A First Look at the Palm Treo 680

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by Brian, Oct 13, 2006.

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  1. Brian

    Brian Mobile Deity

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    Editor's Note: Since this article was written, Brighthand has published a more complete review of the Treo 680, which can be found here.


    Palm unveiled its latest product, the Treo 680, at the Digital Life show yesterday.

    Much of the Treo 680 was expected, but Palm did toss in a few curveballs like four fun colors, a bundle of useful accessories that will come with every unit, new software enhancements and inclusions and while not officially disclosed a very aggressive price point, which is expected to be carrier subsidized at $200 or potentially less.

    Before we get too deep into this though, I feel it important to make sure our readers understand the target audience for this product. Already I've seen writers on other sites, both mainstream media and PDA enthusiast, and participants in our forums, bashing Palm for a boring product release that does nothing, of much substance, new.

    At the press conference yesterday, Palm spent the first 10 minutes and nearly half of its 30-slide presentation talking about reaching out to a larger audience with this product. While the Treo 680 will invariably used for business, it's also intended to be a step up for those looking to do more with their feature phones.

    The Treo 680 is very much being pitched as a mobile computing device that is also a phone.

    Palm wants people that have adopted feature phones that often offer music, integrated cameras and web access to understand that, for about the same price, they can have a Treo that does all of those things, and more, complete with a full QWERTY keyboard.

    Attractive Pricing

    While Palm won't officially comment on a price point, sources indicate to us that we should expect carriers to subsidize the phone down to $200, and probably less by the turn of the year.

    Palm.com and Palm stores will offer an unlocked version for likely a little more, but the colored shells will be exclusive to Palm. At that price, it's not much of a stretch for someone considering a high-end phone to consider a more functional Treo instead.

    To further make the Treo 680 an outstanding value, Palm is offering a bundle, for the foreseeable future, that includes many of the accessories that new buyers need right away. This kit includes a 1 GB SecureDigital card, a headset, and a 30-day trial to Yahoo Music Unlimited.

    All About Design

    Palm leveraged most of the Treo 750v design when crafting the 680. The shell is about the same, with the most notable difference being the 680 is smooth with the 750v is rubberized.

    Beyond the operating system change, the other notable difference is the Treo 680 uses standard SD expansion memory, opposed to the miniSD slot found in the 750v.

    From a design perspective, there's a lot to like about the Treo 680.

    We have to address the colors of course; they're the most glaringly obvious design feature of the Treo 680 family. There's the somewhat standard graphite, accompanied by crimson (red), copper (orange), and arctic (white).

    Of course given that Palm is trying to reach a mass market, the color options make sense. The market for colored cases is growing rapidly because people want some level of individuality in the computing products they purchase.

    Offering an assortment of colors helps Palm appeal to this desire. As noted already, the colors will only be available in an unlocked form through Palm.com and the Palm stores.

    Bring on the Pictures

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    Of course the Treo 680 comes with the integrated keyboard. Palm was wise enough to color-match the keys on each unit, though the graphite unit necessarily uses white keys. In my brief time with the unit I found the keys to be responsive and accurate, similar to other Treo devices.

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    The right side houses the SD slot. Thankfully the door has rubber hinges so a lot for opening and closing shouldn't matter.

    Also, I'm happy Palm opted for standard SD. It makes more sense for the target audience and allows better interaction with other devices like digital cameras, MP3 players, notebooks and the like.

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    The left side has the familiar volume and action buttons.

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    One of my favorite features of recent Treos is the hardware switch on the top of the unit to disable sound. It's perpetually annoying that on other smartphones it takes several button presses sometimes to do the same thing.

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    The bottom houses the standard connector and 2.5 mm headset jack.

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    The back features the camera, mirror for self portraits, speaker, stylus silo and new Access branding.

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    This is a GSM phone, so it relies on a SIM card to gain access to a carrier network. A common problem with this technology is getting SIM cards in and out of a device is a pain. Palm has a convenient sled design that should make it simple for anyone to insert, remove and otherwise change their SIM card at any time.

    Slim Enough

    During the Q&A session Palm was asked more than once about why its products aren't slim like the Motorola Q and the newly announced T-Mobile Dash. Its response was something along the lines of wanting to provide the best user experience possible with fewer compromises.

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    I think it has made a good call. The phone is trimmed down in size, thanks in part to a smaller battery. Talk time has not been effected though; the Treo 680 is still rated at 4 hours talk time. The end result is a phone that's a little more trim, but has staying power to do a day's worth or business, and then some, while the thin models often poop out mid-day.

    The antenna has also gone inside the unit, reducing the overall mass. Concerns about reduced phone quality are unfounded, though; Palm claims that the Treo 680 offers the best reception of any Treo to date. While we were unable to confirm this, none of the units at the show had a SIM card, there's no reason to suspect this is false. Almost every smartphone on the market has an internal antenna at this point.

    Other Improvements

    Palm didn't just spend all its time on M&M colored shells. It made several other improvements that past Palm OS Treo users will be pretty excited about.

    The Treo 680 comes with 64 MB of user-available storage. While this isn't ground breaking, it is a lot more than the Treo 650 and is plenty for housing applications. The Treo 680 supports SD cards up to 2 GB for storing music and other files.

    The Exchange sync conduit supports contacts in addition to email and calendar data. The SMS and MMS tools have also been updated with a better interface.

