Palm Treo Pro

I’ve had a Treo Pro for a couple of weeks now so I thought I’d write a post about what I think of it.

If you’re the sort who likes to skip to the end of stories, let me save you a little time. I’m loving it. It’s awesome.

I’ll try and explain why in this post.

Once upon a time…
My uses of mobiles are not typical, so to put this in context it’s worth giving background on my needs.

What I need from a mobile (in rough order of importance):

  • Note-taking :: idea-storm for projects or capture notes in meetings, and be able to quickly search for and retrieve info
  • E-mail :: personal, work, SYA… a way to triage my various inboxes
  • Web browsing :: RSS feeds, searching for info, and twittering
  • MS Office :: MS Word documents and Excel spreadsheets – mainly in meetings, but also useful for working on SYA docs in spare time
  • To Do list :: GTD-type stuff – task management and project planning
  • Reading ebooks :: reading a page or two in snatches of time like the walk from my car to my desk, or whole chapters before bed
  • Sat Nav :: I often rely on TomTom Navigator to find my way
  • Camera :: taking pictures of whiteboards to capture meeting notes
  • SMS & IM :: instant messaging by SMS, MSN and Google Talk
  • ID store :: a safe place for passwords, alarm codes, & PIN numbers
  • Personal finance :: tracking our spending and planning for bills

There are other bits I do with my mobile (e.g. accessing my home server over SSH using PuTTY) but this list is what I need as a minimum.

Notice that ‘making phone calls’ isn’t in that list. I make and receive so few calls that it’s really not a priority for me.

So when HTC started pitching the Advantage as a “mobile office”, I realised that it’d be ideal for me. I said at the time:

…if you want a mini-laptop with an always-on Internet connection and great battery life that lets you work far longer than a real laptop, then you want [this]…

And I’ve loved using it.

A change of direction
gadgets 1My last few mobile devices have been getting bigger and more laptop-like. So the Treo Pro is a change in direction for me.

It even looks like a phone 🙂

This change is possible because of the Redfly.

Instead of trying to find a single compromise device (too big to be the best phone, too small to be the best laptop) I can split this into two devices. The Redfly makes for a better mini-laptop than even the Advantage can be by itself, and the Treo Pro is a better phone.

There is no such thing as the perfect mobile – only one that is perfect for you
Okay, so this was a longer intro than I’d planned.

But the problem is that some people seem to find it hard to believe me when I say that the HTC Advantage was an awesome mobile for me. They see it’s big, and scoff that it couldn’t possibly be a good mobile.

HTC AdvantageThe point that my needs might be different to theirs doesn’t seem to sink in. The argument that it is better viewed as a small laptop rather than a large phone doesn’t seem to work.

That’s fine – I’m not looking to change anyone’s minds.

But I mention it because any comments I make about the Treo Pro should be taken in this context.

When I say I think it’s a fantastic device, I mean it’s fantastic for me and my needs. And that I consider it as one part of a pair with the Redfly rather than a stand-alone device.

Finally… commenting about the Treo Pro
There is a lot packed into this little device.

It has WiFi and a 3G radio for fast mobile internet access.

It has GPS for sat nav.

Once loaded with my favourite apps, it can do everything on my list above and more.

And it has plenty of storage – with the exception of TomTom, I’ve installed everything to main memory and I’ve still got plenty of space left.

The battery life seems really good. Partly because it’s got a big battery, but probably also partly because it only has small native screen to power (compared with the Advantage).

There is a Redfly driver available for it, and it does a great job driving the Redfly’s laptop screen.

It does what I need, but why do I love it?
So it does the basics – it’s capable of doing what I want. But what has won me over is how it does it.

Firstly, it’s pretty nippy. It’s processor isn’t as fast as the HTC Advantage, but this is a good thing (a slower CPU means longer battery life!) but Palm seem good at optimising Windows Mobile to squeeze the best out of each CPU cycle. Check out this video of the Treo 800w – there is a neat comparison with the TTYN II at about two minutes in.

