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  1.    #1  
    Tales of a Switcher, or, Why a die hard Palm user switched from a Treo 270 to a T-Mobile PocketPC Phone Edition (aka XDA) Ė by Anthony Moody

    Recently I made a move that for some is a big one: I switched PDA platforms. On the other hand, some of you are probably thinking ĎBig Dealí or ĎSo What.í Well Iíll tell you so what. In casual reading and posting in forums around the internet (Brighthand, PocketPCPassion, PocketPCThoughts, PDAPhoneHome, and PPCWÖall of which I heartily recommend) Iíve been overwhelmed by the number of questions Iíve received about my experience. I guess the new, lower prices of PPCs and the higher prices of the latest model Palm OS devices has prompted many folks to consider a switch. So I thought Iíd share my experiences. This is not meant to be a review of a particular device per se (so many of those exist already) but more of an overview of my switching experience. I may occasionally meander into device specific stuff, but thatís mostly because I absolutely love the XDAÖ

    First, itís important to know upfront that Iím a gadget guy and an early adopter, and often purchase items simply because I like to have the latest and greatest. Itís a habit that extends far beyond PDAs (unfortunately for my wallet!). I donít always need what I buy, but Iím usually pretty excited about it nonetheless. Second, Iím relatively tech-savvy. Not a coder, more of a power user. Next, I extensively research every major purchase I make so that by the time the product is in my hands I feel well informed if not an expert. And finally, I waited several weeks before writing this to make sure Iíd put the XDA sufficiently through the paces.

    I suppose it may be useful to describe what I felt was lacking in the Treo 270. For many months the answer was GPRS. The long-promised, much-delayed patch from Handspring did finally arrive, right around the time my XDA came. I installed the patch and added a data plan to my account (as an aside, I also went from 1500 minutes for $100/month to 5000 minutes for $100/monthÖat $.02/minute weíre getting closer to all you can eat!). I must admit, GPRS made surfing on the Treo 270 a more enjoyable experience than via dial up. It connected more quickly than via dial-up and surfing felt snappier. That said, it was still pretty slow, and the smallish screen and poor resolution made the experience that much worse. Another issue I had with the Treo is that the email is not ďalways onĒ. Yes, you can set it to check for mail every so often, but this falls short of Blackberry functionality.

    Most else about the Treo was acceptable to me for the most part. Some things, like the built-in back-lit keyboard, I loved (and still miss). Iíve owned several Palms (from the Palm Pilot 1000 to a Palm III to a V to a Vx to a Treo 180 and finally to a 270) and have gotten very used to the Palm OS, its simplicity functionality, capabilities, and software availability. In general though, it was the converged nature of the Treo that showed me that I could (and should) expect more from a device. Thatís what ultimately led me to the XDA.

    Once I saw that a phone and a PDA could peacefully coexist in the same chassis I began to crave other functionality: multi-media, larger screen, greater resolution, better games, etc. So it wasnít so much that something was wrong with the Treo as right with other devices. In essence, it was the Treoís relatively successful convergence of PDA and phone that led me to switch. I wanted more. I know that some of the new Palm devices offer more, including many of the richer features I was craving. But none of them are also phones. For me that is now a prerequisite. If the latest Sony had built in GSM/GPRS capabilities, I may have gone that way. Instead, the XDA was really the only way to go since I didnít want to wait for the GSM/GPRS iPaq 5xxx (last I heard it was scheduled for Q2 í03 and is likely to slip IMO).

    When my research landed on the XDA I realized that I would be switching more than devices. As a PDA the XDA is a relatively full featured device running a completely different OS than the one Iím used to. However, Iíve found the switch to the PocketPC OS to be quite easy. As a Windows user, itís difficult to imagine having trouble learning your way around a PocketPC based PDA. Other than the fact that they relocated the Ďmainí menu from the lower left to the upper left, the functionality is remarkably similar to that of the PCs weíre so used to using (and I mean that in a good way!). The other difference that took some (about eight seconds worthÖ) getting used to is the fact that programs must be manually closed (with a 3rd party task switcher) since they donít automatically close when you launch a new application.

