Review: HP IPAQ 910C

Reason #1043 to read WMExperts: our readers are awesome. Witness: Eric has been following our sporadic coverage of the HP iPAQ 910c and decided it was the device for him. While we here at HQ usually manage to get our hands on darn near every WinMo device available the US, so far we'd been taking a pass on the 910c until we saw it get released on AT&T.

That didn't deter Eric, though, no sir. He's picked one up and sent in a full review of the smartphone. Like with any Windows Mobile smartphone these days, the specs and the pictures definitely don't tell the full story -- there's surprisingly awesome parts and surprisingly quirky parts to every phone and the 910c is no exception.

In other words, you should be clicking through right about now to read Eric's review!

Well I got my HP 910c the other last week and so far I am pretty happy with it.  Like all devices there are things I don’t like about it but I will get back to that.

The HP iPAQ 910c is a unlocked quad band GSM phone, and sometimes that means you have a lot of setup to do to get your phone up and running on your network.  Epically when it is a PDA phone.  This was not the case with the HP 910c, when the radio is turned on for the first time, the HP iPAQ DataConnect application detects your provider and populates the MMS and data connection settings.  I was able to use everything right away and all I had to do was slide in my AT&T SIM card.  More and more unlocked GSM devices are doing this now, but there are still some that don’t and populating all those settings can be a pain, especially setting up the Internet connection.  With the 910c all this happened completely in the background when I first turned on my device.

I can’t report on how well the 3G or HSDPA works on the device because I am stuck with EDGE in my neck of the woods, so if someone has anything they can share on its performance that would be appreciated.

The device is very responsive and really runs like a dream.  It is running Windows Mobile 6.1 on a Marvell PXA270,  with 256MB ROM and 128 MB RAM.  It has a 3 mega pixel camera with an LED flash.  The camera can take a nice pictures, but if your subject isn’t sitting perfectly still you might as well not even try.  Once you press the shutter it takes about 2 seconds for it to actually take the picture.  I tried to take a picture of my dog as an example but after 10 attempts I gave up.  He would always move just as the shutter would click and I would lose the picture to a big blur.  They keep making these cameras with more and more mega pixels, but until they can make them more responsive it just isn’t worth it.

As you can see the 910c is almost as thick as my AT&T Tilt (910c is in the foreground).  I would say that it is the same thickness as the main body of the Tilt.  The 910c is also slightly longer and wider than the Tilt, but the 910c is much lighter overall.

The screen on this device while it is small (2.46 in) is running at 320x240 in a landscape orientation.  The screen is very clear and bright and I have had no problems viewing outdoors.  The iPAQs have always had very nice displays that could easily be viewed outside.  The keyboard is very nicely backlit and you can see all the keys easily.  It would be nice if it had a light sensor instead of coming on all the time.  Would help to save battery life.  My big complaint about the keyboard is I think the keys are too close together, the keys are pretty small, and they are very smooth.  Smooth is probably a misleading word here because the each button is raised so you can feel the buttons, but the surface of the keys are very smooth your fingers can easily slide across them and off the key you want to press and onto another key.  I have been a thumb typist for years, ever since I got my first PageWriter back in 1997, so even with my fat thumbs I can easily type on this device with minimal mistakes, other than my already bad spelling and grammar.

It includes Google Maps and a link to Google Search on the start menu, but that can easily be moved from the menu; however it can’t be removed from the device.  I really wish device manufactures wouldn’t do this so much.  They should allow anything to be uninstalled.  It is like that age old fight with companies putting AOL and other bloat ware application on a PC, now they do it with our PDAs.  The 910c doesn’t appear to work with Google Maps My Location.  With other devices like a BlackJack II I have noticed that as soon as you start Google Maps it displays your location, and this isn’t the case with the 910c.  You have to turn on GPS for it to get your location.  I’m not sure why they would include an application that they aren’t completely compatible with, and I’m not sure why it isn’t compatible.  I would be interested if someone has an explanation.  Does that feature only work with aGPS?  The 910c only has Multimodal GPS, and sorry I really am not sure how Multimodal GPS is different from regular GPS, but I would love to know.

