Verizon Treo 700p MR ImpressionsBy: Kris Keilhack
July 13, 2007
My poor Treo 700p has been dying the slow death of a failing digitizer that constantly needs recalibration for the past few months. As soon as the Sprint version of the 700p MR was released online, I became determined to try and hold out until the Verizon version of the update was available or the Verizon version of the Treo 755p was released. I was also curious to see if there would be any incremental hardware changes in the nearly fourteen months between when I purchased my early 700p and when I received this like-new “refurbished” Treo pre-loaded with the 1.10 update.
After closely following the strange series of events unfolding around certain Verizon Wireless corporate stores having the update available on a SD card I was assured by the technician handling my Treo handset replacement request that the new unit would indeed be pre-loaded. Another Verizon Wireless tech told me that getting a pre-loaded 700p was the “preferred way” of getting the 1.10 update but that “something would be happening soon” for owners of existing devices.
A full list of the changes and improvements contained within the 700p Maintenance Release (usually known as the “MR” or the “1.10” update can be found at Palm Support.
Aside from the software differences between my original 1.06 700p and its 1.10 replacement, I noticed a handful of hardware differences between my old (purchased early June ’06) Treo and its replacement. The new unit had a less-squeaky, more solid-feeling keyboard with brighter LED illumination that looks more like the newer 680 and 755p Treos. The replacement Treo’s LCD is a tad brighter with more of a blue tint than my old unit’s duller, yellowish screen. Finally, the new unit’s d-pad appears to be slightly deeper with a more pronounced center button and overall build quality seems better than my early production 700p. For a unit that is supposedly a refurbished model, my replacement 700p appears like new in every way possible.
I do have a few very minor hardware quibbles with my replacement Treo. My Seidio “rumpshaker” battery door and the standard-size Seidio “reset button” replacement doors do not fit the new unit as well they did the old Treo. The speaker on the new unit also has more distortion and a bit less volume than my original 700p’s speaker. Nevertheless, I’m glad to see the brighter LCD and keyboard and tighter keyboard. And we all know how nice it is to go from a unit with a failing digitizer to a fully functional one!
Improvements & Noticeable Changes in the v1.10 ROM
First and foremost, the lag when switching apps has been drastically reduced. It’s by no means eliminated and does increase when one starts to load up a factory-fresh Treo with a half-dozen apps and text messages. Still, the 700p now has much more in common with a 755p speed-wise than ever before. Blazer is now the main culprit for lag with the phone app coming in a distant second. I’d rate the lag in Blazer as going from nearly unbearable to merely “mildly annoying” and the Phone app’s lag
Utilizing the latest version of Pocket Tunes Deluxe v4.03 on my old 1.06 700p in comparison with the new 1.10 700p with PTunes’ bundled 3.09 version, the 1.10 Treo exhibited far less skipping while playing identical MP3s. Some minor skipping and stuttering is still present but with nowhere near the severity experienced on the unpatched 700p. Nice job, Palm!
The Phone app on the 1.10 Treo remains at version 2.5, same as the original 700p. However, the Phone app’s “about” screen how bears a copyright date of 2007 vs. the 2006 date on my original. At any rate, I did not notice any differences in sound quality or performance aside from a huge reduction in lag while on a call. For example, the 1.06 Treo would lag terribly when trying to initiate a 3-way conversation or look up a phone number while on a call. The 700p 1.10 still isn’t up to par speed-wise with a 755p but it’s very, very close. In my very brief testing, I still noticed the occasional lag when trying to end a call by a delay between the red button being pushed and the call actually being terminated but it’s still a far superior experience over an unpatched 700p. I still maintain that the 700p should NEVER have been allowed to be released onto the market in its original state but the 1.10 update goes a long way towards addressing nearly all of the major performance woes.
Due to time constraints, I have not been able to do much Bluetooth testing other than stabling connections with my laptop, Palm Wireless headset, and my Palm Bluetooth GPS receiver. All devices paired nicely and I have not dropped a headset connection yet. It does appear that the 1.10 700p has somewhat less range on its Bluetooth connection than previously. This is not a huge issue for me as I seldom use my Treo as a telephone and it’s never more than a meter or so away from my headset.
This app has been updated to version 1.3.2 from the previous 1.3.1. I have not noticed any changes so far between the two versions but this may change once I have spent more time with the 1.10 700p.
The Palm Camera app has been updated from version 188.8.131.52 to 184.108.40.206. One surprising detail that I have not read about online nor was I expecting to encounter was a difference in image quality between the two Treos. I’m already aware of the fact that the 755p takes marginally better quality photos than the average 700p. I was curious to see if there would be any quality enhancements inherent to the 1.10 Treo ROM. However, I was not expecting to see such drastic differences between the two units!
Comparing photos of identical subjects under identical conditions produced drastically different results. The new Treo’s camera has better detail and color saturation but everything has a reddish tint. In fact, the color saturation is so drastically improved that my beige or khaki colored bedroom walls appear pinkish and a white ceramic sink bowl appears reddish! Compare the pictures below of my Palm TX’s Sena flip case and a bar of purple soap and see for yourself.
The images produced by the new Treo 755p surpass either versions of the 700p. I am uncertain if this is a hardware issue or a software bug but at any rate I’ll take reduced lag over camera color accuracy any day. It’s just a shame Palm’s hardware varies so wildly from device to device. Based on past experiences (T|T slider, T3 LCDs, Zire 72 rubberized paint) this isn’t the first time Palm’s had inconsistent quality from one device to the next and it’s not likely to be the last.
This app has been updated to version 1.3.3 from 1.3.1. I have not noticed any changes so far between the two versions but, similar to the above, this may change once I have spent more time with the updated 700p.
