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Broadband Internet access (almost) anywhere? Oh yeah!
When Palm released the Treo 650, it was a near-perfect fusion of PDA and phone. While the new Treo 700p is not dramatically different from the 650, it does provide some nice perks for people who spend more time looking at information than talking to Mom.
The 700p boasts a ton of similarities to its aging sibling: a gorgeous 320-by-320-pixel display, a QWERTY keyboard that's a little cramped but more than usable (the black keys indicate the number keys you use to enter a phone number), an SD card slot, and a very useful ring-silencer switch on top. At 6.4 ounces and 2.3 by 4.4 by .9 inches, the 700p is about the same size and weight as the 650.
Palm has upgraded some aspects of the phone's design. For one, it has increased the amount of user-accessible memory from 23MB to 60MB (128MB total). It's also added dedicated send and end keys (on the 650, the key that takes you to the phone doubles as the send key). This should make sense to people switching from regular mobile phones, although it's a strange adjustment for those who are used to the 650.
Another upgrade is the inclusion of a 1.3-megapixel camera, a vast improvement over the 650's VGA cam. The 700p also features an enhanced media organizer that makes it easier to sort and view your pictures and video. For music, the phone comes with the pTunes application, which you can use to listen to MP3 files but not AAC (neither unprotected nor protected songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store). The speaker is located on the back, which means sounds can be muffled when you lay your phone down.
The biggest difference between the 700p and the older 650 is data-transmission speed. The 700p supports Sprint's and Verizon's high-speed EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) services, which provides broadbandlike Internet access (if you live in an EV-DO coverage area) to email and the Web, as well as special multimedia capabilities provided by the carrier. The 700p certainly felt faster than the 650 when running the included VersaMail application. Web surfing via the included Blazer browser was a comparative dream. Google search results and Fandango came up quickly, and although graphics-intensive sites such as CNN and Moviefone took longer to load, they actually felt usable - unlike on a 650. Still missing, however, is a built-in instant-messaging client (just imagine using the 700p to send an instant message to a fellow 700p user. Talking on the phone is so passé).
The Sprint-equipped 700p we tested also came with a few cool services. We dig the On Demand feature, which uses your zip code to deliver specialized information. For example, you can get the top 10 U.S. news or political headlines, baseball standings, and local TV-guide information. There's also the SprintTV streaming video service, which has trailers, music channels, Fox's Prison Break "mobisodes" (mobile episodes), as well as other content that costs additional dinero. If you want the On Demand or SprintTV services, you'll need to spring for one of the Sprint Power Vision packs, which cost between $15 and $25 per month. One thing that Sprint does offer for free is access to your Treo user manual, phone support (no more trying to remember how to do a soft, warm, or hard reset), and on-demand news headlines from Reuters.
The phone includes other nice perks, such as Bluetooth (you can also connect using USB), a voice recorder, and Documents to Go for working with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on the road. The battery is OK; it lasted us almost three days, which included about an hour and a half of talking and the same amount of time browsing the Web, checking email, taking pictures, reading news, and even watching a little video.
The bottom line. If you're looking for a Mac-compatible PDA phone that does equal justice to data and chitchat, you can't do better than the 700p. If you already own a 650, it may be hard to justify the purchase price unless the higher speeds and interactive content are that important to you.
CONTACT: 800-881-7256, www.palm.com
PRICE: $649.99 (without service activation), $499.99 (with two-year Sprint service)
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.2 or later, USB
High-speed data transfers. Cool multimedia apps. Great design.
Not the most comfortable keyboard for typing. Lacks built-in instant-messaging. Expensive.