Using the GPS wouldn’t be too bad if the HP iPAQ GPS QK Position was working correctly.  These types of programs (GPS QK Position) are supposed to download a file that helps predict where a satellite should be in the sky and this is supposed to speed up the time it takes to get a lock on your position.  The problem with the application on the 910c is that the file is always expired.  You can go download the file and it will show that it is valid for 7 days, and then when you exit and then re-launch the application it shows that the file has expired.  This is a minor annoyance, but it is an annoyance.  The 910c does have an external GPS antenna connection port on the top in case you need it.  My Tilt also included this on the back, but I have never found a reason to or needed to use it.

The battery of 910c is huge it is a 1940 mAh Li-Poly battery and makes up the bulk of the device.  I can go over a day without charging.  I could probably go even longer, but I have spotty coverage here at home, so the device does a lot of looking for service and that is the quickest way to kill your battery.  The charging of the device is pretty simple they use a standard mini-USB connection.  The one problem I do have with this is the little cover they have over the USB port.  I really don’t like this and I expect it to be broken in a few months.  I don’t understand why you would put something like this over one of the most used ports on the device.

I don’t mind the cover over the micro-SD card, but the USB I think is just bad.

I am only using a 2 GB micro-SD card currently, so I don’t know how well it works with SDHC cards.  In a review from Matt Miller, he had it working with his 8 GB micro-SDHC card; however HP’s website reports that it will only work with cards up t a 4 GB capacity.

The Bluetooth on the device appears to work really well.  It connected to the Sync in my Ford Edge without any issues and was able to download my address book.  The audio quality I thought was very nice.  The one issue I still have and find very frustrating is that it doesn’t work with the Text Messaging feature of Sync.  You would think that a Windows Mobile device running Microsoft’s OS and a car running Microsoft’s OS would be pretty compatible, but I guess it all comes down to how the device manufacture, and  in this case HP, sets up the Bluetooth profiles.  One can only hope that someday these will work together. (Eric notes in a later email that there are some other Bluetooth connectivity niggles -- Ah, Bluetooth, such a love/bug/hate relationship we have with you)

For all that I do like about the 910c I have had one very strange issue.  After some unknown event I lose all audio through the external speaker.  Like I turned it down to its lowest level.  I have checked the volume settings on the device and they are normal, and so far the only way I have found to fix this is to do a soft rest of the device.  I haven’t tracked down what causes this.  I would be curious if anyone else has seen this behavior?

Overall I like the device and I will continue using it as my primary phone and PDA.  I can just hope that HP will quickly release updated firmware for the device to take care of the sound and GPS QK Position issues.  If you like Windows Mobile Professional and you want a front facing keyboard I would recommend this device.


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Review: Treo 800W

Palm and Sprint have finally announced the Treo 800w, nearly two years after their last CDMA Windows Mobile Treo, the 700wx. At long last, we have a Treo with WiFi and GPS. Does Palm have a winner here? So far we have to say we're very impressed with the 800w's performance and (still) underwhelmed with the looks.

There's a lot more to say, of course, so read on for our full review and unboxing video first look!

(Cross-posted at TreoCentral)

The Treo 800w is a long-awaited update to the Treo 700wx and many, of not most, have thought that the wait for the device has been too long. In that long period, Palm hasn't created anything that will knock your socks off on a first impression. Spec-wise, there's nothing to complain about here -- if I had a list of everything I expect on a CDMA Windows Mobile device, the 800w matches pretty much all of them. Were it released a year ago, it would be the undisputed king of Windows Mobile Pro devices. The Treo 800w sells for $249.99 after a 2-year contract. Released today, it holds a deserved place at the top of the CDMA heap, but devices that will one-up it are on the horizon.

As you've seen here and elsewhere, the looks of the 800w are somewhat ...underwhelming. It's a very straightforward device that matches the classic Treo form-factor (minus the antenna) -- though I will say right now that it very nearly perfects it. I am now and may always be a believer in the core design idea of the Treo: a great, front-facing QWERTY keyboard that can be used one-handed combined with a touch screen. There's nothing available (at the present moment, in the US) to match it, but Palm still manages to improve on that basic design idea with every iteration.

