.

3
by cpryce | Nov 29, 2006 2:53:16 PM

Aren't your comments about drop-down menus being moved away from your thumb and thus being a usability issue based on personal bias? I would assume left handed Treonauts are happy about this, since it is actually a usability enhancement for them. I do see a valid gripe from veteran PalmOS users who have to adapt to a seemingly random change, regardless of being left or right handed, or even from stylus users.

4
by Gérard Castermans | Nov 29, 2006 3:13:16 PM

"as far as I know I can’t actually send a text message to a landline so what’s the point of this (?!?!?)"

In Europe we do can send text messages (SMS) to landlines since two or three years and this really was lacking in the Treo 650 Phone 2.0 App.

So THAT's the point of it (!!!!!) ;-)

5
by Andrew | Nov 29, 2006 3:13:37 PM

cpryce - my comments will always reflect a personal bias. In this particular case:

1) most Treonauts will be right handed
2) I hope that there are not too many Treonauts using a stylus (I almost never do)

Cheers, A.

6
by Dee Bulante | Nov 29, 2006 3:34:52 PM

"Other than this you can still not simply add any of the numbers in your Call Log with either an “Add To New Contact” or “Add To Existing Contact” option or button – a small improvement which would have been nice to have."

You can actually do this now in the new phone app. Just highlight the number in the call log, tap menu, choose record new contact. Then, you can choose to either create a new entry or add to existing contact.

7
by Andrew | Nov 29, 2006 3:39:46 PM

Dee - thank you very much for pointing this out. I will update the post accordingly.

Gerard - I have now tested the SMS-to-landline function in the UK and it does work extremely well. However, because this is not available everywhere or offered by all carriers I would have preferred to have an option to disable it in the Phone app. Again, I will update my post with this new information.

Cheers, A.

8
by Sid | Nov 29, 2006 4:16:40 PM

Does the 680 have better actual phone signal strength than the 650. Does it work better as a phone in the weak signal areas?

9
by Artem | Nov 29, 2006 4:24:46 PM

How were you able to recieve an unlocked treo 680? I am still waiting for it to even leave Palm

10
by tgwaste | Nov 29, 2006 6:18:40 PM

Andrew,
Any idea of the Volume/Sound issues have been fixed in the 680 or are we still gonna rely on VolumeCare to port the sound appropriately?

Thanks!

P.S. SURE WISH PALM WOULD SHIP ME MY DAMN PHONE!! :D HEHE

11
by Ben Combee | Nov 29, 2006 6:35:44 PM

With the new contacts view, you can always hit the green "call" button to call the highlighted number immediately.

Also, the reason that the phone button doesn't cycle screens is because of "finger memory". We wanted the interpretation of "phone + other keys" to be consistent, no matter what app you were in. If you were already in Phone, then that wouldn't have worked.

Some of your other points are well noted... I'm sure this will get passed around the Phone teams here at Palm.

12
by tgwaste | Nov 29, 2006 7:00:53 PM

Ben,
Actually getting the phone would be something better to pass around @ Palm. :)

13
by tgwaste | Nov 29, 2006 7:02:36 PM

Oh ya and in regards to the Contacts list.. Im still wondering why contacts with only one number cant be displayed on one line. using 2 lines for someone with one numbers is just absurd and looks really ugly.

just my .02 :)

14
by jo | Nov 29, 2006 7:45:46 PM

Andrew,

What is your true take on the phone. I truly suffer from buyers remorse on every phone that I have ever owned (with the exception of the 650) and I have owned all treo lines. I love the form factor, but are there enough annoying differences from the 650 to steer me clear of the 680?

15
by Andrew | Nov 29, 2006 7:58:17 PM

jo - as I point out in my conclusion I'm not about to go back to my Treo 650 anytime soon. I was undoubtedly harsh in this review - possibly because with the Treo 680 I've had to un-learn some things that I had grown comfortable with and re-learn new ones.

Overall, there is no doubt that the final conclusion of my review will be a delighted one but naturally I want to continue to point out those things where I feel that Palm could have done a better job.

If as you state you have been so delighted with your Treo 650 I have no doubt that you'll get to love your Treo 680 even more.

I hope this helps.

Cheers, A.

16
by dragonforce | Nov 29, 2006 10:04:09 PM

I would like to post but Typepad thinks my text is comment spam.

17
by Ian | Nov 30, 2006 12:03:41 AM

Thanks for another good review. Just a little request for the future: when doing screenshots for your reviews, can you please temporarily disable PalmRevolt? I think it creates a misleading impression of the look and feel of the software you are reviewing, as the screens we see are non-standard.

Thanks!

Ian

18
by cecyks | Nov 30, 2006 1:37:03 AM

Andrew: since you are able to use PalmRevolt, does that mean all softwares that are compatible on 650 will work on 680 as well? Thanks!

19
by Toem | Nov 30, 2006 3:29:42 AM

Thanks for the article. What I also missed in the Treo 680 is the Duration time in the Call Details Form.

20
by Srujan | Nov 30, 2006 6:34:39 AM

Is the phone app of 680 different from 700p? Does 700p also use Phone 3.0?

21
by Udo | Nov 30, 2006 6:50:19 AM

All: just to pick up comment no. 2 /Fred: has anyone ye tired to make Blackberry connect work with the new treo? I fell a little concerned that htis will not (and may never) work, as apparently Palm is marketing BBConnect for the 750V only - can't seem to find ANY information on BB connect at their website except for the 750V.
For me, BB connect capability would be a compelling reason to upgrade from my 650 way before my 2 year minimoum contract term is over (still 14mths to go).

22
by Andrew | Nov 30, 2006 7:05:06 AM

Udo - actually, BB Connect is available now for the Cingular Treo 650...

http://blog.treonauts.com/2006/08/blackberry_conn.html

Still no news about Treo 680 compatibility though...

Cheers, A.

23
by wade | Nov 30, 2006 8:14:45 AM

Actually, you can send SMS to landlines here in the US, at least through sprint. So far I've mainly used it for entertainment purposes (since the recipient gets to hear a robot woman speak whatever you txt). Try it out.

24
by Nicholas | Nov 30, 2006 10:55:41 AM

Andrew,(and to all for their opinions as well, please)

Treo680 Unlocked GSM -vs- Treo750v Unlocked GSM?!?!?!

25
by David | Nov 30, 2006 11:44:11 AM

Nicholas, I'm sure that's a matter of personal preference between Palm OS and Windows Mobile.

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
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