Treo 650 – Forget the Wi-Fi

March 13, 2005

I’ve complained previously about the lack of a decent phone with the features I wanted plus wi-fi, bluetooth, and a decent speed data plan from the carrier.  Much of this was specifically aimed at the Treo 650 when it launched; I felt that leaving wi-fi out was completely brain-dead.

Now, after just shy of a week with the Treo 650, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion—I don’t care.

Or not much anyway.

What I’ve found is that if the carrier’s data plan is fast enough (and unmetered), it doesn’t matter to me. 

It’s not like I’m going to be downloading music or movies on the thing, or even going out to some overly-graphic’d web site (on a 320×320 display.) The idea of being able to listen to shoutcasts is marginally interesting, but a phone has crappy speakers, and I have an iPod (if I want to listen to a shoutcast, I’ll record it and play it back).

The fact is, if it can receive and send e-mail at a decent and reliable speed (fast enough to do IMAP idle), and do things like look up addresses, maps and driving directions quickly (I didn’t even know I wanted that feature until I found it last week—too cool!), then I’m a happy guy, and the rest of it can go hang.  The ability to have these features anywhere I have service (outside of roaming areas, I suppose) far outweighs having them faster, but only tethered within the footprint of a wi-fi network I have privileges for.

So, what’s fast enough?

I’ve had GPRS for two years, and it’s annoyingly, cripplingly slow.  Far worse than dial-up.  Getting e-mail involves not doing anything else for five or ten minutes, which defeats the purpose of having it in my pocket, usually.

Sprint’s PCS Vision network is quite speedy, by comparison.  I presume that if I was browsing it with my notebook via bluetooth, I wouldn’t be that impressed, but for “push” e-mail (Chatteremail/IMAP idle) and the other stuff I want to do over the phone, it’s plenty fast enough.  Interestingly, sitting at my desk with both the Treo and my Powerbook pointed at the same IMAP mailbox, the phone usually chimes new mail a few seconds before the Powerbook does.

I’m assuming that since Cingular’s EDGE system is supposedly faster (albeit more expensive), it should be a good experience too.  On the other hand, I’m now glad I didn’t buy an unlocked Treo 650 and wait for T-Mobile to get their rumored EDGE system off the ground.  As much as I like them as a carrier, I wouldn’t be nearly as happy with the Treo if I was using GPRS.

So if Palm One ever coughs up a working wi-fi card (or someone else hacks together serviceable drivers), will I buy one?  Yeah, probably (I’m a geek; new gadgets have a preternatural hold over me)—but for the moment I’m not missing it at all.


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