The Treo 800w's dimensions are 4.41“ x 2.28” x .73“ -- and the reduced width and thickness really do make a difference. It's not as curved on the back of the device as the Treo 750 but it still feels very good in the hand. Overall, the 800w feels like it's just at the cusp of being too small (in the width department) for serious use.

The Blue color looks pretty decent (though we'd still prefer a black or grey version) and the 800w also thankfully eschews the latest fingerprint-friendly trend of glossy finishes for the classic soft-touch paint.

It weighs exactly 5 ounces with the battery and has both a nice heft and a good balance to it -- overall my only complaints about the look and feel of the device are it's conservative styling and its thickness. I can guess why Palm decided to stick with the recessed screen (it makes a certain class of customer feel less worried about scratching the screen), but I don't agree with the decision.

Around the Device

The front of the Treo sports its recessed 320x320 screen (it's great, more on that below), the QWERTY keyboard, a LED, the 5-way dpad, 2 soft-buttons, and 6 buttons. In other words, it has 2 more front-facing buttons than the 700wx and they're a welcome addition. The soft buttons are somewhat odd-looking integrated into the casing, but that's a tiny gripe to be rolled into the overall gripe that though the 800w has great specs, it lacks anything approaching sex-appeal.

In any case, the buttons are not mushy or clacky, they act and feel just as you'd like buttons to act and feel. There may be one caveat for 700wx owners to that, however, as the 800w now matches the behavior of nearly every other Windows Mobile device out there when it comes to the red End key. Hitting that while in an app will take you back to the Today screen, hitting it again will power the screen off. Like with the 750, however, you can work around that by hitting Opt-End to activate the keyguard and power down the screen without losing your place.

The back is a little curved at the edges but almost entirely flat. You remove the battery door by just pushing down, but it seems to hold on well. It's easier to remove than the Centro battery door but doesn't feel like it'll get flimsy anytime soon. You've also got your speaker grille here (it's plenty loud) and your 2.0 megapixel camera with requisite self-portrait mirror. Unfortunately, Palm did not take the lesson they learned from the Centro and left the speaker to sit precisely flush with the table, slightly muffling the sound.

On the right side we have an IR port -- let's hope that Palm didn't expend too many resources keeping that out-dated tech in the device. You'll also find a slot for a microSD card. The door covering the slot feels relatively sturdy and shouldn't break or fall off on you (hi there, Motorola Q9h!). I'll note here that the 800w read my 8gig microSDHC card with no problems, in fact it was very fast.

On the left side you've got your volume buttons and the traditional Treo side button. Palm has stuck with the nigh-inexplicable behavior of having the side button do nothing on a single press, requiring instead you hold it down to activate anything. Since the Treo 800w doesn't support Push-to-Talk, it would have been nice if Palm had allowed both single presses and long presses to initiate actions.

On the bottom you've got a microUSB port and that's it. No hated 2.5 headset jack, but also no 3.5 headset jack either. Like with HTC devices, you'll need to either use the included stereo headsets or get yourself an adapter. I greet this change with mixed feelings, but mostly good ones. The classic Treo ”Athena“ connector is better dubbed ”Anathema,“ good riddance to bad rubbish. As for using microUSB instead of standard USB, I've got no bones to pick with that.

And finally we have the top of the device featuring the silence switch. I'll point out to my iPhone using friends (and, yes, my own alter ego) that this is a proper ringer switch, not the bollocks that you'll find on the iPhone. When you enable the ringer switch on a Treo, the external speaker is silent, period, whether you're getting an SMS or playing a game or having an alarm go off. That's how it's supposed to be, folks, and that's how it works on the 800w. Next to the ringer switch is the WiFi toggle button, more on that below.

...This is as good a place as any to tell you that in the box comes the 800w, a single battery, a wall charger, a microUSB cable, a set of stereo headphones that plug into that microUSB port, and a cd plus various manuals.


Keyboards on Treos are always good, and the 800w is no exception. Though it's not as wide as its predecessors, the keys are still well-separated and easy to type with. For those who are hardcore about their Treo keyboards, I'll note that the 800w still features the incredibly subtle but still nice feel of the traditional Treo key. By that I mean that the oval/dome top of the key is ever-so-slightly higher on the upper-left of the key.

