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I’ve been asked by a couple people now for a more complete review of my new PDA phone, and finally have a chance to post my thoughts.  One of the reasons I waited is that I wanted to get the new updates installed, and have some time to check them out.

Here’s a size comparison with my original Axim X5, the PPC-6700, and my old phone, the Samsung A500.

So, the first thing you see is that the PPC-6700 is actually closer in size to my old phone than the Axim.  That was one thing I always disliked about my Axim, its bulk.  Now, I didn’t take a picture of the cross sections, but the PPC-6700 is the thickest of the three, due to the slide out keyboard.

Ok, first things first.  Once I decided that I wanted a PDA phone, I decided that I wanted one that runs Windows Mobile.  I do quite a bit of work in MS Office, and I wanted to be able to seemlessly integrate with our Exchange server, and even do a little .NET Compact Framework development.  Based on what I’ve heard, I really don’t think that you have any significant difficulties integrating with Office if you use a Palm device such as the Treo 650 or forthcoming Treo 700p, for example, but I’m lazy. 

If you don’t mind using a Palm device, or even would prefer one, you may consider the Treo 650.  I’ve heard plenty of good things about it, and very few bad.

I use Sprint, so my choices were limited, unless I wanted to switch wireless providers.  I could go with the PPC-6700, or wait for Sprint to give their blessings to the Treo 700w.  That was supposed to happen in March, and didn’t.  Given that they will be selling the 700p next month, and given what I’m about to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sprint never sells the 700w.

My personal opinion?  Even if I hadn’t gotten the PPC-6700, and even if Sprint had the 700w available, I wouldn’t have gotten one.  The Treo 700w is crap.  It only has a 240x240 display, as opposed to the 320x240 for the PPC-6700.  And if you do a little research on it, it seems like quite a few people are having nothing but trouble with it.  Troubles that you never hear the 650 users complain about.  I really haven’t had any significant issues with my PPC-6700.  I applaud Palm’s decision to enter the Windows Mobile market, but it seems like this is a 1.0 product.  Audiovox has made a few of these Windows Mobile PDA phones now, and they seem to have gotten the hang of it.

When I first posted about my new phone, I listed some pros and cons and didn’t give much details about what it can and can’t do.  One comment that was left for me was that there was a software update available for my phone that would address some of my issues, and it does.

So, here’s the feature set:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Infrared
  • USB charging
  • MiniSD Slot
  • EV-DO & CDMA
  • 1.3 Megapixel Camera
  • Windows Mobile 5.0
  • Memory Capacity (FLASH/RAM) 128MB/64MB
  • 2.8” TFT Display 320x240
  • “Phone as modem” capable
  • Direct Sync with Exchange Server

The direct sync with Exchange is wonderful.  Or it’s terrible. :)  You make up your mind.  The feature works fantastically, but may not be a feature you want.  It automatically syncs up with my Exchange server no matter where I am, so I can be in the hardware store and get a new e-mail or a new task assignment from my boss.  If you like the idea of being connected wherever you are, then this is great.  If you like to be unavailable when you’re out of the office, then it’s not so great.  Of course, you can always turn it off…

The “phone as modem” feature is terrific, as I mentioned before. I’ve only tried the “true wireless” hookup a couple times using it as a modem and a Bluetooth connection to my laptop.  That worked ok, but the USB connection had better performance.  I only got about 285Kbps with the Bluetooth connection according to DSLReports, as opposed to 465Kbps with the USB connection.  One caveat here is that running the phone this way isn’t the easiest to set up.  You have to start up the wireless modem app on the phone, and then your computer will detect the modem, and you can tell your computer to dial.   It’d be a bit easier if I could just do everything from my PC, but that’s a nit.  One previous problem with the “phone as modem” capability, is that if you attempted to turn it on when it was already making a data call, it’d yell at you and tell you that you had to end the data call, which wasn’t very easy.  It is now, with a simple click in the CommMgr.

The display is nice. Even though it’s substantially smaller than my Axim’s display, I wouldn’t want it significantly bigger, because it’d make the phone itself too big.  However, there does appear to be a little extra room on the device to make it a teensy bit bigger, and have a 2.9” or 3.0” display.  It looks great and is easy to read except in direct sunlight.  You can probably improve on this by increasing the brightness of the display, but you’d sacrifice battery life.  More on that later.  Many PDA’s now are VGA capable, and this isn’t at 320x240, but I haven’t found that to be a problem.  Again, I’m not sure I’d want that many pixels on this size display.

The memory is insufficient.  Get a MiniSD card when you buy the phone.  I got a 1 GB one from eCost.com, and I’m very happy with it.  Without it, you’ll install about 3 apps, and then wonder where all your storage space went.

