The Treo 600 Palm OS based smartphone is being tested on Vodafone New Zealand's GSM/GPRS network and we've had one at Geekzone to test. According to information from the mobile operator they're working on certification, and the smartphone should be available in New Zealand in December 2003 or early 2004.
The Treo 600 is the evolution of Handspring products in the mobile area. It all started with the Handspring Visorphone, made by Option. I used the Handspring Visorphone with an old Visor Prism a few years ago. The product is no longer available from Handspring but can be found at retail stores and auction sites. It clips onto the back of a Visor handheld using Handspring's proprietary Springboard technology, and adds GSM capabilities and integration with the Palm OS software. It's recharged directly from the PDA while in the cradle. It worked well, but it was a bulky solution. This and not having GPRS, plus the fact that one looked silly while talking into a PDA the size of your hand, made me move to another mobile phone.
The Handspring Visorphone
Since then Handspring have decided to move from being a PDA-centric company to concentrate efforts in the development of a voice-centric device, the communicator. The Treo series gradually replaced the Visor line of handhelds. The Treo 300 was the latest offering before a complete change in form factor. The Treo 600 brings a new and refreshed look to the Treo line of mobile devices, and is the first one that actually looks like a mobile phone. It's similar in size to its direct competitor, the Sony Ericsson P800, as you can see in the image below:
The Treo 600 next to a Sony Ericsson P800
The Treo 600 is a GSM/GPRS quad-band phone 800/900/1800/1900MHz (with a CDMA 800/1900 MHz version available for Sprint users) running on a platform based on Palm OS 5.2, with 32MB RAM (24 MB available to the user area). The product runs on an ARM 144 MHz processor. The screen resolution is 160 x 160 pixels.
The internal battery is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion, with up to 6 hours talk time and 240 hours (10 days) standby time. I didn't have 10 days to test this claim, but I imagine it will last that long if you have minimum use with low backlight. Even so, it's an impressive standby time. It weighs only 168 grams and its dimensions are 11.2 x 6.0 x 2.2 cm (4.4 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches).
The main application on this device is the phone - not the launcher. From there users can find contacts, e-mails and SMS. The whole device was designed to allow users single hand operation by using a five-way button in the center of it. Operations like menu navigation, dropdown list selection, button selection and action can all be performed with one hand only using this button. The standard buttons on the front give access to the phone application, calendar, e-mail/SMS and on-off.
The device can be put in a flight-mode, by pressing a button on top of the PDA. It'll turn off the radio functionality, while giving full access to other PDA applications. Next to this button there's a switch that selects the silent mode.
The phone application with the dialpad view
The buttons for quick access: configurable, and quick access to contacts and frequently used programs
Mobile network options
The phone information
Prefs application: options for screen keyguard
Some of the phone and network preferences are set using the standard Palm Prefs application. You can see below the network configuration to access the Vodafone GPRS network, and the ringing tone control. There is no "profile" control on the phone, but you have some flexibility in selecting different ringing tones depending on if the caller is known (by having an entry in your Address Book) or not.
Prefs application: Network configuration to access Vodafone GPRS
As for Internet support, the Blazer web browser is very good, and it now incorporates Netfront technology, making it more "handheld friendly". The e-mail client supports multiple accounts, but it does not support IMAP servers. The unit I had for review actually has the OneBridge groupware software installed, but I was informed this is not included - it's actually used internally by Vodafone to allow over-the-air synchronisation of calendar, contacts and e-mail.
The SMS and MMS inbox
The POP3 e-mail client
OneBridge by ExtendSystems: this one was only for internal Vodafone use
The device does not have a writing area like other Palm devices, although the screen is still touch-sensitive. All input (except selection and action) is through a QWERTY thumb-type keyboard. The easiest way to enter information on the Treo 600 is by holding it with both hands and typing using the thumbs only. There are some special function keys available: Home (which brings the standard Palm launcher to the forefront), Menu, Function. The keyboard is backlit in glowing blue, making it easier to use at night or dark places.
The Function key gives the user access to a second function in each key. This includes numbers, which are located on top of standard keys. The software is smart enough, though, to accept only numbers in certain fields, so the user doesn't have to use the Function key often.
Standard Palm OS PIM applications are available, plus a couple of mobile related applications:
Contact List with Instant Lookup
POP3 E-mail Client
Blazer Web Browser
Camera plus software, including photo viewer
To Do List
CityTime World Clock
Desktop Synchronization (Palm Desktop 4.1 for Windows and Macintosh)
For office and entertainment applications the Treo 600 comes with:
Documents To Go
Sheet To Go
Documents To Go, from Vizaviz, is a great office package. Users can access Word documents, and sometimes conversion from the desktop format to the handheld format is better than what an user can get when using Windows Mobile Pocket Word. SplashID is a wallet type of software, while SplashMoney is a finance software.
The default Palm launcher is no longer the centre of action
CityTime: part of bundled software
The unit I had for test did not have the full package (it was just a demo that was quickly arranged before I had to travel), so I had to transfer the screenshots using Hotsync over Infrared, which worked well with my Windows 2000 based laptop:
Hotsync options: network hotsync available
Hotsync options: succesfull IR action with Windows 2000
The General tab on the Prefs application gives the user some flexibility in selecting themes. You can see below some colour combinations I tried:
Prefs application: General tab
The built in camera (no flash) is not a high spec one: VGA, 640 by 480 resolution, 0.3 mega pixels, automatic light balancing. But it's enough for MMS (multi media messaging) and quick snapshots.
The Treo 600 back side, with the camera on top left
The camera application
Example of picture taken with the built in camera: outdoors
Example of picture taken with the built in camera: indoors
Vodafone is also working on customisation for this phone. The unit I had here was a unit review for network certification. Vodafone will add some local and network related applications, but I don't know which ones yet.
What's missing? Bluetooth support. This device can connect to faster networks, and even though it's intended to be used as a smartphone, it could also enable connections to Bluetooth enabled laptops and Bluetooth headsets.
What do I think? It's a great mobile phone. The voice quality is very good. The screen resolution is not great, but this device is a smartphone, not a handheld computer. The lack of Bluetooth is a little disappointing. But in my opinion Handspring (now palmOne) successfully achieved the integration of a PDA with a mobile phone, in the process adding an easy to use data entry option. In terms of design it does look like a mobile phone with keyboard, but not a bulky one. It feels nice and solid.
Screenshots were captured with 48879 Screenshot 5, which was specially supplied for this review by LinkeSoft.