Some might mourn the loss of a 2nd shift key, but I do not. It had to go to make the keyboard fit the new, less-wide form factor. In any case, the bottom line here is that they keyboard is excellent -- the best I've used on a Windows Mobile Pro device since the Treo 700wx. More importantly, it's excellent for one-handed use.


The screen is great. It's 320x320 resolution in a space that's slightly smaller than the original 700wx's screen. Comparing it to the 700wx's 240x240 screen makes you realize just how much you've been suffering all this time. Comparing it to larger screens (like that on the Mogul) that are 240x320, those extra pixels really do make a difference. There's nothing else out (in the US, as of this writing) that's 320x320 and though I'd like to see Palm shouting that from the rooftops, with the coming higher-resolution devices I can see why they might not.

Still, the screen looks great and is responsive to touching. I do wish it weren't recessed (yes, I said that above. It bears repeating), it it makes it a very tough to get those corners and scrollbars with my fingertip. There is a ”rail“ around the screen that does make it easier, but it's still annoying. As long as I'm on the subject of touching the screen, I'll say this: the stylus stinks. It's a good size and non-telescoping, but it's plastic and flimsy plastic at that. I'm sure that a plastic stylus was necessary because it doesn't interfere with reception, but couldn't Palm have chosen something sturdier.

Everything I've used so far has supported the 320x320 screen resolution without issue, but it should be noted that this resolution is relatively new and therefore there may be apps that don't display properly on it. If you run across one, let us know in the comments and (more importantly) ask the developer to update their app to support it.

Finally, there's a neat new feature that I've never seen before: a screen saver mode that leaves the backlight off and leaves the screen itself nearly dark except for a time and date that floats about the screen. I can't say how much power it uses, probably next to nothing but still more than most would want given the tiny battery (see below), but it's a clever thing.


Let's run down the full specs with some commentary on each:

  • Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro. More on this below
  • Chipset: MSM6800A +TI ARM1136 OMAP2430 running at 333MHz. I'll let somebody else (Hi Malatesta) get into the nerdy details of what the MSM chip here entails. For now, I'll just say this and explain more below: the 800w is snappy.
  • Memory: 128 Program (DDR) and 256 ROM, of which 170ish is available to the user. It's pretty standard these days, but it's enough.
  • Expansion: microSD. Supports microSDHC up to 8gb.
  • Data: EVDO Rev A, WiFi compliant with 802.11b/g. All of the above are good stuff.
  • Other Data: Bluetooth 2.0 is fully operable with all the acronymy goodness that implies. Infrared is present too, for you real estate agents out there.
  • Battery: 1150 mAh, supposed to be good for 4 hours of talk time or 200 hours standby. This might actually be accurate, see more below.
  • Screen: 320x320 resistive touchscreen, 1.74” tall (updated info) and supporting 65k colors. I still like it.
  • Camera: 2.0 megapixels for 1600 x 1200 pixel shots. It's pretty good, a sight better than on the 700wx's camera. The interface for it is still the same. Here's a sample shot of a co-worker's cute-asplosion desk under typical office fluorescent lighting (click for full size)

Speed and Shortcuts

I've already mentioned that the 800w is easy to type-on with just one hand, but one of the key advantages to a Treo is that you can do damn near everything with just one hand. Compared to the Mogul, the Treo is not only faster, interface-wise, it's faster to navigate simply because you can get at everything on the device with your thumb.

You besides the Start, Calendar, and Mail key on the front face of the 800w, there's also the side button to configure. Additonally, you can map Opt+ buttons to applications as well, though (aggravatingly), you still have to hold Opt down in order to launch the secondary shortcut.

A bit more about that interface speed, though. The 800w is snappy. I wouldn't have expected it from the specs listed above, but the 800w is easily the fastest and most responsive Windows Mobile Pro device I've ever used; and I've used nearly all of them. In the WMExperts Podcast, Malatesta has been telling us all that Palm does quite a lot of optimization on Windows Mobile to make it perform better on lighter hardware. I can't speak to how much of that Palm may or may not have done here, but again: the 800w makes with the speedy.

