Review: Palm i705

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Date: Thursday, February 14th, 2002, 12:43
Category: Archive

Palm i705 The Palm i705 is an extremely useful and functional tool that will benefit any mobile technologist that needs to keep in touch with email and the Web while away from a traditional Internet connection. The Palm i705 is the first and only handheld to offer always-on, secure, email and access to corporate email servers like Microsoft Exchange. Of course, there is more to life than email, there’s AIM. The Palm i705 ships with AIM 2.0 for wireless handhelds – an incredibly useful application, especially when combined with the Palm i705 keyboard (US$59, see below.)


Palm i705 The Palm i705 is an extremely useful and functional tool that will benefit any mobile technologist that needs to keep in touch with email and the Web while away from a traditional Internet connection. The Palm i705 is the first and only handheld to offer always-on, secure, email and access to corporate email servers like Microsoft Exchange. Of course, there is more to life than email, there’s AIM. The Palm i705 ships with AIM 2.0 for wireless handhelds – an incredibly useful application, especially when combined with the Palm i705 keyboard (US$59, see below.)

The i705 retails for US$449 and ships with Palm OS 4.1, 8 MB RAM, Secure Digital (SD) slot), 160×160 monochrome display and an integrated antenna. The Package comes with a USB cradle/charger and a cool flip cover to protect the i705 screen.

Apples and Oranges
Before considering a handheld you have to take a step back and ask yourself an important question, “What, exactly, do I want to do with a PDA?” Most users will fall into one of three main functionality categories:

a) Contacts, calendar, to-dos, notes
b) Pictures, games & MP3 files
c) Internet, Email, IM

Now, before you fire off a knee-jerk reaction of a) contacts, calendar, to-dos and notes, think outside the box for a second. Would you benefit from having access to any of the items in b) or c)? Most people primarily think of PDAs as type a) devices, when, in fact they are capable of doing all of the above.

A Little Background
I just sold my beautiful Sony Clie PEG-N760C because it was no longer meeting my needs. The Clie has a wonderful color screen, MP3 and movie players built into the unit, but as time wore on I found myself using them less and less. I found that my iPod was better for playing MP3s and my PowerBook is infinitely better for displaying digital pictures than the Clie could ever hope to be. That got me thinking about what I really needed a Palm for in the first place.

When I saw the announcement of the wireless i705 I thought back to my days of using my Palm VII and how much I loved the wireless Internet access. I quickly found that I used the Palm VII’s wireless functionality about 80 percent of the time and the traditional Palm functionality (contacts, calendar, etc.) only about 20 percent of the time.

But that’s just me. The PowerPage generates an incredible amount of email and being out of touch, even for a day or two, can lead to an overwhelmingly large in box As a news junkie I monitor about 12 news feeds on the Web each day and I use AIM as an efficient way to keep in touch with colleagues all over the planet. Can you see where I am going with this? For my situation the Palm i705 is the perfect tool to meet my needs, but it is not for everyone.

Next Generation
Being a veteran of the original Palm-powered wireless handheld, the Palm VII, there are several huge improvements that the i705 has over the VII including a new, smaller form factor (with integrated wave antenna), a re-designed MyPalm start page and the ability to download Web Clipping Apps (WCAs) directly to the device.

Physically, the i705 is much more appealing than the Palm VII was, the case is a cool silver plastic and the integrated ?wave? antenna replaces the hockey-stick antenna of the Palm VII. The most significant improvement in the industrial design is the addition of a status LED on the antenna. The LED blinks green when you are in network, blinks slow red when you are out of network, and fast red if you have messages waiting. Palm should have made it a three color LED with a blinking yellow light to denote messages waiting. It is too difficult to tell the difference between a fast red (messages) and a slow red (no network) at a glance.

Peripheral Issues
Palm Mini Keyboard If you pick up one of these silver beauties run, don’t walk, to buy the Palm Mini Keyboard for the i705 (US$59) as it turns the i705 into a fully functioned, fire breathing, RIM-killer. The Mini Keyboard gives you all of the advantages of the PDA keyboards found on the RIM/Blackberry and new Handspring Treo devices with the option to take it off when you want less bulk. In addition, the keyboard slips over the graffiti area of the i705 rather than just clipping on the bottom, providing a streamlined form factor that can still fit in a large pocket.

The Mini Keyboard cannot be used with the included flip cover but it provides some ancillary protection to the unit by shielding the bottom third. If someone has come up with a case solution for the i705 with keyboard, I would be interested in see it.

A large oversight of the Mini Keyboard is the missing tab key for navigating form fields. When using the i705’s wireless features I find myself frequently filling out the same few forms to request data, mostly company name, city and zip in the Yellow Pages feature of the Internet tab (which uses Swichboard.com) and the search fields in Google, which to my surprise was the default for MyPalm’s search the Internet function.

Movie times, restaurant reviews and driving directions are just a tap away on the Palm i705 and are killer features. You will quickly find that what the i705 lacks in Web Clipping Apps can be made up be simply clicking on the “Go to a URL” link on the bottom of any pages under the Internet heading in MyPalm.

Pioneers Take the Arrows
There are still a few annoyances with the i705. Although using WCAs optimizes the speed of the connection, the signal strength gets squirrelly in some metropolitan areas, especially inside buildings. While center-city Philadelphia enjoys almost full coverage (4-5 bars almost all the time) there are areas bordering the city, like Main Street in Manayunk, where the coverage is almost nil. Sure, I can walk across the street and find a bar or two in the park across from Sonoma, but I really need it to work in Buck’s County Coffee (great couches), where unfortunately it does not.

Palm’s wireless service price point is still a huge sticking point with me. The company offers what boils down to two plans: the Associate Plan for US$20 per month which gives you 100 KB of monthly access or the Executive Unlimited Plan which offers unlimited access for US$40 per month. My problem is that there is really only one option, the unlimited plan, at 100 KB per month (!) the associate plan is useless for all but the casual user. Under the lesser plan each additional kilobyte over 100 KB is billed at $0.20. This can lead to costly bills if you don’t carefully monitor your usage.

Palm’s wireless access fees are analogous to the price of popcorn and soda at movie theatres: traditionally a small costs around US$3 but the gargantuan serving costs US$3.50. Who would ever pay US$3 for a 20-ounce drink when the 40-ounce version is only US$.50 more? Palm is taking advantage of its customer by offering a plan that is ridiculous (100 KB!) knowing that you will only opt for the unlimited plan. To add insult to injury, Palm charges another US$10 activation fee. Sheesh.

Palm should offer more pricing tiers along the lines of US$10/month for 100 KB, US$20/month for 200 KB, US$30/month for 300 KB and US$40 for unlimited access. US$40 per month is close to what you can get a broadband Internet connection for in some cities.

Executive Summary
I wouldn’t trade my Palm i705 for any other PDA on the market today. I love it and use it all the time. Always-on email, AIM and Web browsing in the Palm of your hand is a compelling feature set that allows my
to get out of the house more ? and that is a good thing.

I will be going into more detail on the Palm i705’s features in future articles so feel free to post your questions in the feedback below. What handheld do you use, and why?

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