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Fed Up With Palm

I'm a Washington Nationals fan, which means that--like a moth drawn to the flamethrower--I keep turning on the TV or showing up at RFK to see my team lose in one gruesome way after another. There's a rule for times like these: Don't boo outcomes, boo lack of effort.

Today's review of the Palm Treo 755p adds up to about 850 words of booing, and I'm not much more positive in the podcast either (listen/subscribe/iTunes).

Palm's allegedly-new Treo 755p--little different from the Treo 700p and the Treo 680, neither of which were breakthroughs compared to the Treo 650--is the weakest release yet from this company.

Seeing how badly Palm has lost its way makes me feel like I've been had. I've recommended this company's products many times in print and online and spent my own money on a Treo 650 two summers ago. The first year with the thing was great, as I wrote last summer. But since then, my smartphone has grown steadily less stable, especially when browsing the Web or checking e-mail. And none of the newer models shipped since then cure that reliability problem, since they all still run the same, increasingly fossilized software.

You can see the frustration slowly building up in my past reviews, year after year.

(Though if you think I'm harsh, check out this guy's evaluation! Brutal, just brutal.)

Palm is failing to live up to the basic promise of the high-tech world--that its products will continue to get better, faster and cheaper every year. At worst, this company is no longer capable of innovating. At best, it retains that ability but lacks the manners to tell its customers just what it plans to do to get back on track--"trust me" will no longer suffice.

There is, I suppose, some poetic justice in all this: When I bought my own Treo, I remember hoping that after too many months waiting for Verizon Wireless to sell the damn thing, I wouldn't be tempted with some flashy new Treo model half a year later. How wrong I was!

If you've got an older Palm handheld or smartphone, what are your upgrade plans? Are you hoping that the thing holds on until Palm can ship a legitimately new gadget? If so, what keeps you in Palm's corner? Or will your next organizer have some other company's logo on it? In that case, what might you miss most about your current device?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 24, 2007; 10:05 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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My wife has a Treo that work bought for her and we continually have problems with it. Within a week of its arrival, it began staying in 'airplane mode' and refusing to let her connect to the web. The only way we could get it out of that setting was to remove and replace the battery. That's happened a few times since, and she's had problems with phone calls and web browsing, too. I thought about picking up a Treo for myself last year, but now that I've seen hers in action (or in 'inaction'), I've decided to hold off. Maybe an iPhone will be in my future instead . . .

Posted by: PK | May 24, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I own two oooollllld Palms -- Sony Clie's, actually -- running PalmOS5.

I love my clie's. They have beautiful screens and, in landscaped mode, allow me to read ebooks (in 480x320) in comfort and with no eyestrain.

The lack of easy 'net access I can live with, though I mildly pine for it and keep an eye on T|X prices. I've held off buying anything new because I loathe MS products and keep hoping Palm'll get off the penny and come out with a T|X successor that integrates a useful keyboard -- cf. Psion devices.

As you can tell from the age of my devices, I've been waiting a loooong time.

Most Palm users have resigned themselves to the slowdeath of the company which appears to be committed to a strategy of "Stagnate 'til Nokia Buys Us Out," a winning proposition for sure.

iPhone, anyone? Maybe, but I still want a keyboard.

UMPC? Toooo pricey (and I paid $600 for my Clie').

Where's the nice SMALL convergent device we were promised? HTC makes some great designs but insists on running *shudder* WinMobile OSes. No thanks.

So we putter along with our ageing [sic] hardware, eyes wide for the Next Great Thing.

Which we're pretty sure won't come from Palm.

Posted by: Bush -- Not related | May 24, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Well, we know that Palm's new OS is almost ready (Linux based, with a layer running Garnet - what people normally think of as Palm OS - to allow backward compatibility), and Jeff Hawkins, Palm's ideas man, has said he'll be revealing an entirely new product line at a conference beginning May 29, so there are new products in the works. I don't think anyone would argue that Palm has done anything other than stagnate recently, mostly because their products have been stuck with an old and outdated OS, and the splitting off of their OS arm (by previous management no longer involved in the company) was a disaster which may well have sealed the fate of the company. But it seems that they have been working on other projects, it's just taken a while. With any luck, these new products should breathe new life into the company.