Windows Mobile 5.0 is a great improvement over previous versions.  It’s much more finger friendly.  You don’t have to use the stylus for everything, and it’s much easier to set up and use networks, particularly wireless ones.  Since it has Windows Mobile, it has Windows Media Player and is capable of playing MP3’s and WMA files.  I haven’t done anything with this yet, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy this as time goes on.  I’d really like a Windows Mobile version of iTunes, but I’m guessing that’s never gonna happen.  If you could buy an iPod or a PDA and get iTunes for free, which would you choose?  I’m guessing that quite a few poeple would choose the PDA.  Probably quite a few more people than Apple would like.

The camera seems ok.  Might’ve been nicer to have a 2.0 MP camera, but frankly this feature was a non-factor in my decision.  If it hadn’t had the camera at all, I wouldn’t have cared.

The phone itself works fairly well.  I’ve been all over the city and never lost EVDO capability.  The sound is good even using the speaker phone and I haven’t had any problems with dropped calls.  Dialing on a touch screen takes some getting used to, and I’ve brushed the touch screen with my cheek a couple times while on the phone, and started up an app, or switched to call waiting on a call that wasn’t there, etc.  I just need to learn not to rub the phone up against my cheek when I talk. :)  The update adds a feature so that as you dial, it displays numbers from your contact list that match what you’ve dialed, and you can quickly select one.  That’s nice, but the pop-up box is too big, in my opinion.  One bonus feature related to phone calls that you get with a PDA phone such as this is that my phone list comes directly from my Outlook contacts.  No more re-typing in all my phone numbers when I get a new phone.  The new update now has voice dialing and that also works well.  You give voice tags to numbers in your contact list, and then just call the tag.  It doesn’t appear that I can just tell it to dial a number that’s not in my contact list, but I may be mistaken.  I haven’t tinkered with this feature much.

You can charge the phone through the supplied mini USB cable, so you don’t need to plug it into the wall, or even use the sync cradle.   As a matter of fact, I’m not sure why I’d ever use the sync cradle, unless I wanted to charge a second battery, as the cradle does have a slot for a second battery.  The other advantage of the cradle is it does prop up the device and make it easier to see, but I prefer to just wear it on my belt.  If I put it in the cradle, I’d just be forgetting it all the time.

Oh, speaking of having it on my belt, the supplied holster is great, and much better than the one I had with my Samsung phone.  It doesn’t seem too heavy, but I’ll have to see what it’s like when I wear shorts and a t-shirt.  Also, I can actually feel the vibrating ringer, which was often problematic with my old phone.  However, one feature that the Samsung A500 had that I miss is some “intelligence” related to the vibration.  If you had the phone plugged in, then it would determine that it’s obviously not attached to your body and use the regular ringer, instead of the vibration.  Can’t do that with the PPC-6700, however it’s very easy (with the software update) to turn the vibrating ringer on and off. This can be quickly done with the CommMgr.

Wi-Fi works well, but uses battery power.  It’s not too bad though, and there’s a slider to adjust the ratio of Wi-Fi performance to battery performance.  I mentioned previously that the Verizon version (XV6700) of this phone had crippled Wi-Fi functionality, but I think I’m going to have to chalk that up to being an unconfirmed rumor.  I’ve read several reviews of the Verizon phone now, and only seen the Wi-Fi issue mentioned that one time.

Bluetooth seems to chew up even more power than Wi-Fi, which is unfortunate.  I was hoping to be able to sync with my laptop via Bluetooth just like I do with the USB cable.  Battery usage is only one of the reasons this doesn’t work, however.  Bluetooth sync has to be a manual sync, rather than an automatic scheduled one which you’d get through the cradle or cable.  I was pretty disappointed by this at the time, but it turns out that I don’t really need to sync with my PC that often.  Most of the time, it’s the sync with my Exchange server that I’m most concerned with, and that works just fine when the phone is on my belt.  The only time I need to sync with the PC is if there are specific files that I want to move over, or if I’m installing an application.

There’s now a “real” key lock, so I don’t have to worry about my daughter picking up the phone and calling China or e-mailing my boss, or uninstalling all my software.  It’s much better than the original lock, which is more like a Windows screen lock, and comes on automatically after a certain period of idle time, but can’t easily be done manually.  With the new “Device Lock”, it’s just one tap to lock it whenever I want it.

So, I’ve covered two of my previous three complaints about the phone.  My third complaint, that I can’t access the built-in GPS receiver and that I have to buy a separate one if I want to use GPS mapping capabilities, still stands.   I have one more complaint, however, and if you’ve paid attention to the last couple of paragraphs, you might have seen this one coming.  Battery life is not very stellar, especially when compared to your typical mobile phone.  You’re going to want to charge it every night.  If I was travelling as much as I used to, this would probably annoy me, and I’d have to get either a second battery, or the bulkier longer-lasting battery, or maybe even two of the bulkier battery.  So far it hasn’t been an issue to charge it every night, but battery performance deterioriates over time, and I’m wondering if the battery will even last a full day a year from now.   Guess I’ll find out.

Oh yeah, just remembered one more issue.  I can’t find screen protectors for this size screen anywhere.  I’ll keep looking though, because I’m sure they’re out there.

