Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Wireless service issues and handheld communication


By Chris Guella

Elsewhere in this issue of PalmPower, I expanded on my review of the Treo 180 in the August issue (at http://www.palmpower.com/issues/issue200208/treo180001.html) by discussing the color Treo 270. In this article, I'm going to address some wireless service issues that cropped up while using these devices, as well as talk about handheld communication in general terms.

General wireless service issues

My Treo devices (both the Treo 180 and Treo 270) use a data feature of the Cingular Network. For some reason it works intermittently. In particular, when I need it the most (when I travel) it works the least. On three successive trips to New York it could not regularly connect to the data network, so I could not receive email. I never had this problem with Research In Motion's Blackberry.

Basically, the Treo Mail function is useless if it doesn't work on the road. I tried, on each trip, to correct the problem with Cingular. In each attempt, I failed. I also logged hours of time on the phone with Cingular support to try and resolve the problem, my Treo battery dying along the way.

At the time of this writing I am in New York and can not get the data service to work. I have no email and no more patience to wait on hold only to speak to someone unable to resolve the problem. T-Mobile/Voicestream is the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) roaming provider in New York, and Cingular has since set up a retail presence there. The reason I point this out it is that I never had any problem even close to this with the Blackberry. I'm not sure if I should blame or try to get help from T-Mobile (the roaming provider), Earthlink (my Internet Service Provider), or Handspring (the makers of Treo Mail).

This is basically the dark side of having different providers for different features in the early stages of the wireless revolution. Sprint sells the Treo 300 and all of the data services, so it may be easier to manage and troubleshoot for this product. I have heard good things about Sprint's Treo release, and the infamous Walter Mossberg reviewed the Treo 300 in the Wall Street Journal last week, giving it words of praise such as, "The Treo 300 isn't for everybody. But if you're looking for the ideal combination of a phone, organizer and email device, it's the best choice out there." This comes from Mossberg's article, "Sprint's Speedy Treo Features Better Emailing, Service Area".

The bottom line is, if you can live with Sprint as a mobile provider, you might want to consider the Treo 300 over the Treo 180 or Treo 270 just to simplify your already complex life. I have not used the Treo 300 yet, but I did see it at CompUSA and it looked and felt the same as the Treo 270. However, it's supposed to be part of the Sprint PCS Vision 3G network.