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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 Robin | Feb 21, 2007 10:38:23 AM

Andrew - Thought you might find this helpful: http://www.toysoft.ca/varts.html

Visual art is a software that helps change wallpapers randomly, though I haven't tried it myself.

by Surfasb | Feb 24, 2007 6:36:10 PM

I am a Verizon Wireless customer and I know Verizon offers a "text message to landline" option.


It's $0.25 extra. Never used it before, but it never hurts to know.

by Joe | Feb 25, 2007 2:05:49 PM

Here's another annoyance: I like to set the Phone app preference to "typing searches contacts" or whatever that option is -- from the home screen of the phone app I just type a name and it jumps to that person in the contacts tab.

On the Treo 650, if I was dialing a number (not looking up a contact name) I could just type the number on the numbered keys. Once there were no more matches in the contacts for what I was "typing", it would fall back to the numbers and let me finish dialing by numbers. However on my new 680 this doesn't work -- when typing on the numbers keys from the home screen, if it doesn't find a contacts match, just dead-ends; it doesn't convert the input to numbers and switch you to the dial pad.

by dafttreo | Mar 28, 2007 9:46:24 PM

Palm calls Phone 3.0 “Better and more intuitive!” What?!? Uhhh... not even close. I second a lot of what Dick88 said. I recently “upgraded” from the Treo 650 to the Treo 680. I loved the Treo 650, but was attracted to the form factor of the 680 (smaller, lighter, no antenna, etc.), so I changed to the 680. I think Andrew is being way too generous to the Palm folks here. Allow me to explain.

In its quest to improve this “Phone 2.0” app the 3.0 app developers threw the baby out with the bathwater! The Treo phone app has morphed into something clunky and needlessly complex. I hate this phone tab graphical interface at the bottom of the main phone screen. On the 650 we had all our favorites on the main screen which we could access in one or two easy button pushes (with a nice photo of my wife and daughter and a sliding drawer effect to boot). Now we have worthless “graphic phone tabs” which take up valuable screen real estate. If I really needed the features available through the graphic phone tabs I could assign them to a button! I would like to customize the graphical phone tabs right out of there! This is so frustrating because the Phone app worked fantastic on the Treo 650. If it ain’t broke why “fix” it, Palm? Bottom line: I want the ability to have a photo and favorites on the main page again.

Anyway, I haven’t had the problems that Tenor and George (above) seem to be having. My 680 works solidly, I just have complaints about the lost usability. Here are a few other things I saw people asking about:

-- I miss the date/time on the dial pad too (lose the damn graphic phone tabs!)
-- Why can’t you hang up a call via the touch screen? Again, Palm went backwards w/ Phone V.3.0
-- Reception (via Cingular, anyway) is great on the 680.
-- I do experience interference with my computer’s speakers while sitting at my desk from time to time. Especially when there’s a TXT message coming in.
-- The lag! The lag was infuriating at first (especially since 650 keystrokes were instantaneous), but after having the 680 for awhile it’s not as noticeable. I’ve calmed down now.


by Elizabeth | Apr 1, 2007 8:17:44 AM

I am about to return my second treo 680 in 10 days. The touch screen worked inconsistenly on the first one. Some of the "boxes" on the touch screen worked and some didn't. I took it back the next day.

In the case of the second, the screen kept locking so that it would have to be reset (soft reset-by removing the battery) every day or so - but in the meantime the phone would have been "off" for who knows how long. Then yesterday, when I tried to do a soft reset, the treo got "stuck" at the date/time screen. So, I did a hard reset, and now it is stuck at the first "tap your stylus here" screen. I like the phone, but I don't know what else to do so I will be returning the 680 today and purchasing a 650 online.

by Kenny | Aug 10, 2008 3:13:34 AM

Do you think it would be possible for someone to create a Phone 3.0.prc for devices like the 755p? I mean it's an advanced phone but the phone application itself looks so old and antiquated. I think it would definitely improve the look of the interface. Someone should create a file for it.

by nick | Mar 11, 2009 6:12:29 PM

I know this post is quite outdated, but I'm trying to find a way to get the phone app 3.0 on my Bell 700p, as bell & palm both do not offer a rom update for this model & carrier. Is there a standalone application that i can install into ram?

thanks in advance

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