Palm’s fans are almost as fiercely loyal as Apple’s, but even they’ve had to admit the creator of the classic Pilot PDA has lost its way. As it to provide physical confirmation of its irrelevance, last year it even produced a smartphone without a touchscreen.

Not only that, it’s started putting Windows Mobile into its best-specced phones rather than the Palm OS. Sure, Palm’s operating system was showing its age, but it’s always been a more elegant, leaner OS than Windows Mobile, which powers its latest handset – the Treo Pro.

Best-looking Palm

It’s not all bad news from the 750v’s successor though. The Treo Pro is slimmer than previous Palms, and with a compact but well-spaced full QWERTY keypad, texting is a breeze.

True, the new BlackBerry Bold is easier to type on but this phone is narrower and a much better width for making calls, plus there’s a handy dedicated full stop key.

The flush screen is bright and colourful, not to mention touch-sensitive, and the signature Palm touch – a slide switch to mute the phone’s ringer – is on board. The home screen has had a modern make-over and looks impressive, all the way down to the Google text box that takes you straight to the web.

Good connections

So far, so good. Then there are the phone’s capabilities: this is the first Palm with Wi-Fi and only the second with 3G. There’s a side button which neatly launches wireless and sniffs out networks, connecting if it can.

Sooner or later, there’s no avoiding this, you have to use Windows Mobile. It’s usually a monotonously slow and tedious OS, but oddly feels a little faster than usual here. And the addition of the full keypad means it’s a bit more pleasant writing a document on the Treo Pro, not to mention sending a text.

Shiny happy stylus

Windows Mobile usually requires a stylus and there’s a decent, chrome-covered one that slides in and out easily. You needn’t struggle with the tiny corner cross icon to close programs either – the dedicated ‘ok’ key works here too.

Naturally, It’s not all roses. Since Samsung was routinely putting 3megapixel cameras into its phones more than a year ago, it seems strange that Palm can only manage 2megapixels now, and without flash or a self-portrait mirror too. True, the chrome circle on the back looks cool, but even so.

Still, there’s GPS to soften the blow, and in tests it got hold of the satellite signal pretty quickly. The limited memory can also, as you’d expect, be expanded with a microSD card.

Despite our fears, then, this is one of the best Windows Mobile handsets around and full of handy details like the way Wi-Fi switches off to save battery if it’s idle. All we want now is a Palm OS version.


Stuff says... 

Palm Treo Pro review

The best-looking Palm yet and one of the finest Windows Mobile smartphones around. If only it had Palm’s OS