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A Conflicted Treonaut

The following post was kindly contributed by Peter Arts now that he's finally received his Treo 650.  Peter and I didn't necessarily see eye to eye this week with the whole memory mess but I always welcome the opportunity to read his distinct opinions and experiences.

I am extremely conflicted:

  • I got a Treo 650 delivered, and it is a beautiful, fast device with a killer display
  • It has some issues that can only be attributed to ??? (we'll talk about that below)
  • I am going to explain why I am disappointed
  • I feel bad about it, because I didn't pay for the device (I won it in a PalmSource contest)

Let's start with the good:

  • The Treo 650 is fast. I've been running side-by-side comparisons with my T600, and the improvement in loading/running apps is incredible.
  • The screen isn't just beautiful...it is simply magnificent. I have had no issues for the past year with the Treo 600 screen. Crisp and bright, it did what I needed, and then some. Now...I could never go back to it. The difference is that superior.
  • The keyboard is a big improvement. I have ham-hands, and still managed to work with the Treo 600 keyboard without too many problems. The new keyboard is much easier to navigate, harder to miss keys, better tactile feedback and really well-lit.
  • The removable battery is an improvement just for the peace of mind it brings. I never ran out of juice with the Treo 600, but that was more a matter of judicious travel/car charger use then a tribute to its battery life. I use my Treo all-the-time. Being able to swap batteries is going to be sweet.

Now for the not-so-good:
1)   Let's start with this week's cause celèbre - "The great Treo 650 memory scandal":
In a nutshell, it has been reputed that the new non-volatile memory in the T650 is so poorly managed that everything is managed in 512kb chunks. This increases the memory requirements of native apps, and grossly eats into the 23MB of on-board RAM. I for one had chastised the many writers who were screaming about this...on the reasonable grounds that they weren't in personal possession of a Treo 650 and therefore had a) no 1st-hand knowledge to impart and b)ought to shut their whining yaps.

Well, I DO have one, and although I won't whine, I am definitely glowering.  I hotsynched the Treo 650 after upgrading the desktop software. This put EXACTLY what was on my Treo 600 into the Treo 650. 

Guess what? When installed on the Treo 600 (which had the same 23MB of RAM to play with), it left me with 11.3MB of RAM.  On the Treo 650 however, I was left with less than 4MB of free RAM.  What to do? I am going to try a few utilities to run apps off my SD card...especially TUBES PRO for NYC (almost 8MB in size).  If I can do that successfully, it will make the situation a lot better. But no one with this kind of device should have to deal with that issue.
2)   Next, let's go to the lack of control over my own device:
Palm installed RealPlayer and Versamail. I don't want either of these bloody apps, because PocketTunes Deluxe and SnapperMail are vastly superior. I can't uninstall either of these (p1 won't let you see them on the delete list), so, I was forced to get rid of PocketTunes. However, I will not give up SnapperMail. I live and die by eMail, and Versamail has none of the rich GUI or functionality that makes SnapperMail such a wonderful mobile tool.
3)   Good idea, bad idea: The reset hole.
Good idea: p1 decided to create a reset hole that could be pushed with just the nub of the new all-metal stylus. No more unscrewing to get at that bloody pin!
Bad idea: You have to remove the battery cover off the back to get at the reset hole.
4)   Personal pique...the color scheme:
This is a purely personal gripe...  I loved the cobalt/ dark gray color scheme of my Sprint Treo600. It looked like an accessory for a 1960's Alfa Romeo or Austin Healy sports car. Very mecha-cool, very masculine. I didn't particularly dig the 'Lost In Space' silver color scheme on the rest of the T600's. However, the new pastel/metallic color scheme looks like rejected colors for Maybelline lip gloss. It might wow the iPOD crowd, "...but DAMMIT JIM...I'm a doctor, not a club-hopper..." You get the idea.

Why did this happen? Heavens knows exactly how it happened...doubt we'll ever really know. BUT...I am in IT, and the one thing that you do is test, test, test before you roll anything into production. If the memory management was the same as the Treo 600, I would personally have no problem with the 23MB of RAM. I think p1 should have put in 64MB of RAM no matter what...but with the RAM being gobbled in a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, this was a big-time mistake. 
Like I said, I got this for free, so I don't have the indignation of fury of those who shelled out between $350 and $500 for theirs.  However, the trust in this device cannot be compromised if palmOne is to make market headway.  If they don't stand up and take care of the problem their competitors will, sadly, be eating their lunch for the foreseable future.
That's it...I'm off the bloody soapbox.
PJ "...there isn't any Santa?" Arts

Treonauts are quite headstrong...