The Touch Diamond may have TouchFLO 3D, the Sprint Touch may have TouchFLO 2. All the Treo 800w has is Palm's classic stuff: Photo speed dial on the Today Screen, custom threaded SMS, some smallish speakerphone and mute buttons on the call screen. The 800w, both on the screen and on the device itself, does not bring the pretty. But when it comes to running a fairly 'stock' Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro setup, it's wonderful device. Very little extra junk is included from Sprint, next to no lag, plenty of screen real-estate, one-handed operation... all of it makes the Treo 800w as utilitarian and powerful as its staid looks imply.

Data and WiFi

EVDO Rev A is fast. Wicked fast. I've had download speeds up to 850k, I'm averaging around 450 to 500k. That, my friends, is fast.

Of course, WiFi is included and it works darn well. I'll revisit the theme from above here: Palm has managed to work with the stock Windows Mobile defaults and make them easier to use. Here's the deal with the WiFi button:

WiFi Off: - Tap the button to turn on WiFi. If a network is in range that your phone recognizes, it will auto-connect - Hold the WiFi button down to just jump straight to the WiFi settings directly to pick your network.

WiFi On: - Tap the button to go to WiFi settings and choose your network. - Hold down the button to turn WiFi off.

...although there is a little strangeness to having the button's behavior flipped depending on whether or not WiFi is on, once you get it down it's very convenient. I was initially skeptical about Palm's choice of a button instead of a switch (like on the Mogul) for WiFi, but with the added ability to quickly access the WiFi settings I'm absolutely sold.

Additionally, there are other WiFi settings that are new to the 800w. Under WiFi Prefs in settings, you can turn on Power Saving mode to increase the 800w's battery life. You can also change the default “Always On” to “On button press,” which means the 800w will turn off WiFi when it detects that data hasn't been used for a set amount of time.

Given that the 800w has a tiny battery, the added power management features are welcome and should go a long way towards increasing battery life for average users and make managing WiFi easier for power users. Bravo.

Call Quality

Call quality on the 800w is so so. The voice quality is decent enough as is the speakerphone -- the gripe I have is that reception doesn't seem to be quite as good as the 700wx. It's very close and so I may just be making this up; but I've found that in my town, where Sprint's signal is just this side of unacceptable, the 800w seems to perform slightly worse, signal-wise, than the 700wx or the Mogul.

Battery Life

Palm and Sprint claim you'll be able to get either 4 hours of talktime (read: heavy use like talking, browsing, or GPS) or 200 hours of standby. In my testing so far that's a fairly accurate estimate, which is remarkable given that the 800w uses the same tiny 1150mAh battery found in the Centro. I need to do some more testing of a 'typical day' for me since I've been hitting it pretty hard, but right now I'm comfortable saying I get around 3.5 hours of heavy use off a single charge.

In other words, it should get regular users through a full day fairly easily, but power users will want to keep a close eye on power management. Given the fact that the 800w uses the same battery as the Centro, buying a backup battery is fairly easy to do and I recommend it. Actually, since Palm is selling to many Centros these days, they must have some pretty good economies of scale on those batteries, it would have been nice of them to include a 2nd one.


The 800w has built-in A-GPS (i.e the full standalone GPS that can also get extra assistance form towers) and Sprint has not locked it down at all -- it's fully available to any app that wants to access it. In my tests so far it's been able to pick up satellites in under 30 seconds with a clear view of the sky and can also perform moderately well indoors (which is to say I've managed to grab signal a couple of times).

Sprint Navigation (aka TeleNav) is on-board and included for free with simply everything plans (others must pay a monthly fee). On my test unit I wasn't able to get it going as it's tied to an email address not my own, but it's safe to assume that it works like TeleNav does on other devices; which is to say: it works very well for turn-by-turn directions and it's more convenient than TomTom in that it can name the streets you turning on.


Palm has also included a mystery app called “Maps,” which we identified on WMExperts not too long ago because it has a plug-in for the Today Screen. You can search for services and things near your location or near another, not-where-you-presently-are location. The interface is a weird amalgam of Windows Mobile forms and something that smells a bit like a stripped-down version of Google Maps.

The folks I spoke to from Palm were frankly unclear about who developed the Maps application or what it's based on. It does integrate with Sprint Navigation/Telenav when you want to get driving directions, which is helpful, but a full-on, easy-to-use Maps application it is not.