Secondly, it’s tiny! Okay, so I’ve gotten used to having the 13oz HTC Advantage in my pocket, so my perspective is a little warped. But even so, at 4.49″ x 2.36″ x 0.53″, and weighing 4.7oz, it feels very small.

Thirdly, it has buttons! Lots of them. I like buttons. If you’re in your calendar, and want to check your email, press the email button. There is no going back to a home page or programs menu in between – you can reach all the core apps with one (or for some, two) key presses. Okay, so it doesn’t look as elegant as the sleek button-less iPhone, but it is quicker and I like it better this way. Screw prettiness 🙂

Finally, it’s smart. There are so many lovely little touches. Loads. Listing them all would make an already long post into a tome. So let me give you a few examples.

Screen brightness – you keep the screen fairly dim to make the most out of the battery, then go outside into bright sunshine and the screen is unusable. Getting to the brightness setting in Windows Mobile needs about a half dozen careful screen taps. Doing that when you can’t actually see the screen is a little challenging. The Treo Pro has a button on the front that takes you straight to the brightness setting. Clever.

A ringer switch on the top lets you completely mute the phone by sliding a button. It’s such a nicer way of doing it than having go into a software setting.

WiFi – when I get home, I want to use my home wifi rather than the 3G. Telling Windows Mobile to do that needs another half dozen screen taps to navigate the Connections settings. The Treo Pro has a button on the side with a WiFi logo. Press that, and the WiFi is enabled and if it can see a network you’ve used before, it connects. It takes a second or two, and you don’t need to stop what you’re doing to navigate the Settings screens.

Contacts – when a phone call with someone not in your phone book ends, you are asked if you want to save the number. You can add it to an existing contact with a tap, or create a new contact and add a name.

You’re probably not very impressed. None of these are earth-shattering features. None of these are amazing in isolation. The point is that there a ton of these neat touches.

There’s a neat quote attributed to Buck Rodgers in “The IBM Way“:

“…products of true enduring quality are not those that do 1 thing 1000% better but rather those products that do 1000 things 1% better…”

That’s what I’m trying to say. There are so many ways in which they’ve made things a tiny bit better. The overall feeling is that this is a device made by people who have used mobiles, and know where the pain points are.

Nothing to impress your friends?
If someone shows you their iPhone, they’ll often show you how the menus can be flicked up and down to scroll.

If someone shows you an HTC Touch Diamond, they’ll often show you the Weather app which can have rain drops on the screen which get wiped away with an animated windscreen wiper.

The Treo Pro doesn’t have anything like that. There isn’t anything that I can show you that will make you go “ooh”. Unless a wifi button is your sort of thing.

It’s not neat, flashy or pretty. But it works, and it feels quicker to me than the flashy iPhone and it’s clones.

The best analogy I can think of is comparing using a command line with using a graphical interface on a desktop computer. A GUI is prettier, more visually impressive, more intuitive and easier to learn than the equivalent command line commands. But once you’ve learnt them, the command line commands are more efficient.

That’s how this feels. It might not always be intuitive or obvious. It might not have any impressive animations or visual touches. But if you want to get stuff done, it’s just amazing.

Really must stop raving about a phone now
Celio RedflyWith the Redfly, it’s a powerful mini-laptop.

By itself, it’s a quick and efficient data-retrieval device – ideally suited to quickly looking up things even if using one-handed in a way that the HTC Advantage never could.

In case anyone thinks I’m a blind Palm fan-boy, I have a few niggles. Removing the battery case is a fecking nightmare – far harder than it needs to be. The phone is constantly covered in my fingerprints. The MicroUSB socket (while I entirely understand and support why they did it) means that all my spare Mini-USB cables and chargers are now useless. The keyboard isn’t the best (although isn’t as bad as many people seem to say – I’ve become quite quick at bashing out SMS messages).

But these are quibbles. I’ve long been a Treo fan – my last Treo was the Treo 650 and I loved it. And now I’m loving the latest addition to the Treo line.

