Blog Post

Need Feedback: Treo or BlackBerry?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Hey TAB readers, I need your help.

I need a PDA Cell Phone for my job, but I want to get one that will still work well with my [at-home] MacBook. I’m tied-in to Cingular, and have narrowed the field down to either the Treo 650, or the BlackBerry 7130. I’d like to know – from your own experiences – which is more OS X friendly.

Here are some of the things I’m looking for:
– Ability to easily stay up to date on Work email (exchange server)
– Good tie-in with my Outlook Calendar from work
– Ability to easily check my Gmail – probably through POP
– Bluetooth for syncing with my MacBook, as well as headset
– A good Speakerphone
– Decent web browsing.
– And obviously, happy integration with my Mac/OS X

I’ll of course, also be using the contacts a lot, but anything’s gotta be better than my Razr’s software…

Having a camera is occasionally useful in my job, so for nothing more than that reason, the Treo is slightly in the lead at this point. But let me hear what you’ve got. If there’s another contender I should consider (The Audiovox smart phone seems pretty nice), I’m open to suggestions, as long as I can use it with Cingular.

Thanks in advance for all your valuable input!

34 Responses to “Need Feedback: Treo or BlackBerry?”

  1. Hopefully somebody can help me.

    Have just bought a Blackberry 7100 and trying to sync the address book on my laptop iBook G4 running OS 10.4.8.

    Only wanting to use Address Book and icall – (not interested in using Entourage as I use iMail)

    I installed PocketMac V4 and attempted to sync both devices. Each time I get a warning which says ‘Bad default ctagory length’.

    Have tried to get online support but can’t find not only a solution to the problem but even that the problem exists.

    Cany anyone help?

  2. I switched from Sprint to T-mobile after I got sick and tired of lousy service and bad coverage, especially where I work. In the process I gave up my sweet Treo 600 (after nearly 4 years of faithful servce) in exchange for the MDA. After about a week of wrestling with it and resetting it about three or four times a day, I opted to swap it out for the BB 8700. The Windows Pocket PC OS is crap. My impression of the BB so far is that the it is a much more limited, but much tighter operating device than the MDA. The ergonomics of the MDA are terrible unless you have a prehensile tail while both hands are on your phone.

    Although I was skeptical at first, I find the thumbwheel on the BB to be quick and reliable. The device works great for email and for messaging. And it’s easy to look up the sports scores. But I won’t be using it for any of the PDA applications that I used to use on my Treo.

    I do miss the PDA functionality of my Treo. It is a pain to sync the BB with the Mac, but certainly no worse than the MDA. It’s just a shame that Palm hasn’t introduced a new device since the 600. The 650 and 700 should have been called 600bt and 600btc, since they’re all basically the same old, slow processor.

    I’ve decided the way to go is to get an intel based Mac so that I will have the flexibility of syncing with either PC or Palm based devices. I’m also hoping that the rumors of Apple’s phone are true! I can’t believe there is such a thing as a new low end Treo, since, despite the price, they’re already pretty low end. It’s going to be interesting to see what the IPaq 6915 is like… too bad it’s windows based, too.

  3. Jerry W

    I just upgraded my sprint phone from a sanyo mm4500 to a backberry 7130e. I thought the blackberry was a great looking phone, I still think it looks better than the treo. I did a little research on the device ( about 2 hours worth ) and just went for the purchase. I have a sprint corporate account, so I got a $150 discount off from $379. On top of that I would have to purchase the blackberry plan which is $50 a month.

    Today I got the phone and started playing with it. Although I have yet to activate it, here are my Impressions.

    Nice form factor ( No antannae sticking out )
    Looks great
    Decent Pricepoint ( compared to the treo 700p’s $649 – $150 )

    Feels plasticy and cheap ( not solid like a phone should be )
    Syncing Nightmare ( Even with pocketmac, Syncing is horrible )
    Lack of Software ( Could not find any good software for this device )
    No Camera ( Not that important but great to have )
    Scroll Wheel ( You have to push the wheel to select, and often would scroll instead )
    No Multimedia functions ( Can not play videos nor mp3’s, at least without software)
    Functioning as a phone is definitely secondary ( hard to find phone setup options, etc )

    Looks like I’m sending this back and getting a treo 700p.

