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  1.    #1  
    Since many people (including myself) were asking questions about this software, I figured I would write up a review. Perhaps the TreoCentral staff would like to put this in their review section. If so, that is fine with me.

    To begin with, I installed this on my Treo 680. The software says its specifically made for the Treo 650, but a few forum members posted that they had no problems using this software on the Treo 700p, and since the 680 and the 700p have the same version of the Palm OS, I figured I should be fine. And indeed, I did not encouter any problems or errors while running AOL 3.3 on my Treo 680.

    AOL 3.3 is a full AOL program, and not only an AIM program. So I will divide this review into 2 parts: AOL Mail, and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

    When you open the AOL 3.3 program for the first time and click on the "Sign-On" button, it asks you if you are an existing AOL member or a new member. I clicked "existing member" and I was prompted to enter my screen name and password. This worked just like the desktop AOL software. And just like the desktop AOL software, the next time I attempted to log on, I was presented with a drop-down list of all the screen names in my AOL account. And just like the desktop AOL software, AOL 3.3 can remember the passwords for your different AOL screen names if you check the "remember password" box.


    AOL Mail

    According to the "About AOL" screen, this software has a copyright date of 2003. Not surprising, it seems to be similar to AOL desktop software from around then when it comes to handling email. The email interface is very similar to the desktop software from AOL 6.0 (if you can remember back that far). It has 3 tabs for the 3 email folders: "New", "Old", and "Sent". There is no tab for "Spam" or "Saved" and you cannot access those folders.

    You also cannot view attachments or embedded pictures. However, when you are viewing an email, it does list the file name of the attachment, and when viewing your email in the folder/list view, it shows a little paperclip icon the same as the desktop AOL software (and almost every other email program) does. In the case of embedded pictures, in the body of the email where the picture is supposed to be, it will simply show "[embedded picture]", so at least you know it is there. You also cannot view HTML email as AOL 3.3 strips away the HTML content much the same way a Blackberry does. You are left with all the text though, which is better than some mobile email programs I have seen that simply will not display any email that contains HTML content.

    While AOL 3.3 does not allow you to access addresses from your AOL online address book, when writing a new email it does allow you to pull addresses from your Treo's contact list the same way Versamail does.

    One disappointment is that AOL 3.3 does not have full 5-way support, meaning that not all on-screen buttons can be chosen using the 5-way directional pad. I'd say about 75% of things can be done using the directional pad, but you need to touch the screen for a number of things. The good news is that I did not find it to be a problem as the buttons that need to be touched are always along the bottom of the screen and are similar in size to the on-screen buttons when you make a phone call. So I did not bother taking out my stylus and just used my thumb or finger. I have a nice Palm anti-glare screen protector, so touching the screen with my fingers is something I do more often than using the stylus.

    In the end, I think the best email solution for me is to use AOL 3.3 to check and manage my email, and for the occasional email that has an embedded picture or attached file, I will use Versamail. I will also use Versamail when I need to access email in my "Saved" folder. But AOL 3.3 is clearly much better for managing AOL email than is Versamail or any regular IMAP client. Anyone who has tried to use a regular IMAP client for AOL email knows the constant problems that occur with regard to having your "Old" mail disappear after a few days, and seeing emails that you already deleted continue to download again and again. While AOL has tried to conform to IMAP standards, they are clearly still slightly different and you will always find the best experience using their own software to manage your email.


    AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)

    With regard to AIM, AOL 3.3 works very much like the desktop client. You see your full buddy list including all the various groups. You can manage your buddy list the same as on the desktop as well, including such tasks as moving buddies from one group to another, adding & deleting buddies, etc. You can even access your AOL "privacy" list and block certain users from seeing you or IMing you. You also see the little note icon next to buddies that are away, and you see the "open door" and "closed door" icons for 15 seconds or so next to buddies that have just signed on or off. You also hear an alert when buddies sign on or off (and of course when you receive a new IM).

    One thing that I really like, but others may not, is that buddies that are mobile are not listed as being online. The reason I prefer this is that half of the people on my buddy list are always listed as "mobile" since they have their IMs being forwarded as text messages to their phones. The problem I have encoutered is that every single Mobile IM program I have used always lists them as being online, but does NOT show the little mobile-phone icon. The only exception to this is the wonderful AIM client on the T-Mobile Sidekick, which does show the mobile phone icon. Without this icon, there is no way for me to tell whether they are really online or not. They simply appear to be online 24/7. And if I want to contact friends who are on their mobile phone, I'll simply send them a text message rather than an IM.

    As far as sending and receiving IMs, this is also just like the desktop AOL software, and messages are instantaneous -- there is no delay at all as there is sometimes with 3rd party IM servers.

    You can put up an away message, but it is your standard away message and you cannot use a custom away message.

    And I'll just comment here about 5-way support -- it is much the same as what I said above in the AOL Mail section -- most functions are supported, but occasionally you will have to use your thumb or finger to tap an on-screen button. No big deal at all.

