October 25, 2004

Treo 650 Announcements & Specs

Both PC Magazine and PC World have details on the forthcoming Treo 650. As I've mentioned, this is a compelling improvement to an already best-of-breed device. Some of the former Treos' shortcomings were actually on the phone side of the equation, and the 650 looks to get it right this time out:

"[...] the Palm OS-based Treo 650 boasts a sharp, 320-by-320 color screen that should be readable in sunlight. The 600's screen resolution was 160 by 160, and it was difficult to read in sunlight. In addition, the 650 features a removable rechargeable lithium ion battery (the 600's battery, while long-lived for a PDA/phone hybrid, could not be swapped out). The new model also has nonvolatile flash memory, meaning you don't lose important data if the battery runs down."
The lack of flash memory and a swappable battery always bothered me about its former generations. Regular cell phones have had data protection and removable batteries for years. With the added Bluetooth support for wireless headsets, it now looks to be much better as a phone. For business users, the new Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync capability (per PC World) will hopefully help with Exchange/Oulook integration. While there's no Wi-Fi, the faster processor and added Edge support (for the GSM version -- doubling the data speed of the previous GPRS version) should both add up to improved data speed performance.

Although, I find it curious that neither of these reports, nor others I've seen, mention the new web browser's features in any way. The new Blazer 4.0 browser looks to be quite impressive as PDA browsers go. Per palmOne, it supports: "Internet standards HTML 4.01, xHTML 1.0, cHTML, WML 1.3, SSL 3.0, HTTP 1.1, JavaScript 1.5, CSS 1.0 and 2.0 (partial), GIF, animated GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP and Cookies." "Blazer is a dual-view browser, capable of adjusting the layout of web pages to fit the device screen as well as displaying web pages as they would appear in a standard desktop browser." Several other improvements include the ability to save HTML files locally to an expansion card and "VPN support Ability to turn VPN on from within the browser allowing you to access secure Intranet sites (VPN software not included)."

Perhaps the lack of browser mention reflects the perception that PDA web-browsing usually left something to be desired. With the exception of ActiveX support because it's not Windows-based (which from a security standpoint is a very good thing), Blazer 4.0 sounds to be one of the most robust handheld browsers to date. Most likely the continued drawback is the small screen for browsing. The increased screen resolution (more detail and smaller fonts possible) and the ability to reflow web pages just might help compensate for the form factor.

I also noted that the keyboard is now laid out in a slight "smile" curve and the buttons are somewhat flatter -- both to supposedly make data entry easier. Overall, the Treo 650 looks to be a real winner with the many refinements made. Even as a standalone smartphone it's impressive, but its real value lies in the integration -- having it fully hooked up to and synchronized with your groupware data (e-mail, calendar, address book, etc.). With a compatible VPN client, accessing intranet pages would be a nice plus.

palmOne has a number of Treo 650 photos on display.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard