How one month with the iPhone has made me appreciate the Treo 680 more than ever

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Today is July 29th. One month ago today, I was standing in line (it was a very short line, but a line all the same) at my local AT&T store to buy the much hyped iPhone. On that day, I remember being excited because I was getting a new toy to play with. But I also remember being pretty sure that the iPhone would not displace my Treo 680 as my everyday device. After using the iPhone exclusively for a couple of weeks and posting my review, I did in fact go back to the 680. But then I went back to the iPhone again. And then back to the 680. This flip flopping has happened more times than I can remember in the last month, but I keep coming back to the Treo and here’s why…

1. Syncs text files / memos / notes and has a way to search the contents of those files for keywords.
2. I can install 1000’s of 3rd party applications (not web apps) such as an eBook reader, date calculator, unit converter, SSH client, games, etc.
3. Has physical buttons, which makes it a lot easier to interact with in a car.

The Treo may be a bit clunky as far as its physical design and a bit long in the tooth as far as its operating system, but it continues to be my everyday work horse, so it must be doing something right. :o)

What about all of you? What device (smartphone / PDA) do you continue to use day after day? Which one would you feel lost without?

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34 thoughts on “How one month with the iPhone has made me appreciate the Treo 680 more than ever”

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  2. I am using my iPhone day to day after having a Treo 650 from the day the 650 came out. While probably less reliant on mobile technology than Julie I have to agree that syncing Notes is basic and sorely missing (I’ll guess to be addresses when Leopard comes out which is fine for us OS X users but what about Windows?) as well as some level of 3rd party application support. While I don’t need 1000s of applications I am really missing two:


    Also having general access to the file system and USB mounting would be nice. And before anyone suggests the hacks, yes I have thoroughly gone through the phone and have SSH, SFTP and Apache running on it but that isn’t the same from a usability perspective.

    None of the above however has made me disappointed in my iPhone purchase. It is leaps and bounds better than my Treo 650 for the things I mostly use it for, web, email, and audio/video media (TCPMP/Core Media doesn’t even come close to iTunes on iPhone). I also think (hope?) that patience will be rewarded over the next few months with the iPhone getting 3rd party support.

    Over and out.

  3. I can’t stop thinking that no matter how many hacks are made to the iPhone, all it takes is a solid development effort to replicate most — if not all — of the iPhone’s functionality on the Treo platform. In my opinion, an open platform is always more valuable than a closed platform.

  4. I wish I had an iPhone. Can’t wait to get one. Even knowing I’d be flipping back and forth as you are. What makes you keep returning to the iPhone?

  5. Ben: Except for probably the most important, 320×480 multi-touch. Even though Palm has had an SDK available for years (and I have dabbled developing with CodeWarrior on my Palm III) the browsers, media players, and email clients have been weak compared to the introductory iPhone offering (though iPhone’s MobileMail can definitely be improved!). Don’t get me wrong, I definitely want to see 3rd party development but I don’t see going back to Palm for a very very long time.

    I guess one other thing, being on AT&T already for a number of years it was no problem to jump to an iPhone but people used to 3G goodness have a legitimate complaint. Again patience.

  6. Hellene:
    I mainly keep coming back to the iPhone because of the gorgeous LARGE display. Surfing on the iPhone is a pleasure. I also like the email application on the iPhone. It’s definitely better than Versamail on the Treo. I suppose I just need to try some of the other 3rd party email apps for Palm.

  7. Regarding all the iPhone hacks… While I think it’s terrific that there’s a group of people doing this, I want Apple to actually open up the platform so that it doesn’t have to be an underground movement. Like Ben said, an open platform is much more valuable than a closed one.

  8. Julie,
    Is it worth it to get the iPhone to access email if I only have wifi? Seeing that I’m not in the USA, and have no phone connection?

