The Treo 500v is the latest offering from Palm, the highly successful PDA manufacturer from Sunnyvale, California. Palm have their own range of handheld devices with their own Palm OS, as well as Treo smartphones utilising Windows Mobile operating systems.
The Treo 500v is the latest smartphone from Palm, after the highly successful Treo 750. The 500v is a Vodafone-branded handset, and the first of Palm handset with Windows Mobile 6.0 to make it to the Australian mobile phone market. Palm are now offering a free upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.0 for Treo 750 users (Three and Vodafone), but the 500v is the first handset to come with the operating system out-of-the-box.
The 500v has undergone a big physical transformation, and is the lightest Treo to date. However, its feature list does lack in some areas. Let’s see how it performs.
Compared to Palm’s last Windows Mobile smartphone offering, the Treo 750, not much has changed with the 500v. Although 2mm wider than the Treo 750, the 500v is the lightest and smallest Treo to date.
The operating system has been upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard, Microsoft’s latest mobile platform. Windows Mobile 6.0 is tightly integrated with Windows Live and Exchange 2008 and comes with pre-installed applications such as Microsoft Office Mobile. The operating system is similar to its PC counterpart, offering an easy switch for users from the desktop to the smartphone.
The 500v comes with 256MB of internal memory, 150MB of which is available for user storage. 64MB of RAM is used to power the operating system. A microSD memory card can be used to expand the memory, but the port is inconveniently located underneath the battery. There is no memory card in the sales package either, so you will have to purchase one separately.
A 2mpx camera can be found on the 500v, an upgrade from the Treo 750’s 1.3mpx offering. The viewfinder application is standard Windows Mobile garbage, with only a basic set of features. More on that can be found in the appropriate section.
As I just mentioned, the Treo 500v is the smallest and lightest Palm Treo smartphone thus far. It measures 110 x 61.5 x 16.5mm and weighs 120 grams – 24 grams lighter than the Treo 750.
The LCD display is horizontally oriented due to the 500v’s wide frame, resulting in a 320 x 240 resolution. Below the display is a Vodafone text and image logo, one of only two on the entire handset.
Palm have done away with the touch-screen user interface on the 500v – all control of the handset is done via the top row of buttons, consisting of a 5-way navigational pad, two soft keys, home key, back key, and the usual pick-up and hang-up keys.
Below the navigational strip is a full QWERTY keyboard, including a space bar, ALT, and caps lock key. The keys are small but rounded at the top and with sufficient space in between to make typing comfortable. The selection of square keys instead of circular keys is advantageous as it provides more surface area for your finger to hit. I found typing with two thumbs the most comfortable technique.
On the left hand side of the handset is the volume up and down keys, and a multifunction key that by default launches Internet Explorer Mobile when held down. The top of the handset houses the on/off button, and the right hand side is completely bare. At the bottom of the handset you will find the miniUSB connection, microphone, and stereo headset port.
At the centre of the back of the 500v is the 2mpx digital camera and speakerphone. Below this is the battery cover with Vodafone logo that is easily pushed down to remove. Underneath the battery is the SIM card slot and miniSD card slot. The battery is relatively easy to remove thanks to the groove to the left of the battery.
Palm only offer the 500v in one colour scheme, which is a mix of silvers and greys (or blue, as some tell me!).
User interface & display
The Treo 500v has a 320 x 240 pixel TFT LCD, capable of displaying up to 65,536 colours. This specification is common for touch-screen smartphones, but as the 500v is not a touch screen I (and others) would have appreciated a 262,144 colour display over the 65k choice.
Never the less, the display is horizontally aligned (as apposed to vertically, like most smartphones) due to the QWERTY keyboard and the width required for it. The display itself compliments the user interface. As I mentioned earlier, Palm have opted for a non-touch screen environment with the 500v, and all control of the handset is achieved via the 5-way navigational pad and two soft keys. The soft keys have text (and sometimes icon) labels just above them on the display.
