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I like the Treo 680

Sat Oct 14, 2006 - 6:48 PM EDT - By Dieter Bohn

Hold the Phone

Update: A full photo gallery is now up.

Treo People and Non-Treo People

During the Q&A session, we were a little hard on Palm. The word "brick" was brought up. Comparisons to some of the newer, thin Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition phones were made. Complaints about WiFi were brought up. Over the course of two days as I conversed with all sorts of Treo people we talked about the specs, about what was wrong, what was missing.

But in the airport on the way home something happened that I have to share. While waiting for my flight a woman noticed me using my Treo and asked about it. She was thinking that she'd like to be able to do email on her phone. As I've done dozens of times before, I smiled and started to show her all the neat features on my Treo. I talked up the QWERTY keyboard. I raved about its simplicity. I recommended the PalmOS to her as an OS that's intuitive and easy.

Here's the thing: I'm a Treo guy. I spend a lot of time talking to Treo gals and guys. We have something in common that isn't usually brought up because it's just sort of assumed: The Treo is still the best combination of PDA and phone available. Period. When I talk to other Treo folks we sometimes jump right into little niggles about this or that because, well, a conversation about stuff that you agree on completely gets a little boring.

What's my point? I like the Treo 680. Is it the phone for me? Nope. I need my high speed data. Is it the phone for my mom? Yes. Is it the phone for my buddy who's getting tired of using T9 for texting? Yes. In point of fact, it's the phone for a very large group of people I know - people who've seen my various Treos and were impressed but still wanted something a little more approachable.

The Shiny

Let's face it - most people don't look at which version of Bluetooth a phone has, or what operating system it's running, or whether it supports DUN, or just how many kbps the data speed can get. Most people look for "The Shiny." In those terms, I think the 680 is sitting pretty. As pretty as that copper-colored version.

The different colors are important in making this a compelling consumer phone. I can't tell you how many pink RAZRs I see these days. I was actually hoping for a pink Treo myself, but oh well. Just think about how successful Apple has been in changing the colors of their iPod minis.


The new phone app also feels much more user-friendly. For my friends who have been impressed by my Treos but intimidated by it's complexity, the simplified phone view should actually make a big difference. With my current Treos, when somebody asks to borrow my phone I often find myself saying "hold on, let me show you how to use it." With the 680, there's a big "Dial Pad" button right there on the screen.

The new price should be cheap - I'm not making predictions here but I'm hoping we'll be pleasantly surprised.

It is a bit thicker than some of the competition, but there are plenty of features which offset that - such as the touchscreen. Also, it's not just about thinness, it's about comfort. I think that the Treo 680 is more comfortable in the hand than the MotoQ. The Treo is more phone and less slab.

If Palm's upcoming ad campaign is successful, I don't think that extra thickness will matter. Let's assume that Palm can make people understand that a touchscreen really is important. If they can, then do they win the form factor battle? Yes, yes they do.

The 680 IS smaller


Toward the end of our interview with Senior Treo Product Manager Phil McClendon, the 680 was set down next to a 700p. Looking at them side by side, I suddenly realized that the physical experience of the Treo 680 is nothing at all like the experience of seeing it in a picture. Straight on photos make it appear to be nothing more than a 700p with the antenna chopper off. Reading off the specs tells you only that the 680 is just a little thinner - but that "just a little thinner" is at its thickest point. What you're not seeing is that there are all kinds of improvements in the form factor:

  • The phone is significantly thinner at the bottom - the keyboard angles in
  • The curves of the phone are much improved - the width at the widest may be similar, but the Treo is much more "oval" instead of "square."
  • Every little bit of weight counts. The 680 really does feel lighter.

I commented on being surprised by the difference to McClendon and he agreed. That's to be expected, I suppose. Then, however, he said something that really resonated with me: If you close your eyes and hold the two different Treos, they really do feel radically different.

Folks: He's right.

The Treo 680 is not a brick. Yes, it is thicker than the MotoQ and the T-Mobile Dash. I occasionally feel stymied by that difference. Why so thick? Surely the touch screen and the better battery life isn't enough to account for that, is it? The more I think about it, the more I actually think it is. I'm not willing to give up a touch screen.

The Treo 680 is .8 inches thick - at it's thickest (it feels slimmer, though, as I said above). Let's look at other touchscreen smartphones with full QWERTY keyboards in this space:

Device Thickness
HP iPAQ hw6510 / hw6515 .71"
HP iPAQ hw6940 / hw6915 .71"
PPC-6600 / PPC-6601 / XV6600 (HTC Harrier) .74"
Treo 680 .8"
PPC-6700 / XV-6700 (HTC Apache) .9"
HTC TyTN .9"
Hitachi G1000 .9"
Palm Treo 650 / 700p / 700w|wx .9"
HTC Wizard / 8125 / 8100 / MDA (USA) / K-JAM .93"
Motorola MPx .94"
Samsung SCH-i730 .93"
Samsung SCH-i830 / IP-830w .97"
Sony Ericsson P910A 1.02"

So the 680's thinness is beat by three of these phones - all of which, I should mention, are taller, wider, and more 'brick-like.' In my opinion, the Treo 680 is doing just fine in this space.

Treo 680: WHEEE!

In just over a month I expect something to happen in the consumer space that hasn't happened since the iPod hit it big. I think two companies are going to shock us with how they're able to get non-geek users to pick up and love their products - these two companies are Nintendo and Palm.

Nintendo's Wii is aimed at getting non-gamers to become gamers. Rather than target the gamer market with incredibly impressive processor speeds and graphics, they're targeting the much larger "not-yet-gamer" audience with fun games and approachability. They're not trying to get a bigger piece of the pie, they're trying to make the pie bigger.

Palm's strategy with the Treo 680 is similar. It's not targeted at me, the super-smartphone-geek. To be perfectly honest, that may be a game that Palm could never win. As I said in my introduction, phone geeks talking to phone geeks invariably want more. Instead, like Nintendo, Palm is trying to broaden the consumer base for smartphones. Ultimately, fighting for a bigger piece of the same pie isn't going to get Palm where they want to be. Instead of targeting the smartphone users, they're targeting the not-yet-smartphone users. They're making a bigger pie.

I think they have a shot at big success with the 680, and not just because I like pie. What most of us have now are specs and pictures - specs and pictures don't do the 680 justice. When a potential smartphone "switcher" holds the 680 he/she will see: It has The Shiny.

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