  9. Hellene, unfortunately the iPhone is locked down so hard that unless you hack it, you can’t use it AT ALL without AT&T activation, not even as a WiFi-only device or iPod. While it doesn’t seem that hard to do the activation hacks right now, I’m not sure spending $500 on a device that isn’t even useful to you until you do unsupported hacks is a great idea, especially since we have no idea whether Apple will be trying to close those loopholes in the future or not.

  10. You’re right. I can easily see Apple closing those loopholes with the next upgrade. Unless they’re deliberate… It’s a loooong time to wait for the international version though. But worth it 😉

  11. You know I read everyone’s reviews but rarely see oh yea it cost $600. As if that is not a factor. You could get 3 Treo 680’s for that price. The iPhone would have to be such much more superior to any other phone. I have yet to read one review suggesting it is that much better than a Treo or Blackberry. Sure it is nicer to look at and fun to play with, but is that really worth the extra cash. Not IMHO.

    Why would you buy a phone at such a premium price in the hopes that one day Apple might make it the phone you hope for?

  12. Chris,
    Cost isn’t an issue because alot of people;

    1. are willing to pay for value
    2. do not get subsidised phones

    My Treo 680 cost me $415. Before that I had an Sony Ericsson S600 that cost me 600 Euros. I’m I willing to pay $600 for the iPhone Oh yeah!

    The iPhone is heavily software based so it’ll be pretty easy for Apple to add more features with each upgrade. This also gives it a longer term value in the long run.

    If it can accurately maintain a copy of the address book I have on my Mac, then it could cost $1,000 for all I care. My Treo’s driving me crazy by mangling my addressbook.

  13. It’s worth noting that the $600 price for the iPhone is, in effect, the subsidized price, since that’s what you pay for it with a 2-year contract. And it’s locked down harder than any other GSM phone that doesn’t come from a carrier whose name starts with “Trac”… you can only use an iPhone with the exact SIM it was activated with. Not only can you not use it with another carrier’s SIM, like a normal locked phone, but you can’t use it with another AT&T SIM either, not even one from another iPhone. If your iPhone breaks and you trade it for a new one, they don’t just pop your SIM into the new device like they would with any other phone… they have to transfer your account to the new SIM that is in the new iPhone.

    Congratulations, Apple and AT&T, you’ve turned GSM into Verizon…

  14. Hellene:

    What problems are you having with syncing your Treo to your Mac? Have you tried MissingSync? That’s what I use and have found it to work great! At least the version of MissingSync for Palm. Their Windows Mobile version still has some problems…

  15. Chris: Well I found it easy to justify the iPhone (and I am sure I’ll fall into the minority here), I had never owned any iPod so to me I was getting an update to my phone which had decided that the digitizer was an optional feature as well as a brand new iPod with video.

    If I recall, I paid close to $400 for my subsidized Treo 650 when it came out (and that’s not including almost three years inflation). That’s why price isn’t mentioned as highly, all of these gadgets are expensive on day one. If I take the combined cost of an original 650 and an 8GB iPod Nano – wow I wind up paying $649 (my Treo required ATT as well so those costs are moot, in fact since I moved from the unlimited data plan for the Treo, I am actually saving $20/month).

    Now I think we are getting slightly off topic but I think that everyone agrees that iPhone needs apps.

  16. Well, I will have to be the goi e of the minority here. I love my iPhone, even though there are still things it needs. While SSH would be nice, that’s not a dealbreaker for me. At first memos were the issue, but I now put notes on calendar dates for flight info, and use various wikis and sites like to give me my to do features.

    The GoogleMap app and the integration of everything reminds me
    of thr Newton. Inrarely type much (this may be the longest message I’ve done!), but the keyboard really grows on you. Yeah, I’d like hard buttons, but I won’t trade the space for them. My Tungsten C has seen less use this month than any of the previous weeks. I have only pulled it out to test a ntwork while I was on te phone, and to use my Bible software.

  17. Julie, I do use Missing Sync but it is the address book fields on both machines that don’t match. Work email on Mac becomes ‘Other’ on Treo. Relationships fields don’t exist on Treo. Contact pictures don’t transfer well. Time spent ‘cleaning’ one of the address books is wasted when I sync. Quite frustrating – especially when dealing with 1000+ contacts.

