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Treo 680

Wed Nov 22, 2006 - 12:09 AM EST - By Mike Overbo

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Would you recommend Treo 680?
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Product Info
> Name Treo 680
> Company Palm, Inc
> Size 4.4" x 2.3" x 0.8"
> Wireless Radio Quad Band GSM capable of Class 10 GPRS/EDGE
> Bluetooth 1.2
> Screen 320x320 TFT touchscreen
> Memory 128mb (64 user available)
> Processor Intel PXA270
> Operating System Palm OS 5.4.9
> Weight 157 Grams
> Fact Sheet & User Opinions
> Available

Software and Loose Ends

Other Applications

Documents to Go v8

With the previous versions of Documents ToGo, you had to convert files to PDB format and install them on the Treo expansion card via hotsync. Documents to Go v8 removes that limitation, and you can edit them in their standard formats directly, a welcome change. The application is also loaded on the ROM image, which means that you will not lose this important application if you lose your install CD. Another welcome addition to Documents ToGo v8 is the addition of Adobe PDF support -- now including the ability to view images within pdfs.

PocketTunes aka Ptunes

The Treo 680 is bundled with PocketTunes (pTunes), which is a full-featured music playing application. It supports playback and creation of mp3 playlists, streaming audio, different skins, and there is a full version which allows you to play music from the endangered PlaysForSure music stores. If you used a Treo 650, it will be a welcome replacement for RealPlayer.

Voice Memo

From the "I don't know why they ever removed it" department is the return of Voice Memo, which shipped with the Palm Tungsten series of PDAs. The memos don't sound great, but they sound significantly better than not being able to do voice memos. You can send memos to others via email, Bluetooth, or SMS / text messaging. You can also use your voice memos as ringtones.

My Treo

My Treo is a Cingular-branded support application, though I expect unbranded versions to be available for the unlocked 680s as well. It includes an assortment of useful information and functions as on-board help for the device. There's a fairly complete troubleshooting section, support, tips, and an online update component. Overall, I'm very impressed with this new application and it actually answered some questions for this relative Treo expert.

Another great help option is also being unveiled with the 680: 90 days of free support directly from Palm, geared to help new users with email questions, web questions, and the like.

So What's Still Missing?

The Treo 680 still lacks support for some basic feature phone abilities: you can't initiate a call with your voice -- you need a shareware program called VoiceDialIt to do that. Many feature phones offer the ability to initiate a call from a Bluetooth headset -- that is not a possibility with the Treo 680 even with an extra program.

There is not any capability of Wi-Fi either internally or via SD card. It's not possible to rule out 3rd party support, but it's not likely to be found in the near future.

The reset button has been removed -- replacing its functionality is you, taking the battery out and putting it back in again.

PalmOS does not support multitasking, though I am pleased to report that you can play songs smoothly in the background with PocketTunes.

Ages ago, Palm and BlackBerry announced that BlackBerry connect would be available on the Treo. A client was released for Treo 650 users on Cingular. Its availability for the Treo 680 is "being evaluated."

What's it got?

  • stability -- Windows Mobile users take note.
  • the standard occasional lag and resulting pileup of button presses
  • the UI is still great
  • bluetooth performance is similar to the 750v -- better than the 650 and 700 series.

Expanding the Pie

A lot of the specs mentioned in this review are going to be meaningless if Palm succeeds in what they have said they intend to do with the Treo 680. Palm has consistently talked about "expanding the pie" with this phone -- they want to bring new users to the smartphone market, instead of just convincing current smartphone users to upgrade to this phone. They want your mother to think about purchasing one. They want you to wonder if you could get a Treo 680 instead of a laptop. Generally, pushes like this are accomplished by managing cost of a device and by marketing. This is a good marketing strategy -- various market research firms put the number of smartphone users between 25% and 30% around 2010 or 2011, as opposed to the 2% it is today.

Instead of talking about enterprise features like VPNs, LDAP, push email, BlackBerry connect, and the like; Palm, Cingular, A&R Edelman (Palm's new PR company), and Y&R (Palm's new ad agency) will be talking about what an ordinary consumer can do with this device -- browse the web, make todo/shopping lists, purchase things from Amazon or eBay and the like.

For Palm to be successful with their push, this phone has to be affordable, acceptable to a feature phone user, and stable. The phone admirably fulfills those three requirements. It doesn't have to multitask; the market for this phone doesn't have to be told that PalmOS is a dinosaur of old times or be told about "FrankenGarnet." They just have to be told "it costs $199 with a 2 year contract with Cingular," and after checking out Cingular's smartphone offerings, I'll wager that plenty of people will bite. And this $199 is effectively the introductory $6,000-for-a-Playstation-3 price -- it will go down with time. The Q, for example, cost $199 when it came out earlier this year -- it's now $99.

What if you've already had a piece of Pie?

In other words, what if you already have a Treo 650? Well, the Treo 650 was very much the first truly successful smartphone (besides possibly a blackberry). The 680 refines what was already present in the 650, and is pretty much a drop-in replacement for it, spec-for-spec. Beyond the form factor, its improvements over the 650 are subtle. It brings new bundles of software, an optimized user interface and user experience, and continued refinement of the PalmOS / Access platform. The reduced price point is a also big plus ($250 less!).

There are some things that I wish would have been better -- especially the battery life and camera -- but the application upgrades and bundles balance that wish somewhat. It's unfortunate, but there's no single thing that really makes it a 'must-have' upgrade for a Treo 650 user... but it's enough of an upgrade to make me doubt what I just typed a little bit. I vastly prefer it to the Treo 650.

Conclusion >>

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