    Now for the down sides:

    Unfortunately, while AOL 3.3 can indeed stay signed on while in the background, or while the phone is in standby, it does not notify you of IMs received during these times until you go back into the AOL program. Then you receive a flood of IMs with no way of knowing if they just arrived or if they had been sent 15 minutes ago (there is no time-stamp capability). There is also no vibrate support, so when you silence your phone using the switch on top, you don't receive any notification of a new IM other than the normal visual one (a flashing symbol in the upper right corner of the screen).

    When you are in the AOL program, it does alert you when you receive a new IM no matter where you are in the program. But once you leave the program, no more alerts.

    One strange thing I noticed is that when in the AOL program, the Treo refuses to go into standby mode. It keeps turning the screen back on every few seconds. But if you leave AOL running in the background and go back to your home screen or to any other app, then you can put the phone in standby with no problem. But again, no IM alerts then.

    So basically, this program is about as useful as your normal AOL/AIM desktop client. It's great to chat with and manage your buddy list, and also has a wonderful interface, but it's not a solution for those who want to stay signed on all day while the phone is in their pocket. It's more for the user who wants to sign on, chat, and then sign off.

    For me, that works just fine. And if I decide I am done chatting, I may stay signed on, but I will remember to put my away message up before I put the phone in standby just the same as I would put on my away message on my PC before I walk away from my computer.

    The only "bug" I found in the program is related to the 5-way support. It seems as if 5-way support was added as an afterthought. As I mentioned above, not everything is accessable by using the 5-way directional pad, and even items that are, are not always accessable in the propper order. To explain this a little better, look at the toolbar at the top of TreoCentral. Imagine that if the focus was on "Home" and you pushed to the right, instead of going to "Stories", it skipped down to "Discussion", then "Wiki", "Mobile", "About", then skipped all the way back to "Stories", "Review", and so on....you get the point. I'm sure this is something that one will get used to over time, but it is obviously the result of sloppiness in the programming, or simple lack of beta-testing.

    Hopefully AOL will come out with a new version of this software at some point in time. With the Treo 680 most likely headed towards being the best-selling treo ever, it would be to their benefit to re-do this program as this is definately a growing market. While the program is usable in its current form, if they were to fix the 5-way support, add support for attachments and embedded pictures, and add alerts while in background mode, this program would really be killer. I'll say again, that the interface of this program is very clean and I really like it.
  2.    #2  
    Quote Originally Posted by zelgo View Post
    You have neglected to mention the complete lack of support from AOL. AOL claims it is not responsible for this program because it didn't create it--yet it joyfully charges you to buy this program.

    I have bought two versions of this in the past, and I now know: NEVER AGAIN! It WILL stop working at some point (usually when an "upgrade" is available to buy) and you will get absolutely no response from AOL.

    BUY AOL 3.3 AT YOUR OWN RISK!

    (plus, of course, that you cannot read attachments--just use Versamail for free to read all your AOL mail, including attachments!)
    If they ever do upgrade this program, I will be first in line to get the new one, so that is not really a concern for me.

    Regarding Versamail, or any IMAP email program for that matter, they just do not handle AOL mail properly. While AOL does indeed have an IMAP protocol set up, it is not a good one and does not work well when it comes to managing your email.

    I've been using AOL for 12 years now, and it's definately much easier to manage your email when you have seperate "New Mail" and "Old Mail" folders instead of the IMAP "Inbox" folder. The problem is that AOL automatically deletes "old" (read) email after several days. On AOL, the status of an email can be any of the following 3 things: New & Unread, New & Read, and Old (read). The problem is that IMAP only supports Read and Unread, and does not differentiate between "new" and "old", so your end result is that you must keep everything in your inbox market "unread" or else some of your emails may suddenly vanish due to AOL deleting them.

    I admit that this program does need some work, but it's definately quite usable the way it is. But I do hope they upgrade it in the future.

    If Palm was to work with AOL to make a good AOL program that handled both email and AIM, they could attract the whole Sidekick crowd, most of whom use AOL religiously.
  3. #3  
    BEWARE OF THIS APPLICATION!

    Some new people here may not remember this, but AOL 3.3 is associated with TERRIBLE reset and data loss problems! Just check some of the old threads!

    Don't say you haven't been warned!

    Marc
  4.    #4  
    Quote Originally Posted by Chatter View Post
    BEWARE OF THIS APPLICATION!

    Some new people here may not remember this, but AOL 3.3 is associated with TERRIBLE reset and data loss problems! Just check some of the old threads!

    Don't say you haven't been warned!

    Marc
    I actually did read all of the threads I could find on TreoCentral regarding this program. I did find a couple of people who said that this program caused resets, but mostly they were people who tried using the older version for the Treo 600 on the Treo 650.

    There were also a number of people who tried using AOL's AIM program (not AOL 3.3) on the Treo and it caused resets, but that software specifically warns that it's only for Palm OS 3.5-4.x and is not for the Treo. I think you may be confusing that program with this one.