Seven ‘Home Screen’ themes are pre-installed on the 500v, each offering their own differences from one another. The default selection is Vodafone, which consists of an icon bar at the top of the screen, an information bar below it, a large space for the wallpaper, and the aforementioned soft key labels at the very bottom. The information bar displays the operator name, date, and time, while the icon bar above it displays status icons such as battery life, reception, 3G or 2G data, and so forth.
It would take much to long to explain each and every Home Screen theme, but the biggest different between most is the inclusion of a quick-launch icon bar or colour scheme modifications (which effect the entire UI, not just the standby screen). Some themes also include integration with applications such as Messages, displaying any unread messages on the home screen. Each Home Screen theme also has its own set of colour schemes, allowing you to customize the home screen quite significantly.
The Start menu of Windows Mobile 6 has changed significantly from that of Windows Mobile 5.0, and now takes a more ‘Vista’ approach. There are 9 different icons across the top of the Start menu: Recent Programs, Message Centre, Favourite Contacts, Upcoming Events, My Settings, Windows Live, Music & Video, Recent Photos, and live!. Each icon has its own set of functions which are displayed in a list under the icon. The Start menu is launched by pushing the left soft key at the Home Screen.
To access the actual main menu, press the middle key of the 5-way navigational pad in the Home Screen. If you have a theme which has icons on the Home Screen, you will need to open the Start menu and then select ‘Main Menu’. There are 8 icons on the main menu: Calls, Messaging, Entertainment, My Files, My Internet, Contacts, Applications, and Settings. Don’t let the new look icons deceive you though – after selecting one of these icons you will be taken to the familiar Windows Mobile 5.0 list view. So far, Windows Mobile 6.0 doesn’t seem all that exciting!
The UI suffers from some lag, mainly when effects are being used, such as the movement of icon in the Start menu or the fading in and out of images while browsing the UI. The effects are nice, but an option to turn them off for the more impatient users wouldn’t go astray. More on the lag can be found in the problems & issues section of the article.
The rest of the user interface is almost identical to Windows Mobile 5.0, and this has both its ups and downs. It’s great because those coming from Windows Mobile 5.0 don’t need to learn an entirely new operating system, but it’s bad because it brings nothing new to the table. The Windows Live integration is handy, but most users will not use the functionality with the 500v as there is no WiFi support and 3G data is still expensive (at least in Australia).
Making and receiving calls
The 500v’s sales package includes a stereo headset for making calls, and supports Bluetooth audio headsets. There is also a built-in speakerphone, and you can always take calls with the traditional earpiece if you wish. Unfortunately, although the 500v is 3G-comaptible, it does not support video calling.
A volume rocker can be found on the left hand side of the handset, making it easy to change the volume in a call. Volume from both the loudspeaker and the earpiece was adequate. The handset has dedicated pick-up and hang-up buttons for answering or ending/rejecting a call.
The 500v has a contact book that supports both SIM contacts and phone-stored contacts. Multiple fields can be added to contacts, which are stored on the handset memory, including photos. When a contact calls both the name and number will be displayed on the screen.
SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail messaging is supported by the Treo 500v. All messaging is handled by the Outlook Mobile application, which messaging into three sections: SMS, MMS, and e-mail messaging. Each area has its own set of folders: inbox, outbox, sent messages, drafts, and deleted items.
The QWERTY keyboard makes it easy to tap out long SMS or e-mail messages. The keys are designed with comfort in mind, and although they are small, they’re easy to use and adequately spaced from each other.
The text message composition windows are simple: a box at the top for entering names or numbers, and a large box occupying the rest of the screen for the message body. Below the message body is a small text label that displays character count and the current message span.
MMS message composition is much the same, although there are added boxes for the subject text, photo, video, and audio insertion. A label towards the top displays the current size of the MMS and slide details.
Images captured by the 500v’s camera can be automatically resized to 640 x 480 pixels, 320 x 240 pixels, or 160 x 120 pixels when sending via MMS. You can also choose to keep the images at their original resolution, but they may force the MMS message over its size limit.
Outlook Mobile support POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 e-mail accounts. Push e-mail accounts with Exchange capabilities are also supported. The handset can try to automatically download settings for your e-mail service in the setup wizard, but you may have to enter the details manually if a result is not found. Attachments are supported, but those with large e-mail boxes may find the 3G data slow due to the lack of HSDPA support.