    Beyond these issues, as I said itís a surprisingly close approximation of using a PC, and therefore very easy to pick up. In fact, I recently had to use my girlfriendís Palm to look up a contact (Iíd forgotten my XDA at home) and found that the Palm OS was somehow counter intuitive. Despite years of Palm OS use, after just a couple months with the PPC OS I immediately found the Palm OS to be clunky Ė Iíd literally forgotten how to do certain things. I realize that the Palm OS itís usually lauded for its streamlined simplicity, but after PPC it feels not only simple but overly simplistic Ė like going to a DOS machine after Windows XP.

    I also find that syncing is a faster, easier process. I like that every time I insert it into the cradle the XDA immediately syncs with Outlook. My initial sync was quite easy as well. I syncíd my Treo to Outlook, then connected the XDA cradle, installed ActiveSync, and was off to the races. As a PDA, the XDA works great Ė it keeps easy track of my contacts and calendar (I donít really use the Notes or other PDA functions so much). I also find the SMS and email capabilities as good as or better than those of the Treo.

    But the best thing about the XDA is that itís so much more. I actually read a whole ebook for the first time ever (DraculaÖ) and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Iíd never think of reading a book on a Treoís screen, thatís for sure! Also, having Windows Media Player, a built-in headphone jack, a 2.5mm -> 3.5mm converter, and a nice set of headphones means I donít carry my MP3 player anymore! And I can carry lots of extra tunes around in postage stamp sized SD cards (WOW are they small!). The Treo canít touch that expandability, nor does it have the XDAís essentially unlimited selection of ring tones or WOW factor of graphics on games like Rayman Ultimate.

    With the recent release and installation of the EUU3 ROM update and radio stack fix for the XDA by T-Mobile, the device is more stable than ever. Combined with the 64MB RAM upgrade I had PocketPCTechs perform (a great service delivered in a professional and timely manner by a great bunch of folks Ė highly recommended), the device feels limitless (for my needs anyway). The GPRS connection hooks up in a snap and the surfing speeds are very quick. Using the Thunderhawk browser (which surfs in landscape mode) is a real eye-opener Ė the kind of thing that makes you feel like youíre seeing the future, but in the here and now. I never really felt that way with my Treo.

    Yes, the email is not Ďalways oní like a Blackberryís, but as I mentioned nor is the Treos. I get an SMS notification whenever I have an email so this is not a problem. I do miss the built in keyboard of the Treo, but SPBs Full Screen Keyboard program has gone a long way toward making me forget about it. SPB is said to be working on a fix to get the application to work better with the XDA. Yes, there are Palms (particularly the latest Sony clamshell designs) which contain much of what I like in the XDA but omit the most crucial Ė built in GSM/GPRS.

    What more can I say? Is the device perfect? No. One can always stand for more speed, more storage, higher screen resolution, a couple more Ďhardí buttons, maybe a built in keyboard, WiFi, Bluetooth, and an SDIO capable SD slot. However, for my needs, desires and use, the XDA easily outpaces the Treo. When the next generation of devices comes out Iíll be there to evaluate them, but I suspect Iíll stick with a PocketPC OS device. Palm, Handspring, Sony et al will have to do a great many things with their devices before Iíll go backÖ
  2. #2  
    Booooo, Hissssss

    Thanks for the story but you haven't convinced me. Arguing OS's is pointless to me, it's a matter of preference. All that impressed me was the SD card for storage, and the MP3 player, which we can probably get in the next Treo.

    What about size, is the XDA comfortable to hold? Heavy? In comparison to the Treo of course.
  3.    #3  
    I agree that OS' are a matter of preference. What I found, somewhat to my surprise, is that not only do I prefer PPC to Palm, I *greatly* prefer it.

    As for SD slots and MP3 players in the next Treo, I'm with you - I always evaluate new devices when they come out. But in that sense they'll only be catching up to the XDA...the next gen PPC Phone devices will also come out sooner or later, with their own newer, advanced features.

    As for weight and comfort, I don't have the published spec's handy, but the XDA feels slightly (very slightly) heavier than the Treo. However, it also feels much more substantial (like the difference b/t closing the door on a Mercedes vs. a Hyundai) in build quality and feel.

    I actually prefer holding the XDA to my head for phone calls to the Treo, though with the XDA you can't really tuck the phone b/t your chin and ear with no hands the way you can (sort of) with the Treo.

