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Monday
Oct252004

Treo 650 Thoughts

Now that the PalmOne Treo 650 is official, I wanted to share a few thoughts.

Treo 650I should start out with the disclaimer that I don't own a "smartphone" device and probably will not buy the Treo 650, though as a PDA and mobile phone user, I certainly have opinions about converged devices.

That's not to say I would never consider a Treo 650. It's just that since I spend most of my time at home, working or relaxing, I've no urgent need for a converged device. If I worked away from home and spent more time in a mobile state, a combo device might be more attractive.

Form Factor
First off, I think PalmOne has a good handle on the size of the device and screen. I see that the Treo 650 retains the 600's form factor, which is a plus. Personally, I prefer a phone that's small enough to be unobtrusive, but large enough that it's proportional to my head for talking. It should also have a readable screen. While ultra-tiny phones do have their fans and uses, I'm a small-to-regular-phone kinda guy.

Screen
I think the screen resolution is a plus, though probably a requirement now, more than an option for PalmOne. I'm a firm believer in hi-res, especially after spending time this weekend reading Quicksilver on my Tungsten E. I can't believe how pleasant it is to read ebooks on a high-res device.

Thumbboard
From what I hear, the Treo 600 thumb-board was a winner. The Treo 650 builds on this success with a curved layout. I don't know if PalmOne's deal with Blackberry has anything to do with the curvyness, though it visually looks more organic and useful. I still recall my initial resistance to the thumbboard on a Treo 180 I tried briefly, and how by the end of my month-long test, I missed the thumboard. Not everyone likes the thumboard, but, for most it's a nice option, once they adapt.

Battery
Finally a device with a removable battery! I feel this should be de-facto on PalmOne devices, though I do believe low-end devices will not see this option, simply because it requires more engineering time and manufacturing quality control. But I can hope. I don't know how well the 650's battery life will compare to the 600, but it better at least match the 600 if not improve upon it. We'll have to wait and see.

Bluetooth
Bluetooth, finally! I'm glad to see Bluetooth in the 650. I think this will continue in popularity, as long as clueless, controlling carriers don't switch it off. Bluetooth should help the Treo in Europe, where it is very popular, and here in the States, where it's gaining a following.

WiFi (or lack therof)
I am, however, very bummed about the lack of built in WiFi. I suspect it to do with the launch deadline, and the carriers, who see WiFi as a threat to their own wireless services. But it's even worse, since PalmOne's own WiFi card will not work in the Treo 650. On top of that, I suspect PalmOne has no impetus to make it work, because of carrier pressure to the contrary. Hopefully PalmOne's users will goad them into offering a driver patch so the WiFi card will work.

This is a real shame, because WiFi, in combination with other wireless technologies is a happening technology. I think PalmOne has missed a big opportunity here. I'll just say this — when one of your chief competitors (cough, Microsoft) is adding WiFi as a basic feature to most all their devices, you should take notice. Enuf said.

Camera
Too bad about the low-res camera. I hear it can take a better quality photos, even so, the 650 is already trailing far behind dumbphones with 1.3 MP onboard cameras. Guess that's being saved for the Treo 700, but by then common dumbphones will have 3.0 MP cameras onboard. Let's go here, PalmOne!

RAM
The 32MB RAM onboard seems pretty paltry, especially on the heels of the very well stocked Tungsten T5. I think a smartphone user needs as much RAM as a T5 user, if not more. If you figure that Treo owners are on the road constantly, lots-o-RAM would like a useful feature, no? RAM is quite cheap now, so c'mon PalmOne, give us more RAM!

Overall
In general, I think the Treo 650 is a positive evolutionary step up from the Treo 600, which was already a nice device. PalmOne's old Handspring folk have been at this smartphone thing for a long time, and even as far back as the Treo 180s, "get it" about integration of the PDA and phone functions.

Too bad about the misses on lack of WiFi, wimpy RAM and the cheesy camera. Unfortunately, the Treo 650 doesn't live in a vacuum, and these flaws will count against it. How much they will count against the 650? We'll see.

Part of the equation lies in the hands of buyers, but most lies in the hands of carriers, who value money and control. If the 650 can continue build on the success of the 600 and become popular, it could build a lead against Microsoft and Symbian/Nokia. But I think it is an uphill battle.

PalmOne's dream scenario: users making the Treo 650 popular in the same way the Apple iPod has its gained dedicated fans. With enough user-directed momentum, maybe the Treo can gather steam and hold off its competitors long enough for the next revision. Or maybe not.

As is the case with things hi-tech, we'll have to wait and see. The smartphone world is a complex and not always logical place, so it ought to be fun to watch. ;-)

Reader Comments (1)

Ian, thanks for the comments. I do strongly feel a device is based very much on your use and circumstances. For you, a mobile device is essential, while for me, it isn't.

I have access to high-speed net connections and Macs or PCs all day long � if that changed and I was more mobile, I do think a Treo might interest me. But for now, my pay-as-yo-go Kyocera works perfectly. :-)
October 29, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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