Handspring Treo 180
By Joachim Bamrud, Tue Jun 25 00:00:00 GMT 2002

Smartphones have a serious rival: The Handspring Treo, which is ideal for accessing the web and messaging.

Smaller than typical smartphones, the Treo 180 manages to provide an extensive PDA offer combined with wireless data and voice. And all in a relatively small and light device, which is no small achievement.

Ease of use: 5/6 stars

After some initial trouble accessing the network, we were able to successfully get connected. The initial problems were likely due to network coverage rather than the device itself. We tested the Treo 180 in the Miami area using the ISDN network of U.S. carrier Cingular. The QWERTY keyboard is easy to use, providing buttons for each of the 26 letters in the alphabet (with some doubling as number buttons). The toothpick makes it easy to navigate on the screen.

Thanks to the large screen, web-clipping services and its SMS-options, this is a device that is very easy to use. And while you wouldn't suspect it from the design, the device also offers fully functional voice options.

Design/style: 4/6 stars

We had mixed feelings about the steel-blue design. We couldn't decide whether the device looked cool or basic (albeit with the window screen-cover). In any case, putting the device on a counter will get you attention. And when it actually starts ringing, you'll likely get some envy as well. The small size and weight fits nicely in a pant packet (and even sturdy shirt pockets).

Vital statistics: 5/6 stars

Network: GSM 900/1900 MHz (North America) and 900/1800 MHz (Asia Pacific and Europe).
Weight: 147 g (5.2 ounces)
Dimensions: 10.8 x 7.1 x 2.1cm (4.2 x 2.8 x 0.82 inches)
Talk time: Up to 2.5 hours
Standby time: Up to 100 hours
Mobile Internet access: Web-clipping.
Text messaging
Palm OS 3.5.2H
16 MB memory
Enhanced organizer (Date Book Plus, Advanced Calculator, PhoneBook, CityTime world clock)
PC synchronization
QWERTY keyboard
Compatible with Treo Mail (POP3 mail), sold separately.

Mobile Internet browsing: 5/6 stars

Handspring offers a web browser - Blazer - that provides web-clipping, i.e. it will access the regular Internet (not WAP), which is a big plus in terms of content offer. Thanks to the large screen, it's possible to read long items. The screen provides up to 13 lines of text and each line can easily provide some 6 to 8 words - considerably more than even the "best" regular, web-enabled phones. That makes it easy to read any text items. Since it also clips from the original site, you'll also get pictures, which makes the whole experience nicer compared with the standard WAP sites.

The negatives about web-clipping, though, is that they can take a long time to download (longer than WAP sites) and that the format is somewhat strange compared with the regular web site seen on a PC. For example, many web sites typically use 2-3 columns, with the left one being a link section and the second providing text. With web-clipping, the first column (with all the links) dominates the screen first, so you have to scroll down about halfway before you get to the text. This can be somewhat irritating when you hop from article to article within a web site (and also have to wait for a new downloading cycle to complete).

With GPRS, of course, this wouldn't be a problem, and the Treo 180 will be compatible with GPRS soon, Handspring promises. Despite the negatives, the whole experience is far superior to what regular web-enabled phones can provide.

Mobile Internet-related features: 6/6 stars

This is a device that is made for messaging. To write a message is incredibly easy, partly due to the toothpick and partly to the screen-menu design. First, you push a button on the cover that immediately takes you to the messaging area. Then you press the "New" application, which let's you choose three alternative address options (phone number, e-mail or address book lookup). After writing the message, hit the Send button.

When receiving messages, you are alerted immediately of a message, which you can then read in its entirety on the screen - even if the cover is closed (in which case you can see the screen through the window). However, to acknowledge the message (and stop the alert sound), you have to open up the cover. We successfully sent and received text messages to/from a mobile phone and an e-mail address.

Overall: 5/6 stars

With the Treo 180, Handspring has produced a clear rival to smartphones from Kyocera, SonyEricsson, Samsung and Nokia. The price is similar, yet the size is more attractive. Even without color, the 180 is a highly attractive option for heavy web and SMS users.