Posted by Andrew on November 26, 2004 at 03:57 PM

Treo Opinion

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by 1SFG | Nov 26, 2004 10:00:36 PM

overall I found that to be a balanced review. I'm still on the fence about the device - though I will likely spring for one using my roadshow coupon. i've never owned a smartphone so i can't compare it to anything other than my tungsten/t and my sanyo 8100. here's my one gripe with this review and others i've seen - no one seems to review the phone quality of the device. that is, no comments on reception, speaker clarity receiving and transmitting. i'm hearing rumblings on tc that people on the other end listening to someone on a treo can hardly make out the words the 650 users are saying. if this turns out to be the case in most of the 650's released so far, it will be more of a killer to me than the dreaded memory issue.

by ojleblanc | Nov 26, 2004 10:13:35 PM

Good point, 1SFG. I, too, would love to read comments on voice quality. A friend of mine has a T600 and she always sounds great. I'm hoping the T650 is as good!

by Bob | Nov 26, 2004 11:06:02 PM

Got mine Wednesday, didn't have a 600 before this 650. After reading this comment, I thought I'd check mine out on phone quality. It's something I'd taken for granted.

My wife says the sound received from the 650 sounds tinny and metallic, and thought it might be breaking up. I swapped and had her take the 650 and talk to me on another phone, and I didn't notice any breakup. But the sound quality both listening on the 650 and receiving a call from the 650 both are on the metallic side. I think it's completely understandable, and it doesn't bother me, but it is noticeable. I'm going to keep checking it out over the next few days, and I'd suggest just checking for yourself when you buy. Sprint has a 14 day return policy with no questions asked.

Now, about the part of the original post about pockettunes...I understand I can't uninstall Real, but is that going to keep me from using pockettunes?

I want to do low quality streaming NPR radio on the 650. I've tried just going to the web pages and clicking on the listen live links, but am told by the 650 that that "your device does not support this filetype." (For Real streaming and same message for MP3 streaming). I have NOT yet put Pockettunes Deluxe on, but will be glad to if that'll do the trick. The stream is not one listed on Shoutcast, if that matters.

So, is the "fix" for this as simple as installing Pockettunes Deluxe?

by Jonathan Greene | Nov 26, 2004 11:31:42 PM

Peter - Thanks for the thoughts on the 650...

You can't kill VersaMail and Real since Palm installs them into the system's ROM.

by Jonathan Greene | Nov 27, 2004 12:02:59 AM

One more bit for you... You can install Tube on your Palm and the support files on your SD card which saves an amazing amount of space. The main app is less than 100K... it's the maps that are huge!

by Ben Combee | Nov 27, 2004 4:53:15 AM

Pocket Tunes Deluxe has been working very well on my Treo 650. Yes, RealPlayer is there, but it's easy to ignore.

by Aux | Nov 27, 2004 1:50:36 PM

Trust this is a Spirit model right?

by Scott | Nov 27, 2004 3:15:33 PM

To add insult to all this controversy: I just got my Treo 650 and they didn't ship with a slip cover. In calling PalmOne customer service to see if this was a mistake, their response was that they decided not to supply one with the phone.

by Jimbo | Nov 27, 2004 11:42:48 PM

WARNING: Beware when upgrading from T600

You've all read about the memory issue with the T650, now I want to tell power users how it may impact them. PalmOne wasted my day off Wed, 11/24 the day I went to upgrade from the T600. Let me briefly tell you about it...

My new toy arrived the previous evening and I pretty much just got a chance to charge it up and make sure it worked. The following morning I awoke and started the upgrade process by first syncing my T600 and then installing the new Palm Desktop software for the T650. The software install froze towards the end, so I forced it closed and tried again. The install then started as if it previously succeeded, so I figured it must have completed after all. So, I hotsynced the T650.

