Smart Phones
Field Tested Review: Palm Treo 700p, Verizon Motorola Q, and Blackberry Pearl
By Kathy Chin Leong

During a recent camping trip, my friend Stanley was checking the latest baseball scores on the Internet, not on his laptop, but on his Palm Treo 700p, a multi-media smartphone touting web, email, video, television and GPS capabilities. If you’re like me, your gut instinct says, “I have to have one!”  But whoa, how practical are these things, and would travelers find these gadgets more cumbersome than handy?

We’ve spent a month examining the features of the three most popular smartphones on the market: the Palm Treo 700p, the Verizon Motorola Q, and the RIM Blackberry Pearl. Our conclusion is that they are all great products but do require hours of learning, ergonomic adjustment, and, first and foremost-thumb dexterity. Users visually challenged and prone to arthritis need not apply. 

MEGA FUNCTION
  
The Treo 700p smartphone at less than an inch-thick is slightly larger and, at six ounces, heavier than a deck of cards. Ranking high on the cool factor, this 4.25 x 2.25-inch handheld lets you listen to digital tunes, surf the Internet, and enjoy a range of wireless voice and data functions.

With a vivid 320 x320 high resolution color touchscreen, the Treo boasts a visually pleasing display and a QWERTY keyboard that combines a numeric keypad for dialing. We found using the stylus easy for activating the applications on the touchscreen.

This power package supports Verizon and Sprint and has more features than you’ll ever need… in your lifetime.  While on the road for business, we found the Treo a useful tool for phoning clients, jotting  appointments, setting alarms, taking photos and videos to transmit to the home office. Its voice memo lets you record thoughts and impressions of that new resort or dream destination.
 
While supporting Bluetooth for wireless headsets and other devices, the Treo 700p does not yet offer international calling. So while you can’t call home or go net surfing from Paris,  take advantage of its other non-phone features such as calendar, global clock, calculator, etc.  Costs run $619 to $299 depending on Sprint or Verizon carrier plans. TomTom GPS Navigation system sold separately at $299.  800-881-7256; www.palm.com .

SKINNY MINI

The first thing we noticed when opening the box for the Verizon Moto Q was its slender profile.  Barely.5-inch thick and only about four ounces, the Moto Q is as light or even lighter than today’s cell phones and has a footprint (4.5x 2.5-inches)  slightly wider than the Treo. So, this ‘Slim Jim’ of an all-in-one phone with a full QWERTY raised button keyboard offers the smorgasbord of services with an emphasis on lots of calling and voice recognition features and support for downloading documents from apps such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat.
 
And, yes, its true you can access the Internet on this and other smartphones. But be forewarned that unless the website is formatted for smartphones, you will be viewing bite-sized portions of the website since the screen is so small. Downloading a page takes time compared to DSL. TV services are optional add-ons. What is way cool in the email is ability to click on a phone number inside the email you are reading, and the unit will dial it for you.

While Palm’s Treo relies on a touchscreen, this new offering created by Motorola requires pressing on navigation buttons positioned under the screen. A thumbwheel  on the right side allows you to scroll up and down menu options. For now, the Moto Q only allows domestic calls, so you’ll have to wait to see if an international carrier decides to hook up with Motorola in the future.  While prices continually drop, as of press time the Moto Q costs $199.99 after a $100 instant credit when purchasing a two-year agreement  with Verizon Wireless. 800-899-4249. Available exclusively through Verizon Wireless. www.verizonwireless.com .

GLAM GIRL

Teeny tiny. That’s our first impression of RIM’s BlackBerry Pearl smartphone, $349. Weighing in at 3.16 oz, the 4.2 x 2-inch unit is practically anorexic. Among the three, the Pearl looks most like a phone and its design is the most glamorous with its shiny chrome and sleek black housing crowned by a matchbook-sized screen touting 65,000 brilliant colors.

What’s interesting about the Pearl design approach is that it uses a mini trackball to guide users around the window. Menu icons are strewn across the bottom of the screen, and you highlight the functions with the trackball’s cursor.

You press the trackball like a button when you make your selection. The Pearl offers the soup-to-nuts spate of applications minus videocam and personal voice recorder. Perhaps the most niggling thing about the Pearl is the miniature QWERTY keyboard which requires elfin fingertips and perfect eyesight to operate. On the keys, anywhere from two to four digits vie for real estate.

Here’s what we liked: Folks who travel internationally will find this useful. T-mobile covers global calling . Yet, on one charge you get 3.5 hours of talking time versus 4.5 hours on the Treo and nearly 4 hours on the Moto Q. For those who are fussy about cameras, we found the built-in 1.3 megapixel camera and its automatic flash feature quite handy. If you go into a dark room, it will flash your photo for you. For design-hounds, this is first and foremost a fancy picture phone that will cover all your  basic transmission needs. Figure on spending $199.99 to $349. 800-T-Mobile or log onto www.t-mobile.com .

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NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES:

www.t-mobile.com
www.verizonwireless.com
www.palm.com

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