Why do I stick with Palm? Their product fits my needs, simply. Now, the TX I use is an old machine by technology standards, but it's more than adequate, and fairly stable. If they can bring back the reliability of their products as well as taking a leap forward technology wise, i think they'll be back in the game pretty quickly.

Posted by: mmaestro | May 24, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I have a Treo 700wx. Windows Mobile allows wireless sync right with our Exchange Server and does everything I need it to, but stability is a joke. As far as I can tell, battery removal is the only way to reboot-- which is a bad joke on a device that needs to be re-set 3 times a week.

That said, I can do way more with it than my previous device (Blackberry 7250) and I do have some residual goodwill toward the Treo line from the Handspring years. My guess is that in another couple of years I will be looking for the best device running Windows Mobile 6.0 and the Palm OS will be gone but not forgotten.

Posted by: KK | May 24, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm late to the party. I recently bought a palm 650 through Cingular. It does what I expect it to but it's quirky as any phone I ever had. I'm looking to upgrade ASAP unless someone can point me in the direction of HELP.

Posted by: twocareers | May 24, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

My trusty, old and reliable Palm V sits in a desk drawer ever since my company gave me a Blackberry two years ago. I refuse to carry more than one device unless absolutely necessary, but would love to switch to a Treo if that was an option. The Blackberry delivers, however, the critical phone and calendar functions in one place. I wish the browser was better, but for a day-to-day tool it works fine.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | May 24, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I too have owned 3 Palm devices, 2 of them Clie's which I loved. But I wanted an all-in-one smartphone, and I wasn't happy with the Palm OS Treo's. I almost held my nose and got a 700W, but my dislike for all things MS weighed too heavily. I finally bought the new Blackberry 8830. I LOVE IT! There's a reason they call these things crackberries! Great phone, great web access, great email, music and video player, and total stability. It's everything I wanted.

Posted by: JC | May 24, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I bought a Palm Zire 71 in 2003, and it does everything I need. I would love to carry one device instead of a phone AND a PDA, but it's too expensive. I don't usually carry the Palm on the weekends anyway. But other than consolidating devices, the Palm meets all my needs, which is being able to update a contact or appointment in one place, and have it propagate to three computers and one hand-held device without having to retype the information four times. Google Calendar isn't even good enough for this, because 1) it's not portable, and 2) it doesn't do alarms (at least not that I've found).

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | May 24, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I went from a Palm Vx in 2000 to a Treo 90 in 2002 (neither had phones, whcih I didn't need in those days), to a Treo 600 (on T-Mobile) in March 2004. The phone on the 600 pretty much stopped working after about a year. I upgraded to a 700P on Sprint in December. (Part of the reason for Sprint was that they were the only carrier of the Palm version (I too hate Windoze bloatware) that did not require one to purchase a data plan - I mainly want it for the phone and organizer functions, not email/browsing. The 700P and Sprint so far have been much better - almost never out of range from either Sprint or Verizon's (on which it "roams") network, never drops a call. Two exceptions to this better performance have been:
1) The voice quality on the 700P is not as good as on the 600P (when it worked). There is a much higher level of distortion, which actually can make some callers difficult to understand. I don't know if this is a problem with the Treo, or with Sprint.
2) The calendar program lost one of the nicest features that it had in the 600 - the option to set events as "floating" so if they didn't happen on the day initially scheduled, they would automatically be forwarded to the next day. Instead, I now have to manually change the date of the event each time I want it to be carried forward. The way I use my calendar, the time this requires really adds up. I wonder if I can load the 700 with the 600 version of the calendar, without losing anything?
One thing I have not tried yet is syncing the 700 to my Mac. It worked well on the 600 (without paying for any new software, I think), but the whole data transfer process from one Treo to the next has always been overly complicated in the Palm OS, so I never got around to it this time.
Overall though, the 700P with Sprint is an improvement over the 600P I had, because I can make and receive calls reliably.

