Having been unexpectedly in the market for a new cell phone due to the confluence of my absentmindedness and my over anxious return of a rental car, I was now in the market for a replacement phone. I was looking for a PDA/Smartphone – something to keep my calendar, be able to easily text contacts and obviously call out.
Since my phone was not insured, I was going to have to spend some money to get the replacement and I was determined to make the right choice of equipment, coming down to two roughly equivalent models: The Palm Treo 700p and the BlackBerry 8703e.
The BlackBerry uses the familiar navigation wheel to access menu items, the Palm uses the familiar stylus to navigate.
Almost everything about the Treo suggests that I made the wrong choice in selecting the BlackBerry.
The Treo has a serious advantage to those who already use a Palm Pilot in that it accepts a wireless sync of information. The BlackBerry must be plugged into a USB port and synced using add on software to allow it to communicate with Microsoft Outlook. If you’re already using a Palm and sync your computer to it, the Treo would easily sync without any additional downloads. In my case, I was using the Palm and syncing to my PC using Palm organizing software, so I had the additional burden of transferring my Palm file to Outlook. Not an onerous task by any means, but it certainly took enough time and effort to have foreshadowed other issues.
Entering contacts in the BlackBerry is not very difficult, not much moreso than using the Palm, but entering appointments into the BlackBerry does become a bit of a hassle using the navigation wheel instead of being able to scribble them in using a stylus or a touch screen.
These are both fully digital phones and both are Bluetooth enabled. The Palm’s battery will allow 270 minutes of talk time on a charge, while the BlackBerry gets 198. This is only the starting point from where the Palm diverges in any real comparison for the individual user. For the business user, the analysis would be much different.
While both phones are about the same thickness, the Palm is more slender and much more like the “phone” that most people think of when they think of a cell phone. The BlackBerry is wider across and feels slightly less comfortable to hold in one’s hand.
The Palm has slightly less memory available to the user – 60 MB versus 64 MB – but it has an overall memory of 128 MB, making it faster at processing information. It also is an MP3 player and has an expansion port for SD memory cards, which the BlackBerry does not. Last, but not least, the screen is a 340 x 340 dpi while the 8703 will give you 320 x 240 resolution. One additional pet peeve of mine is the location of the Blackberry’s mouth piece – it is located on the left hand side of the phone, making for muffled conversation if one happens to be left handed and uses the left hand to hold the phone. While other reviews point to spotty phone reception quality, I have not experienced this.
While the Treo might be the better for the individual and perhaps the person who doesn’t have immediate availability of a notebook computer, the 8703e will possibly be the better of the two for the hardcore business professional, although my suspicion is that on balance these folks will be few and far between.
When using an enterprise server, the Blackberry – or “Crackberry” for how addictive having it available is – can sync up to 10 separate email accounts, to which email can be sent or received. It will integrate nicely with Microsoft Exchange and other enterprise servers to give you access to the internet. Web browsing comes easily as well with the BlackBerry browser. With more frequent access to a notebook computer, the issues with noting calendar appointments takes on less significance as the sync with Outlook would enter information to the calendar, enter tasks, and contacts easily, however actually relying on quick access to one’s calendar in any sort of viewable manner is difficult negotiating with the trackwheel.
Both the Treo and the BlackBerry list for about $400 with a two-year agreement – the 8703e runs about $350 through Verizon, the 700p runs about $399 – and currently Verizon is offering a $100 mail in rebate on both models. For the added value the Treo offers, the $50 additional dollars is worth the money. If you’re truly in a pinch over the additional cost of the Treo, the BlackBerry will be just fine. However, once you truly compare the two side by side, I believe you’ll come to the conclusion I did – while I could have done worse than choosing the 8703e, I could have done a world better by choosing the Treo 700p.