Thinking about getting a “SmartPhone” and wondering if it's worth the extra money? I've used a Treo 600 for a few months now, and it's more like a owning a dog than using a phone: I like having it around, it can do a few neat tricks, but there are times I'd like to kick it under the porch.

As a cell phone, the Treo gets a C. It's twice as big and heavy as my old cell. Other SmartPhones like the Samsung i500 have real phone keys, but the Treo makes you tap numbers on the touch screen — a pain. That said, I really don't do a whole lot of dialing by hand anymore, because everyone I want to call is already in my 2,000+ contact ACT! database, loaded on the phone. Combine that with a fully synchronized appointment calendar, and it gets an A.

Phone cameras are the rage, but no flash, no zoom, and a dime store lens means the only time you'll get decent pictures is if you're right next to something in broad daylight. Fun for kids, not much use for remodelers. The grade here is a D.

Web browsing on a cell phone might seem like a great idea – look up a map while driving, or get weather reports in real time. Problem is, Web sites that reformat themselves for the tiny screen are few and far between. Hopefully this will improve: E for Effort.

The best “smart” feature? Mobile e-mail and text messaging. Even with a small screen, it's readable enough to be useful, and I can dash off brief responses during time that would otherwise be totally wasted. Here, another A.

Overall, the Treo scores about a B-. Good enough that I'm not going back to a plain cell phone. And they get better all the time. By the time you read this, the highly tweaked Treo 650 will be available from most carriers, and by next year, you'll see a much faster cellular network and even smarter SmartPhones to run on it. —Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. Contact him at