At the Digital Life conference in New York, Palm finally unveiled the long-rumored "low-cost" Treo: the Treo 680. The 680 is to be the first antenna-less Treo expected to be available in the US. Additionally, the 680 is to come in 4 different colors.
Both CEO Ed Colligan and Senior Treo Product Manager Phil McClendon discussed Palm's thinking behind the design of the Treo 680, gave a demonstration of the product itself, and then answered questions from the press. Although Colligan did not announce pricing or availability, Palm's press release states that they expect to have 20 carriers online by June 1, 2007. With any luck at all, we'll see a major US GSM carrier have the 680 in about a month.
TreoCentral will have video of the device and our interview with Palm employees about the device over the weekend. In the meantime, check out our impressions and photos.
The Treo 680 is the exact same shape as the recently released Treo 750v. Clocking in at 111mm x 58mm x 22mm and 157 grams - one millimeter thinner and 23 grams (1 ounce) lighter than other 700 series Treos.
Unlike the black look of the Treo 750v, the Treo 680 goes back to the Handspring Visor days, Palm colored the casing of the Treo 680 artic (white), graphite (grey), copper (a rust orange), and crimson (bright red). The artic looks like it will dirty quickly, but will appeal to the ipod crowd and the graphite looks like any other Treo. The copper and crimson are gorgeous new colors with a very metallic sheen reminiscent of the Visor Edge colorings. Absent is the soft touch finish of the Treo 750v, which would have provided a more luxurious feel. These colors provide a beautiful and comfortable consumer hands on experience.
Inside, The Treo 680 is completely different from the Treo 750v. It uses the same 320x320 resolution display and 312 Mhz PXA270 Intel processor that the Treo 650 uses, but uses a better performing quad-band GSM and EDGE (but not UMTS/HSDPA like the Treo 750v) radio. This new radio is courtesy of Inventec, which is making its first Treo for Palm (Inventec has previously created PDAs for Palm). Ed Colligan claimed that the relationship with HTC is still good, saying "you work with competitors all the time in this industry."
The battery is the same 1200mAh battery used in the Treo 750v. The sim card is underneath the battery. No reset button exists, as removing the battery and replacing it performs a reset. 64 MB of memory is user accessible, as well as 64 MB of SDRAM for program memory. A low-light capable VGA camera is on back. The Treo as always includes a top ringer switch, side volume buttons and action key, a side SD card slot, and a Athena multi-connector on the bottom.
The Treo 680 is based off PalmOS's garnet - a slightly updated version from the 700p, now 5.49. So, the Palm WiFi card will not be supported; neither will Bluetooth voice dialing, or Bluetooth stereo, or SD cards above 2 gigs, and so on.
One interesting side note, when asked about future Palm OS Treos, Colligan commented only that "We are committed to the compatibility with the PalmOS applications."
One neat new feature to the 680 is that when you press and hold the "home" button a pop-up of recent applications comes up.
New Phone Application
Heading up the new features of the 680 is a new phone application. The new phone app features a simplified, tabbed interface. The Main view displays wallpaper and upcoming appointments. Of course, the Main view, like the other phone views, displays the standard PalmOS indicator bar at the top with battery life, mail indicators, and signal strength.
Palm has also updated and simplified the favorites view. Now it is a single vertical list of favorites - though this time there is no limit to the number of favorites you can create.
The Phone application also includes a now-integrated contacts screen - Contacts is no longer a separate app. Another new feature is "abbreviated dialing", which allows you to dial common numbers automatically and then simply add the extension at the end (i.e. for inter-company calls).
Finally, the views and buttons shown during an active call have changed - the buttons are slightly smaller. The trade-off is that the 680 now features significantly improved conference calling features.
Included Apps similar to the 700p
The Treo 680 now features Versamail 3.5, an upgrade over the 650 but apparently identical to the version of Versamail found on the 700p. It's features include full Exchange sync for email, calendars, and contacts as well as "smart addressing" - which is autocomplete feature not dependent on what's in contacts.
The 680 also includes Docs to Go 8, which includes full Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and PDF support. The Multimedia application is also the same as what's found on the 700p - including the multimedia app and Kinoma's movie player.
PocketTunes is also included. Palm announced that they're going to be offering a "bundle" package that will include a free month of Yahoo! Music Unlimited, a 1 gig card for music, a set of headphones for listening to music, and of course a copy of PocketTunes Deluxe (to support the DRM'ed files from Yahoo).
Third Party Apps
Palm also demo'ed several third party apps. The most prominent of which is the just-announced Google Maps for PalmOS. It works well on both the 680 and the 700p, offering normal map views, satellite views, and realtime traffic.
Palm also showed a preview of an upcoming movie that will apparently feature the Treo more prominently than it already was in Snakes on a Plane. The movie stars Russell Crowe -- still unknown as the time of publication is whether or not Crowe uses the Treo to beat anybody up.
Palm understandably tried to focus much of the attention of the day on their new marketing focus (understandably because the specs didn't wow anybody). Palm is trying to aim the 680 primarily at the consumer market. Palm emphasized they did emphasize that all of the above would be decided with an eye towards making the 680 appeal to the "Mobile accomplisher" instead of the "Prosumer"
To that end, as mentioned above, Palm is introducing several colors at launch. They've also attempted to make the phone features more "phone-like."
Ed Colligan stated during his speech that Palm is trying to "Think pockets, not processors." Pockets which have compared holding the Treo with holding the T-Mobile Dash, Motorola Q, and the upcoming Samsung i320; all declined to comment.
In any case, Palm is teaming up with Yahoo and eBay to launch a large ad campaign to promote the various uses of the Treo 680. They want to show how it is "More relevant to more people."
So there you have it, a GSM Quad Band Treo 680 available in about a month. The Treo 600 Version 5 -- **cough** -- we mean Treo 680 does, in fact, feel much better in the hand. It's a perfectly good entry-level Treo with a strong suite of bundled apps for a positive out-of-the-box experience. Hopefully Palm's consumer-minded approach to the marketing of the device will expand the smartphone market to people who otherwise would be buying a Sidekick.
Palm's strength is software and they have to recognize that their hardware isn't cutting edge. But if they can convey the idea of the "Palm Experience" to consumers, they might just have a hit on their hands despite the slightly-larger form factor.
Discuss the Treo 680 in our new Treo 680 forum