A coworker of mine recently got the phone too, and she had some trouble performing the software upgrade.  If you do it, and in the middle the display goes black, with USB appearing very faintly on the display, you need to reboot your PC.  Don’t take the phone to the Sprint store, because they won’t know what the problem is either, and they’ll just give you a new phone which will have the exact same problem.  :)

Bottom line?  I’ve had it almost a month now, and I love the phone.  And I think it’s far and away the best Windows Mobile PDA phone available.  It blows away the “Smartphones” and the Treo 700w.  If you don’t need Windows Mobile and are fine with PalmOS, you may be fine with the Treo 650 or Treo 700p, or even a Blackberry now that they’ve resolved their lawsuits.

Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2006 9:43 AM General | Back to top


Comments on this post: More on the PPC-6700

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
Regarding screen protectors, boxwave.com has some great screen protectors for it. I have had them for some time and love them. Easy to clean and re-apply. As for GPS - keep searching, I think I read you can get access to it. I was able to unlock a piece that lets me see the GPS in the control panel. Now the next step ;).

Good luck and thanks for the review.....I love my unit as well.
Left by Rich Denis on Apr 13, 2006 11:53 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
I just got a new job and will be traveling quite a bit. The company wants me to get a PDA phone so that I can keep it touch. I am a Windows nut and would prefer everything (PC and PDA) to be on the same platform so that I have as few issues with syncing documents as possible. I have basically decided on the PPC-6700 since I am with Sprint and would like to continue with them but have a few questions remaining. Could someone please help me with the following:
1. A sales person at the Sprint Express store said that the capability to use it as a replacement for my wireless connection card on my computer would be impossible because once the mode is switched, I cannot switch it back.

2. If the above is not a problem, how much is this added service for unlimited data?

3. As for syncing with your exchange service, which vision pack did you sign up for? Is the set up for the sync relatively easy?

Thank you for all the information that all of you have provided. I would appreciate it if you could help with with the above.
Left by Mei on May 08, 2006 10:11 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
I'm confused about your first question. I use mine as a wireless modem all the time. I don't know what needs to be "switched" or "switched back".

I have the lowest level Power Vision pack, the one that is $15/mo I think.

I did get a spare battery for mine after I forgot to charge it up one night and it was drained.
Left by Chris J. Breisch on May 08, 2006 10:23 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
Thanks for the quick response. Just one last question - is the cost of using it as a wireless modem part of the Power Vision pack of is there an additional services charge.
Left by Mei on May 08, 2006 10:28 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
No problem. The cost is built-in to the package. I had a PCS Vision phone, and I'm paying exactly the same as I was before. I just replaced the PCS Vision plan with the Power Vision plan at the same price point.
Left by Chris J. Breisch on May 08, 2006 10:53 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
Thanks for all the help. Just had the phone for a couple of weeks and it works great. It actually refreshes my e-mails faster than the network at work. Works great as a wireless modem and I did not have a noticable speed difference between my wireless card and the new phone. I save about $50 per month this way.

However, I have a couple of issues that maybe someone can help me with. I tried to use the WI-FI to do a peer-to-peer connection, but it didn't work. Do you have any idea whether this is possible. In addition, when I sync to the computer it files the messages in a different place than windows exchange server e-mails which means that my e-mails are duplicated. Is there a way to change that?

Everything else considered, I definitely like this phone/pda. It works well and not only does it sync to the exchange server, I also syncs to my MSN account which helps me keep up with both my business and personal e-mails.
Left by Mei on May 19, 2006 11:35 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
I've had my 6700 for 4 days, It seems to have very weak signal strength -old phone had 3 bars, this one 1 or no bars in same place. It seems to drop alot of calls, anyway to improve signal strength
Left by Signal Strength on May 22, 2006 6:56 PM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
Mei,
I don't think it will attach to ad hoc networks, only access point controlled ones. But, I could be mistaken. As for your other issue, it sounds like you're trying to sync e-mails BOTH through your server and your PC. You probably want to turn one of those syncs off.
Left by Chris J. Breisch on May 23, 2006 4:55 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
Signal Strength,
I have not had those kinds of issues, nor heard of anyone who has. You might think about exchanging the phone.
Left by Chris J. Breisch on May 23, 2006 4:56 AM

# re: More on the PPC-6700
Requesting Gravatar...
Thanks for the tips.

Signal Strength,
Actually I have had better service than my previous phone (2 yrs old). In addition, I have heard from my colleagues that they do not get service in a certain area through Sprint, and during my most recent service, I had service. So I do think it is something with your phone because I is performing beautifully.
Left by Mei on May 31, 2006 12:00 PM

# Wireless Modem Capability
Requesting Gravatar...
I have the pPC6700 and am enjoying many of the features. I am having a problem activating the wireless modem, which which I want to connect my PC. The instructions in the PPC6700 manual don't seem to correspond with the wireless model setup on the PC and are cryptic in nature, i.e., 'select next' instead of describing what the wizard implies. When I try to connect, I get an error of 'no dialtone' detected. Any advice?
Left by Camilla on Oct 30, 2006 9:47 AM

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