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Taking a Shot at Designing a Future Treo 710

Don't ask me why but every couple of months or so I get the urge to design my own Treo...

This latest design was prompted after a business meeting yesterday where I pitted my Treo 650 against my 'opponent's' BlackBerry 7290. 

I am glad that on the one hand I managed to get him to openly admit that there was simply 'no comparison' to the diversity and overall richness of applications that I could run and which he couldn't.  Win one.

On the other hand I was even happier when (without any prompting on my part) he pulled his 'other phone' out of his briefcase and placed it next to his BlackBerry and conceded that there was something to be said about having 'only one device'.  Win two.

Lastly though, I simply could not get him to agree that my keyboard on the Treo was as efficient for data input as his on the BlackBerry.  I got him to play around with the keyboard by typing text in a new memo and pointed out that it was also backlit which the BB isn't.  I in turn did the same on his BB and typed a few sentences but for the life of me I couldn't sense any difference in data input speed compared to my Treo (actually I thought that it was 'slightly' slower).  We agreed to tie on this one point.

I left the meeting somewhat annoyed with the whole keyboard issue as I would have preferred my Treo to come out as the winner on this point as well.  My mind set off wondering "How could the Treo keyboard be improved - if at all?" and I decided to put pen to paper or more exactly mouse to Photoshop in this case. 

My point of departure was a side-by-side comparison of the Treo 650 and BlackBerry (see below - exact proportions were kept) and their respective sizes. 

Treo 650:              11.3 x 5.9 x 2.3cm (Length not inc. antenna)
BlackBerry 7290:    11.3 x 7.5 x 2.2cm

 

Clearly the Treo is a significantly 'slimmer' device in width - 25% actually - and so I thought that there might be some room to 'stretch' it (below left).  I therefore expanded the body by 10% and also eliminated the antenna in the process (which can now more easily be stored within the casing).  Naturally by doing this I also increased the size of the keys proportionally while leaving the screen and the rest of the body completely untouched.  The result is a device that is still 15% narrower than the BlackBerry.

For comparative purposes, below I've overlaid both the Treo 650 (left) and BlackBerry (right) over the 'stretched' version.  While it is a little difficult to make out the outline of the Treo 650 you can more clearly see how even the stretched Treo fits comfortably within the width of the BlackBerry.

The previous design that we developed for a future Treo 700 was primarily concerned with increasing the screen size to 320x480 while retaining a full keyboard.  This latest design for a future Treo 710 now addresses the need for a potentially even more efficient keyboard.  We'll have to wait and see if any of these designs ever see the light of day

I'm naturally curious to know what your thoughts are.  Assuming for a moment that such a Treo model was available today and that for argument sake it had exactly the same specifications (aside from size obviously) and price as the Treo 650, would you buy one for its 'stretched' form factor alone?

A Possible Future Treo 710
Would you buy one?

Yes
No
Maybe

Treonauts play to win not to play...


Posted by Andrew on March 3, 2005 at 11:28 PM

Treo Zen Preview

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Comments

1
by R Hanson | Mar 4, 2005 4:03:33 AM

But the Blackberry is thinner and lighter, so it fits nicely in a shirt or pants pocket. The 650 is a bit thick. The 710 needs to be about 11mm thick to be awesome.

2
by Gillian | Mar 4, 2005 8:37:17 AM

A better comparison would be the Palm Treo 650 vs Blackberry 7100. 7100 has a nicer screen with bigger resolution and the device is much smaller. It also uses the SureType technology that when you get use to it types faster than a regular QWERTY keyboard.

Gillian
http://www.blackberrycool.com

3
by Andrew | Mar 4, 2005 8:42:37 AM

I also at first thought that the BlackBerry was thinner but it isn't - it just looks that way. The actual difference is just 0.1mm.

Yes, the BB is somewhat lighter at 139gm versus the Treo 178gm but if you add the second phone that over 90% of BlackBerry users also carry with them then the Treo is the clear winner on weight as well.

Finally, I totally agree that it would indeed be absolutely awesome if one could develop the 710 at only 11mm thick!!!

Cheers, A.

4
by Andrew | Mar 4, 2005 8:58:56 AM

Gillian,

On the one hand my post was relating a real story where the 'protagonists' were the Treo 650 and BB 7290.