After loading it up, the T650 went into a soft-reset loop. I had to do a system reset to stop it. But, then when I tried to access the app list, it looped again so I hard-reset and re-synced. Same thing. So, I figured that maybe not all the files were getting from the T600 backup onto the T650 because of the reduced memory. Fortunately, I had backed up the T600's Palm directory so I could compare both devices' backup directories on my pc. Sure enough, there were dozens of files alphabetically at the end of the T600's backup directory that didn't get installed on the T650, 2.8 MBs worth!

So, I put my 1GB SD card back in my T600 and moved to it over 4.5 MBs more of apps and data to leave 8MBs free on my T600. Now, I had to uninstall the T650 desktop, reinstall the T600's so I could re-sync the T600 to my pc and establish a smaller backup directory to put on the T650 after re-installing it's desktop software. All that seemed to work fine until I finally got to sync the T650 again. It would not hot sync. The "ding" would sound at the start of the hot sync process but nothing would happen. Over and over I tried. I spent hours uninstalling and re-installing software to get it to work to no avail. With each passing hour of my day off, I could feel rage building inside me. To say I was pissed at P1 would be an understatement. All that kept going through my mind was the thought that five more freakin dollars on their part to provide at least 64MBs of memory and all this likely would have been avoided.

I tried two other PC's. One had the T600 previously synced to it and the other had never had a handheld synced to it. The first, experienced the same problem - would not follow through with the hot sync beyond the "ding". The second, no problem. So, I called P1 support. Not sure if it was their's or Sprint's but the person I got was as helpful as a...well, I could say a lot of nasty words here, but I won't. I finally just hung up on them as they seemed less experienced with working with Palm smartphones than I. A few more hours of various ideas, which I had a lot of being a computer geek, and I came to the conclusion that something in the T600's Palm desktop/hs software was conflicting with the T650's. I tried editing the registry and Windows directories, again with no success. The dreaded option was my only one left, reimage my pc and install apps to the T650 from scratch. Well, that worked and it only took me 13 straight hours from the time I started this process to the time I had the basics reinstalled on my pc and was successfully hotsyncing my T650. I, of course, have had to spend an additional few hours getting everything to normal on both.

Well, so much for brief! The lesson learned for all of you is to make sure that you've got at least 8MB of free space on your T600's last sync BEFORE upgrading to the T650!!!

And, the lesson for P1 is, stop acting like giant company jerks and listen to what your customers want - they are the one's that will keep you at the forefront of innovation!!!

by Jimbo | Nov 28, 2004 12:18:15 AM

T650 Review...A major improvement with some major flaws!

I've had my T650 for a few days now and thought I would lend some thoughts to those considering their first smartphone or upgrading from the T600.

T600 users will love the faster processor, the awesome screen, the easier to use keyboard and the greatly improved camera. As mentioned above, there is no going back once you experience the new screen. It is so incredibly crisp and bright, I actually enjoy watching movies on it with MMPlayer. The graphics in Warfare Incorporated are stunning now too!

The faster speed is nice but it also lends itself to better "multitasking". With the T600, I would sometimes experience interuptions in the music playing from PocketTunes in the background when using other apps in the foreground. Not with the T650. Also, the speaker is louder, which is nice when wanting to listen to music w/o headphones.

While many of us fretted at the late news that the camera would NOT be 1+ megapixel as anticipated, I can now tell you, you won't care. The new camera is awesome. It takes very clear images and quickly adjusts to changing light settings. The result is a clear picture whether the room is light or dark. Of course the 2x zoom is nice too, as well as, the self-portrait mirror.

The new keyboard has easier to use buttons, but I HATE how it stays on all the time. Gee, with the 600, the keyboard wasn't on enough, now you can't shut it off. If I play a stylus game, like Warefare Inc. for a few hours, there is no need for the keyboard backlight to be consuming precious battery power. P1, if you're reading, make this user controllable.

The Bluetooth is nice with the Jabra headset. Wireless hotsyncing is also nice, though slow compared to the USB 2.0 cable.

Finally, phone quality is just as good, if not a little better, than any other of the many mobile phones I have previously owned.