    I realize my primary concern for a smartphone is not for email, but I need something that is more like a phone!

    Hope this helps

  4. I use a Blackberry 7130; I’ve tried the Treos. Both are nice devices. The Blackberry is clearly superior for email, the treo is probably better for other things.

    But I certainly would not get a Treo 650. The most useful feature on either the 7130 or the Treo 700 series is the EVDO browsing capability. It really is near-DSL speed, and thus the phone stops being a toy and becomes an information apparatus.

  5. I had a Blackberry 7130c from Cingular and took it back after two weeks. it looks beautiful, very sleek, e-mail pushed well and fast, but mine had a few major problems. I found the keyboard pretty much unusuable. it’s incredibly annoying having to learn the two letters on one key QWERTY keyboard. it looks like it should be easy to learn – and I spend most of my day typing on a normal QWERTY keyboard – but it was hell. Also the letters are ridiculously small and hard to see. It seemed to take months to type even a very short e-mail or text message. The second major problem was that the reception and sound quality was lousy; people sounded as if they were talking from a submarine. Before upgrading I was using a two and a half year-old Nokia of some kind which has much better reception. The third problem is that the screen is really too small to easily be able to use the internet for anything other than very rudimentary Google searches. Fourth, as far as syncing with a Mac is concerned, it would not sync using Bluetooth, only via USB. And, I couldn’t find any way of using the phone as a modem linked up to my Aluminium 15″ Powerbook, 10.4.7. So I took it back and got a very nice $200 refund! Cingular allows you to try these devices and return them within 30 days for a full refund. I’m told by someone who knows more than me that Blackberry 8700c is great, but I’m enjoying the reception on my trusty old Nokia. And the $200.

  6. Hey, again, Thank you everyone for all the great opinions and information. It’s awesome to be able to throw some question out and get such useful responses so quickly.

    I spoke with a friend from work to see what he had to say about his Treo 650. I guess it’s the only ‘supported by my company’ device between the 2 I’ve been considering. I’m certain I could figure a work around with all the software and DIYs out there, were I to go the BB route, but I’d rather stay in my Sys Admin’s good graces…

    Looks like I’ll be giving the Treo 650 a try. Luckily, it sounds like the most friendly mac option as well. But i’ll have 30 days to decide if it’s gonna fire my rocket or not.

    I’d love to jump on the 700 – a friend just got one and he loves it (not a mac guy, but I don’t hold it against him) – but cost is the first factor, and availability is the second. Maybe down the road…?

    Thanks again for all your comments. Feel free to continue if you like, I’ll be reading.

  7. With the Missing Synch you have super integration between Mac and the Treo. But the 650 is not super reliable. If I had to buy a new one I would buy the 700p (which is not on Cingular). The 700P is more mature and stable, more memory and has the faster connection.

    For just eMail the Blackberry is probably better and more reliable, but on an overall basis (phone, web, programs, extra functionality options such as GPS, Datamodem etc) the Treo should win it.

    But the Treo 650 is a temperamental device. It took three before I had one which would work adequately. Their Q&A did not impress me.

    Good luck

  8. Sean:

    Honestly, I haven’t sync’ed it yet, but I’ve heard plenty of reports that getting it to work is trivial with Markspace. That’s one of the projects I’m gonna tackle next week. I wanted to make sure I was happy with the MDA again before I committed to $40 to sync it ;-)

  9. But forgot to mention I think you can get a Motorola Q or maybe Samsung i730 (both running Windows Mobile 5), I know it’s windows but they appear to be the best phones with functionality that I’ve found so far. (Thinking of having work move me to a Q soon).

  10. Whatever you do don’t get a Treo.
    I’m not sure about Cingular but all providers I’ve seen disable Bluetooth transfer on the phone. So there is no “syncing” you can do.
    I would say get the BBerry but I haven’t used one… not to fond of the interface compared to my Treo 650(for work) but my friends BBerry is alot stabler than mine.
    I also had to do away with installing extra apps that I just wanted to have because the Treo runs out of memory so easily and the apps I use won’t run/sync on SD card.

    Just my .02.

