Treo 680

February 13th, 2007 Mobile Phones, Tech, The West Australian

The direct offspring of Palm’s successful Treo 650, the Treo 680 has few marked differences upon first glance. Almost all the improvements have been made under the hood.

On the surface, the Treo 680 is slimmer than its predecessor and has no external antenna. The overall result is that where the Treo 650 felt clunkier and heavier in the hand than a normal mobile, the 680 is more in line with what you’ll be used to if you’re moving up from a more standard size phone.

The Treo 650 was the most successful marriage of PDA and mobile phone upon its launch, and not many smartphones have appeared to knock it off that pedestal since, so the 680 has few real competitors when it comes to the fusion of form and function. It’s neither a phone trying to be a data centre nor a PDA with a phone jammed awkwardly in, as many smartphones are.

The first high point is the user-friendly Palm OS. It’s easy to get around and trying to find what you want to do is much easier than the other mobile operating systems on the market that bury functions deep beneath layers of access.

Single keys take you to the phone function, the home screen, your inbox and your calendar, and everything you use from day to day is accessible from those areas. That’s not to say everything is within easy reach. Setting a wallpaper image was needlessly complicated, and the Palm OS has never properly distinguished between writing an email or a text message. A single key or dropdown menu from which to select one or the other with the stylus would be a welcome addition.

The keys are small and like most phones you won’t be composing long emails on the Treo 680, but firing off a text message is as comfortable as keying in a phone number. The keyboard layout is inventive in squeezing a lot of options into a space barely three inches wide.

The upgrade includes the new version of Bluetooth but the first connection to a PC to sync data insisted on connecting via a cable with the one-touch autosync button, and the accompanying literature makes no effort to tell you how to connect without a cable for subsequent synching operations. The only reason for inclusion of Bluetooth appears to be to use the 680 as a wireless modem for your laptop.

With 64Mb of memory — three times that of the Treo 650 — you can fit a lot more data on the 680 and Palm are even touting it as an MP3 player as a result. With the provision of up to 2Gb by adding your own memory card and a decent pair of headphones, there’s no reason why this can’t be so.

Software upgrades include Documents To Go, a proprietary system that can view and edit Microsoft Office documents as well as view PDF files and Powerpoint presentations.

Together with a profile that’s both improved and familiar, the Treo is still the first device to think of for a true smartphone that doesn’t let either the data or phone functions suffer at each other’s expense.


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