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  1. ahc
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       #1  
    First off, I do love my Treo. The love was sealed last night as I sat on the train from New York to Boston, reading, sorting, and replying to email along the way...

    I have concluded, however, that my Treo is not a phone.

    The defining experience of the phone is the dial tone. Thanks to several generations of engineering wizardry, the dial tone has become, right up there with death and taxes, one of the certainties of modern life. You pick up the phone, you hear a dial tone. Everyone, from a 4-year-old to a 94-year-old, understands it and knows what happens next: you dial the number and the phone rings. (Or, increasingly rare these days, you hear a busy signal.) Once in a thousand times you get a message about "busy circuits," but you can go for months or years without encountering this mysterious technical glitch.

    The phone does one thing, does it predictably and well, and does it practically invisibly from the user's point of view.

    Now let's consider my Treo dialing experience, which has been repeated in several different cities now. I want to dial a number. I look at the signal strength bars--there are four, or maybe two. I dial the number (using any of the different means for doing so--speed dial, dial pad, history, etc.).

    Then, one of the following happens, with approximately equal frequency:

    1) The call goes through almost immediately. Very phone-like. Nice!

    2) The "dialing" screen appears, and stays on for 10 seconds or more, with no sound heard in the earpiece. Finally I hear a ring. When the other party answers, the screen switches, as it should, to the active call screen.

    3) The dialing screen stays on long after the other party has answered. Eventually the active call screen comes on, but sometimes never does. Once I had to end the call by powering down the Treo.

    4) The dialing screen appears, stays on for a while, and then disappears, replaced by the usual phone screen. Apparently the call never went through.

    5) The dialing screen appears and disappears almost instantly, and there is no indication that a phone call was attempted--except in the call history, which shows a 1-second outgoing call.

    These behaviors happen with all different reported signal strength levels. Furthermore, before and after initiating a call the reported signal strength level often jumps from 4 bars to none, or vice versa. This happens even when I'm stationary in an area of normally good coverage. Often I have to cycle wireless mode to get the 4 bars I had just before attempting a call.

    This very un-phone-like (but very computer-like, especially Microsoft-like!) experience is quite unlike my previous cell phone (CDMA). To be sure, sometimes calls didn't go through or signal strength was weak, but when that happened the phone explained what happened (e.g., "Signal faded--your call was lost") and I could see from the signal strength bars that a call might run into trouble.

    A post on another thread suggested (in relation to battery life) that maybe the Treo designers just don't use cell phones much. I'd have to agree. The Treo is an admirable PDA. But it delivers an alarmingly inconsistent phone experience, even after accounting for the vagaries of cell service. Will it get better? Does Handspring care? I don't know, but I do know that I've traded in a smoothly functioning appliance (my old cell phone) for a sexy, lightweight, compact, multi-purpose source of mystification, confusion, and uncertainty when I try to do that most basic thing: make a call.

    Yours,

    Andy
  2. #2  
    I've never heard of a cell phone with a dial tone.
    Jeff
  3. #3  
    Originally posted by ahc
    [...] I have concluded, however, that my Treo is not a phone.
    No, it's not. It's a combination cell phone and PDA. IOW, it's a computer with a built-in two-way radio.
    The defining experience of the phone is the dial tone.
    huh? That may be the 'defining experience' of a traditional telephone, but it hasn't ever applied to cellular phones.
    Thanks to several generations of engineering wizardry, the dial tone has become, right up there with death and taxes, one of the certainties of modern life. You pick up the phone, you hear a dial tone. Everyone, from a 4-year-old to a 94-year-old, understands it and knows what happens next: you dial the number and the phone rings. (Or, increasingly rare these days, you hear a busy signal.) Once in a thousand times you get a message about "busy circuits," but you can go for months or years without encountering this mysterious technical glitch.
    It's not mysterious, technical, _or_ a glitch. It means what it says. Telephone switches have a given capacity within a certain switch or between other switches. Connections between switches or other carriers are made via 'trunks' which contain a finite number of voice channels. These cost money. A carrier is only going to supply as many trunks as his average peak load requires. Occasionally during special events, emergencies, etc., that capacity is overwhelmed. That's when you get an 'all circuits are busy' message.
    The phone does one thing, does it predictably and well, and does it practically invisibly from the user's point of view.
    It does it predictably and well because what it does is pretty simple and well defined. You ever see a TV show where the operator manually connects calls with a cord on a 'switchboard'? Those were real (and possibly even still used in some places). From a phone call standpoint, that's still basically all a phone switch does.
    Now let's consider my Treo dialing experience, which has been repeated in several different cities now. I want to dial a number. I look at the signal strength bars--there are four, or maybe two. I dial the number (using any of the different means for doing so--speed dial, dial pad, history, etc.).

    Then, one of the following happens, with approximately equal frequency:

    1) The call goes through almost immediately. Very phone-like. Nice!

    2) The "dialing" screen appears, and stays on for 10 seconds or more, with no sound heard in the earpiece. Finally I hear a ring. When the other party answers, the screen switches, as it should, to the active call screen.

    3) The dialing screen stays on long after the other party has answered. Eventually the active call screen comes on, but sometimes never does. Once I had to end the call by powering down the Treo.

    4) The dialing screen appears, stays on for a while, and then disappears, replaced by the usual phone screen. Apparently the call never went through.