The Verizon 700p 1.10 update fortunately has the nice touch of the new “quick launcher” home button action. Holding t down the Treo’s Home button brings up a list of the eight most recently-launched apps, just like on the newer (and currently unavailable on Verizon) 755p. This facilitates easier one-handed navigation and somewhat mitigates OS Garnet’s lack of true multitasking. This was one feature I missed when transitioning from my TX to the 700p so I’m definitely glad to see it return.
We’ve gone from version 1.3.1 to 1.3.2. Again, no major differences apparent in this app.
Palm’s superb threaded text messaging app has been updated to version 2.6.2 from version 2.5.
The terrible SMS lag issue (exclusive to the Verizon version of the 700p) has plagued me throughout my year+ ownership of the 700p. Under ROM version 1.06, whenever I sent a text message to any person on any network, my Treo would lock up for upwards of a minute or two while awaiting acknowledgement of that message’s delivery. The only way to sidestep this bug previously was to send an SMS and then immediately exit the Messaging app.
While the issue has not been completely resolved in this update, a new menu option to never display SMS messages (in addition to the MMS option in the previous version).
Pics & Videos
This multi-faceted app has been updated to version 220.127.116.11 from the previous 18.104.22.168 and has had its copyright date changed to 2006 from 2005. Images not taken by the Treo’s camera appear identical between the two Treos. I have noticed a slight but appreciable improvement in the speed when navigating between photos on the 1.10 700p. More small but noticeable benefits courtesy of the MR!
In my opinion, one can never have too much onboard storage in a mobile device. Despite the Treo’s lack of a standard stereo headphone jack, A2DP or a large screen I still use my device quite frequently for music, movies, video clips and, especially, photo viewing. Previously, Palm stated that 2gb was the maximum official size supported by the 700p with the non-spec 4gb SD cards being unofficially supported.
With the 1.10 update, Palm has added official support for both 4gb SD 1.1 and 4gb SD 2.0 (aka SDHC) cards. While Palm makes no claims about higher card capacities being supported (likely due to the 4gb volume size limit of the Garnet OS), I had no issues whatsoever with a variety of SD card formats ranging from a 512mb generic card to a 2gb Sandisk Ultra II to a 4gb Patriot 133x SD 1.1 to an 8gb Transcend Class 2 SDHC card. Based on past user reports from the Treo 680, 755p and updated Sprint 700p’s, the Treo recognizes 8gb SDHC cards as consisting of two separate ~4gb volumes. While this is exactly as I expected, It’s annoying but but still a small price to pay for the versatility afforded by Palm actually supporting the still-rare SDHC card format. I’m glad that my desktop PC, digital camera and Treo can all share SDHC cards now (with only laptop’s built-in card reader being unable to handle SDHC cards at all). Having the update in ROM also means not having to worry about how to get the SDHC slot driver onto the 700p to access files on an SDHC card in the event of a hard reset.
Current or prospective Treo 700p owners who are multimedia mavens and trying to choose between the 700p and the 755p should give serious thought to two aspects. First, fullsize 8gb SDHC cards are widespread, affordable and work great in the updated 700p. The 755p’s miniSDHC slot is limited to the small handful of 4gb cards on the market with no signs of higher capacity miniSD cards on the immediate horizon. Secondly, the 700p can accommodate a higher capacity battery (2400mAh vs. 2100mAh) under its stock battery cover.
Verizon chose to deviate from Sprint’s version of the 700p in 2006 by not including VersaMail 3.5.1 in the device’s ROM but instead shipping it on the separate Palm Desktop CD. While some users don’t care for VersaMail and are fine not having it cluttering up their ROM, others like myself find the app adequate enough for daily use. I was hoping to regain a bit of device memory by seeing Verizon include the newest version of VersaMail, 3.5.4, in the 1.10 ROM of the Verizon 700p update. Instead, I was dismayed to see that I’d have to reinstall the older 3.5.1 from my original 700p software CD. Not a huge loss but still a bit of a bummer. While the only official change in the latest version of VersaMail is built-in support for Microsoft Exchange Active Sync, I still like to have the latest ‘n greatest versions of apps whenever possible, especially if they reside in ROM and don’t take up any precious RAM space.
Google Maps is not included in ROM.
The Time & Date app (seen when you first power the Treo on) has been redesigned and simplified. It can automatically select Daylight Savings Time and contains rollup updates to the new DST policies that went into effect earlier this year.
The “My Treo” integrated support app (part of the Addit app) on the 1.10 Treo does not appear in the top left corner of the launcher and has instead moved to where it belongs alphabetically.
I truly have not had enough time to live with the 700p 1.10 update to notice all of its potential quirks or idiosyncrasies. However, after just one full day with the 1.10 ROM I can safely say that it finally brings some terribly needed updates and gives a measure of closure to the long and sad saga of the Treo 700p.
The reduction in lag is far and away the major attraction of the 700p’s 1.10 update but the integrated SDHC support and newly added functionality of the Home button are probably enough to convince me to stay with my 1.10 700p for now.
Any users sitting on the fence in regards to installing the update should definitely read the TreoCentral threads about the possible issue with no data in 1x coverage areas. Since I live and work in places with strong EVDO coverage this is not an issue for me. For the most part, I’d offer an emphatic “go for it!” to any 700p users who have not yet upgraded their devices.
Similar to the final updates released for the Tungsten W (1.0), Tungsten T5 (1.1) and LifeDrive (2.0), history has again repeated itself within Palm’s product line. The 700p was another buggy product released prematurely by Palm. It lacked thorough testing but was thankfully finally massaged into a serviceable device after a substantially delayed ROM update. Let’s hope that with this milestone passed, Palm can put this frustrating time behind them and strive to release future products that are stable and properly debugged from the get-go.