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23 Responses to “Palm Treo Pro”

  1. sabre23t says:

    Wah … You already have the Treo Pro. So I don’t have to worry about bLADE wiki not running well on it. 😉

    I’m looking to upgrade my HTC TyTNII. Had a test play around with HTC Touch Pro and Samsung i780. But am really keen to try out the Treo Pro that is supposed to come on this side of the world before end of this month. Unfortunately, only get a teaser from netcrew who gets a Treo Pro in Kuala Lumpur from an insider.

    After reading your blog post I envy him more! Not sure I can afford to also get a Redfly to replace my ThinkOutside Stowaway BT Keyboard though. 🙁

  2. Andrew Wilson says:

    Hiya, what tom tom software / version / maps are you running? Thanks Andy

  3. dale says:

    @Andrew – Tom Tom Navigator 5

  4. Andrew Wilson says:

    ok….is that with the internal gps or still with the tom tom extrenal gps via blue tooth?

  5. dale says:

    I bought it with the external Bluetooth GPS, because I bought it back in the day when I used the XDA Exec (aka HTC Universal).

    But I now mainly use the software with the internal GPS – either on my T-Mobile Ameo (aka HTC Advantage) or the Treo Pro. It works well either way.

  6. Andrew Wilson says:

    Thanks, just bot my treo pro…had a treo 750v before and used the external tom tom gps. The treo pro came with no gps software other than google maps which is weak. Teleatlas is suppossedly the software of choice installed by vodafone but will not be realeased for the treo pro until next year….so wondered if my old tom tom would work and stumbled over your blog while doing my research….will give it a bash Dale abd see what happens. Thanks Andy.

  7. raaj says:

    I have tottom pls advise how I can use it on my pro without having to use the external blutooth I want to use my internal gps can this be readily achieved

  8. dale says:

    @raaj – in ‘settings’ on the Treo Pro, the ‘External GPS’ applet will tell you which COM port your GPS is on. Mine was set to COM4 by default

    Then in the settings in TomTom you go ‘Change Preferences’, ‘GPS Status’, ‘Configure’ and choose ‘other NMEA GPS’ using baud 4800 and the COM port set in Windows Mobile

    (note – this is true for TT5. menus may be different in different versions)

  9. […] So it’s useful to have it with me even when I’m not at my desk. I’ve got the wiki app installed on my ThinkPad and three of my mobiles (HTC Advantage, HTC Universal, and the Treo Pro). […]

  10. […] another phone to use as my primary smartphone? I don’t know – perhaps not. I’m still using the Treo Pro as my primary PDA and mobile, so maybe I’m in a better position to tolerate the G1’s […]

  11. Neil Grayson says:

    Nice review. The company just swapped my 750v for this baby.

    Accepting you not a support site, you said that you got TOMTOM working with the internal GPS. cant seem to do this, I dont suppose you can let me know which com port its on could you? I know a number of people struggling with this.

    Many thanks

  12. dale says:


    try going to:
    Start menu -> Settings -> System -> External GPS -> Programs

    the value in the “GPS Program port” drop-down list is the COM port number your internal GPS is on. (I’ve also got ‘Manage GPS automatically’ ticked on the Access tab)

    Then in TomTom, I set the values as in my comment a few posts up

    Hope that helps


  13. Douglas Boehme says:

    In the External GPS app, do you do anything with the Hardware tab? On my Hardware tab, my GPS hardware port is set to (none). I have the same settings you do for the Programs and Access tabs and the little black and yellow symbol in TomTom does rotate using the settings of COM4/4800 so I assume it’s trying to acquire satellites.


  14. dale says:

    @Douglas – Yup, I’ve got hardware port set to None, as well

  15. Douglas Boehme says:

    Thanks for the quick reply! I could see the yellow and black circle rotating when looking at the gps detail in TomTom with COM4/4800 and should have known it was ok, just couldn’t find a signal (I have a BT GPS antenna that can pick up a signal in dining room). As soon as I was out on the road, it got a fix right away and worked perfectly. I’ve switched from a Treo 680 to a Treo Pro and I love how easy the switch has been. (just need to find a good calculator app since I was used to Megacalc – sorry, off topic).

