Pleasure Doing Business With New Palm Treo

Gary Krakow likes what he sees from Centro's 'big brother.'
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There's a brand new smartphone on the market that's sleek, slim, super fast and loaded with 21st century smartphone features.

No, it's not the

iPhone

(AAPL) - Get Report

3G. It's a newly designed handset from

Palm

(PALM)

-- and it's a winner.

Early this morning, Palm and

Sprint

(S) - Get Report

announced the Treo 800w, the Centro's big brother. It's smaller and sleeker than any of the older Treos, and doesn't have the ugly antenna hump on top.

Palm Treo 800 Made for Business

var config = new Array(); config<BRACKET>"videoId"</BRACKET> = 1667996395; config<BRACKET>"playerTag"</BRACKET> = "TSCM Embedded Video Player"; config<BRACKET>"autoStart"</BRACKET> = false; config<BRACKET>"preloadBackColor"</BRACKET> = "#FFFFFF"; config<BRACKET>"useOverlayMenu"</BRACKET> = "false"; config<BRACKET>"width"</BRACKET> = 265; config<BRACKET>"height"</BRACKET> = 255; config<BRACKET>"playerId"</BRACKET> = 1243645856; createExperience(config, 8);

In a side-by-side comparison, the new Treo is only slightly longer and wider than the Palm Centro but is just as deep. The 800w has a touch screen and a stylus as well as a larger version of the Centro's keyboard. It's even easier to use on the 800w.

The first thing you need to know is that this phone has been designed as an enterprise workhorse. That means it is made to primarily handle tasks that business users require to do their work -- not primarily as a music/video/Web browsing media center, which is also able to make phone calls.

The new smartphone runs on

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition operating system.

Before you dismiss this completely, I agree that previous Palm/Windows Mobile devices left a lot to be desired. I couldn't stand them, to be honest.

That's not the case with this one. Right off the bat, I'll tell you that both speed and battery life between charges are both greatly improved.

There are all sorts of nifty features on this phone. As for hardware:

320 by 320 pixel touchscreen (use your finger or the infamous Palm stylus)

5-way navigation device with one-button shortcuts to your email and calendar

Full QWERTY keyboard

802.11b/g Wi-Fi (with a dedicated on-off button)

Built-in GPS

EV-DO Rev A wireless data connections (average upload speeds of 350-500 kbps)

And matching software:

Customized home screen with search functions for contacts and nearby GPS landmarks

Office Mobile suite (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote)

Microsoft Exchange mail (both push and pull)

Sprint Navigation (works with built-in GPS to provide voice-guided and on-screen turn-by-turn driving directions, 3-D moving maps and more than 10 million local listings and real-time traffic alerts with one-click rerouting.)

Pocket Express (customized Web content delivered to your phone)

Yahoo! Messenger, AOL's AIM and MSN Messenger

Sprint TV (50 TV channels)

There's a miniSD memory card slot but no headphone jack. The 800w is designed primarily to do business. I'm happy to say that it does it well. I'm not thrilled with the micro-USB connector on the AC charger though. The slightly larger mini USB connector is much easier to use.

I was able to set up an Exchange mail account on the new Treo in less than five minutes.

Except for these preliminary tests, I know from experience that it isn't wise to leave the wireless mail service set to "push" my email to the device -- meaning that it was always receiving email. That kills battery life. So I set it to "pull" email every five minutes. That allowed me to stretch the 800w's battery life from a low of five hours (with "push" mail) to more than 36 hours (with "pull" service). That is a huge difference. That's a smart thing to do with any smartphone set to receive "push" Exchange mail.

Otherwise, all the functions I've had a chance to test seem to work as described. I did get to enjoy watching some programming on the Sprint TV service. Because the phone operates on the fast EV-DO data network, I was able to watch high-quality TV feeds on the 800w.

The IT manager here at TheStreet.com requires that any wireless email devices I want to test on his network have a remote kill feature. That means that if my smartphone is lost or stolen, that he can broadcast a signal that makes the phone unusable. The Palm 800w supports that feature -- and gets our IT seal of approval (at least on that count).

Sprint has priced the new Treo at $249.99 with a two-year contract (after rebates, discounts, etc.) Yes, that's priced higher than the consumer-oriented iPhone 3G -- but very competitively priced compared to other enterprise smartphones such as

Research In Motion's

(RIMM)

BlackBerrys and others.

I should also remind you that Sprint is still offering what they call their Simply Everything pricing plan with a flat rate of $99.99 per month for unlimited voice and data.

Palm's new Treo 800 is a winner -- and another feather in the hat for the people now running Palm. Highly recommended.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.