On the other, I have written about the Treo 650 and BB 7100 previously but the fact remains that it does not have a full keyboard and cannot therefore be fairly compared. Also, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that standard BB users have found the keyboard on the 7100 to deliver a significantly poorer typing experience.

Cheers, A.

5
by Kurt | Mar 4, 2005 9:49:36 AM

The large borders are not the way to go. Make the screen go to the edges. Large borders remind me of 1980's PCs.

6
by Fred | Mar 4, 2005 1:48:59 PM

Looks good, let's talk features!

* 3G connections (EV-DV / UTMS)
* 480x320 screen, 24-bit color. If they can find 640x480, go for it!
* Integrated Wi-Fi (802.11g?) and Bluetooth 1.2
* 64MB memory minimum, 128+ if possible
* 2-megapixel camera
* Palm OS 6

Hey, it may cost $999, but it would be the smartphone to end all smartphones!

7
by Irwin Lazar | Mar 4, 2005 4:01:01 PM

having just gotten a 650 2 days ago, I can't see myself buying anything else until Palm comes out with a true multitasking operating system as well as UMTS support (on the idea that UMTS will soon be widely available).

8
by Tony Cooper | Mar 4, 2005 4:28:23 PM

Love the comparison, but my chubby fingers fly on the 650 keyboard and I don't want to add any additional size. The antenna sticks out of my Covertec case just enough to give a nice finger hold when taking a call.
TC

9
by Antoine/d-roC | Mar 4, 2005 4:34:12 PM

Looks really good. Honestly, if palmOne were to make it exactly as you have it (getting rid of some of the bulk to add width); I can see this selling well, very well. It will be mistaken for a BB at every turn, and for palmOne that could be a good thing. It may also give a boost to the candybar models as people will have a similar model to say if they like or dislike. Very good job.

10
by James Fulford | Mar 5, 2005 9:20:26 AM

Check out this note by Jeff Jarvis on Buzzmachine: http://www.buzzmachine.com/archives/2005_03_04.html#009196


": The ultimate consumers are the ones who design your products for you -- so you know they will like it and buy it. In this new world, consumers will also market for you and handle customer service for you but the ultimate is when they go to the effort to tell you exactly what they want in the hopes you will give it to them, if you're listening."

And click on the link to note the amusing correction.

11
by TMann | Mar 5, 2005 11:17:16 AM

Keyboards on PDA's are a very subjective thing to evaluate. Everyone's hands are a little bit different. Also, there is a certain amount of "muscle memory" involved; once you get used to a certain device, everything else feels "unfamiliar" and unintuitive.

Having said that, I have to agree with your friend that a SLIGHTLY bigger keyboard would be easier to type on. I have owned a Treo 90, Sony TG50, UX50, Tungsten C and an iPaq 4355, in addition to my current Treo 600. The Tungsten C and 4355 were the best in my opinion, in that they were just large enough to be able to type easily. The UX50 keyboard was even larger, but for my hands the space between keys was just a little TOO large.

In answer to your poll, I would welcome a slightly shorter, but wider Treo.

TMann

12
by TMann | Mar 5, 2005 11:37:35 AM

Another thought...

Why do most Blackberry users carry a second phone? I thought that the Blackberry's had voice capability as well as data capability.

Also, I was under the impression that most 7100 owners actually LIKED the "smart" keyboard on their devices. I guess it depends on who you ask...

TMann

13
by bgillette | Mar 5, 2005 1:22:38 PM

Having used a various RIM Blackberry devices for 4+ years and recently switching to a Treo 650, I believe the email capability of the Blackberry is superior.

Also: Typing on the Blackberry is easier for my fingers.
Why? Note the 'happy-face' shape of the T650 keyboard vs. the 'sad-face' of the Blackberry line. My opnion is that it is easier and more natural for the thumbs to travel in the sad-face configuaration.

The Blackberry's scroll-wheel/button is an absolutely killer usability and navigation bonus. Its' positioning makes it functional for both left and right handed users. I am a left-handed and have found that the Treo is very right-hand oriented.

When I had the Blackberry I too, carried a phone, a Palm for scheduling and projects, and a BB for email. Im getting used to the Treo, but I still think seperate devices are somewhat easier to work with (ie when trying to find an email while on the phone entering PIN#s or order codes etc).

