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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.


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.

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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by Mo | Nov 30, 2006 12:01:43 PM

I've been a treonaut since the old flip days and i've loved their innovation. I'm a little saddened that the 680 doesn't have the specs of the 700p. I was looking forward to upgrading to a new phone with 1.3mp camera, more onboard memory, and UMTS support...yet the 680 doesn't have any of this as it is clearly marketed towards a more casual user. My question (and opinions are welcome): If GSM v CDMA is less of an issue for me...would you recommend the 680 or 700p??

by nejjim | Nov 30, 2006 12:27:20 PM

HELP! I am a "newbie" and have been "researching" the Treo series, with special attention to the Treo 680.
After reading as many blogs and info. sites as possible I have come up with a few questions. Please be patient for I am a novice!

1. Andrew- you discuss what sounds to be many different types of software. Which of the software that you mention comes with the Treo and which do you purchase seperately? What do you recommend for general enhancement of the Treo? (this will be for both business & personal use)

2. All of the accessories I have seen do not seem to work with the smaller/ antenna-less treo 680. (Cellet holster, seido skins...) When can I expect to see 680 accessories?

3. Is it true that the current pricing for both locked/ unlocked 680 models is only introductory?

4. Have you heard talk of the 680 EVER being able to have BBConnect? My company signed a contract with Blackberry, but I have already fallen head-over-heels for the Treo!


by Nicholas | Nov 30, 2006 2:19:30 PM

I currently have a Treo650 Unlocked GSM. Had it for over a year now. Love it.

Though, I am extremely intrigued by the Treo 680 and the Treo750v. I hear amazing things about the Treo750v and the future of WM5. At the same time, I hear amazing & not-so-amazing reviews about PalmOS and that its days are numbered.

I would like various opinions on the two in order to justify to myself in spending a little over $700 on the Treo750v Unlocked GSM (with its "ways" of future WM5) or getting the Treo680 Unlocked GSM (with its very versatile but "no future" PalmOS) for $275 after my limited time offer of $125 cash back for my Treo650 trade-in. Or should I keep the Treo650 and hold out for the next best thing after the Treo680 and Treo750v!?!?

I know that the main differences are: PalmOS -vs- WM5,
screen res., SD -vs- MiniSD, and the 150kbs -vs- 600kbs internet speeds.

-TreoFanatic 4 Life

by mepex | Nov 30, 2006 2:30:59 PM

I'm surprised you didn't mention the drop in usability from moving the Favorites view from two columns to one. Now instead of having 14 favorites on a page, you have 7. 90% or more of my outgoing calls go to about 10 people, so with the 680 I'll have to start scrolling between pages, when with the 650 I didn't have to. Big time bummer.

It'd be nice to have a preference that will switch between one column and two (why not 3?). And as for the "infinite" scrolling, once you're at the end of the first column, hitting the down on the 5way should move you to the first button of the second column.

by mepex | Nov 30, 2006 2:32:40 PM

One quick question- does hitting the spacebar when one of the favorites is highlighted still pop up a list of all that person's numbers? A great unheralded feature that I use all the time on the 650.

by Andrew | Nov 30, 2006 4:01:15 PM

mepex - thanks for that tip! That is an absolutely brilliant as you say completely unheralded feature of the Favorites which I'm happy to say still works on the Treo 680.

Cheers, A.

by Ronin | Nov 30, 2006 5:02:02 PM

Can someone with a 680 perform find from the contacts/phone app.? Does the search ignore that it was started in the contacts app?

I just discovered a problem with the new Phone app, when initiating a search from the contacts screen on the phone app (or any screen in the phone app for that matter), the find app does not start the search in the contacts database but instead starts as if you were in the launcher app, that is, as if you were in no app at all. Now, that is a usability problem as every other Palm app works this way and I depend on it to make searches shorter. As it is, a search of the Contacts database with the built-in find is useless for me as I have a lot of apps on my Palm and a simple search of the contacts database will now take forever.

I hope IntelligentFind works with the 680.