Posted by: mike | May 24, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Rob, Palm have lost their way. I currently have a T3, and a Sony Ericsson mobile phone, neither of which talk to Vista. I have a BlackBerry from work which I end up using for personal use to avoid carrying multiple devices - which just means I end up working in the evenings. Any recommendations out their for a smart smart-phone? Thanks!

Posted by: David | May 24, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I've been a loyal Palm user for over ten years, started up a Palm Users Group in Orlando. I love my Tungsten C, but I am slowing becoming disenchanted. I long for a Palm that connects to both Bluetooth and WIFI 802.11b/g. I have a 1GB SD card in my T/C, would love to be able to use a 4GB SD. Palm forget the microdrives, they are not reliable too expensive, use too much power, and are too slow. Palm needs to get a new model out soon, before (heaven forbid) I go to the darkside and get a PocketPC, and I'm not talking about another Treo, I already have a cell phone(Blackberry) and I don't need another cellphone. What I need is a device similar to my T/C but with more connectivity and more memory.

Posted by: Dave | May 24, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I've had Palm PDAs for years, III, VII, Treo 600 and currently use a Treo 650. I'd hate to have to switch to Windows Mobile with my next smartphone. Though the Palm OS is becoming outdated, the freeware/shareware/cheap add-on applications available beat anything available (at any price) for WinMob. Everything I've read about the 755p is disheartening. Palm doesn't seem to have focus. Linux/Palm okay, but show some advancement in the tech. I figure I can get another 6-9 months out of my 650...and have no idea what I'll go to. I hope to stay with Palm, but unless they offer a smartphone better than the 700p/755p, WinMob may have a new user.

Posted by: nmc | May 24, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Palm user since 1998, still using my Treo 600. There have been some problems, but mostly taken care of by my second battery transplant. I feel no reason to update, I'm used to the Palm software, I still use a number of third party applications that I have for years, and there's nothing new out there (hardware or software) that calls to me.

Posted by: Herndon | May 24, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

So many of my friends said go for the 700p not 700w or wx that I ended up doign that route, so I only reboot/reset mine every month or so. Apparantly the 700w's have zero battery life and are super unstable which is why the wx had to come out. I'm starting to miss my ancient featureless samsung.

Posted by: ljb | May 24, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I've got a 600 and I plan to keep it until it breaks. Yeah it locks up periodically and the web browser is utter crapola, but it isn't like I see anything else on the market that does what I want. I'm glad I don't have to make a decision now.

What I want (in order):
compatibility with my Palm OS applications
browser that doesn't suck
several GB flash drive or at least memory card support
video/MP3 ability
WIFI support, even if it requires a sled

Posted by: slar | May 24, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I've had palm devices since the very first Pilot. Quirky, sometimes clunky, always an excellent PDA. My wife bought a Clie 4 years ago. She's replaced the battery once. It's a little scratched now, but it works as well as it did the day she bought it.
My most recent device was a Tungsten T5. Fabulously useful, especially with the WiFi card.
The only problem is that when my T5 broke (the well-known, well-discussed, well-understood and always-denied-by-palm power button problem), Palm completely left me for dead. No spares available to fix it. Repair quote from Palm cost as much as another T5 or TX on eBay.
I'm done with Palm. QA is shot and customer service has vanished.
Bring on the iPhone. Apple service is bulletproof.

Posted by: JonS | May 24, 2007 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I had a Tungsten E and I had posted about my Palm before in the last discussion Rob had about this.

Unfortunately, I couldn't wait. I ended up getting a display model HP iPaq 2495 on the clearance table at an office store. HP is not my favorite company and I can't blame people for being loyal to Palm, but there was no benefit for me.

The iPaq on clearance cost me just the amount it would take me to refurb my TE, which needed a new battery and a new power switch (which broke just like everybody else's Tungsten.) I'm a ham radio operator and experienced in electronic and computer repair; Palm would not have fixed it but for an exhorbitant price if at all.

Palm should have had its conference and announcement May 29th of *last* year. Or preferably the fall before; then I might not have had to switch.

