Recently, Sprint confirmed the rumors and announced that it will add the Palm Treo Pro to its smartphone lineup starting March 15. Unfortunately, the news received lukewarm response given that most people's attention is focused on another Palm smartphone coming to the carrier (that'd be the Palm Pre, of course). However, the Treo Pro shouldn't be dismissed so quickly.
The business-centric smartphone offers a lot, including Internet Explorer 6, EV-DO Rev. A support, and GPS, and delivers satisfactory performance. We also give it props for being one of the sleekest devices to offer a touch screen and a full QWERTY keyboard, but at the same time, it comes with tradeoffs. The display could stand to be a little bigger, and the keyboard is extra cramped. Plus, for such a corporate-centric smartphone, it looks cheap. It's these little things that make us think the HTC Touch Pro is the better option for Sprint's business customers. The Palm Treo Pro is $100 less, though, so if you're budget-strapped and can get past the design flaws, the smartphone delivers in every other way.
The Palm Treo Pro will be available for $199.99 with a two-year contract after rebates. That includes the addition of an Everything Plan with data for $30 per month. You can also purchase the smartphone through Palm beginning March 16.
Carrier branding aside, the Sprint version of the Palm Treo Pro is physically the same as the unlocked GSM model of the smartphone. You can read all about the design in our full review of the unlocked Palm Treo Pro, but we want to reiterate a couple of points.
First, having already seen it in August 2008, we were surprised at how strongly we reacted to the smartphone's overall look. The Treo Pro offers one of the sleekest touch screen and full QWERTY combinations around, and has a more sophisticated look than its competitors, like the Samsung Saga. We do wish the touch screen was a tad bigger, but it's the keyboard that might be the Treo Pro's downfall.
As we said in our original review, the Pro's QWERTY keyboard doesn't match its intended audience. It's similar to the one found on the Palm Centro and while the gelatinous, sticker-like buttons might work for a broader audience, we'd like to see more solid keys on such a corporate device. More importantly, the keyboard's just difficult to use. The buttons are small and cramped together, so even small hands will have a difficult time typing, error-free messages.
Sprint packages the Palm Treo Pro with the same environmental packaging (recyclable box, user manuals printed with soy ink) as the unlocked model, but the carrier's a little stingy with the accessories, only including an AC charger, a USB cable, reference material, and a recycling envelope. There is no software CD, since it's all preinstalled on the smartphone. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Billed as a business device, the Palm Treo Pro is a well-stocked smartphone but nothing out of the ordinary. Starting with the phone features, the Treo Pro offers a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, conference calling, and threaded text and multimedia messaging. The contact book is limited only by the available memory, and there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, instant-messaging handles, and birthdays. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a picture, a group ID, or a custom ring tone. There's also an option to get directions or map an address direct from someone's contact page.
To help with that task, the smartphone offers integrated GPS for real-time tracking and navigation. While an application like Google Maps for Mobile can provide you with real-time positioning and text-based directions, you'll need a location-based service for voice-guided directions, automatic rerouting, and other services. Sprint, of course, offers its own LBS, with Sprint Navigation, which you can use with the Treo Pro. Currently, the carrier offers a special that offers the first five days free; afterward, you will have to pay $2.99 per day, or you can pay $9.99 per month for unlimited access.
Bluetooth 2.0 is also on-board for use with mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, object exchange, and dial-up networking. Be aware that if you to use the Treo Pro as a modem for your laptop, you will need to sign up for a Sprint Power Vision Modem Plan, which runs $39.99 per month for 40MB or $49.99 per month for unlimited.
You should get pretty good speeds since the Palm Treo Pro works on Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network. The Rev. A bumps up download speeds to the 600Kbps-to-1.4Mbps range versus 400Kbps-to-700Kbps, while upload speeds will average around 350Kpbs to 500Kpbs (compared with EV-DO's 50Kpbs to 70Kbps). In short, you're going to get faster Web browsing, e-mail, and downloads--that is, if you live in a coverage area (you can find a coverage map from Sprint's site).
Alternatively, you can also hop onto any available hot spot, since the smartphone has integrated Wi-Fi. In a nice touch, Palm included a button on the right side of the smartphone that turns on the Wi-Fi radio with a single press. The smartphone will then automatically scan for available networks and allow for authentication and data encryption.
As a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition device, the Treo Pro comes with Internet Explorer Mobile for your Web browsing needs, but note that this is the first Palm to offer Internet Explorer Mobile 6. This brings some enhancements, such as the capability to switch between mobile and desktop versions of a site, pan support, multiple zoom levels, Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 for Adobe Flash content, and more. The new features are certainly welcome additions, and it made it easier to navigate sites. However, the browser is still unwieldy compared with some of the competition.