I almost forgot that I never finished my Treo Review Series. The device is so integrated into my habits now that I don't even notice how much I depend on and value the device. It's been over a month since the last review, and that's a good thing because I have finally settled on all the applications that I deem "core" to my Treo experience, and the stability of the device has gone up as a result since I don't install/uninstall programs daily.

If you missed it, here is Part 1, & Part 2

Applications

I thought I would tell you about all the Applications I use. Personally I do not feel that the value add of the Treo is solely based on what comes in the box. Much of it has to do with the fact that there are thousands of wonderful applications. Here is my short list of must have products and what they do.

Vindigo (24.95 a year)

Vindigo is an indispensable tool and one I have used off and on since they launched. They do not have an application for the Microsoft Smartphone, only Pocket PC and Palm. Vindigo lets you get location based information for food, bars, movies, weather, maps, museums etc. It's valuable for the city I live in and many cities that I travel to.

Bart Planner (free)

If you live in San Francisco, having access to Bart schedules is a must, and this application does not dissapoint.

Caltrain+ (free)

Ditto about this, but for Caltrain instead of Bart.

Directory Assistant (donation ware)

This is an excellent Yellow Pages search application that has nice integration with the Palm OS (to create new address book entries, copy info to the clipboard etc)

FileZ (free)

This is a freeware application for managing files, memory cards, and preferences for Palm applications. It's nice if you like to hack.

KeyCaps 650 (free)

This is an indispensable application that allows you to capitalize, and enter optional characters by simply holding down keys on the keyboard, or double pressing a key quickly. Wonderful for one handed use.

Slap ($10)

If you use Getting Things Done, this is a must have. Slap is like a limitless Note, that you can use to jot anything down quickly, and then later make that into a Contact, Appointment, Memo, or Task. It's like a Sticky Note. I use this all the time to quickly capture information to be processed later much like an Inbox.

Snap (free)

Simple application for taking screen shots on the Treo.

SplashID (29.95 or part of SplashWallet)

From SplashData, a great program for managing all your passwords, credit cards, ID cards etc. Comes with a companion desktop application and can be purchased in a bundle (SplashWallet).

SplashMoney (29.95 or part of SplashWallet)

Also from SplashData, a program for managing your finances. SplashMoney can connect to your bank and download transactions much like Microsoft Money and Quicken (bank must support statement download via OFX). This is excellent for knowing how much money I have when I am mobile. Comes with a companion desktop application and can be purchased in a bundle (SplashWallet).

SplashPhoto (29.95 or part of SplashWallet)

Also from SplashData, this is a Album and Capture application that is far better than the built in Treo applications. Comes with a companion desktop application and can be purchased in a bundle (SplashWallet).

SplashShopper (29.95 or part of SplashWallet)

Also from SplashData, this is a shopping list and general list program. Jot down all the groceries, gifts, books, wine, gear and other stuff you wish to purchase. It also allows you to keep such lists as travel checklists and can be customized to your liking. Comes with a companion desktop application and can be purchased in a bundle (SplashWallet).

Tetris (19.99)

Enough said. My wife is still addicted to Tetris.

TreoAlarm (free)

An Alarm clock with built in weather updates. Wakes me up every morning!

VeriChat (24.95 a year)

An indispensable multi-stack IM client that supports AOL, Yahoo, MSN. I LOVE this product. It works wonderfully, keeps me connected even with a spotty GPRS connection, and makes my Treo a fantastic IM tool.

FieldPlus (free)

It's shocking the Treo does not support shift-select, but FieldPlus will allow you to press the Shift Key and use the 5 way navigation pad to select text keeping the stylus or your fingers away from the screen. It also adds many other useful features like a Command Bar when you hold the menu button. This also improves one handed use.

Profiles (free)

It's also shocking that the Treo does not have profiles support like most mobile phones. The Pocket PC does not either, but one feature I loved in my Microsoft Smartphone was that it would automatically vibrate in meetings. Well, Profiles will allow you to define any number of profiles that can be invoked from a number of different triggers. One of those triggers can be the start/end of an appointment. No more embarrassing ringing in meetings!

Pocket Mirror XT Standard (29.95)

How do I say this... the Palm Conduits don't sync, they mostly duplicate. On the first hint of trouble, they duplicate data. No field level sync, nothing. I don't even think there is really any kind of algorithm for determining which record is the most recent as it seems random to me. I have absolutely zero confidence in the Palm sync software, and have gotten rid of it in favor of Pocket Mirror. It just works and I don't have to think about it.

Thankfully since VersaMail does Mail and Calendar I only have to worry about Contacts, Tasks and Notes. I just have Pocket Mirror do this. Since I managed the Entourage Sync Conduit for the Palm project (design, help dev, and test a lot of it) I have intimate knowledge of just how sorry building a sync conduit for HotSync can be. However, we optimized the heck out of our conduit to NOT DUPLICATE UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. You can always do a field level compare between records to eliminate 99% of duplications.

You must take care and ensure that you do not install the Calendar Sync conduit if you are using VersaMail to sync to Exchange.

Battery Life

Battery Life isn't amazing, but it's good. If you just use this as a Phone and PIM you'll get great battery life. However, if you are syncing mail ever 15 min, using Bluetooth and browsing the web a lot you'll get about as much battery life as a comparable Windows Pocket PC or Smartphone, which for me was 2-3 days max. I charge my device every night though.

Camera

The Camera is decent. Better than my Audiovox 5600, but still problematic. I wish it were a megapixel camera, but it's fairly decent for what I use it for.

Final Thoughts

I have gotten quite a bit of interest from folks inside Microsoft about my Treo experiences. A few folks I know have even purchased devices. In all cases I do not hesitate in recommending a Treo 650 to anyone who works at Microsoft, or anyone who cannot use a Blackberry but does have Exchange 2003. palmOne's support of Exchange, and our blessing, was the real tipping point for me even considering something I had previously ignored but secretly admired. My frustration and impatience of waiting for a Windows device with a similar form factor are no longer eating away at my geek persona. When and if one exists (for sale to Omar from my carrier) I'll happily consider that device.

The Treo does have its quirks, bugs and annoyances. You are really just trading one set of problems for another if you are considering switching from a Windows Mobile device. However, the form factor, and reliability are enough of a benefit for me to deal with the issues.

It's really hard to explain, but the Treo is a digital "companion". When I am traveling, or out and about, I have a world of handy tools at my fingertips. The ease of data entry has increased my usage of mobile IM, SMS, mapping and directory tools, mobile email, even access to all of Wikipedia via Wapedia. It's even improved my continued use of Getting Things Done as I can easily access my tasks by context, take notes in Slap, and file lots of tidbits into my Memos which prior to my Treo was akin to an empty parking lot in Outlook. Now it's buzzing with Reference material, Notes, Agendas, Lists etc.

If there were 4 things I could ask Palm to improve they would be:

  1. Exchange Sync that's as good or better than Windows Mobile Devices. Fix your bugs (there are many sync related annoyances).
  2. Fix the anemic PIM applications. They should round-trip all the same data found in Outlook. This includes fixing your busted Conduits.
  3. Improve the flow between applications. Right now it feels like using a Macintosh before there was a multi-finder. Changing context between programs should not feel like you are quitting/relaunching all the time. This is especially important when moving between Email, Web, and PIM products.
  4. Fix your bugs. 99% of the crashes that occur on my Treo are related to "Web", "VersaMail", "Applications", "Messaging". These are all Palm apps.