Take care,

Posted by: David Moisan | May 24, 2007 11:16 PM | Report abuse

I just got my 700p- still within my rights to return it for a full refund- and am perplexed at the many missing features. My Kyocera 7135, while admittedly old, had features that I assumed were indispensable. I was wrong. The 700p has no graffiti program, no 2-digit speed dial feature, not even voice-dial capability! It's more dangerous than ever to use the phone while driving without these features. At least with voice dial I could keep my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road! Sure, I can BUY some of these features- but isn't that kind of dishonest? I thought I was upgrading, but now that I've switched away from my Kyocera, I don't think I can even go back because Verizon doesn't support it anymore! Am I missing something? Are there upgrades in the works? I have a dozen suggestions for improving the TREO- how can my voice be heard? I, too, miss my datebk5's 'floating' appointments; and now that my phone no longer rings in the earpiece, I sometimes miss calls. Another frustration is not being able to hang up one call to go to call-waiting: it says I'm still connected to both calls. Does that mean I'm missing other calls coming in? Please don't tell me Palm is running on empty! The cost of this phone (and the subsequent cost of needed applications) already has me overwhelmed!

Posted by: CapnMorgan | May 25, 2007 3:41 AM | Report abuse

Purchased my 700p about a year ago from Verizon. After a year of freezes, resets, missed calls, lost appointments and lousy BT pairing, I will wait for the BB Curve to hit Verizon next year when my contract is up. In our fast paced high tech world, Palm has moved from the front of the pack to hoping to lick a few crumbs that fall from the table. If my car had the reliability of my Treo, I would have been killed in the first week of ownership.

Posted by: El Hombre | May 25, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I was going to buy a Treo but Rob's piece left me very concerned about the future of this product. Where does one turn now? I want to stick with Verizon but I'm interested in a smartphone with power and usefulness.

Posted by: Omar | May 25, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Apple service is bulletproof? I find it unbelievable the degree to which people drink the Apple Kool-aid. My experience with Apple technical support has me saying "never again". If I'm going to get crappy support for a product that doesn't last, I might as well not overpay for it.

Posted by: slar | May 26, 2007 12:57 AM | Report abuse

My four-year-old Tungsten T still keeps on ticking, and it has even hit the floor a few times. My wife has a LifeDrive, which replaced a defunct Zire 72, which replaced a defunct m515, which replaced a beloved IIIe. She was annoyed at the switch to Graffiti 2 which is now known to be unnecessary. (The Tungsten uses original Graffiti.) She is also annoyed that the LifeDrive doesn't seem to store any applet data in static RAM: it takes several seconds just to find a phone number in Contacts from the disk. If I had to replace it tomorrow, I would get a T|X and bite the Graffiti 2 bullet.

It is annoying that some major Palm OS developers manage to make their software not very backwards-compatible, considering the minor differences between versions of OS 5.x. DataViz is now on Documents To Go v10, but the Tungsten only runs v8. (I am still happily running v7.) However, the Tungsten's onboard 16BM is kinda wimpy.

Their Graffiti position (why go back to the better original now that we have coerced users into using v2?) is indicative of the laziness to which they seem to have become acclimated after all of the corporate raiding which sucked value from their firm.

No PDA/smartphones, please. Too dependent on the flakiness of the wireless carriers and their insistence on hobbling built-in features, as Rob has detailed before. I'll just connect with a Bluetooth phone.

Posted by: Stratocaster | May 27, 2007 7:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why the TX doesn't get more attention than it does. It's a great WiFi device. I've travelled all over the world with it, and accessed WiFi easily everywhere I've been (Europe/Asia). I use it for quick internet access around the house or yard. I love to read the Sunday morning news on the TX.

A great combo would be VOIP on the TX. Unfortunately, there's no microphone on the TX. VOIP and the TX would have at least gotten Palm some attention. It's these missed opportunities that drives Palm fanboys crazy...

Posted by: SK | May 29, 2007 10:58 PM | Report abuse

I seem to be in the minority here, but I love my 700p. The Palm OS allows me to get a ton of free (and good!) medical software, I get my email and sync my handheld with Outlook wirelessly, and read/modify Office documents. I didn't have a previous Treo, but as far as I know none of the current crop of smartphones has that level of functionality.

Posted by: palm guy | May 30, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

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