The other only thing Maps has going for it is that Today Screen Plug-in and a default assumption that you want to search based on your current GPS location. Otherwise there's nothing that I can find Maps can to that the Live Search app (also included on-board) can't do better.

Maps stinks. Whatever development time was put into it would have been better served on something else--like developing a Today Screen plugin for either Live Search or Google Maps.

Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional

email in Windows Mobile 6.1

The Treo 800w is the first Windows Mobile Pro device to ship with version 6.1 standard. This is a big reason why Palm is pushing it as the ultimate business phone -- in addition to the speed and one-handed advantages mentioned above, it has built-in support for push email via ActiveSync and also for advanced enterprise device management features out of the box.

For the consumer, 6.1 may mean a little less, especially on the Treo 800w. Two of the main consumer-selling points on 6.1 were the addition of threaded SMS and a getting started guide. On the 800w, both are replaced with Palm versions and both are better for it. Palm's threaded SMS, although annoyingly not integrated into Outlook Mobile, is a better SMS system because it does a much better job of utilizing screen real estate.

(Oh yeah, as long as we're talking about SMS: No MMS here. Call Dan Hesse to complain and tell him we sent you.)

Palm also has their own custom getting started section which conveniently can point you to their online help sites, custom-formatted for the 800w. It's good stuff:

Another new feature that will benefit Treo 800w users is a slightly updated version of Pocket Internet Explorer. The main new feature is that it has a “zoom out” mode which lets you get an overview of the page. Although PIE doesn't do a great job on zoomed-in sections (although “Fit To Screen” mode works much better now, especially with a 320x320 screen), it does allow you to more quickly scroll through large pages and get to the section you want, which is convenient.

It's not out yet, but here's to hoping the speed and power of the 800w means that it will be able to run Opera Mobile 9.5 with nary a hitch.

Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile 6.1

Otherwise the rest of Windows Mobile 6.1 is small improvements that don't jump out at you. Battery life (especially with ActiveSync) is improved, the Media Player doesn't require contstant re-scanning of the library, the Calendar has a nice overview “ribbon” (actually that was introduced in WM6), the Task Manager provides more information and is more user-friendly, and so on:

Note that last screenshot above -- that's full Internet Sharing and it's included, though Sprint does require that you have a full (and expensive) Phone-as-Modem plan in order to utilize it.

Included Applications

Let's run down the the included applications, with commentary:

  • Office Mobile 6.1: Technically this isn't necessary for every Windows Mobile device, but it's pretty much expected. New is Office OneNote Mobile.
  • My Treo: Links to Palm's online support
  • Aces Texas Hold 'em and Astraware Sudoku: great to see some good games included.
  • Oz Instant Messenger: the de facto multi-platform Instant Messenger Client.
  • LiveSearch: I still adore this mapping and local search application
  • PDF Viewer: Good to go.
  • Pocket Express: A neat little app that gives you quick access to all sorts of mobile content like news, weather, sports, and more. It installs a few Today Screen plugins by default that some may find annoying. Also annoying is that you will need to pay for full functionality. A lot of people like this app, but I'm not one of them.
  • Sprint Software Store: Yawner.
  • Sprint Navigation: AKA Telenav
  • Sprint TV: A great app for killing time, though again you will need to pay extra for some of the premium content
  • Sprite Backup: Yep! Sprite Backup is included for free in the ROM! Good on Palm and Sprint for getting a great backup app built-in.
  • Windows Live: Yep again! This is the full version of Windows Live, which gives you push email and contacts from Hotmail / Live Mail, a full MSN Messenger client, and some nice today screen plugins.
  • Various Palm Enhancements: These include photo speed dial on the Today Screen, a slightly improved call screen with touchable speakerphone and mute buttons, and Palm's threaded SMS app.

All in all, a good set of included applications that you can use if you like or ignore if you don't. Again, Palm has done a great job of taking a “stock” Windows Mobile installation and keeping it fast and clean while still included some nice bonus software.


Here are some shots of the 800w up against other Sprint Windows Mobile smartphones. First up, the smartphone it replaces, the brick, the old dog, the antenna'd wonder, the Treo 700wx:

And here it is next to the Sprint Mogul. Unless you find the Treo's keyboard a little too cramped to type on, the Treo 800w beats the Mogul hands-down. Higher-resolution screen, slightly better performance, and one-handed usage all add up to the best Windows Mobile Pro device on Sprint's network.

