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How Smart is This Phone?

I picked up a Treo 700p the other day - a used one I found on Craigslist, no less, because Verizon was slightly ridiculous about the amount of money I had to pay for an upgrade. But that's a story for another time.

Palm Treo 700p
Palm's Treo 700p (Courtesy Palm)

I resisted The Post's efforts to put me into the e-mail-only version of the Blackberry available to staffers. As an e-mail-only device, it would have meant just one more gadget for me to charge and carry around. So I picked up this Treo and immediately started setting it up - moving some photos and video clips from the old phone, repopulating the contacts list and so on. Then came time to set up e-mail functionality.

You know, I'm a pretty tech-savvy guy who's good at experimenting with options and preferences on my devices. Several months back, one of the Post's IT guys set me up with everything I needed to know on how to get my mail into different mail clients (Thunderbird at the office, Apple Mail on my laptop at home) and I did it with minimal effort. So I figured setting up the Treo would be a snap.

I finally got it figured out -- after several hours of trying different combinations of my user name, server name and password. It's amazing how many user manuals and help guides aren't user-friendly or helpful at all. In my case, I kept getting error messages that made little sense and weren't in the phone manual or help files. I had a similar experience several years ago when I installed a wireless network at home.

A message to device/software makers: If you want these things to go mainstream (and judging by the increasing number of features you're putting on everyday cell phones, you do) then you're going to have to make setup easier. Many of us are willing to upgrade from voice-only mobile plans to data plans -- which often means more money and another two-year commitment. But setup is a real problem.

I managed to get the job done, but can only imagine how many non-techie folks would have slammed the Treo in the box and gone running back to their faithful flip phones.

By Sam Diaz  |  October 25, 2006; 3:30 PM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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i am looking at your route to a treo 700p, without paying verizon. but how do you active data services without telling verizon you have the 700p? or did you already have the evdo data subscription before buying the 700p outside?

Posted by: curious george | October 25, 2006 3:14 PM

You think Verizon is a problem? I have the 700wx from Sprint. Not only do you have the same difficulties with email setup, there is the additional headache of technical problem with Sprint Treo phones being unable to text message(SMS) to non Sprint network phones(Verizon,T-Mobile, etc).

Posted by: nobar2far | October 25, 2006 3:53 PM

Verizon doesn't care how you get the phone - they just don't like to sell you a new one at the promotional price until it's "your time" for an upgrade (aka - no rebate for you!). I was able to activate the (more expensive) data plan easily and change the number to the Treo with no questions asked. The best part of this whole transaction: because I brought my own phone and didn't get the promotional rate, I didn't have to sign up for two more years.

Posted by: Sam Diaz | October 25, 2006 4:07 PM

nobar2far: My Sprint Treo 650 sends text messages to non-Sprint phones just fine -- the problem you described is limited to the 700wx, according to this story at

And FWIW, I found setting up Versamail very easy, even for multiple accounts. But then, I'm not connecting to Microsoft Exchange servers, just standards-based POP/IMAP servers.

Posted by: Happy Treo User | October 25, 2006 5:44 PM

Looks like I can't embed links -- the story about the Treo 700wx/SMS problem is at:

Posted by: Happy Treo User | October 25, 2006 5:46 PM

I'm on my second Treo (the first was a 180g, the second a 700p). I've used both the current and previous ones with both POP and Exchange, with no issues and relatively few headaches with setup. My business partner went with the 700w and is reporting it as simple to set up as the 700p.

If you're writing this article for non-technical people (the ones who can't set up their VCRs), perhaps there's merit in your comments. But if so, they shouldn't be looking for email on their phones at all: no mobile device I've seen in the last ten years has a sufficiently simple email setup (or text configuration, or camera, or address book, or display configuration) to satisfy the completely non-technical user. Maybe you should recommend reverting to the StarTAC for these folks...

Posted by: boatboy_srq | October 26, 2006 9:32 AM

Hi Sam: Thanks for your thoughts on the 700p, and I've had similar challenges. I basically use it as a cell phone and search the web 4 months after having got it. However, I feel like I still really don't know how to use it to its fullest capabilities. Can you recommend books, articles, websites, or other sources to demystify the 700p? Many thanks.

Posted by: KindaNewTreoUser | October 26, 2006 9:44 AM

I sell all the wireless carriers. When I sell a Treo 700w or 700p for Verizon I tell the customers where to go online to setup the email and if they have any problems customer service will do it for them.
So far every customer has had very little problems. But I do agree it is not easy for the normal lay person to setup most of the devices.
I have problems myself sometimes.

Posted by: | October 26, 2006 10:07 AM

The title is wrong - it should be HOW SMART IS THE USER?

Posted by: Stephen | October 26, 2006 10:29 AM're not going to tell us how to do it, or point us toward some website?? I'm still completely clueless after reading all the comments!

Posted by: Vulture Breath | November 1, 2006 11:56 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


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