    How well does iPhone address book sync with the Mac address book?

  18. James Scrimshire


    Does the iPhone support Google Gear, if so this would bypass the issues of not being able to download third party apps.


  19. Hellene:

    The iPhone syncs with Contacts just like you would imagine. Perfectly. :o) I’m not sure about the relationship fields though. I must be blind as I don’t recall seeing those on my Mac. I’ll have to look closer tonight.


    The iPhone doesn’t support google gears currently. You have to install what I believe is a runtime application on the device you want to run the apps on. Right now there’s only a Windows version. I may be wrong, but that’s what I noticed when I went to Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  20. Excellent! Thanx Julie. I’ll clean up my address book when an iPhone i within reach.

    The ‘relationship’ fields are below ‘birthday’ and have ‘friend’ & ‘assistant’ by default. I think. If you don’t see them, you can add them in Preferences/template. Just a thought, if you add a field using the template, is it automatically added to the iPhone when you sync?
    Sigh. So many questions! Thanx for your patience…

  21. I’ve also flip-flopped between the Treo 680 and the iPhone. Treo 680 = clunky, address book mangler, slow; bad VersaMail, but great 3rd party apps, cut, copy, paste, search, keyboard. iPhone = no cut, copy, paste, search, no financial calculator, no airline scheduler, no camera zoom or video; but sleek, WOW, great email, Internet, Google maps, iPod. Have figured ways around some things like keeping notes on the calendar dates. keeping recurring items in Notes and emailing. Think I’m favoring the iPhone. Particularly when I pull it out at the espresso stand every morning and others turn green :-0

  22. Hellene:

    Well, the results are mixed. It allowed me to add the field “nickname” to a contact and that synced just fine. But when I put the word ‘test’ in the field next to the Friend relationship, that did not sync.

  23. Hmmm that’s quite strange and interesting Julie. Maybe something to watch out for in future firmware updates? Thanx alot. Much appreciated!

  24. Just a thought, seeing how well the iPhone performs as a phone, it seems best to get a Palm TX for those apps we need installed. Isn’t this an opportunity for Palm instead of killing off their PDAs?

  25. Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn’t support tethering, so carrying a separate PDA won’t do you any good if you need to run network apps on it while outside of wifi range. If it’s Palm you want, might as well just stick with a Treo or tether the TX through some smaller and cheaper phone stashed away in your pocket. (I’ve contemplated doing exactly that, but I really would rather carry fewer devices, even if it means using Windows Mobile for a PDA.)

  26. One correction (I forget who mentioned it upthread); you can swap one iPhone SIM for another. If you read around the various forums about iphones, it seems the uniform way that Apple swapped out defective phones was to pop out the old sim and put it into the new phone. My guess is that they wanted a quick and easy way to monitor iphone SIMs and network traffic, and since the iphone does not save numbers to the SIM anyway it gave them an easy way to do it.

    (I am sure the SIM thing annoyed some people; it would have annoyed me except the Treo has the same problem…what goes on the treo does not make its way to the SIM unless you specifically select the contact…so can’t really fault Apple for that one.)

  27. Hi

    couple a things..

    • remember what Steve Jobs did to legions of Newton owners in February, 1998.. don’t remember?.. he killed the entire Newton division, killed sales of the product line, (just a few months after the newest model, the Newton 2100 ($1000.00).. was released).. shut down all the Newton stores, forced hundreds of Newton developers to find another platform for which to develop (most of them went to PalmOS).. and just pissed off hundreds of thousands of Newton loyalists.. this was his FIRST action after John Scully (Newton’s “father”) left Apple and Jobs became “Interim CEO”.. there are absolutely NO references anywhere on Apple’s site to Newton.. if you didn’t know it existed, you’d never know except for third-party sites and sources.. IN MY OPINION the man simply can’t be trusted..

