The Treo 500v GSM smartphone, which arrived here late last year, is Palm’s bid to reach a broader market with a more consumer-friendly device.
The first result of this consumer focus is a different look to previous Treos – the grey and silver colouring and lightweight plastic body give a sleeker impression. Even though it’s just over 60mm wide and nearly 20mm deep, it’s the lightest in the series to date at 120 grams.
The 500v is Palm’s first offering to use the Windows Mobile 6 platform, but Palm has provided its own interface that improves on the standard Mobile 6 menu by making it easier to use and better looking.
The so-called ‘carousel’ navigation lets you scroll left or right through logical groups of applications, then you can select the required program from a column of choices below each group.
Along with the mobile versions of Office applications, Internet Explorer, and Media Player, there’s ActiveSync, Notes, a couple of games, Task Manager, alarm clock and calculator, Internet Connect Sharing, MSN Instant Messaging and Windows Live installed. Vodafone Live services are also included.
Although it’s done well software-wise, the hardware functionality is less impressive. Despite it being a 3G phone, there’s no HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access), which could put off business people who need to quickly check and respond to emails. This also means it won’t deliver great speeds if you’re using the device as a modem. There’s also no wi-fi.
However, the Mobile 6 standard means on-the-go workers are well equipped to manage busy schedules by setting up a calendar and sharing it using Windows Live. It’s also very simple to set up a Yahoo or Gmail account for getting emails while on the road. You can also set a regular check and automatic download to your inbox.
Although I didn’t test it, live streamed TV is also available.
A 2MP camera is installed on the back of the device, making it unsuitable for videoconferencing. It takes clear stills and video, but has no flash.
In another break with Treo tradition, there is no touch screen or stylus. Instead, there is a 240 x 320 pixel LCD display, along with a five-way navigation button, call, on/off, hang up, home and back buttons, and two soft keys (one allocated for Vodafone Live). There’s also the usual full QWERTY keyboard/dialling keypad.
However, the keys are very small and close together, which makes text entry difficult – especially when instant messaging.
The unit has Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR (enhanced data rate), useful for quick file transfer to a PC. This can also be done via mini USB.
The Treo 500v has 64MB of RAM and 256MB internal memory, with 150MB allocated for storing your apps and data. It’s expandable with a MicroSD card, but it was difficult to get the back cover off to install both the SIM and microSD cards. Once the back cover is off, you find the battery has to be removed to get to the card slots.
Palm’s testing shows the battery offers about 4.5 hours of 3G talk time, and 10 days standby in 3G.
Sound quality was good during calls or when listening to music with the supplied 2.5mm headphones.
At the time of writing, Vodafone and its retailers were offering the handset for $749, with broadband plans and data bundles from one retailer ranging from $29.95 to $59.95.
There will be inevitable comparisons with the Blackberry Curve (Vodafone is offering the Curve 8310 for $899), which is also a sleek and lightweight smartphone at 111 grams. Many features, including the keyboard, are similar on both phones, however the Curve’s camera has flash and it has built-in GPS.