    In addition, Blazer, the web browser that comes with Treos, has been updated. It includes new caching rules making it operate faster. It also includes new viewing modes. I wasn't able to test this, but even incremental improvements in the web browser application are appreciated.

    The Treo 680, at least the version Palm is selling, will support Dial-Up Networking (DUN) over Bluetooth. This is significant, as many smartphones offered by carriers do not offer this out of the box. DUN allows notebook users to get online by connecting wirelessly to the Treo, which acts as a modem.

    Bluetooth itself has also been improved in the Treo 680. Palm is using version 1.2 and has improved support for car kits and Bluetooth headsets. Additionally they have added support for multiple Bluetooth connections.

    It's The Treo For Everyone

    OK, that's not quite right, but it is geared toward a huge audience, most of which have never owned a smartphone before.

    The Treo 680 looks good, works well (in my limited testing), and at the rumored price point, will compete very well. The fact that Palm is offering it direct at a reasonable price means anyone on a GSM network can take advantage of it, making the Treo 680 the most accessible smartphone at this price point.

    At the end of the day, power users are probably going to want more, and that's why the Treo 700 platform exists. The Treo 680 is well made, though, with a tight design, good performance and promised excellent reception.

    Palm is finally addressing the entry-level market; users that it hopes will step into future Treo products. 

    I haven't spent enough time with the new unit to offer an official stance yet, but my early leanings are very positive.

    Expect to see the Treo 680 available through Palm in the next 30 days.

    Other Images

    Even the styli match the shell colors.

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    The other three keyboard colors.

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    Pictures of some of the new software enhancements and additions.

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2015
  2. Antoine Wright

    Antoine Wright Neighborhood Mobilist Super Moderator

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    Best pics yet. Nice favorites screen, though should have a two col option on there (looks like TiVo - a waste of screen space).

    If my 650 were to go and nothing was catching my eye (or wallet) this would make a nice replacement. Heck, if I could, I'd give a few of these away for the holidays just becasue of the appeal.
     
  3. ypwandrews

    ypwandrews Mobile Consultant

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    This looks great if you live somewhere that has GSM coverage. I don't, so where are the PDAs?
     
  4. holvoetn

    holvoetn Still a moderator ...

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    I just noticed when checking out the specs, the 2.5mm adapter for the headphone is still to be obtained separately.
    That's a pity ...

     
  5. Masterchief

    Masterchief Superfluous Moderator Super Moderator

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    Darn its GSM, oh well... :cool:
     
  6. DJ Rome

    DJ Rome Tinkerer & Dealer

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    Thankfully, you can use BT stereo via A2DP, right? I think that for the average consumer (and I am he) this is perfect. You don't need huge camera quality, you get VGA. You don't need mega RAM, you get 64, which is plenty. You don't need wifi because you can surf the web via a flat fee. And most importantly, it's a new product with cool color choices.

    Average consumer never having experienced a smartphone gets:

    1. Real internet (EDGE) on phone for flat fee (not using minutes)
    2. Word and Excel processing
    3. Note jotting
    4. VGA camera
    5. Plays music
    6. Plays videos
    7. Keyboard
    8. Phone
    9. Cool colors

    These are all offered and that's really all they care about. I asked my old wrestling coach and even he said he'd consider getting one if it were cheap. All he wants is surf web and documents. I think it's a perfect, economical choice.

    Oh, and does it have a voice recorder?
     
  7. Masterchief

    Masterchief Superfluous Moderator Super Moderator

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    Nice phone here. Id say its a success on Palms part.

    Everyone who mentions this in this forum is constantly getting flamed but I'll say it anyway. Wifi would have been nice. :rolleyes: If this is intented to be a phone for the average person it would make since to have wifi built in. The "average person" does not have nor wants an expensive unlimited data plan to surf the web or download e-mail on their brand spanking new smartphone. The average person does however know how to make use of wifi hotspots both at home and away. Seems like the carriers are limiting users by making them use their data plans instead of giving them the choice. Please tell me, what is wrong with choice? I say Palm should just build wifi radios in these things from now on regardless of pressure from the wireless carriers. Let the flaming begin :newpalm:

    Other than that, I like the "new" features on this device and of course the choice of colors! A black model would have been nice. I suspect Palm is saving black to release as an insanely expensive black tie model. :cool:
     
  8. dougom

    dougom Low-level tech weenie

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    As a person who consistently grouses about PDA/smartphone capability on other forums, I figured I should chime in on a positive note: this looks like a good entry-level smartphone. Would it be nice for me, an admitted "power user", to have a bigger screen, more memory, a larger keyboard, etc.? Of course. But as an entry-level job, this looks like a real winner.

    Now, if they could just spend some time working on their PDAs, or their power-user smartphones. . .

    Doug
     
  9. JediTim

    JediTim Mobile Enthusiast

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    I just cannot wait to return to using the Palm OS with the Treo 680. I have the Cingular 8125 and it is so sloooooow! To look up a contact requires more typing and I just don't need all of the bells and whistles of WM 5. I want a good reliable Calendar, Tasks, & Contacts in mobile form with an easy dialing phone that works reliably and synchs easily to my Tablet PC. Sometimes doing the basics well is all it takes.

    Bring back the Zen of Palm!

    -THP
     
  10. questionfear

    questionfear Google'd.

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    Verizon and Sprint have Palm OS and WinMob treos. Complete with special ANTENNAE technology.
     
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