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Treo 600 by Handspring

Treo 600 by Handspring

I have to admit I'm a bit biased toward Handspring products. But it's hard to be mean to a company that sends really cool things to me. This month I'll be reviewing the long awaited Treo 600.

Wireless aficionados who have been anxiously waiting for a completely updated version of the handheld/phone combo will not have to wait much longer. Last month Handspring announced the rollout of the Treo smart phone. This model is significantly different than its predecessors.

Notable changes are that this model runs the Palm 5 operating system and has a digital camera. In addition, unlike previous Handspring models, this one includes an SD/MMC slot on its top. This is compatible with the SDIO standard, which means the Treo 600 will be able to utilize non-memory peripherals designed to fit into the SD slot, such as wireless networking cards. In plain English, it's really cool.

Updated Keyboard
The Treo 600 has the flip-phone style of its predecessors, although it's a bit smaller. The most significant changes are that Handspring has included a new QWERTY mini-keyboard, which I still find a bit cumbersome. The keyboard is sure to be a source of debate. In addition to going with a new style, Handspring (which is in the process of being acquired by Palm) has revamped the Treo's buttons, making it easier to use the phone with only one hand. There's even a dedicated Home button, which was sorely missing from the original.

Buckling to public opinion, Handspring has made the keys larger, while shrinking the space between them. According to Handspring, a domed key shape and carefully crafted layout makes typing fast and simple. Each key on the Treo 600 has more surface area than those on existing Treo products, and letters and numbers have been enlarged for better readability.

Even so, the keyboard is useful for writing only the smallest of sentences - and only while in a totally stationary position. You can forget about it if you're on a subway or driving in a car. For making calls, you'll probably go with the on-screen dialing pad ID if you want to cut down on wrong numbers. Officially, in user testing for speed and accuracy of text input, the Treo 600 performed on par with RIM's BlackBerry keyboard and significantly faster than Graffiti handwriting recognition, found in most Palm OS handhelds, and T-9, the text input method found in most mobile phones.

Cool Features
Other than the display, this Treo competes nicely with other Palm handhelds. Installed with the Palm OS 5.2 with 32MB of built-in RAM, the Treo 600 boasts a faster 144MHz ARM processor, a new Web browser for full Internet surfing and secure access to corporate intranets, and a built-in color VGA camera.

The camera will be capable of taking color images at up to 640X480 pixels (VGA). Users will also find an SDIO expansion slot at the top of the unit, allowing the addition of memory or possibly an SDIO device such as a Bluetooth adapter. Finally, the Treo 600 has all the latest phone features, including MMS, two-way SMS, picture caller ID, and a speakerphone.

On the downside, if you're into MP3 playback, the Treo 600 sports a smaller, non-standard stereo jack that requires an adapter to accommodate regular headphones. Also, the Treo's display leaves you a bit wanting. Although the LCD is brighter, it supports only 4,096 colors (12 bit) and by today's standards, the screen resolution remains low at 160X160 with a dot-pitch of .27. The screen is 2.7 inches when measured diagonally.

The upside of the average display is increased battery life. If you're only interested in Web surfing or sending and receiving e-mail, the average screen resolution is hardly noticeable. Buyers who have been spoiled by the high resolution of other new Palms and CLIEs will be disappointed. If you are a gamer or really into images and video, the Treo 600 may not be what you're looking for.

Since the display was traded for battery life, the Treo 600 will include a rechargeable battery offering an amazing 1800mAh. This will give the GSM/GPRS version six hours of talk/online time and the CDMA over five hours. Handspring says it can be used for up to two weeks on standby.

Final Thoughts
It's amazing to me how digital convergence has affected the once boring cellphone. Only a few years ago, cellphones were made for calling, and that's all. They have truly become the Swiss Army knife of recent times. It makes you wonder where it will all end. After all, how many digital devices can be combined into one unit? I for one am anxious to find out.

The Treo 600 will be available in late autumn, but Handspring is keeping quiet about its carrier partners. No official price has been announced yet, but Handspring has indicated that the convergent device will cost no more than $550 in the United States or possibly less, depending on carrier subsidies.


Company info
Handspring develops the Treo family of communicators and organizers, the Visor family of handheld computers, the Springboard expansion platform, the Blazer Web browser and BlueSky proxy server systems, the Treo Mail e-mail application, and a selection of Springboard modules.
Handspring, Inc.
189 Bernardo Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043-5203
(650) 230-5000

More Stories By Bob Hendry

Bob Hendry is a PowerBuilder instructor for Envision Software Systems and a frequent speaker at national and international PowerBuilder conferences. He specializes in PFC development and has written two books on the subject, including Programming with the PFC 6.0.

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Most Recent Comments
Mike Compeau 07/28/03 11:43:00 PM EDT


Uh, better check those facts again...