Handspring’s second attempt at the Treo Communicator seems to be a sure winner! Sporting a new 4096-colour LCD screen and various improvements, the Treo 270 isn’t exactly a major upgrade. But one would come in thinking it being so - as I found the overall experience of using the Treo 270 to be very different.
It was only a few months back that the company launched the initial models, the Treo 180 and 180g - where most of its users were very satisfied with what it had to offer. For these very same users, letting them have a go at the new Treo 270 would only surprise them - and satisfy them even further.
The most noticeable new feature on the Treo 270 can be experienced right after turning on the device. A 12-bit colour displaying, showing up to 4096 colours, enriches built-in and other third-party Palm-OS applications. Battery life has also been enhanced, with approximately half an hour more talk time (3 hours) and 50 more standby hours (150 hours) when compared with the Treo 180 models.
An improved version of the Blazer web browser is available on the Treo 270, where it now supports various colour graphics modes and comes with new additions to make a more pleasant browsing experience on the move and from the palm of your hands.
The Treo 270 comes with a different-coloured casing, appropriately named “steel grey”. I find this new colour makes the PDA phone even more acceptable, being somewhat less “dull” than the colour used on the Treo 180. For those who have noticed, the Handspring logo on the active lid has been given a touch of silver as well :)
Physically, the Treo 270 is no different to the Treo 180 in terms of sizing and buttons/switches - which includes the active lid, ringer and rocker switches, and the quick access and up/down keys at the bottom of the unit. The Treo 270 is slightly heavier, probably due to the use of the colour LCD screen and a slightly longer life lithium-ion battery.
User Interface (UI)
If you’re a current Treo 180 user and have tried using it in the dark, I bet the first thing that came to your mind was “how am I supposed to type in the dark?” Handspring may have forgotten to put in a backlight for the keyboard on the Treo 180. But using the Treo 270 in either a bright or dark environment was never a problem.
When the active lid is opened, the keyboard area is illuminated by a green backlight. After ten seconds or so, the backlight will turn off - where it assumes that you are not using the keyboard area and simply scrolling with the rocker switch or stylus. To permanently enable the keyboard’s backlight, tap the power switch at the top of the unit twice. Simply repeat the same sequence of taps again to disable the lighting.
Again, the Treo 270 offers the similar Palm-OS interface as per the Treo 180, with the option of accessing menus, functions and applications from either the keyboard or through the use of the stylus (housed at the back of the PDA phone).
Making and receiving calls
The Treo 270 allows three methods of voice communications - through the standard handset mode (sound is provided through the earpiece module inside the active lid, with the microphone located below the shift/find and space bar buttons), using the speakerphone feature, or via the ear bud headset.
Calls can be made by simply opening the lid and typing the name or number of the person you want to call. The phone dialler application has the ability to differentiate whether you are typing in a name of a person in the phone book, or whether the input is simply a telephone number. Speed dials can also be assigned via the phone dialler application, with up to 49 entries available for use.
In-call functions are displayed on the LCD screen while the phone is in use, while you can also utilise other Palm-OS applications during the call (with the exception of the web browser, for obvious reasons). Calls can be either rejected or diverted to voicemail by simply pressing any button on the Treo 270 while the active lid is closed.
The built-in SMS application provides full-page view of messages, and has the ability to look up mobile numbers stored in the phone book as well (saving the trouble of going back and forth to look for a number!) Messaging with the Treo 270 is a breeze, since the keyboard makes the effort of composing a message less straining than graffiti-ing it in! :)
I was able to manage around three-and-a-bit-more days’ worth of standby through normal usage of the phone (thanks to the increased capacity of the internal lithium-ion battery). Again, turning off the phone feature of the Treo will significantly improve battery times.