Choosing Your Next Treo
[Update 11/22/06: The Treo 680 is finally available to buy starting at $199]
There was a time not too long ago when choosing which Treo smartphone to buy was pretty easy as there was only one model to choose from… In the past year however Palm has vastly expanded the Treo family to very shortly provide a choice of five (possibly six soon) smartphones below (please click the thumbnail for a full size image) – also see our Treo Comparison Chart.
Last night I was invited to dinner with friends (all Treonauts) and naturally the newly announced Treo 680 (see Finally A Treo For Everyone) came up during our conversation. They all wanted to know what was special, different or unique about the Treo 680 and naturally also wanted me to recommend “the” one Treo that they should buy next. The difficulty in answering this last question prompted me to now write this post and look at many of the variables that may play a role in choosing your next Treo.
Listed below are the six top criteria (in no particular order) that I can identify:
1. Which operating system?
Not everyone will know that Palm now offers Treo smartphones running two very distinct operating systems and you should be aware of the benefits and limitations of each to select which Treo to buy.
PalmOS: this operating system is considered to be the simplest and most intuitive OS and review after review rates PalmOS Treo smartphones as the best available today. The PalmOS is very much still my preferred choice and I use it daily to my delight. Supported by a vast network of software developers the PalmOS also offers the largest selection of programs of all sorts (see my Top 100 Treo Software list) which considerably help to enhance your overall experience.
Windows Mobile: this operating system has been optimized by Palm for use with the Treo and the general concensus is that Windows Mobile powered Treo smartphones are the best devices using this OS. WM is particularly appealing to corporate IT managers because it allows them to leverage existing investments and to quickly, easily and cost-effectively mobilize their workforce. It is not as intuitive or ‘fun’ as the PalmOS but it nonetheless appears to offer just to right solution for those Treonauts who primarily want to use their Treo ‘just’ for the basics such as phone, email, web, contacts, calendar, notes, text messaging and such.
The Treo smartphones running PalmOS are the Treo 650, Treo 680 (to be launched within a couple of weeks) and Treo 700p while the ones running Windows Mobile are the Treo 700w|wx and Treo 750v (not yet available in the US).
2. GSM or CDMA?
Many Treonauts may not even be aware that there are two different mobile standards in the US – GSM or CDMA – but their differences are important and here is my rationale for choosing between them.
GSM: If you travel frequently internationally then my recommendation will be to choose GSM as this is the standard that currently has the largest global footprint (available in more than 100 countries) and is the one available almost exclusively in Europe and Asia. Additionally, GSM allows you to purchase individual SIM cards in countries where you travel so as to reduce roaming costs.
CDMA: Because CDMA coverage is largely restricted to the US it will not prove adequate for people who need their Treo when travelling internationally. However, the US coverage for both voice and data that it provides tends to be very good and the largest carriers (in terms of number of subscribers) are CDMA operators.
Your choice of wireless standard will then determine which wireless carrier you will choose below.
3. Which wireless carrier?
The two largest GSM carriers in the US are Cingular and T-Mobile while the two largest CDMA ones are Verizon and Sprint.
You may already have a personal carrier preference because of geographic coverage, an existing contract or other factor which may restrict your choice to move to another carrier. However, if this is not the case then you should carefully first consider if GSM or CDMA best suits your needs and then select your preferred carrier based on quality of service and the cost of their voice and data plans (more on this further below).
Once you have chosen your carrier you will need to select one of the Treo that is/are available to use on their network below.
4. Wireless Connectivity
One of the single most appealing features of a owning a CDMA Treo smartphone from either Verizon or Sprint is that they currently offer the highest wireless broadband speeds – up to 700kbps – while there is currently no Treo smartphone that is able to operate on either Cingular or T-Mobile’s equally fast HSPDA/UMTS networks.
The availability of faster wireless connectivity with both Verizon’s and Sprint’s Treo 700p and Treo 700w|wx will prove particularly appealing to Treonauts who envisage using their smartphone with DUN (Dial-Up Networking) to power broadband connections for their laptop while on the go.
It is also worthwhile mentioning that Sprint offers the lowest wireless data plan at $15 per month while Verizon offers the highest at $50 per month.
5. Which Treo smartphone model?
If you have chosen GSM as your preferred wireless standard you will have the following options below.
Cingular: this carrier has been a Treo “partner” for quite some time and currently offers only the Treo 650 but it is anticipated that it will also be the first to release to forthcoming Treo 680 (possibly offered for FREE if you sign up to a data plan for 2 years) within a few short weeks.
T-Mobile: for some bizarre reason this carrier does not currently offer the Treo on a ‘subsidized’ basis and therefore your only option will be to purchase an “Unlocked” Treo 650 or Treo 680 (available in a couple of weeks) and simply insert your T-Mobile SIM card.
If you have chosen CDMA as your preferred wireless standard you will have these options below.
Verizon: this carrier has been Palm’s “launch partner” for the first Windows Mobile Treo 700w and now also offers the PalmOS Treo 700p.
Sprint: like Verizon this carrier now also offers two high-end Treo smartphones with the Windows Mobile Treo 700wx and PalmOS Treo 700p.
Both Verizon and Sprint are front-runners in the race to bring the Windows Mobile Treo 750 to the US – possibly at the end of this year or beginning of 2007. Additionally, for now Palm has indicated that the Treo 680 will only be available as a GSM model (thus only to be used with Cingular or T-Mobile) while there has also been no indication as to whether a high-end Treo 750p might be released at some point in the future.
6. Does hardware design matter?
From the image at the top of this post you will have noticed that two Treo smartphones – the Treo 680 and Treo 750 – have a new antenna-less design and they also offer a slimmer and lighter form-factor to previous models. This alone may not prove to be the deciding factor that influences your own choice but in my case I can categorically state that this is the Treo model that I want to own next because I really love the experience that it provides. Additionally, the fact that the new Treo 680 will come in four (or more) colours (for the Unlocked model only) is also strongly appealing.
7. My budget
Last but not least is the question of money. The Treo is certainly not cheap and which smartphone to choose may therefore be directly linked to how large or small your budget is. However, I know that when I purchased my first Treo 600 (before founding the Treonauts blog) money was very much the least of my concerns – I wanted to have the functionality that only the Treo could offer me and I was willing to pay whatever (within reason) to own one. I have evidently not been at all disappointed with that decision which in hindsight was probably one of the smartest things that I have done in my life…
Depending on your situation, choosing your first or next Treo smartphone may prove to be a very easy or rather difficult choice but I hope that the above will at least have provided you with a little more information to decide.
At the same time, please take a moment to share your experiences choosing your Treo with your fellow Treonauts in the short survey below.