Saturday, February 07, 2009

Treo 680 Long-term Review

I bought an unlocked Palm Treo 680 about 19 months ago (July 2007). It's starting to show its age. For posterity, I thought I'd document what I like and dislike about it. With gadgets, long-term reviews are almost useless as a means to prepare future buyers. By the time someone has gained enough experience with a product to know if it was a good purchase, the gadget's no longer manufactured. The 15-20 year life span of a car lets someone document two years' experience while still leaving 18 years where the review can be valuable.

Anyway, back to the phone.

Things I Like

This is the first smart phone I've owned. I really like having a phone and computer in one package. I only have to remember one device and it fits nicely in my pocket.

While traveling to Bear Lake, UT last summer, the Treo came in really handy. The cabin where we were staying had no internet connection. I was unable to find a coffee shop, restaurant or hotel in the area with a 'net connection. After a few minutes on the phone with T-Mobile, I had upgraded my phone plan to include a data plan for the month. About 30 minutes after that, I had my laptop connected to the Internet through the phone. It let me take care of a few business things each morning and then enjoy the rest of my vacation. It was nice knowing that I wouldn't have to face a huge pile of email and other responsibilities when I got back from vacation.

I also appreciate the external antenna jack. I didn't even know this existed until this week. Where I'm staying in Tucson, the cell coverage is really bad. I barely get one signal bar in the house. I bought a Freedom antenna to plug into the external antenna jack. It immediately brought the signal up to 3 bars.

I also like the long battery life. I routinely forget to charge the phone for a couple days. It still works just fine. Once I plug it back in, it charges quickly and is ready for another couple days.

I also like the external speaker. It's nice to be able to listen to music or make a hands-free call without having to track down headphones.

The external switch for turning off the ringer is pretty handy too. I can easily find and operate it in the dark. When activated, the phone vibrates to indicate that I've successfully silenced the ringer. That's turned out to be a very useful feature.

Things I Dislike

I dislike that the phone crashes regularly. I probably have to restart the phone about once every other day because it freezes. This might be because I use Agendus which is some pretty awful/useful bloatware. Unfortunately, the built-in Palm apps are so crappy you almost have to use a third-party product.

I really dislike that the phone drops calls left and right. I get a strong cell signal in my office at home. However, I can't use the phone for weekly conference calls because it routinely drops the call after about 7-10 minutes. I thought this was caused by battery problems, but leaving the phone plugged in to a power supply doesn't help at all. So far, I haven't had a dropped call with the phone plugged in and an external antenna attached. Of course, that really defeats the purpose of having a cell phone.

The charger/sync connector is fragile. It takes me two or three tries each morning to get the phone connected well enough that it can sync with my desktop. It worked pretty well for the first 12 months. Since then, it's been flaky.

The screen is tiny and the camera is awful. I'll let those finish out my whine session.

In the end, I'm glad I bought this phone. It's served me well and was by far the best option available at the time. I'm looking forward to getting an iPhone or Android phone at some point, but I'll probably try and milk this one for all it's worth first. I'm pretty sure I won't get a Palm Pre no matter how good the reviews are. I've had a Palm for the last 6 years (at least) and every one has been plagued with crashes that required a reset. They've had their chance and have persuaded me that they don't know how to write reliable software. It's time to give someone else a try.

1 comment:

TanookiTravis said...

I will be perfectly honest, there is nothing about the Palm Pre that really has me all that excited. It doesn't seem to me there is anything it does (or does better) that an Android or iPhone can't do.

I am definitely leaning right now towards an Android phone once someone comes out with one that has better access to music (standard headphone jack HTC?) and looks more aesthetically pleasing to my eyes.