  11. I’ve had both, and dumped them for the Nokia e61.
    – does exhange syncing with email, cal and contacts (bb connect avail too if needed)
    – pop and imap for gmail, etc, can have multiple accts
    – syncs with address book & ical on mac (10.4.7 requires nova, but it works well)
    – great browser, and fast if you are using it on wlan
    – OS seems like a close fit to OSX. I was tired tired tired of palm and have always been annoyed by bb
    – way better screen than either device above (in my opinion, but I think color depth too)

    Downside – no camera (if you’re into that), lack of software choices vs palm

    I have a production model that I’ve had on cingular since early may.


  12. You’ll probably be really pleased with the Treo 650 (or 700p) for your needs, just don’t forget to purchase Missing Sync, as it allows closer integration with Mac OS X than Palm Desktop which ships with the Treo.

  13. Hi;

    I have a 650 and would recommend it, but I’ll add another wrinkle.

    Work just offered to provide a phone and they use Cingular. Cingular is rumored to be releasing post Treo 700 Palm based devices in a few months. They don’t offer the 700p right now. So, I got a Razr as a tide me over so that I could be functional in the interim.

    A friend at work has the 700p, on Sprint, and thinks it’s great.

  14. Nick I’m working off thee BB 7130 and the Treo 700p, and I have to say for the money the Treo is a clear winner. The 7130’s keyboard is condensed and the unit compensates for it by making the user hit keys multiple times. It’s frikken annoying and slows me down.

  15. I just went through the same selection process and went with the t-mobile MDA (8125 is the equivalent Cingular phone). It pairs great with the Mac as a BT modem. T-Mobile also has a very nice 29/mo all you can eat internet plan including hotspots (starbucks and borders). I bought Missing Sync to do the contacts/todo list syncing and it works great. This app also does entourage syncing. The 8125 and the MDA also have wifi, which makes it great for high speed at the office & home. So far, I’m a big fan.

  16. I’m also in a similar situation. I spent some odd 40 minutes talking to two different branches of Cingular, trying to get this sorted out. by “this” I mean choosing a data plan to “tether” to my mac. From what I’ve seen on the internet, there is a lot of confusion and it can come out costing you a lot. Check out this guy’s article I found amidst my Cingular journey.


    Admittedly, it’s regarding the Cingular 8125 (my drug of choice), but it still deals with carrier issues you may face.

  17. Thanks everyone for the great feedback. I appreciate all the insights and experiences. So far it looks like Treo’s ahead 4-2, which is the way I feel like I’m leaning anyway. But I’m not decided yet.

    I’ll be checking out the informational links posted too – thank you!

    In the meantime, keep the comments coming. and thanks again.

  18. I would strongly recommend the Treo over the Blackberry. I have had two different Blackberry devices, and went back to a Palm Treo after a couple days on each.

    There are several things that the Treo has over the Blackberry:

    – Tons and tons of software available
    – Effortless synching with MarkSpace Missing Sync
    – Easy and fast email with ChatterEmail
    – Games
    – Touchscreen (you don’t know how often this comes in handy!)

    I use my Treo (now 700p) for everything. I even tether it to my mac (wirelessly via bluetooth) and can get online using it as a modem. I have an SSH program on my Treo for remote administration of my server, have SplashWallet for keeping all my data organized, etc.

    Get the Treo.

  19. I’d recommend the Treo over a Blackberry 8000 times. Reason? You can’t use the Blackberry as a modem on your Mac.

    If you must have a BB, look for the 8700 series, not the 7xxx series. They’re vastly improved devices if they’re offered. Battery life / screen and reception.

    I actually ended up using a T-Mobile MDA (with the recent ROM update applied). It works as an EDGE modem over Bluetooth with little to no effort and does everything I need it to do very well, plus there’s so much software out there that if it doesn’t do something, I can easily add the functionality I’m missing.

    Not a fan of the BB for MacOS, even though I am a HUGE fan of the BB overall…

  20. I have had a 700w for about 2 months now, and was very excited about it when I got it. After this amount of time, I have to say that I am not at all pleased with it. The unit will lock up about once every third day with no real warning that it is frozen – the only way I know is it’s not notifying me anymore when mail arrives. The battery, at best, will last a day on a full charge. Finally, the web browser is quite slow in rendering pages – even using Verizon’s EVDO network.

    I’ve never tried a CrackBerry, so I cannot comment on them. if I had the chance to switch now, I’d do it – I don’t think I’d be worse off than I am now.