  16. Anders Holt says:

    Hi Dale,
    How to you use your own BladeWiki in your own GTD with treo pro? (if it is not to much to ask)?

    Anders Holt

  17. dale says:

    Hi Anders

    My wikis are somewhat complex… I’d pity anyone other than me who tried to find their way through them! 🙂

    But at a high level…

    I have a wiki for each major role I have (e.g. one for my charity, one for my IBM ‘day job’, one for personal projects, etc.).

    Each wiki has a home page listing current projects, each of which is a link to a page for that project. The link is prefixed with a date for the last time I did something for that project – so I can see at a glance which projects are getting forgotten. Most projects will have a ton of pages, with their own front page and contents.

    Next Actions are stored in Outlook, because I find that easier to track with, although if there are projects with upcoming actions not ready to go in Outlook, some of the projects will have a list of future actions in the wiki.

    I also have other wikis for reference materials… e.g. one for code snippets.

    There are also a few obvious key pages – such as ‘Someday / Maybe’. I have shortcuts to these pages in my Windows Quick Launch toolbar, so if I think of something to go into these, I just click on the link to open the wiki app directly to that page.

    With a couple of these I use the “-edit” switch at the end of the shortcut, to launch the page in Edit mode, so I can literally click on the shortcut then start typing. (e.g. my journal page which is a catch-all to capture anything that doesn’t warrant it’s own page – it’s just a log where every line starts with a timestamp)

  18. dale says:

    Hi again… another thought

    Capturing notes in meetings – my wiki contains personal notes/minutes for pretty much every meeting I go to. Pages are dated, which sometimes makes them easier to find, but to be honest they are normally found by searching for key words I remember discussing at some point. Where something was drawn on a whiteboard, I often use the ‘Insert from cameraphone’ feature to include a photo of the whiteboard in my notes.

  19. Grace says:

    Hey Dale, have you heard about the new touch screen smart phone that palm is working on that Apple is trying to block? Should be ingteresting to see if Apple can stop it. If they can, it may be the end of Palm. I hope they can survive the suit! Grace

  20. dale says:

    @Grace – Yeah, I’m looking forward to the Pre. What I’ve seen of it so far looks very impressive! 🙂

  21. Anders Holt says:

    Thank you for a thorugh answer about GTD. I did not see this before now.

    I have used it some years, but never found the perfect way of utilizing it digitally (i also like moleskins 🙂 ) – but I also like Palms, and have a treo pro and a redfly, and I use your Blade Wiki as a replacement for Notestudio from my old Palm OS Palms. I think the tips about using BW for projectlists, and not in Outlook (is a good one), is a good one. Will try that. Also your tips of having direct buttons to pages in BW fro m the windows desktop, is very nice – smart! But I do not understand how you use the – edit switch?

    Would it be possible to do this i Windows Mobile – in the Treo pro?

    I also use BW a a note capturing tools from meetings – it is a very strong tool!

    Thansk again for your programs, and for your time!

    Anders Holt (“pseudofilosofen” in

  22. dale says:

    @Anders – When you use a shortcut to launch the wiki to a specific page, add “-edit” as the last thing in command. When you do this, the wiki should be opened in Edit mode. You can use the wiki to create a shortcut (Bookmarks -> Create shortcut to this page on Desktop) to create a shortcut like this if you want to see what I mean.

    I’ve not done this in the mobile version, but it’s something I could look at.

    Thanks for your kind comments.



  23. […] I should probably qualify this, though – I am a longtime Palm fan… having previously bought a Palm Pilot, Palm IIIx, Sony Clie UX50 (which ran Palm OS), Palm Treo 650, Palm Treo 750 and Palm Treo Pro. […]