PalmOne’s New Treo Tweaks Winning Formula

Gadget geeks got a rush today when PalmOne officially announced its latest smartphone, the Treo 650, a year after its Treo 600 debuted and a week after it accidentally leaked its own press release on the product.

Despite the interest in the new device — rumors of its features began popping up on Web sites months ago — analysts and aficionados agree that the 650, which has not been significantly redesigned, is not a great leap ahead of the 600 in functionality.

“I would say it is more incremental, though the improvements are many: better resolution screen, Bluetooth, devoted phone buttons, improved keyboard, and many others that make the 650 better than the 600, but not nearly as much of a leap as was the 600 from its predecessors,” Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research, told TechNewsWorld.

Power on the Go

The new smartphone is targeted at mobile workers and combines a mobile phone with e-mail, a Palm OS 5.4 organizer, messaging, digital camera with video capabilities and Web access with 23 MB of memory. Users can also buy a separate MP3 player card. It will be available for either CDMA or a GSM/GPRS networks. So far, Sprint and AT&T Wireless have announced that they will carry the device, which is expected to be available in time for the holiday retail season.

AT&T offers a nationwide EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution), which it claims is twice as fast as Sprint Vision service.

Price will be set by the carriers and has not been announced. PalmOne sells the Treo 600 for $349.


PalmOne said headsets, Bluetooth car kits and other accessories will be available as well. The 650 is also capable of desktop and laptop syncing. In addition, the device can transform into a Bluetooth modem for wireless Internet access through a laptop or other PDA.

Despite the excitement from Treo enthusiasts, Golvin said consumers are not the main market for this device.

The most likely buyer, he said, is the “high end consumer/enterprise worker who has the need for mobile e-mail, tools for calendar and contact management, and is more inclined to function than fashion.”

Thinking Ahead

While the new Treo has improved screen quality and the ability to capture and send video and browse the Web, the day when the mass market will stream multimedia content on smartphones has not yet arrived.

“As network speeds improve, the experience begins to more resemble TV in a way that consumers find familiar, the set of available content expands and pricing schemes become more flexible, video services will become more mainstream,” Golvin said. “All of these things will take a number of years to obtain, so I don’t expect streaming video to be an activity the mainstream consumer engages in for four or five years.”

The 650 also has a removable lithium ion battery –allowing users to carry an extra and swap them out — and power efficiencies have improved talk time. The CDMA version stays charged for five hours of talk, and 300 hours of standby; the GSM version offers six hours of talk time and 300 hours of standby.

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