    5) The dialing screen appears and disappears almost instantly, and there is no indication that a phone call was attempted--except in the call history, which shows a 1-second outgoing call.
    Welcome to the world of the _cellular_ phone.
    These behaviors happen with all different reported signal strength levels. Furthermore, before and after initiating a call the reported signal strength level often jumps from 4 bars to none, or vice versa. This happens even when I'm stationary in an area of normally good coverage. Often I have to cycle wireless mode to get the 4 bars I had just before attempting a call.
    Welcome the world of GSM coverage in the United States.
    This very un-phone-like (but very computer-like, especially Microsoft-like!) experience is quite unlike my previous cell phone (CDMA).
    Then it seems that your previous CDMA carrier had much better coverage (which is to be expected).
    To be sure, sometimes calls didn't go through or signal strength was weak, but when that happened the phone explained what happened (e.g., "Signal faded--your call was lost") and I could see from the signal strength bars that a call might run into trouble.

    A post on another thread suggested (in relation to battery life) that maybe the Treo designers just don't use cell phones much. I'd have to agree.
    I wouldn't. That behavior sounds a lot like other digital cellular technologies when they were starting out (and AMPS before that).
    The Treo is an admirable PDA. But it delivers an alarmingly inconsistent phone experience, even after accounting for the vagaries of cell service. Will it get better? Does Handspring care? I don't know, but I do know that I've traded in a smoothly functioning appliance (my old cell phone) for a sexy, lightweight, compact, multi-purpose source of mystification, confusion, and uncertainty when I try to do that most basic thing: make a call.
    Then maybe you should have waited for the CDMA Treo?
    ‎"Is that suck and salvage the Kevin Costner method?" - Chris Matthews on Hardball, July 6, 2010. Wonder if he's talking about his oil device or his movie career...
  4. ahc
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       #4  
    Originally posted by Toby
    Welcome to the world of the _cellular_ phone.
    Really? As I said, on my Treo those scenarios happen with approximately equal frequency. On my previous two cell phones, calls would fail to go through perhaps 5% of the time, and practically never in 4-bar service areas. Do most other cell phone users these days only get about 20% of their calls to go through, even when their phone is showing 4 bars? I must have been terribly lucky all these years.

    Anyway, the various strange behaviors I have documented (e.g., the "calling" screen staying on even after the other party has answered) certainly are not typical of cellular phones... again, unless I've been unusally lucky.
    Welcome the world of GSM coverage in the United States.
    Again: really? As in, every GSM cell-phone user experiences unpredictable service like this? Wow.

    I am of course aware that cell phones have never had a dial tone, and that they've always been more temperamental than land lines. But my point is that if all technology sits somewhere on the computer-phone continuum, this Treo is _way_ further to the mystifying computer end than to the simple, reliable phone end. Caveat emptor.

    (I've worked as a developer, by the way, so I'm not intrinsically troubled by the "computer" end of the spectrum. Insofar as my Treo is a "computer," it's a brilliant one, and I could never have waited until the CDMA version came out. But I do like my phones to act like... phones.)
  5. #5  
    The first time I used a GSM phone I had the same experience.
    I pushed the 'pick up horn' green button and expected a dailtone...

    After the owner of the phone explained it to me i was clear... dail the number and hit the green button to activate the call...

    It is all due to the infrastructure of cell phones... you don't want to send useless data through the air....

    As long as your network coverage is ok (that is world wide except the US ) you should have no issues...

    p.s. the Treo is BOTH a phone and a 'computer'
    <IMG WIDTH="200" HEIGHT="50" SRC=http://www.visorcentral.com/images/visorcentral.gif> (ex)VisorCentral Discussion Moderator
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  6. #6  
    Originally posted by ahc
    Really?
    Yes, really. Cellular service is unlikely to ever be at the same level as Class 5 service in the States. Be that as it may, the bad scenarios you mentioned are far less likely in the states with TDMA or CDMA cellular due to ubuquity and maturity being farther along the curve.
    As I said, on my Treo those scenarios happen with approximately equal frequency. On my previous two cell phones, calls would fail to go through perhaps 5% of the time, and practically never in 4-bar service areas. Do most other cell phone users these days only get about 20% of their calls to go through, even when their phone is showing 4 bars? I must have been terribly lucky all these years.
    No, you were just on a better deployed network.
    Anyway, the various strange behaviors I have documented (e.g., the "calling" screen staying on even after the other party has answered) certainly are not typical of cellular phones... again, unless I've been unusally lucky.
    Only if your previous choice of carrier was by luck.
    Again: really? As in, every GSM cell-phone user experiences unpredictable service like this? Wow.
    No, not every GSM cell-phone user (because the rest of the world has much better GSM), but I'd feel pretty safe in saying that you're far from alone in the States.
    I am of course aware that cell phones have never had a dial tone, and that they've always been more temperamental than land lines. But my point is that if all technology sits somewhere on the computer-phone continuum, this Treo is _way_ further to the mystifying computer end than to the simple, reliable phone end. Caveat emptor.
    The problem with that analogy is that cellular phones aren't really that far into the phone side either.
    (I've worked as a developer, by the way, so I'm not intrinsically troubled by the "computer" end of the spectrum. Insofar as my Treo is a "computer," it's a brilliant one, and I could never have waited until the CDMA version came out. But I do like my phones to act like... phones.)
    Well, if you can't wait for the bleeding edge to blunt itself out a bit, then you really don't have much to complain about. Consider how long phone technology has been around and ubiquitous when compared to something like the Treo. To think that the Treo is going to give you Class 5 service is a bit naive.
    ‎"Is that suck and salvage the Kevin Costner method?" - Chris Matthews on Hardball, July 6, 2010. Wonder if he's talking about his oil device or his movie career...

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