    • his hour-long iPhone Dog and Pony show at MacWorld Expo back in January, 2007, was done over WiFi, not ATT’s network. Did he bother to tell the audience of two thousand rabid, drooling Jobs worshippers that? No.. The iPhone isn’t on a 3G / EVDO network (yet).. did you see him streaming live teevee / video? Streaming live radio stations?.. no..

    • is there a Sling Player mobile for iPhone? Not the last time i checked. Is there anything even as remotely capable as Kinoma Player 4 EX for iPhone?.. uh-uh.. those are two of my must-have apps.. i have two Treo 700ps on Sprint and both Kinoma and Sling are on both of them.. neither company has any plans to develope an iPhone version of their programs, as far as i know..

    • if you hate VersaMail (as i do) there are plenty of alternatives for PalmOS that kick the living crap out of VersaMail.. i have SnapperMail on both my Treos.. try it.. it’s a remarkable program.. buy it and you’ll never use VersaMail again..

    • sure, the iPhone is a sexy device.. that’s what sells it, along with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of advertising.. sure i wish my Treos had a huge screen and a better Web browser that could display Web pages as they were meant to be viewed, without having to shift into “wide mode” and do a lot of side-scrolling.. however, the trade-off is either a huge screen and an on-screen keyboard, or a smaller screen and real, physical, tactile keys.. choose one..

    • the upcoming Foleo will give any Treo owner a screen that makes an iPhone’s look like a postage stamp, a full-sized REAL keyboard, a REAL Web browser, plus USB ports (ponder the possibilities), and not just an SD card slot but a CF slot (can you say “microdrive”?..) .. yea, the Foleo means you’ll have to carry around two devices instead of one.. if you want a “Super Treo” with you all the time.. not my idea of the perfect solution, and it’ll work over Bluetooth with WM Treos as well as PalmOS Treos.. and other phones too.. plenty of developers have had Foleos in house for months..

    • ATT has an exclusive on the iPhone for five years. My Treos are on Sprint. If Apple hadn’t locked it in with ATT and instead, had let other carriers have it, i might have given serious consideration to buying one.. but the last thing i need is a second cell phone bill every month.. hey, if you’re rich, it doesn’t matter.. yawl rich?..

    • iPhone has a sealed-in, proprietary battery. Treos have little doors on the back and any Treo owner knows s/he can swap out the battery in seconds if no other charging source is available.. both my 700ps have Seidios monster 3200mAh battery in them.. there’s already a lawsuit against Apple about the iPhone’s battery (do a search of AP news for “iPhone battery lawsuit” and you should find it)..

    • Sling Player mobile lets me watch all 1500+ channels on my digital cable box on my Treos from anywhere.. Kinoma Player 4 EX gives me over 3000 live streaming radio stations world-wide, and an equal number of podcasts with countless thousands of shows, plus the ability to watch and bookarm YouTube and Google videos in their Flash-wrapped containers.. are there any apps for the iPhone that let you do these things withOUT first forcing you to suck files over from a computer?.. unless i’m wrong.. no..

    So, thanks, but no thanks, Steve.. spew out on iPhone that works on Sprint’s EVDO network, and i might consider it.. although back in February, 1998, when you killed off the Newton, i promised myself i’d never give you another cent.. nine years later, you haven’t done anything to cause me to back off that promise..

    disclaimer: although i write for, i am not affiliated in any way with any of the companies mentioned above, other than having owned or reviewed their products.. i am not a partner, employee of, or stockholder in any company mentioned above..


  28. @ Harv;

    While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, i think your argument is a little flawed, even if you do have some interesting points.

    In no particular order:

    1) The audience for the iphone and the foleo are pretty different.

    2) Just becuase you have sprint and are happy with it does not mean the rest of the world does too. And cell contracts do expire, and people port their numbers. So while yes, it is too bad it is locked into a provider you don’t like or use, doesn’t mean the rest of us are “Paying for two phones”.