Now for the bad...
Memory - NOT ENOUGH OF IT!!! I'm not sure how us customers can make that any clearer to P1. The lack of built-in memory is an absolute disgrace considering the price of memory nowadays and P1's response only adds salt to the wound. They act like they don't give a rip. So what if most users don't use all 23MB's up. They are likely NOT the users to spend the bucks to upgrade anyway. P1 needs to service the early adopters, the geeks that want the new toys, to push them to the edge and make others gawk at it's capabilities. That's what will "sell it" in the streets and bring new customers. It likely would have cost just $5 to double the internal memory. Palm says we can all just buy SD cards. I already have a 1GB one with plenty of room. The problem is that the capabilities of the smartphone lead to applications that MUST operate in RAM to run correctly. Background apps like IM's, multimedia players, email, alarms, datebooks add-ons and more. Other apps are too inconvenient to run from a card, like HandBase that will need to load all available dbs from the card before running. Come on Palm, it's so cheap!!! My opinion is that Palm should cease production, change to a 64MB model and freely exchange all T650's bought to date and suck up the embarrasement of their shortsightedness.

WI-FI - Where is it? Bluetooth's nice, but there are a heck of a lot more 802.11x devices. We asked for WiFi after the 300 came out, now two models later and it still is not there. What a shame!!! Now, if they or someone else develops an SD format Wi-Fi card, we won't be able to get one because we need the SD slot for memory to make up for the lack of memory issue!

Camera - Much Improved, but... As I mention above the new camera is very nice, but use Treonauts must be given a multi-megapixel camera in the next Treo model AND throw in a LED flash too! After all, other phones have them already.

New Connectors - WHY?!?!?! The T650 has a new connector on the bottom that is, of course, not compatible with the T600. My only question is, why? The new one performs the same functions yet the USB cable's connections at the end seem more prone to possible damage.

Location of the ringer switch. This was moved towards the middle of the device. Pretty stupid as any form-fitting case is likely going to have a strap over the top that will cover the switch. Do they not test these things?!

2.5mm headset plug, STILL! Come on Palm, look at the bottom of the phone, plenty of room for increasing the hole for a headset plug by a measly 1mm. The next model better have a 3.5 mm plug. Don't make us have to carry adapters.

The Reset hole. As mentioned above, it's great that you don't have to take apart the stylus to reset the device. But, now you have to take apart the battery cover instead. How stupid is that?! Again, do they test this stuff or is Palm so prideful in their device that they think it will never need to be reset?

Overall, I'm very glad I upgraded. The benefits of the T650 outweigh the disappointments. However, continued inconsideration by P1 of their niche customer base with future models is likely to not be met with the same forgiveness. Handspring was able to go from the T300 to the T600 in one year, what's P1's problem? They better figure it out. Actually, we're telling them, they just need to listen and follow-thru.

by PJ Arts | Nov 28, 2004 2:20:49 AM

My bad for not mentioning the phone aspect of the Treo 650. Flat out excellent. Crystal clear on both ends, louder rings/alarms then the 600, louder, clearer speakerphone. I can run meetings with it.

Am using Power Run, and have moved Tubes over to the SD card. It works, but I am cheesed at having to wait for the maps to load, because of the F-Troop memory design.

by Bob | Nov 28, 2004 6:02:27 PM

Ben: re your pockettunes response, thank you. You were right; the buying deluxe pockettunes solved my problem.

Seems odd that with Real and MP3 both installed on the 650 that I have to spend $30 for a solution, but it works, and I'm satisfied.

by Shwaydogg | Nov 28, 2004 11:32:32 PM

All of the origianl posts negative comments were trivial (excluding the memmory issue)!

by Fred | Nov 29, 2004 10:54:50 AM

Thank you all. This is very helpful to me. I would be very grateful to anyone who can tell me other differences between the 600 and the 650. I had no idea the two models are so different!
So far the differences are
keyboard backlight can't be turned off (650)
camera quality
display quality
processor speed
removable battery
reset hole location

any other differences?


by rkim | Nov 19, 2005 12:13:42 PM

own 650 for 2 months. majority of my calls either drop or such bad reception requires hanging up. using cingular. like the other functionality, but phone is aweful. can someone offer advise? please help if you can. i bought several for employees, and it feels like a waste of money right now. eveyrone wants to upgrade to 700 when they come out, but none of the 650 phones work.

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