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Jewish World Review
Dec. 1, 2006
/ 10 Kislev, 5767
Palm's latest home run
The performance of the Washington Redskins may be a tad spotty - one week
down, another week up - but the overall performance of Palm, Inc., maker
of handheld PDAs-cum-cell phones, is rather solid. Truth to tell, I can't
remember the last time they had a swing and a miss, to borrow a baseball
phrase and mix metaphors.
Their latest out-of-the-park achievement, available now, is the Treo 680,
a mobile phone that seems to defy gravity, if not expectations. Gone is
the nubby antenna; instead, there's a smooth shape and no "handle," as
some users call it. Memory available to users is double: 64 Mbytes versus
32 Mbytes for the Treo 650. Battery life seems longer, and you can, with
the appropriate data plan from your carrier, use this as a wireless
Bluetooth modem for your computer.
This is a GSM/GPRS phone, which means it can be used overseas, subject to
your carrier's plans and/or the purchase of an appropriate "SIM" (stet)
card for your phone from another carrier. The Treo 680's system for
mounting and using SIM cards, by the way, shows a fair amount of promise:
the holder is secure and unlikely to see the kind of card displacement
I've observed in other phones.
Palm has also updated the placement of a SecureDigital (stet) or SD card
for added memory. It's now behind a tiny door on the side of the phone,
making it far less likely to fall out or become lost. This one change
helps elevate the new phone to a higher plane; keeping such cards in place
can be very important.
The Treo 680 also comes in four colors, probably for the fashion
conscious, according to the www.palm.com/us Web site, where data about the
phone can be obtained. Right now, Cingular Wireless is offering the device
for $199, depending on service plan selected. An "unlocked" version of the
phone - meaning you don't have to sign up for a new service deal, is $399.
What else is there to like about the phone? In my book, a lot: it retains
the ease of use and more-than-decent keypad of the earlier Treo's. Palm's
operating software is, in my view, a superior mobile phone platform to
Windows Mobile, and the 680's use of the Palm OS offers users a phone
that's easy to learn, and easy to keep using. There have been a few tweaks
to the interface, all of which make using the phone less taxing. A voice
dialing option remains available, and the Bluetooth connection can work
with a hands-free device to make calling while driving a bit easier and
The 320-by-320 pixel TFT display screen is very bright and easy to read,
even outdoors. Sound quality is impressive, and if you plug in the right
headphones, your multimedia will come out in stereo, as will happen when
you dock the Treo 680 with the Altec Lansing InMotion (stet) mobile
speaker system, sold separately.
The camera is described as being "VGA" in quality, but the images I took
were in resolutions of 72 dots-per-inch and thus suitable for a Web page
more than a magazine page. However, if I had to document a car accident,
or show someone a ceiling fan at Home Depot, I suppose it would be more
In short, there's very little not to like with the Treo 680, especially
since it's $100 less than the 650 with more memory, a better (if not
perfect) camera, and no "stub." Would I want one in my holiday gift
bounty? You bet!
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com