    3) Have you tried EDGE in a major service area? I was streaming youtube in Western Mass. with no problems last week.

    4) Just because Steve Jobs pulled the plug on something ten years ago doesnt mean he’s going to again. Especially since this isn’t just his dog and pony show but ATT’s as well.

    It sounds to me like most of what you hate about the iphone is that it’s not a palm or winmob device as far as flexibility and pda-ness, and you’d never be happy with one no matter what. And you know what? Your attitude towards it, looking down on it without considering any of the strong points, and the attitudes of a lot of the people over at treocentral, are the major reasons why I don’t bother browsing there anymore.

  29. On EDGE vs. WiFi … AT&T may have improved EDGE in some places, but it seems like that may be taking a while to trickle down to the rest of us, and there isn’t enough free WiFi to take up the slack.

    I’ve compared EDGE and WiFi on the iPhones in the Apple store near me, as well as using both EDGE and 3G around town on several other phones, and I’ve found that in some places (heavily trafficked shopping areas for example) EDGE is often nearly unusable for anything but lightweight mobile pages, as it slows down to dialup speeds with multi-second latency and timeouts. Even right there in the Apple store, the difference is night and day. Meanwhile, in the same places at the same times, the 3G network chugs along at at least 500 kbps, often twice that.

    On the lack of a Sprint version… although I am disappointed at how hard they’ve locked the iPhone down, I can understand why they chose to only do one version of the hardware: it’s less confusing, given that Apple is selling them in its own stores and not doing activations on site. And if you want a worldwide market for a single technology phone, GSM is the only reasonable choice.

    And yes, I dislike the iPhone so far because it isn’t enough of a PDA, and I will never be happy with one unless and until they change that. The strong points of the iPhone simply are not compelling enough for me to give up so much. If that means I’ll be first against the wall when the glorious Apple revolution washes all inferior phones off the Earth in a wave of cleansing holy fire, so be it…

  30. We got a little boost in EDGE speed here in the bustling metropolis of Columbus, IN during iPhone week. It didn’t really help that much though and has gone right back to being sluggish (typically 90kbs). Surfing via EDGE is frustrating to say the least. Quite often I’ll receive time out errors on the iPhone and Treo when I’m trying to bring up a web page. Unfortunately, we don’t have 3G here yet, so I don’t know what I’m missing :o)

  31. guess I’m the only that still uses a standalone pda day to day…I have an ipaq rx1950 which stores all my handwritten notes (using phatpad), and lets me use excel files to perform calculations. its also my mp3 player of choice for listening to podcasts, and for reading rss feeds and IM-ing when I don’t have space for my laptop. I’m tempted to get a smartphone, but I use my device all day, and I can’t afford any downtime from my phone either, so unless I get a spare battery, a two device solution works for now.

    The iPhone looks really nice, but until it has productivity software and a replaceable battery, it can’t be my primary device – but as an entertainment device, it doesn’t have enough memory to store all the videos I want to watch.

    I hear/read very good things regarding the interface and eyecandy, so maybe as a nano-sized, cheaper feature-phone version, I can definately see myself with an iphone eventually 🙂

  32. Hi

    to Carly:

    i write about Treos for a living.. but TreoCentral doesn’t pay my monthly Sprint bill.. i do. i’m in a position where i HAVE to have (at least) two Treos for reasons which should be blatantly obvious… i’m also not a TC employee.. i’m an independent contractor.. whether you read the site or not makes no difference to me.. i get to keep products i review (as do most professional writers).. but i don’t get any kickback on sales.. i know a thumbs down review can clobber sales of a product, just like a glowing review can push them flying out the door.. but i write reviews from the retail customer’s point of view.. as though i had spent my money on it.. i also talk to every mfr. whose product i review, often many times.. i might talk to the PR people who hand out product to reviewers, and i also call tech support (for those mfrs. for whom you can even FIND a phone number).. and pretend i’m just Joe Customer to see how Joe gets treated.. i like to think i write objective reviews.. i’m not a salesman for their store, and i’m not a shill for anyone.. and i’m not saying you said i am / was, i’m just laying my cards on the table so people know where things are at..

    and as far as “Just because Steve Jobs pulled the plug on something ten years ago doesnt mean he’s going to again. Especially since this isn’t just his dog and pony show but ATT’s as well.”