    Most of the complaints regarding AOL 3.3 were simply that it doesn't handle attachments or embedded pictures. I actually read all 41 reviews over at handango and again only a couple of people with problems. I'm guessing that it doesn't play well with some other software that a few people had installed. I don't plan to go crazy with third party software. Other than installing some games, I probably won't install anything else, so I think I should be ok.

    This program really is so so close to being a great program. It just needs a few minor tune-ups. I really do hope AOL updates it, but I suspect this may be the end of the line for AOL's PDA software. They haven't updated their Pocket PC software either. Their last release for any PDA platform was almost 2 years ago.
  5. Hanuman's Avatar
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    #5  
    Hey Eric,

    Thanks for taking the time to write up this review. You obviously put a lot of work into it. I used to use a version of AOL on my Treo 600, I think it was version 3.2 (but not sure). Though it worked great I had issues with some of the features. The program sucked my battery dry, I couldn't leave it on all the time, I'd have to periodically log in, check mail, then sign off. If I logged in to check mail, I'd automatically be logged in to AIM as well. 5 way support really sucked. Occasionally I'd find the program would stop working, either not recieving email, or not being able to log in. Once it stopped working for 2 days, then inexplicably, it'd work again.

    I find splitting AOL into two seperate components worked best for me. Chatter for the email (awesome battery life, push email, 100 percent 5 way support) and toccer (free, with great 5way support). I had this on my my Treo 600 and still use this setup on my Treo 700. I'm not a big fan of AOL in general, but I've had them since 1996, so I want to keep the email address. I know it's free now, but my folks still use dial up (I know, I know archaic as it is, it suits their purposes).
    Palm IIIe -> Visor Deluxe -> Palm 505 -> Clie tj37 -> Treo 600 -> Treo 700P
  6. #6  
    I have the same AOL program. Actually, I use multiple email programs. My primary email app is Chatter.

    The AOL app does in fact work, but it's very crude and simplistic. One thing I could never get to work is instant messaging...simply doesn't work at all for me...dunno why. Doesn't really matter since IM is of little use to me, especially using AOL.

    As others have already mentioned, the AOL app cannot handle any attachments, period, which is a big downer. On the plus side, it's a very easy program to use if you simply only read emails occasionally.

    I know someone who really likes this app when I beamed it to her because she's a light email user. For anyone else who is a power user, this AOL map will quickly disappoint you.
    Casey
    Sprint 755p, 700p, 650 - I am not a geek! Really!
  7.    #7  
    I was stuck at the airport yesterday for a few hours (flight delay) and I used AOL to chat with some friends who were online. It works wonderfully for that purpose except for one important thing. When you leave the AOL program, you do not receive alerts of new IMs, so you have to check back there ever couple of minutes to see if you missed anything. Other than that, it's the best AIM interface of any program I have used short of the Sidekick's AIM program. The buddy list is just like AIM on your computer as well.

    I just wish AOL would update this program to include some more features.
  8. light3944's Avatar
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    #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by Chatter View Post
    BEWARE OF THIS APPLICATION!

    Some new people here may not remember this, but AOL 3.3 is associated with TERRIBLE reset and data loss problems! Just check some of the old threads!

    Don't say you haven't been warned!

    Marc
    I ran into this proble about 5 days ago and my phone would just keep reseting! I am on vacation and do not have backups of my information until I get home in a few day. I will stay away from this program in the future!
  9.    #9  
    Quote Originally Posted by light3944 View Post
    I ran into this proble about 5 days ago and my phone would just keep reseting! I am on vacation and do not have backups of my information until I get home in a few day. I will stay away from this program in the future!
    Can you post a list of what software you are running on your Treo and which Treo you have? Since some people have this problem and others do not, I think perhaps AOL 3.3 does not play well with some other 3rd party program. Perhaps we can try to figure out which one.
  10. Hanuman's Avatar
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    #10  
    What I fing interesting is that AOL doesn't have a mobile aol that is wap based, or otherwise accessable by a mobile's browser. gmail, yahoo, msn all have mobile sites. AOL did have a site I used to access on verizons mobile site, but Treo owners are forced to purchase 3rd party software. AOL is going down the tubes fast, and it's backwards thinking like this that's speeding their demise. They have a great thing going when they introduced portals, easy dial-up, IM, chats and the like. They've really dropped the ball lately.
    Palm IIIe -> Visor Deluxe -> Palm 505 -> Clie tj37 -> Treo 600 -> Treo 700P
  11.    #11  
    Quote Originally Posted by Hanuman View Post
    What I fing interesting is that AOL doesn't have a mobile aol that is wap based, or otherwise accessable by a mobile's browser. gmail, yahoo, msn all have mobile sites. AOL did have a site I used to access on verizons mobile site, but Treo owners are forced to purchase 3rd party software. AOL is going down the tubes fast, and it's backwards thinking like this that's speeding their demise. They have a great thing going when they introduced portals, easy dial-up, IM, chats and the like. They've really dropped the ball lately.
    Cingular's MediaNet portal has a link to AOL's wap portal.

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