The Blackberry is a superior email device, while the Treo needs an additional app like Chatteremail to shine. Which is unfortunate for the price we pay.

14
by Steven I. Weiss | Mar 6, 2005 9:53:31 AM

I'm unimpressed. If the Blackberry keyboard shows no significant improvement, what's the point of making the Treo keyboard more Blackberry-like?
Adding width is something I'd prefer not be done, and placing the antenna inside the casing significantly diminishes reception, which is already a problem with the Treo.
I'll keep my Treo as it is.

15
by Mike M | Mar 7, 2005 3:59:17 PM

Saw what you did with the Treo on Palm Addicts, great site and I like the photojob.

16
by Fotenks | Mar 7, 2005 8:36:20 PM

I think it looks terrible. Not to mention the fact that it would make it larger. Bad idea.

17
by Casper | Mar 8, 2005 8:21:53 AM

yeah, i would..but its not perfect yet..it needs a better cam. it should be moveable, i mean turnaroundable like it was at the ux50!!

18
by Dan Stroot | Mar 8, 2005 4:41:44 PM

PUT THE ROCKER AND SELECT KEYS ON THE RIGHT SIDE LIKE THE BLACKBERRY!!!!! I need to be able to use them with my thumb.

19
by MR | Mar 14, 2005 3:33:38 AM

As soon as the Treo 600 came out on the market, I upgraded myself from the Palm 515. I really like this device. However, I still miss using the Grafitti even up to now. I hope though that for the future Treo they can keep the size or make it a little smaller, make the antenna foldable and the screen slide-able that will reveal a dedicated Grafitti area at the bottom. That would be my perfect Treo. I'm a Flight Attendant and unfortunately my coworkers wouldn't allow passengers using the Palm-part of their Treo on board the plane even on the wireless mode just because passengers appear to be playing with the "phone" part while flying.

20
by Mize | Mar 23, 2005 4:11:18 PM

Seems there's one thing missing here for comparison and that's the Blackberry's "push" email. Is there a way to get push email on a Treo?

21
by sickboy | Mar 31, 2005 6:58:17 AM

22
by sunny | Apr 27, 2005 2:12:21 PM

Your comparrison is missing a very important point. The Blackberry is vastly superior in handling emails. The push technology of the Blackberry blows away anything the Treo has to offer. Additionally, I've received MANY reports from Treo users who mention they have to do a hard reset on their Treos from time to time. This number ranged from once a day to once a week. Granted, all the users that I've querired have agreed that the Treo 650 locks up much less frequently than the Treo 600. But Blackberry users rarely (if ever) need to worry about crashes and hard resets.

Someday, the Treo might catch up to the Blackberry in the email department. Then again, someday the Blackberry might catch the Treo in the design/PDA department. Until then, the Treo 650 and Blackberry 7100 are the closest things that consumers can look for when it comes to the "perfect" smartphone.

23
by Andrew | Apr 27, 2005 2:19:36 PM

Thanks Sunny,

I personally feel that the Treo is catching up _fast_ with Blackberry's perceived mobile email leadership position. Among others, the Treo offers corporations the single largest range of options when it comes to mobile email deployments since it is supported by half a dozen third-party email solutions (including Microsoft).

Cheers, A.

24
by darkwing00 | May 26, 2005 9:15:30 AM

Thanks for the insight. I am in the process of making a purchase decision and it ultimately has boiled down to the Treo or the 7100.

From the information contained above, you are clearly Palm enthusiasts. However, aside from not addressing the phone issue, I don't feel you have addressed sufficiently why the Palm is better.

Substantively, which provides better phone, email, functions, and all the other bells and whistles anyone could want on a smartphone?

Thanks,
DW

25
by MC | May 29, 2005 3:20:41 PM

I, too, much prefer the Palm OS over my BB and I don't even mind the much smaller keyboard. I do, however, think the BB's SureType as well as the BB's ability to search for addresses using any of the address feilds is a major advantage over the Treo's Palm OS. That said, I am and will always be a Palm OS guy. Is there any software out there that will allow the Treo to emulate these to features of the BB?

Thanks!

MC

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