BTW, as Bcombee said, in the contacts view, if you select a number and hit the green phone button it will dial the number right away bypassing the dialogue you get when using the center button.

by Andrew | Nov 30, 2006 5:59:19 PM

Ronin - yes, you're absolutely correct about pointing this out. The search _should_ recognize that it's initiating in Contacts but it does not with the New Treo 680 Phone app...

Cheers, A.

by allie | Nov 30, 2006 8:38:40 PM

Thanks for the detailed review. I have to say that the new phone app and especially the change of the favorites page was something that is not only a bummer...it gave me pause when considering an upgrade. I am still not sure I will want to keep the 680 (if it ever arrives) due to this "downgrade". Palm should have a choice on which you prefer. Maybe someone will write a "skin" like app that will allow the old favorites view to run on the 680. Other than that....tell us when the 750 is going to come out with a palm OS. thx!

by clarity | Nov 30, 2006 11:13:56 PM

How come nobody is commenting on whether the 680 works well as a phone. If someone knows, please tell me the following:

How is the reception? Will the 680 ring when somebody calls me? or will it tell me I missed a call without ever ringing?
Will I be able to hear the person I am talking to? and can he/she here me?

I love the palm O.S. but I give the 650 gets 3 out of 10 stars for those specific features I mentioned. Please tell me if the 680 would get more stars.

by Hellene | Dec 1, 2006 1:33:21 AM

Andrew, excellent review! Quick question:
Does the 680 allow use of MP3s as dial tones?

by Kenyanaut | Dec 1, 2006 8:11:50 AM

Hellene/ I will answer that. Yes it does. Any song saved to either an SD card or your internal memory can be used as a ringtone. Personally, I use the CTU ringtone from the TV series 24 that I have saved on my SD card.


by Ben Combee | Dec 1, 2006 2:11:28 PM

The problem with searching in the Phone app not looking in Contacts first is a known problem, although I can't say when/if it will be fixed.

by Andrew | Dec 1, 2006 2:27:11 PM

Ben - thank you for your comment. Since you are tracking this issue I will also venture to recommend that you consider duplicating the "Recent Calls" pop-up from Phone to also appear in Dial Pad.

Currently if you use the Dial Pad to make a call and for some reason the number is busy you cannot simply use the Recent Calls pop-up to quickly redial but must instead add 3 clicks (right, right, Call Answer button). Very annoying...

Cheers, A.

by nejjim | Dec 1, 2006 4:26:28 PM

Andrew- how do you duplicate the "Recent Calls" pop-up to appear in Dial Pad?

by clarity | Dec 1, 2006 11:22:06 PM

Thank you Karl for your information on the Treo 680. Please tell me, does it give that annoying interference when you are sitting near a computer with speakers? Are you able to hear other people easily?

by Sumflower | Dec 4, 2006 1:18:05 PM

Okay, has anyone else noticed that the 5-way directional button is badly designed. The center button is now flatter than the 650 and this makes it harder to push down by itself without accidentally hitting the hyper sensitive (and possibly too loose) up/down/left/right button. Consequently I'm finding that I'm constantly selecting things that I do not want! This is BEYOND frustrating!!! Has anyone else come across this? Could this possibly be happening only on my Treo 680?

by Sal | Dec 4, 2006 2:04:08 PM

Do you know if we can load Phone app 3.0 on the 650. The version of Palm OS and processor is the same so logically I think it should be possible. I think the only aspect that would hinder would be memory reqs.
Any info would be appreciated.

by Boris Presley | Dec 5, 2006 9:07:00 AM

Sunflower - I too am mis-selecting due to the flatter center button. Don't be overly concerned yet, my last Nokia had a single five-way rocker switch that was extremely touchy but in time I got the feel of it. I would bet you and I will similarly get the hang of this new Treo "feature."

by Sean Straus | Dec 10, 2006 11:27:17 PM

Palm has never been one known for writing good software, but things like having to click twice to dial are just rediculous. I hope PalmSoft gets their new OS out soon so much of this work could be done by someone who actually knows how to write software. It's almost like Palm is trying to screw up.