    Newton wasn’t the first time he did it.. remember the Mac “cube”? and just because it was inspected, doesn’t mean a bridge in Minneapolis isn’t going to collapse.. (someone’s priorities are seriously out of whack when they ram through legislation for a new $300 million baseball stadium they didn’t need.. while a bridge that 160,000 vehicles cross every day rusts away.. bridges aren’t sexy.. new baseball stadiums are..).. and just because they get inspected more than just about anything else you could name, doesn’t mean a space shuttle isn’t going to explode.. make that two space shuttles.. i don’t care if the iPhone is so sexy it comes with a push-up bra and panties in the box.. if it doesn’t have an easily-swappable battery, if it’s not on a 3G network, if it can’t run the software i love to use or a functionally identical or superior equivalent of it, i don’t want it.. if Santa Jobs wants to hand me one and pay the ATT bill, bring it on.. but not with my money..
    i’ll follow with much interest the class action lawsuit against Apple..

    to Patrick:

    “I hear/read very good things regarding the interface and eyecandy, so maybe as a nano-sized, cheaper feature-phone version, I can definately see myself with an iphone eventually :)”

    the iPhone on the market now is just the first version in what will eventually become a multi-version line of them, just like everything else Apple makes.. (how many versions of the iPod are there? how many “generations” of it have there been since the first one?).. most likely, the current model iPhone is the “middle” model with a fancier (more expensive) one and a stripped-down (less expensive) one to follow..


  33. Harv, some responses to things you brought up:

    The Newton was a very cool device that (unfortunately) was also a commercial flop (just like the Cube). You can blame Apple for having unrealistic sales expectations, but what does it matter? Apple was in a very bad way back then, almost going out of business. So the company took some drastic measures and refocused its efforts on modernizing their OS (based on NextStop/OpenStep). Most handheld enthusiasts I knew were disappointed, but they weren’t surprised by the move. But hold onto that grudge for another 10 years if it makes you feel better.

    The Foleo is not a smartphone, a video player, or a pocketable device.

    As far as the iPhone battery lawsuit goes, the iPhone is not the first phone, PDA, or media player to come out with non-replaceable batteries. The suit is retarded.

    Every device has compromises and while the iPhone is missing a lot of features common to other smartphones, it also has advantages:

    • Its interface is amazingly smooth, fast, intuitive, and simple
    • The applications all work together seamlessly
    • The OS never crashes, doesn’t require resets, and doesn’t randomly act sluggishly (like Windows Mobile). Its web browser does occasionally crash, which -while annoying- is far better than the temperamental nature of other mobile platforms
    • Its the only smartphone with a capacitance-touch screen (responsive and durable)
    • Its the only smartphone with multitouch
    • Its the only smartphone with visual voice mail
    • Its arguably got the best web browser of any smartphone (despite the lack of flash)
    • It’s the only phone with a screen of this size and resolution in such a small small, thin, lightweight formfactor
    • It makes effective use of the pixels and screen size (for example, there are no scroll bars unless you’re scrolling, the upper menu scrolls off screen when reading a web page, etc)
    • It’s the only smartphone with this much included memory
    • It’s got the best smartphone media playback and web browsing battery life that I’m aware of

    Obviously you have to weigh those last two against the disadvantage of not being able to swap in memory cards and spare batteries (I’d rather have the speed advantages and smaller formfactor that integrated memory and battery allow for, but that comes down to personal preference). And there is an even longer list of things the iPhone can’t do. Ultimately if the iPhone doesn’t meets your needs, then it’s not the right smartphone for you. If it’s an effective tool for you and if you enjoy using it, then it may be a good choice.

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