Well, now that I've dwelled on the keyboard for an overly long amount of time, let's go into the rest of the phone. Don't worry - It gets a lot better from here.
If there's one thing the Treo is loaded with in spades, it's style. The Treo got many a look from co-workers and passers-by as they saw me using it. We don't need any trendy interchangeable phone plates or leather cases for this one. It's attractive all on its own.
One very nice feature that Treo included that works very well is the screen cover. Most cellPDA manufacturers have had a difficult time coping with the fact that when you're gonna use the phone, you're gonna get your greasy, grimy, geeky cheek all over the screen. That's not to say that the possibility is gone with the Treo, because it's not, but it's far less likely due to the construction of the phone, and the way you'll wind up holding it. I always felt like the phone was fragile when I was talking to people on it, so I held it by the screen lid between my thumb and my least two fingers. It was pretty stable there, and my cheek never touched the screen. On the downside, though, the edges of the phone can feel kind of sharp against your ear when you apply pressure on the phone lid…and the speaker is so tiny that you might have to slide the phone around a good bit on your ear before you can hear it. This led to some definite comfort issues. I think Handspring could've improved this slightly by making a thin black rubberized edge around the lid. This would have helped seal dust from getting inside while the lid is closed, and it'd keep your ears from getting sliced.
Of course, you can circumvent the speaker/lid problems altogether and use the included custom earpiece. The Treo 180 comes with an earphone plug with a small bob dangling about a foot down from the speaker. On one side of this "bob" is the microphone for the Treo. Don't let the size fool you - It'll hear you. I'm generally a pretty quiet speaker on the phone, and nobody had a problem hearing me when I was using this.
On the other side is a small button, which you can use to answer your calls. A unique feature found in the Treo 180 is the ability to control how your calls get handled without the caller's knowledge. Let's say someone calls you - You've got four options. You can answer the phone by hitting the button on the bob. You can tell the phone to ignore the call and just continue ringing on the caller's end, while it won't make any noise on your end. Also, you can send it immediately to voicemail. The fourth option is, of course, to do absolutely nothing, and to be content in your decision of inaction.
The earpiece was functionally good. I'm not sure if it also behaves as an antenna extension when plugged in, though, as most portable radios do. If this is the case, then this might need to go back to the drawing board. Whenever the earpiece was plugged in, my reception was consistently shot to hell. If I unplugged the earpiece and resumed normal talking, it worked fine.
A third conversational option exists in the speakerphone system. I didn't test this a lot though, primarily because the speaker couldn't get loud enough, and there didn't seem to be an easy way to enable/disable speakerphone without pulling out the stylus. A keyboard shortcut would've been highly useful.
The Treo 180 features a jog dial, not unlike the Kyocera QCP-6035. Like the Kyocera, however, it doesn't serve as much functionality as it could. It primarily serves as a phone support tool, where it works well. To quick-dial numbers that you've set up in advance, simply push in the shuttle to turn the phone on (or open the lid), select the number, and push the shuttle in again to dial it. The Treo 180 took fewer steps to accomplish this than the Kyocera did, which was good. Unfortunately, you only get ten primary quick-dials before you have to scroll the screen. You can store fifty speed dials in all, but honestly, it's not really a "speed dial" if you spent thirty seconds scrolling through names to dial, is it?
The Treo surpasses the Kyocera in speed dial functionality, though I would've liked to see better implementation of the jog dial, similarly to what Handera's 330 does. With the Handera, you can select and start apps with the shuttle on the Home screen, and also give OK/Cancel responses with it. The Treo simply scrolls the apps page, but you can't start apps one-handedly.
At the top of the feature are the ringer/power controls, the antenna, the Infrared transceiver, and the power/service indicator. Not really a lot to say here, except about the power switch. Its operation is rather…inconsistent. From the manual, one push turns on the phone. If the phone is on, one push turns it off. Two pushes turn on/off the reverse backlight, and holding the button activates/deactivates the antenna. I frequently found myself powering the phone off or disabling the antenna when I simply was trying to activate the backlight, though. It was rather problematic. Your mileage may vary, of course. Oh…and let's not forget that while the backlighting makes the screen visible, it does not make the keyboard visible. This oversight has been remedied in the forthcoming Treo 270, which offers a backlit keyboard.
Battery life seemed rather short to me, though when I checked it against a clock, it figured right around its specified time of 2.5 talk-time hours, and around 4 days of inactive transmitter. That's a good bit shorter than the Kyocera, which offers 4 talk-time hours and 150 standby hours. You'll definitely need to keep this phone on the charger when you get the opportunity. Since the Treo doesn't include a cradle, but instead uses a charging cable, you'll probably need to make a conscious effort to plug it in regularly, instead of just dropping it in the cradle like you would a Visor.