GPRS, EDGE, and UMTS data are provided for over-the-air connectivity on the 500v, with Bluetooth and USB for local connections. The sales package comes with a USB data-cable and software CD-rom for communicating with the handset with a Windows computer.
For Windows XP and below systems Microsoft’s ActiveSync application is used to transfer and synchronize data from the 500v and supported applications. On Windows Vista, the ActiveSync functionality is built in and additional applications are not needed. Being a Windows Mobile handset, synchronization with Outlook and other Microsoft applications is a breeze.
The USB port on the 500v is version 2.0 compliant for high-speed connectivity.
Bluetooth can be used to connect the 500v with a computer or other device for file transfer. The radio is version 2.0 compliant and profiles such as A2DP and Audio Video Remote Control. Connecting and configuring Bluetooth devices is achieved via the Connectivity menu found under Settings. I managed to transfer files between the 500v and my Macbook at around 50kbp/s.
Internet Explorer Mobile is pre-installed on the 500v for accessing Internet and WAP pages. The application makes use of a pre-configured UMTS, GPRS, or EDGE connection where available. When in 3G data coverage areas the icon bar at the top of the screen displays “3G”, or simply “G” when in 2G coverage.
HSDPA would have been a great addition to the 500v’s connectivity, or at least WiFi support. Many of the competition devices have this functionality, and consumers may shy away from the 500v because of this.
Windows Media Player Mobile handles most of the 500v’s multimedia playback, except some streaming media which is handled by the conveniently named, Streaming Player.
Windows Media Player 10 Mobile looks almost identical to its older brother, Windows Media Player 11. Most video and audio file formats are supported, including MPEG4, 3GPP, WMA, WMV, MP3, and WAV. A shuffle and repeat mode is offered so you can have some fun with your music.
The loudspeaker provides adequate volume for music playback, and if you’d like to keep your music to yourself you can use the included stereo headset or your own Bluetooth headset. Bluetooth A2DP is supported for wireless stereo audio.
The usual Windows Mobile games Bubble Breaker and Solitaire can be found in the Games section of the Entertainment menu.
JBenchmark 1.0 results are very impressive – the official JBenchmark website show the Treo 750 only scored 3513. The 2.0 results are also better than the Treo 750 (578), but not as impressive as other handsets on the market which often score in the thousands.
A great thing about any Windows Mobile-based smartphone is the range of applications that come pre-installed. The one most users will find handy is the Microsoft Office Mobile suite, which support viewing and editing of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents.
ActiveSync is used to synchronize with compatible computers. Windows software is included in the sales package and there are add-on applications for Mac OS systems to support ActiveSync devices.
An alarm clock, calculator, calendar, PDF viewer, task manager, and voice note functionality are pre-installed on the 500v.
Java support on the Treo 500v is handled by Esmertec Java. The Java menu is found in the main menu under the Applications submenu. On launching the application a list of installed Java applications is displayed.
Installing applications is simple: just transfer the file(s) to the memory, browse to them using the 500v’s file manager, and open them! Esmertec Java asks a few questions and then the application is ready to go. You can also install applications from the Esmertec application, which will scan the memory for compatible files before presenting a list of applications.
No Java application come pre-installed. The following benchmarks were achieved with the Treo 500v using the JBenchmark application suite:
JBenchmark 3D and HD are not supported by the Esmertec Java virtual machine.
The Treo 500v is a solidly built handset with only one removable part – the battery cover.
Weighing a pleasant 120 grams the handset feels great in hand and is comfortable to use with two hands. I’ve mentioned it several times in the article already, but the QWERTY keyboard keys are lovely to use and will not hurt your fingertips like other handsets do.
The navigational buttons are also very tactile and large; most users will have no problems operating the 500v.
A full charge of the 500v’s 1200mAh battery lasted me approximately 3 ½ days with fairly regular usage – including texting (SMS and MMS), phone calls, and web browsing. This is fairly good for a Windows Mobile smartphone.
Battery life estimates from Palm estimate 4.5 hours of talk time and 10 days on standby.