Tech Audit

Smart Buy = Smartphone

  • Print.

­­Simply said, the recently released pPlm One Treo 650 smartphone eliminates the need to carry multiple gadgets.

For some time, we have followed the development of smartphones–cellular phones that double as personal digital assistants. This combination eliminates the “two holster syndrome,” the pocket bulging lugging of two devices.

In the past, combining a cell phone and a PDA always resulted in compromising either the phone or the PDA. If the Treo 650 has compromises, they are not obvious and do not get in the way.

And the included MP3 player may eliminate the need for a third holster, though music fanatics would not make the Treo their MP3 device of choice. For David Beckman, the player worked fine for music while exercising in an out of town hotel health club. No one else there was listening to music on a cell phone.

Beckman waited for the Treo 650 for about six months, watching its release date slip. Finally, in early December, he purchased it from Sprint over the telephone (after bugging them almost daily), weeks before it was available from Sprint on the Web or at their stores.

He was not disappointed.

The most obvious instant plus is the color screen, the best on any PDA we have seen. The following trenchant analysis comes from University of Chicago Apple support specialist Mathew Willis, who says: “There is no one feature that I like the best. It’s the integration. The device is like an office in a pocket.”

There are other phones that have Bluetooth. There are other phones that also have MP3 players that will let you listen to a book. And many other phone/PDAs have large capacity storage with expansion slots. There may not be a single feature on this Treo that is not available on some other device, but no other device is put together so coherently in such a tiny package.

The Treo 650 comes with Acrobat Reader for Palm OS, Documents to Go, Pics & Videos (to assist with use of built in camera), VersaMail, World Clock, Real Player, a Web browser and more.

The five way screen navigation button/rocker can almost eliminate use of the stylus. The mini keyboard eliminates the need for Graffiti handwriting recognition software. While the camera specs are not great, its functionality is better than the typical camera in a cell phone. For instance, it is better than the camera in the Treo 600 (the predecessor model that has the same 640 x 480 specs), and better than any other cell phone we have seen with the same specs.

The Treo 650 is in the $600 price range, before promotions–more than a low range desktop computer. But this machine is more powerful than early computers that used to cost thousands. And it fits nicely in your pocket or purse.

According to Beckman, who sometimes uses the Treo’s screen as a flashlight, the battery may last through three days of hard use, or may need to be recharged after a day.

Beckman paid about $86 for a one gigabyte expansion card that is 15 percent full. He has room for four minutes of video with audio, or 12,200 pictures. He purchased PocketLingo for $39, a dictionary/thesaurus containing almost a quarter of a million words. Also purchased was a third party Palm program to synchronize with single views of Lotus Notes databases.

A switch on top of the Treo kills its sound instantly. That feature might save a lawyer from an angry judge in case the phone should start to ring in the courtroom. If nothing else, being able to look at the switch and know that the sound is off helps eliminate anxiety and save time.

It’s a phone and a PDA first, and without obvious compromise. It is a camera and an MP3 player of a kind. And it is a flashlight. Best of all, it is with you all in one small package.

Portability becomes functionality. You will use it because it is there. You may even find innovative uses more original than a flashlight.

David Beckman and David Hirsch practice in the law firm of Beckman & Hirsch in Burlington, Iowa. Contact Beckman by e mail at [email protected] or Hirsch at [email protected]

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.