    TM
  4. #4  
    Originally posted by anthonymoody
    I actually prefer holding the XDA to my head for phone calls to the Treo, though with the XDA you can't really tuck the phone b/t your chin and ear with no hands the way you can (sort of) with the Treo.
    Yikes, that could spell disaster. Thanks for that input though, I expected it to be more difficult, with it being flat.
  5. #5  
    Like you, Anthony Moody, I'm an early adopter and I'm not afraid to say a gadget-freak!

    Since I first got my Treo 270 (I didn't buy Treo 180 because of its black&white screen and no GPRS - when I got the Treo 270 they told me I only had to wait a week or two to get the GPRS patch. We all know it took a lot more than that! But that's another story...), I've been looking around for a matching / superior device.
    Like anyone else, I looked at the Sony Ericsson P800 (finally out!) and after being excited by its on-paper specsí, I wasn't that interested when I played with it for a couple of hours.
    I tried the Siemens SL45 but wasn't impressed.
    I had also an XDA for a couple of days (a friend of mine gave me his to play with). I loved the screen (and hated Treo's ever seen after that... until I got my 5th replacement unit which came with a new screen: much better quality that still doesnít match any Pocket PC device).
    Even if I have to agree that the XDA is superior to the Treo in many ways, I didn't make the switch for one main reason:
    The built-in keyboard.
    I see my phone/PDA as an on-the-road replacement of both my mobile/cell phone and laptop computer.
    This is the reason why I want to be easily able to write reports, Emails, etc. directly from my device. And I don't find those 'virtual' keyboards matching Treo's in terms of being fast, ease of use and responsiveness.
    And this is where the Treo remains superior to most device out-there. Today.
    This might change in the near future with the new Palm Tungsten W (which works only with a headset, but I don't see a problem here) and the Fujitsu Siemens Loox PocketPC that will come with a screen protector/keyboard accessory.
    I played with a demo one just before Christmas and was very impressed (it is scheduled to be out in January 2003 - so don't expect it before March!).
    In other words, despite its numerous weaknesses, I find Treo 270 to be the best device of its type available today.
    And believe me; I looked around very hard to find it a replacement - for one because I am fed up with the lack of hardware reliability and poor customer service -, but didn't find a match.
  6. bostonguy's Avatar
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    #6  
    I've been considering a similar switch (gadget freak fix, SD card slot, better screen, etc) but I was concerned about cost. Did you have to "re-up" your T-Mo contract to get the XDA or pay a premium (ie more than the $499 advertised price). I started my T-Mo contract in May with my 270 purchase and figure I'll have to pay a lot or extend my commitment to get the XDA. I would actually keep both and switch SIM card betwEn the two as my mood strikes me.

    Thanks,

    bostonGuy
  7.    #7  
    I extended my contract when I went from 1500 minutes to 5000 minutes (same price, $100/mo). However, that had nothing to do with getting the XDA. I did that when I got the Treo GPRS upgrade - I was talking to the rep, adding the data plan, and she mentioned that for what I was then paying for minutes I could get tons more if I agreed to another year. No problem.

    When I decided on the XDA I talked the TMo rep into sellling me the device for about the same price as if I'd been a new TMo customer (I've been a big minutes customer for a long time, VS before TMo).

    I agree that if you are an existing TMo user it's a tough nut to swallow if you have to pay anywhere near $500. The other thing to consider though is that color Treos still fetch a decent price on eBay...

    TM
  8. #8  
    Great post. no flame, very informative.
    But how long does xda's battery last? as bad as treo's?
    I have a sony clie t series and an ipaq. I love the palm os more.
    If you talk of pda's only w/out gsm/gprs built in, w/c would you choose?
  9.    #9  
    Great question. At the time, I think if I had needed a PDA only (no phone/data capabilities built in) I would have purchased one of the new Sony's (probably the one without the camera). Why? Because at the time I was very familiar with the PalmOS.

    However, now that I've lived with PPC OS for some time there's no doubt in my mind that if I knew then what I know now, I'd have switched to a PPC device anyway. Which one? The iPaq 1910. That thing is frickin beautiful.

    As for battery life, it lasts noticeably longer than that of the Treo. I don't remember a single night that I didn't have to charge the Treo overnight. With the XDA I often skip a night of charging. THat's a major difference - basically 2X for my usage. And I read ebooks and surf too, backlight intensive stuff...

    TM

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