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Palm Releases A Colorful New Treo

Palm announced its latest Treo smartphone at Ziff-Davis' Digital Life technology show in New York today. The Treo 680, which will come in four different colors, aims at a younger and less business-focused audience than previous Treos, with a slimmer form and the user-friendly Palm OS 5.4.

The Treo 680 looks a lot like Palm's existing Treo 700p, but with the antenna lopped off. It has a sharp, bright 320-by-320 touch screen, full QWERTY keyboard for typing e-mails and SMS messages, and 64MB of both available storage memory and program running memory. It connects to headsets via Bluetooth 1.2, and a full-sized Secure Digital card slot on the side lets you use cards of up to 2GB. Like the older Treo 650 rather than the newer 700 series, it has a VGA camera. Palm says the 680's camera has better low-light performance than the 650's.

Further pumping up available memory, Palm has put Dataviz DocumentsToGo in ROM, letting users view and edit Microsoft Office documents and read PDFs. The 680 also has a new phone application with a bunch of little, helpful tweaks, like the ability to add a dialed number to an existing contact (as opposed to creating a new contact) and look at photo caller ID thumbnails while you're in a call.

Conspicuously missing from the 680, which works on quad-band global GSM EDGE networks like the ones run by Cingular or T-Mobile, is any support for higher-speed 3G UMTS/HSDPA networks like the ones both Cingular and T-Mobile are building. There's also no support for Wi-Fi, even via an add-in card. The aging Palm OS 5.4, which Palm has licensed through 2010, can't handle the simultaneous voice and data connections required by UMTS, Christensen said.

Palm does sell a UMTS product in Europe, the Treo 750v. That handheld runs Windows Mobile. Nobody has announced a US shipping date for the 750v.

The 680 comes with music, video, and photo slideshow players, but it doesn't support wireless stereo Bluetooth headphones, only wireless mono phone headsets.

While Palm didn't announce a carrier, availability date or price for the new Treo, Palm Director of Product Communications Jim Christensen said "Palm believes that this product will be competitively priced with other consumer devices" such as the Motorola Q and Blackberry Pearl, both in the $100-to-200 range with contract, and that the Treo 680 will appear for sale in "weeks."

Three of the four colors—"copper," "arctic" and "crimson"— will be available only unlocked through Palm's Web site, for use on any GSM carrier. The fourth color, "graphite," will also be sold directly by carriers, Palm Treo Senior Product Manager Phil McClendon said.

The Treo 680 looks and works much like earlier Treos, with the exception of the jauntily colored cases and the missing stub antenna. But that's okay, Christensen said, dubbing the current Treo line "the perfect phone." Palm's mission now is to convince owners of non-smartphones that easy-to-use Palm OS smartphones fit into their lifestyles, he said.

To that end, Palm will be sending out street teams, putting up interactive bus shelter advertising, and publishing ads focused around common uses for smartphones, such as bidding on eBay, searching with Google or posting to Flickr. These are things that it's hard to do on a phone without a full QWERTY keyboard, McClendon said.

"We think about people's pockets, as opposed to speeds and feeds. What's important is the experience and the addition of features," he said.

Source: PC Magazine

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