Palm Treo 700w and Good Mobile Messaging provide excellent mobile e-mail solution

Combining the Palm Treo 700w and Good Mobile Messaging creates an effective mobile e-mail and calendaring solution that you can integrate with Exchange. Bill Detwiler, TechRepublic Editor, shares the ups and downs of his 3-month real-world test of the Palm Treo 700w smartphone and Good Mobile Messaging software.

Outlook and Exchange are my primary method of corporate communication and have been for several years. Every day I send and receive dozens of e-mails to/from coworkers, contributors, and TechRepublic members. I schedule my meetings, presentation, and even personal appointments in Outlook's calendar. My e-mail and calendar keep me connected and on schedule. Yet, as a frequent traveler and telecommuter using only a computer, even my IBM T42 ThinkPad, to access to my e-mail and calendar can be difficult. I want instant, easy access to my e-mail and calendar. The Palm Treo 700w and Good Mobile Messaging for Exchange provided just that.

The job

The modern workforce is increasingly mobile, yet requires almost constant connectivity to the corporate network. For years, staying connected meant you carried a cellular phone, PDA, and often a mobile e-mail device like the RIM BlackBerry. Smartphones and mobile e-mail applications are now merging the once separate voice, e-mail, and calendar data streams into a single point of contact. This consolidation means fewer devices for users to carry and fewer devices for IT to support. Yet finding a device that is user-friendly, easy to support, provides reliable communication, and seamlessly integrates with you're your existing e-mail and calendaring system can be difficult. Combining the Palm Treo 700w and Good Mobile Messaging make the search a lot easier.

The tool

This review focuses primarily on the Palm Treo 700w, but because the Good Mobile Messaging software was required to integrate the device with our Microsoft Exchange servers, I will describe my experience using both. Although you can synchronize the Treo 700w's Outlook Mobile with your PC or a POP3 or IMAP4 account, neither provides the constant connection an Exchange server many organization's want. TechRepublic already uses Good Mobile Messaging for our existing Palm Treo 650s and it only made sense to use it on the 700w.

Palm Treo 700w

Palm Treo 700w
The Palm Treo 700w puts your inbox and calendar in the palm of your hand.

Click here to see more screenshots of the Palm Treo 700w in action.

The Palm Treo 700w smartphone packs loads of features in a compact, comfortable-to-hold package. The 700w runs Windows Mobile 5.0 on an Intel XScale 312 MHz processor with 128 MB of persistent flash memory -- 60 MB are allotted for user storage. My test unit had the mobile versions of Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook Mobile, and Windows Media Player. As a long-time Windows user, I found the phone's interface intuitive and easy to navigate. Within minutes of powering on the 700w for the first time and installing the Good Mobile Messaging software, I was able to quickly make calls, run applications, open documents, send and receive e-mail, and access the calendar.

The TFT touch screen display supports 16-bit color, provides 240x240 pixel resolution. The resolution is less than the Treo 650's 320x320 pixels, but I found it crisp and bright. Only direct sunlight made it difficult to see. Although I could use my fingers to navigate the Treo 700w's menus, I found the built-in stylus to me more effective. The integrated, 1.3 megapixel camera worked well and took surprisingly good pictures for a camera of this resolution. The Treo 700w supports Bluetooth 1.2 and SMS and MMS text messaging, but lacks Wi-Fi-a significant weakness. The unit also has an expansion slot for SD/SDIO flash memory cards.

Putting the Palm Treo 700w and Good Mobile Messaging to the test

I used the Palm Treo 700w and Good Mobile Messaging for over 3 months. As an e-mail and calendar system the combination performed almost perfectly. Once the Good software was downloaded to the phone and installed, I was able to send and receive e-mail or schedule and cancel meetings with ease. Mail often arrived at my 700w before hitting my laptop's Outlook client.

Good Mobile Messaging

Good Mobile Messaging
The Good Mobile Messaging software provide a constant link to my Exchange account.

The Treo 700w's backlit QWERTY keyboard has rectangular buttons, instead of the oval-like keys found on the Treo 650, and is comfortable and incredibly convenient. Although users with very large fingers may occasionally press two keys instead of one, I never had trouble. The phone's side-mounted volume rocker and customizable quick-launch control button were also handy.

QWERTY keyboard

QWERTY keyboard
Even with my large fingers, the QWERTY keypad was comfortable and easy to use. Once I got the hang of it, replying to e-mails was a cinch.

When making cellular phone calls, the Treo 700w's performance was mediocre at best. I had heard coworkers complain about poor call quality on their Treo 650s and am sorry to say the same is true for the Treo 700w. Compared to my Motorola v400 cellular phone, I found the Treo 700w uncomfortable for long calls with poor speaker performance.

Web browsing was also a hit a miss experience. The Windows Mobile Internet Explorer had not problem with Web sites that were tailored for mobile devices, but graphic-heavy sites almost always locked up the device. To restart, I had to remove and then reinsert the battery.

Web browsing

Web browsing
The Treo 700w using Internet Explorer to access

The Palm Treo 700w's limited battery life was another annoyance. The Treo 700w's battery is rated for 4.7 hours of talk time and 15 days of standby time, which is average for mobile phones. Unfortunately, my test unit never lasted more than 4 days on a single charge. This is likely due to the frequent connections required for the Good software to synchronize with our Exchange server, but it was still a irritation. I had to keep the charger with me when I traveled or over long weekends.

The Right Tool for the Job?

Although the Treo 700w isn't the best cellular phone, when paired with Good Mobile Messaging, the Palm Treo 700w provides and excellent mobile e-mail and calendar end point. The unit's strengths (intuitive interface, Exchange integration with Good software, solid construction, and Windows Mobile apps) outweigh it's drawbacks (poor telephone performance, lack of Wi-Fi support, lower screen resolution than the Treo 650, limited real-world battery life). I would recommend this combination to any Exchange shop looking to retire existing Treo 650s or roll out new smartphones. Verizon currently offers the Treo 700w for $499 with a 2-year contract and $549 with a 1-year contract. Sprint also offers the Treo 700wx, virtually the same as the 700w, for $499.