Since the advent of the cellphone, perhaps no device has been more anticipated or hyped than palmOne’s new Treo 650 Smartphone. Finally released by Sprint in December 2004, the Treo 650 has been a mixed bag of incredible technology coupled with some significant design gaffes. Because of the device’s new NVRAM memory architecture which eliminated the need to always have power to retain the contents of the phone, the decision to retain the 32MB internal memory capacity of its predecessor, the Treo 600, appears short-sighted. This is especially true given the 30-40% additional overhead of the new memory scheme. Surprisingly, most of the remaining serious technical flaws in the device (crippled Bluetooth functionality, lack of WiFi support, and voice quality problems) all were solved or at least minimized by a single, talented programmer who happened to like his Treo 650 and wanted to perfect it. A loyal following of Treo users who all but deified programmer Shadowmite on the premier Treo support forum, TreoCentral, have apparently insulated him from attacks by Sprint’s and palmOne’s legal departments for fear of alienating the very users who have turned the Treo 650 into what is unquestionably the finest smartphone available anywhere in the world … today. If you’re looking for a great cellphone with POP, IMAP, and Microsoft Exchange email support, a very capable web browser, availability of an add-on MP3 player with streaming audio support, a terrific add-on movie player, an incredible 640×480 digital camera, a speakerphone, voice dialing support, Bluetooth connectivity with wireless headsets and automobile speakerphones, and high-speed Bluetooth dial-up networking support to wirelessly link PCs and Macs to the Internet (even while riding down the highway at 70 MPH), then look no further than the Treo 650. While Sprint has been the exclusive supplier of phone service thus far, that is about to change with Verizon and Cingular scheduled to support the phone within the next few weeks. A couple of must-have add-on’s are at least a 1GB SD memory card and BackupMan backup software capable of cloning the phone’s applications and data to the memory card. And for guys that would never stop to ask for directions, there’s now a full-blown GPS unit for the Treo 650 which can improve your golf game and also provide door-to-door directions using the first-rate Mapopolis Navigator software. The GPS device is a great example of a product that sounds great on paper but is in use about as impractical as any item could be. Why? Because the designers didn’t bother to include RAM on the SD device, all of your maps and software must be loaded into the phone’s internal RAM. Translation: If you use this GPS unit for anything other than driving around the block, you might as well plan to dedicate most of your smartphone to nothing more than a GPS unit. Oh well! Last but not least, all your favorite Palm OS games work just fine when you’re stranded in your favorite airport.
Bottom Line: If you’ve ever wanted a PDA or if you’re in the market for a new cellphone that will do 90% of what you could do on your home or office PC, the Treo 650 just may be the ticket.