Of course, one of the major strengths in choosing an OS with the pedigree of Palm’s is the huge quantity of free and cheap software out there, much of it excellent. Examples are the fantastically-useful Vindigo guide, which provides a map and listings for central London, and the recent TCPMP, an open source video player that handled my desktop Xvid files perfectly without any recompression. The success of the Treo in particular means that there’s a great deal of customisation one can achieve with the right applets, ranging from fun little hacks (KeyCaps, my favourite, has sped up my typing considerably) to complete replacements to the phone dialler and SMS application, along with all sorts of other neat tricks ranging from MP3 ringtones (LightWav) to an ingenious tool that uses the camera as a lightmeter in setting the screen brightness (BrightCam). It’s just a shame that, with so much software around, the Treo doesn’t give you very much space to put it in.
As for the desktop side, the supplied CD comes with the Palm Desktop PIM and synchronisation software that also hooks into Outlook. It’s all pretty simple and works well – all it takes for a complete sync is a single press on the sync-cable’s button. You can also sync over Bluetooth and infra-red. I’ve been told that things aren’t as smooth on the Mac straight out of the box, but apparently a download called Missing Sync mostly fixes that.
A few minutes was all it took to confirm that everything I loved about the 600 is still here, but better. There’s the wonderful simplicity of an interface that realises that smartphones shouldn’t require genius users, and just gets you to where you want to go with a minimum of fuss – with the sped-up processor means getting you there just that bit faster. The camera, while still not being anything that you’d pay for on its own, is much more conducive to random photography, especially given the more-faithful renderings of the high-colour screen. The improved resolution makes small text much easier to read and large text more attractive.
However, it wasn’t all sweetness from the very beginning. The main reason I stuck with the 600 through the many replacements was that getting a new handset up to speed was simply a matter of plugging in and syncing; a minute later, all my data would be over and I’d have my setup back. Unfortunately, porting my data from the 600 wasn’t as straightforward as I’d hoped: while some of my apps were automatically removed for compatibility reasons, it managed to leave all my SMS messages behind as well, and reported some errors with my contact book. A little bit of tweaking fixed the contacts problem, but I never did work out what happened with SMS. Still, once I got past that to a relatively stable setup, the 650 performed as admirably on syncing as its predecessor.