Here it is up against the Sprint Touch, note the “screen saver” mode that I mentioned earlier in the below shots:

...and lastly up against the Samsung Ace:


After all that, what's my final verdict on the Treo 800w? It's this: The Treo 800w is the best Treo ever. That shouldn't surprise anybody, it's the newest Treo and so it ought to beat out its predecessors. Here's the surprising part:

The Treo 800w is the the most productive Windows Mobile Pro device I've ever used.

If you need your phone to be shiny with lots of eye candy and other tomfoolery, the iPhone or the Touch Diamond are up your alley. If you need your phone to allow you to get work done, the 800w should be on your short list. It's very fast, well-integrated with the hardware, and has been bug free so far in my testing.

Given the state of the smartphone world today, I'm betting that many in the business set won't be getting the message about the Treo 800w, and that's a shame. It's more than competitive with the current generation of BlackBerrys (better, in my opinion) and even holds up fairly decently against the upcoming BlackBerry Bold (except, of course, in the looks department).

As for those of us who like to call ourselves “power users,” the 800w has enough speed and space to handle pretty much any app or customization you might want to throw at it. It's a worthy successor to the venerable Treo 700wx, I just wish that it had arrived a year ago.

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Hardware: 5
  • Speed and Responsiveness: 5
  • Battery Life: 3
  • Connectivity: 5



  • Nice size
  • Fast, snappy, zippy
  • Great implementation of Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro
  • One-handed Usage
  • GPS + WiFi


  • Battery Life
  • Flimsy Stylus
  • Boring looks
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Here we have another WMExperts editorial that starts relatively small and ends up turning into a big ol' discussion of what a smartphone is and what it should be. Today's question: how does your identity define your smartphone and, more importantly, how does your smartphone define your identity? Here we go!

Darla Mack asks the following question: (trackback here)

Men think that women want pink phones and cute phone charms and such. Women think that men want to have the “biggest, first, most expensive, etc. etc.”. But does anyone really know?
In my mobile journeys I've found that women do in fact want the same as men.

I'm inclined to agree -- the idea that you can slap a pink cover on a gadget and call it “female-friendly” is more than a little silly. It might be slightly less silly to argue that a given operating system's interface is “gendered,” though. I'm far from an expert on questions of gender and find the whole thing somewhat difficult to talk about (more on that in a moment).

It's more than just gender, though, there's a whole swath of people worldwide that don't seem to be getting properly addressed by the way smartphones get marketed these days. Can Microsoft (et al) find a way to direct their development and their marketing to address the needs and desires of different demographics without pandering or stereotyping?

I don't know, but I have a few thoughts. Read on!

Are Smartphones Gendered?

The default assumption, I'm guessing, is that Windows Mobile is too analytical/left brained overall and therefore oriented towards the typically male way of thinking about the world. All those regimented menus, submenus, lines, squares, checkboxes... it all seems to read decided “male.”

The numbers bear that reading out, as we reported last November:

According to a recent research by Microsoft, only 14.6% of the Windows Mobile users are women, compared with 85.4% of men.

I doubt that the divide is as stark as that for all smartphones, but at the recent BlackBerry WES 2008 conference I heard the same refrain from the few women I spoke with: “I wish there were more women here and in this industry.” There's definitely a problem here: Smartphones seem to be designed by men and for men.

I mentioned that talking about different demographics and the needs of those demographics is a little difficult to talk about. Here's why: While it's clear that smartphones are primarily designed by men and (for now, anyway) primarily used by men, it's much less clear that smartphones are “gendered.”

I have argued before that while Windows Mobile is not intuitive in a basic “I just get it / lizard brain” sense, it can be intuitive in a “Now I understand the metaphors for how this works” sense. Just as a manual transmission car isn't intuitive at all, it can still become “intuitive” to a frequent user (or, in smartphone parlance, a “power user”).

Take the earlier list of the things that are purportedly 'male' about the Windows Mobile interface. Are all those lines and checkboxes and questions of memory management and registry edits more intuitive to a male brain than to a female? Many would probably argue yes. I think that I would argue it's much more complicated.

