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Treo Software | DialByPhoto & Making A Better Phone App

Treo DialByPhotoI am always looking for faster or simply different ways that I can make or receive calls and one of the features that the PalmOS Treo still lacks is a dial-by-photo functionality (which the Windows Mobile Treo has).

A new application aptly named DialByPhoto that works with the Treo 680, 650 and 700p has now been released to provide this functionality.  It is currently still in Beta and not quite ready for primetime yet but I believe that once fully completed (in about a month) it has the potential to become an essential Phone add-on application. 

This post is therefore less of a review than an analysis of the current limitations of the standard Phone application (including the new Phone 3.0 on the Treo 680) and what third-party developers could do to enhance this.

Let me start by outlining the DialByPhoto features that I really like and which could be further exploited as the application is refined:

  • The application is mapped to the Phone button.  Press it once and DialByPhoto opens (below left) then press it a second time and the standard Phone application appears (below right on my Treo 680).  This setup therefore allows any application to easily become a Phone add-on.


  • Any image can be used as the background at a full 320x320 resolution compared to only some 240x320 for the standard Phone application.
  • You can add all the numbers and emails associated with a particular photo contact (below left) instead of just one in the standard Favorites.
  • I also like the idea of the new ‘Phone Status’ pop-up (press the Time at the top right of the screen) that DialByPhoto has implemented (below right) and I believe that it could be further enhanced by adding a larger button for Bluetooth and Network (to quickly connect or disconnect either of these functionalities).


  • There is also no doubt that DialByPhoto offers a prime example of how Palm could/should aim to refine it’s old – mostly 2D – look & feel with more 3D buttons, colours and fonts.  I still don’t immediately understand why more support for third-party skins has not been provided within PalmOS but in the meantime I personally rely on PalmRevolt which does much to improve things (see my post A Skin Revolt).

While DialByPhoto certainly has some interesting features what I would really like to see is an application – let’s call it UltraPhone – that addresses all of the deficiencies that the standard Phone application has and delivers a powerful add-on that can help us to make even more of our Treo. 

To do this let me take you through the main elements that I believe UltraPhone should contain based around those that are currently already in the Phone application:

  • Dial Pad: I can’t immediately think of anything that would make the curent Dial Pad even better except adding the Recent Calls pop-up when I press the green Call Answer button.
  • Favorites: The Treo 650 and 700p offer 7 types of Favorite buttons (Call Log, Dial Pad, Contacts, Application, Speed Dial, Message, Email and Web Link) while the Treo 680 offers 5 types (it removes Call Log, Dial Pad and Contacts which are now individual tabs).  However, personally I feel that if properly implemented there should only be 3 distinct types of Favorites – each with their individual tabs:
    1. Speed Dial: would allow you to add any Contact with all numbers and email to easily either Call, Message or Email that person.
    2. Speed Link: would allow you to quickly open any URL with your Blazer browser.
    3. Speed App: would allow you to quickly have access to your most frequently used applications.
    • Additionally, you would also be able to create sub-categories for all of these 3 types of Favorites.  For example, Speed Dial (Personal, Work, Sport); Speed Link (Information, Financial, News) and Speed App (Entertainment, Business, Utilities).
  • Background Image/Main Phone Screen: As I had mentioned in my Phone 3.0 review, I really would like to have the main Phone screen select at random or in order a particular image from within a folder (for example one called Family Pictures) so that the same background image does not appear all the time.  Additionally, I could click on the image to cycle through the folder if I was showing these pictures to a friend for example.  A more complex option might also be to integrate some ‘Web Services’ as part of the background image which could for example automatically fetch images with a specific tag or search query from Flickr or other photo site.
  • Contacts/Type & Dial: I don’t have too much of an issue with the current Contacts but what I would certainly like to see is an implementation of the same “Type a name or number” functionality (I call it Type & Dial) currently found on Windows Mobile Treo smartphones which very quickly and easily finds contacts with a particular letter combination and brings a pop-up to quickly dial from here.  I have no idea why Palm did not add this in Phone 3.0.
  • Call Log: again there is nothing particularly wrong with the current Call Log to the exception of the fact that in the Phone 3.0 version the extremely useful “Call Duration” has mysteriously ‘vanished’…  I’d like it back please if you don’t mind Palm…
  • Recent Calls PopUp: I use this function all the time and personally would like to have access to the pop-up while on _any_ Phone screen.  Additionally, while the current Recent Calls is limited to the last 10 entries I see no reason why this could not be pushed to 20 or even more as it’s probably a fact that most of us make some 70% of all our calls to the same top 20 numbers on a regular basis.
  • Dial By Photo: Finally, I would also like to have the same option that again the Windows Mobile Treo provides to directly dial some of my Favorite contacts via a thumbnail image.

I spent some time speaking with the developers of DialByPhoto earlier today and I believe that their final objective is indeed to create a full-featured Phone add-on application like the one that I’ve outlined here.  I will spend more time providing them with my feedfack and help to hopefully make ‘UltraPhone’ a reality very soon. 

If you have any particular thoughts about how to make the Phone application even better I encourage you to leave your ideas/comments below or in this special DialByPhoto thread at the Treonauts Forum.

Treonauts always work to make things better

Posted by Andrew on December 20, 2006 at 12:17 PM

Treo Software | Phone

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by Reverend Rhino | Dec 20, 2006 1:19:43 PM

I'm a Beta tester for this application and all I can say is AWESOME! Works great, and looks great too. The developer has lot's of great things coming to Dial By Photo, soon I hope.

by DavidT. | Dec 20, 2006 6:31:56 PM

Wow I stumpled upon this piece of software last night via googling for photo dialers and today I see you've reviewed it. Awesome lol. So far so good, I'm liking everything I see so far!

by dgarts | Dec 21, 2006 12:58:52 PM

Where oh where can I find a Call Log that can purge BY CALLER/CALLEE? There are times when purging by timeframe isn't what I need, but the ability to get rid of all the annoying "Voicemail" log entries, or all the calls from "home" or whatever, would really be useful. Then I can focus on calls from numbers not in my Contact list.

by Emeus | Dec 22, 2006 8:20:03 AM

I agree with the previous posts...GREAT phone app...however i cant get the reject with SMS feature to work..any support available?

by The African Nerd | Dec 22, 2006 12:41:06 PM

If you are using a 680 or 700p and you want to use the reject by sms, you have to select the "Reject" button and not the "Reject with Text" button
Where oh where can I find a Call Log that can purge BY CALLER/CALLEE?

This makes sense. We will look into it.

by Ekerbuddy | Dec 25, 2006 3:36:39 PM

this APP totally killed my 680 within minutes of installing it. I had to hard reset and do a restore. i dont think it is stable.

by Matt | Dec 25, 2006 9:21:18 PM

Haven't been playing with it too long, but so far, so good. I really hope these guys go on to keep making the Palm look good!

by Sean | Jan 1, 2007 4:14:18 PM

I dont even have photo contacts in the DialbyPhoto, but I still love the look of it. I've had my Treo Since Aug. So I'm not neccessarily a "newb" but I'm having trouble adding/creating photo contacts.
When I go to add one and search through the contacts.. nothing pops up. It'll be a blank contacts screen, with a spot to type a letter at the bottom along with the paste and cancel.
When I type a letter it auto-erases it as soon as I type it and if i try to paste a name it backs out of the screen.
Help please.
It does this when tryin to assign photos to contacts from the pics&videos app too

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