by George | Dec 12, 2006 6:08:58 PM

I am on my 2nd Treo680 w/Cingular. It needs "soft reset" at least 2 times daily. And worse phone calls disconnect after 3 minutes, even with "Keyguard" disabled. The first day it was 30 seconds, until I changed "Auto-off after" to 3 minutes. Now 3 minutes and dropped every time. This would be a great feature to put on my kids' phones, but I don't like it!!!!!

by parkcities | Dec 14, 2006 8:20:56 AM

I use KeySuite on my Treo 680 (and 650 before that). My issue with the 680 is that there appears to be no way to program the phone so that KeyContacts appears when you press the Phone button (which unlike the Button selection on the 650 under Preferences, you could customize). I can access KeyContacts by making it a Favorite or selecting it throught the Home menu, but let's just say that neither is what I consider convenient. Does anyone know how to re-map the keyboard? Or do a firmware "un-date" and go back to Phone 2.0?

by Tenor | Dec 14, 2006 8:15:11 PM

I'm a relative 'newbie' but I had nothing but grief with my 680. Had to replace it after 2 days after multiple hard resets (even with help of Palm tech support). The replacement wasn't a pleasure either but I finally got it running (again after multiple hard resets & with tech support).
I do have an issue with the center button of the five way directional button - keep selecting the up.
I have a problem getting ringtones added. Any tips? Cingular doesn't support the treo when trying to purchase ringtones.

by Dan Jahn | Jan 3, 2007 1:22:08 PM

This issue stated above:
"1) A bit of a lag every once-in-a-while (pressing a key would not yield anything for a few seconds)"

Is one I have as well - it is driving me nuts. Does anybody else have this problem? I have done multiple hard resests with no change.

by Dick88 | Feb 12, 2007 5:38:51 AM

I recently "upgraded" from a Treo 650 (GSM) because the latter was in its death throes (after 2 years of moderate use). As a 4-year Treo user, on the whole I like the Treo 680 - slightly improved form factor, no antenna, a bit lighter. But what is driving me CRAZY is the Phone application, which is a major backward step. My beefs include (most already noted in this forum but I want to reinforce the message of dissatisfaction to Palm):

- for me the Treo is foremost a phone. I want to use the Dialpad as my main view - as I suspect many others do. It simplifies my life to do so - why do I want to look at a distracting picture of Japanese kites (or whatever) and then have problems getting the functions to work conveniently (note to Palm: the Treo's (with Palm OS) main selling point is ease of use - plenty of other devices now beat it on spec's, so clever design and usability is key). But most of the functionality of the Dialpad on the 650 has been removed and transferred to the (IMO totally useless) Phone tab.

- the date and time is no longer displayed on the Dialpad; I want to use it like a quick clock and don't want to have to click through to another view (putting the time on the Keyguard pop-up doesn't help me)

- getting from the Dialpad to Contacts now takes 3 (that's right folks, 3) clicks. (I know it's 2 if you click left instead of right but it annoys me to have to remember to do that - and even then it's 2). On the 650 it was one click. And you can't change the order of the tabs to get around this.

- in Contacts clicking on the number brings up the Dial dialog box - an extra click. I know the green button works, but why does Palm force me to take my finger off the 5-way?

- 10 last dialed numbers - no longer accessible from the Dialpad, but only the Phone tab. How counterintuitive can you get?

- Favourites - only 7 on the first screen?!! apart from the waste of real estate, do they know how many clicks it takes to get to the next favourites screen?

- the Quick Keys don't work (on my phone anyway). Press and Hold from any of the Phone tabs and all I get is the error sound. WTF?

- Call Log - what happened to call duration? it was useful.

- the D pad seems to be easy to mis-hit - instad of answering the call I often seem to end up hitting the "Ignore with text" button

- to end a call you now have to hit the red bitton, whereas on the 650 you could use the screen button. I like to keep my finger on the D pad, so I find this irritating. What's wrong with allowing either way to do it?

I would really like to go back to the Phone aplication found on the 650 - is there any way to do that? Or is there a third party app to fix this stuff?

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