  21. check out for info on the blackberry. They have a section just for mac users. It appears that the blackberry is not very OS X friendly. And one of the great features of the blackberry is that you can use the data package to connect to thier evdo high speed network for an internet connection and that does not seem to be supported in OS X unless you switch over to parallels to launch the windows app and use IE to connect to the internet… anyways, is the place to go for blackberry information.

    check out for info ont he treo. they also have a dedicated section for mac users.

    both sites are the authority on thier topics…. good luck!

  22. I’ve had a Treo 650 until my company gave me a BlackBerry 8170. If I had to purchase a new phone I would go with the Treo, but the 700 as Jason mentioned above.

    I do like the BlackBerry for it’s very fast browsing (the 8170 uses Cingular’s EDGE network. The 7250 doesn’t), bright screen and push-email.

    However, the Treo’s software is much better, you have several applications, it syncs easier with my MacBook, your can use the Bluetooth for everything (my BlackBerry is locked for anything other than headsets), not to mention the camera.

    I even heard that you know can have push-email on the BlackBerry, but I haven’t tested that myself.

  23. Depends what you really need. If the highest on your list is email/contacts/calendar then blackberry is your ticket, especially with exchange. Browsing is ok. With a Blackeberry exchange server, you never need to synchronize. It is done automatically through the wireless link.
    If you want lots of other apps, then Treo is a better choice.
    I don’t think you can synchronize with more than one machine though, so you are going to have to chose whether it is your work or home machine. To get the same level of synchronization than Blackberry, you can use Goodlink from
    I use a BB 7290 (no speakerphone), but more recent models have one, and better/faster browsing.

  24. I’m in the same spot, trying to find the perfect communications device that will do what I need to do well, but also plays nice with Mac OS X. I’m on T-Mobile, though.

    I’m currently trying out the Treo 650 (I picked one up on eBay) and ChatterEmail with the EX plugin. Unfortunately T-Mobile doesn’t allow the push mechanism to function so I have to set my email to sync/check every 5 minutes. Cingular does allow push this way, though, but you have to call customer care and get them to add some weird coded feature to your account ( ).

    I think if your priority is Mac compatibility then your better option (for now) is Palm. Both the Blackberry and Windows Mobile platforms come with their own slew of problems in terms of synchronization. MarkSpace is attempting to solve some of that (especially with their most recent release), but Missing Sync still leaves a lot to be desires.

  25. Zach McDowell

    I’m not familiar whether the 7130 will pair with your macbook via bluetooth. I for one love my blackberry, and use it with my macbook pro. Its now OSX friendly (free download of pocketmac coutesy of RIM ), the speakerphone is fantastic, the push email is super fast for POP and I sync it with both my mac at home and PC at work. Actually, I don’t even bother with my mac syncing lately because I use Plaxo which automatically updates my address books. If you’re mostly concerned about your outlook calendar, its very easy to sync with a PC, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of pocketmac (haven’t used it much) so I can’t comment about that. Also, the thumbwheel is an excellent nav tool. I hate pulling a pen out to operate my phone. Waste of time!

    I’ve heard nasty things about the 650… but if you can get a 700 I might check that out if I were you, I’ve heard some great things.

  26. My dad has a BlackBerry. Battery life is so-so. It works well with his email (they use Outlook/Exchange/M$ email systems). BlackBerry also supports POP. However, he’s a very Windows-centric user, so he couldn’t care less about Bluetooth.

    I use a Palm T|X, and am planning to get a Treo 650, after using my buddy’s Treo. Very nice phone. There are only limited complaints about it, which are fixed with the latest versions (check out the 700p or 700w to see what you think – more expensive, however). The features are the same between the two models you’ve named for the most part. The thing that is unfortunate about the Treo is the lack of Wi-Fi, from what I can tell. Does the BlackBerry have Wi-Fi? Maybe this isn’t all that important to you.

    The one thing that’s different between the devices that I’ve used is the stylus/touchscreen on the Palm, and the “thumbwheel” on the BlackBerry. As it will be your primary mode of navigation on the device, you’ll want to pick the one that is the easiest for you. Everyone has their preference. Personally, the thumbwheel reminds me of the whacko interfaces of the iPod knockoffs.