I also think that Mack might agree, she writes:

We may take a back seat to being a mobile front runner when it comes to dropping bucks but that doesn't mean that we aren't technologically equipped to know a powerful device when we see it.

The line between “how a male brain works” and “how a female brain works” is movable, fluid, and fuzzy at best. Is “left brained” as “typically male” as we think it is? Frankly, no. The inverse also applies.

Since I'm no longer the academic I once was (and wasn't much of one even then), I can't name off the various studies about gendered interfaces, but they exist and they're a hell of a lot more nuanced than what you're reading here. Trust me - start digging into the concept of the “Cyborg” and you'll find enough material to set yourself up with complex and interesting reading for life.

So with Windows Mobile, while there seems to be evidence for it being 'gendered' based on who's making it and who's using it, trying to actually pin down the 'gendered elements' of the OS with any kind of accuracy and without blatant stereotyping is a task that's pretty much impossible to tackle.

Instead I think Microsoft ought to try to just make the interface more “lizard brain intuitive” than it is now -- more automatic transmission than manual transmission. As they do it, though, they ought to at least be aware of what their concept of “lizard brain” intuition is -- that concept needs to be much, much larger than upper-middle-class-white-male-executive-with-money-to-burn.

A Global Understanding of Who a Smartphone User is and Can Be

Saying that the target market is “upper-middle-class-white-male-executive-with-money-to-burn” may sound harsh, but the data bears it out. Gartner just released a study last month saying as much:

Sixty-eight percent of the world’s population is women and children who could benefit much from mobile technology, but the majority of mobile devices are designed by men, for men, according to Gartner, Inc. The user profile to which most mobile products are targeted is a western adult male (age 20 to 64), but this represents just 32 percent of the global population.

As I attended SOFCON 2008: The Mobile Future Conference last month, I heard the same thing over and over again: the internet is going mobile and phones are becoming more important than computers.

As people described this issue it became clear it was more than just a catchy marketing phrase (though, yes, it was that too): in the very very near future more people will be accessing the internet on cell phones than do on computers. Accessing it for the first time and nearly every time via a cell phone. The cell phone is literally going to be how the vast people understand and interact with the internet.

People might get excited by the One Laptop Per Child project, but that's nothing compared to the cellphone.

A cell phone is power, it is in an increasingly real sense a cornerstone of modern identity. Who I am is as much my phone number and email address as it is my name and physical address. Imagine having a very close friend of yours who doesn't have an email address, or a voicemail box, or -- yes -- a telephone. Barring snail mail, there would be no way to communicate with this person unless you were in person. This disconnected person would seem like a ghost, adrift in a world of connected nodes of communication, a neuron without a synapse. Where would he or she speak from or be spoken to except their physical place? Nowhere -- and as physical place becomes less important being disconnected make you more ghostlike.

This still describes the majority of people on the planet, but that's changing and changing rapidly. What companies like Microsoft and Nokia and RIM and Apple and Palm should be thinking about is much much more important than who has the most market share in North America:

  • What does it mean to make a smartphone that is a person's sole means of interacting with the larger world?
  • What does the internet look like when seen only through the screen on a smartphone?
  • What kind of smartphone do you need to make when it's the only means of communication for an entire family? An entire village?

...and most importantly:

What does it mean not only to supply somebody with a smartphone, but to supply them with an identity?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but they are the real stakes of the smartphone market. If you're in the business of providing tools that give people a “21st Century Identity,” you better be damn sure that it's not limited by a gendered way of thinking, a “western” way of thinking, or whatever superstructure you want. You had better do your best to design it to free people's minds instead of limit them.

In a couple hundred years I'm confident that the smartphone will be considered just as important as the PC as or as the Internet in terms of how it changed the world. It will be the primary 'PC experience' and the primary 'internet experience' for the vast majority of the planet. It's a revolution of technology and of identity. I know that people who work on creating smartphones are beginning to think of them this way, we as users should do the same.

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Review: Sprint Mogul, PPC-6800

The Sprint Mogul has been out for little while now, but with Verizon's recent release of their own version called the XV6800 I wanted to offer a review of the Mogul (Henceforth we'll call it the "PPC 6800.")

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