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Choosing Your Next Treo

[Update 11/22/06The Treo 680 is finally available to buy starting at $199]

There was a time not too long ago when choosing which Treo smartphone to buy was pretty easy as there was only one model to choose from…  In the past year however Palm has vastly expanded the Treo family to very shortly provide a choice of five (possibly six soon) smartphones below (please click the thumbnail for a full size image) – also see our Treo Comparison Chart.


Last night I was invited to dinner with friends (all Treonauts) and naturally the newly announced Treo 680 (see Finally A Treo For Everyone) came up during our conversation.  They all wanted to know what was special, different or unique about the Treo 680 and naturally also wanted me to recommend “the” one Treo that they should buy next.  The difficulty in answering this last question prompted me to now write this post and look at many of the variables that may play a role in choosing your next Treo.

Listed below are the six top criteria (in no particular order) that I can identify:

1. Which operating system?
Not everyone will know that Palm now offers Treo smartphones running two very distinct operating systems and you should be aware of the benefits and limitations of each to select which Treo to buy.

PalmOS: this operating system is considered to be the simplest and most intuitive OS and review after review rates PalmOS Treo smartphones as the best available today.  The PalmOS is very much still my preferred choice and I use it daily to my delight.  Supported by a vast network of software developers the PalmOS also offers the largest selection of programs of all sorts (see my Top 100 Treo Software list) which considerably help to enhance your overall experience.

Windows Mobile: this operating system has been optimized by Palm for use with the Treo and the general concensus is that Windows Mobile powered Treo smartphones are the best devices using this OS.  WM is particularly appealing to corporate IT managers because it allows them to leverage existing investments and to quickly, easily and cost-effectively mobilize their workforce.  It is not as intuitive or ‘fun’ as the PalmOS but it nonetheless appears to offer just to right solution for those Treonauts who primarily want to use their Treo ‘just’ for the basics such as phone, email, web, contacts, calendar, notes, text messaging and such.

The Treo smartphones running PalmOS are the Treo 650, Treo 680 (to be launched within a couple of weeks) and Treo 700p while the ones running Windows Mobile are the Treo 700w|wx and Treo 750v (not yet available in the US).

2. GSM or CDMA?
Many Treonauts may not even be aware that there are two different mobile standards in the US – GSM or CDMA – but their differences are important and here is my rationale for choosing between them. 

GSM: If you travel frequently internationally then my recommendation will be to choose GSM as this is the standard that currently has the largest global footprint (available in more than 100 countries) and is the one available almost exclusively in Europe and Asia.  Additionally, GSM allows you to purchase individual SIM cards in countries where you travel so as to reduce roaming costs.

CDMA: Because CDMA coverage is largely restricted to the US it will not prove adequate for people who need their Treo when travelling internationally.  However, the US coverage for both voice and data that it provides tends to be very good and the largest carriers (in terms of number of subscribers) are CDMA operators.

Your choice of wireless standard will then determine which wireless carrier you will choose below.

3. Which wireless carrier?
The two largest GSM carriers in the US are Cingular and T-Mobile while the two largest CDMA ones are Verizon and Sprint. 

You may already have a personal carrier preference because of geographic coverage, an existing contract or other factor which may restrict your choice to move to another carrier.  However, if this is not the case then you should carefully first consider if GSM or CDMA best suits your needs and then select your preferred carrier based on quality of service and the cost of their voice and data plans (more on this further below).

Once you have chosen your carrier you will need to select one of the Treo that is/are available to use on their network below.

4. Wireless Connectivity
One of the single most appealing features of a owning a CDMA Treo smartphone from either Verizon or Sprint is that they currently offer the highest wireless broadband speeds – up to 700kbps – while there is currently no Treo smartphone that is able to operate on either Cingular or T-Mobile’s equally fast HSPDA/UMTS networks.

The availability of faster wireless connectivity with both Verizon’s and Sprint’s Treo 700p and Treo 700w|wx will prove particularly appealing to Treonauts who envisage using their smartphone with DUN (Dial-Up Networking) to power broadband connections for their laptop while on the go.

It is also worthwhile mentioning that Sprint offers the lowest wireless data plan at $15 per month while Verizon offers the highest at $50 per month.

5. Which Treo smartphone model?
If you have chosen GSM as your preferred wireless standard you will have the following options below.

Cingular: this carrier has been a Treo “partner” for quite some time and currently offers only the Treo 650 but it is anticipated that it will also be the first to release to forthcoming Treo 680 (possibly offered for FREE if you sign up to a data plan for 2 years) within a few short weeks.

T-Mobile: for some bizarre reason this carrier does not currently offer the Treo on a ‘subsidized’ basis and therefore your only option will be to purchase an “Unlocked” Treo 650 or Treo 680 (available in a couple of weeks) and simply insert your T-Mobile SIM card.

If you have chosen CDMA as your preferred wireless standard you will have these options below.

Verizon: this carrier has been Palm’s “launch partner” for the first Windows Mobile Treo 700w and now also offers the PalmOS Treo 700p.

Sprint: like Verizon this carrier now also offers two high-end Treo smartphones with the Windows Mobile Treo 700wx and PalmOS Treo 700p.

Both Verizon and Sprint are front-runners in the race to bring the Windows Mobile Treo 750 to the US – possibly at the end of this year or beginning of 2007.  Additionally, for now Palm has indicated that the Treo 680 will only be available as a GSM model (thus only to be used with Cingular or T-Mobile) while there has also been no indication as to whether a high-end Treo 750p might be released at some point in the future.

6. Does hardware design matter?
From the image at the top of this post you will have noticed that two Treo smartphones – the Treo 680 and Treo 750 – have a new antenna-less design and they also offer a slimmer and lighter form-factor to previous models.  This alone may not prove to be the deciding factor that influences your own choice but in my case I can categorically state that this is the Treo model that I want to own next because I really love the experience that it provides.  Additionally, the fact that the new Treo 680 will come in four (or more) colours (for the Unlocked model only) is also strongly appealing.

7. My budget
Last but not least is the question of money.  The Treo is certainly not cheap and which smartphone to choose may therefore be directly linked to how large or small your budget is.  However, I know that when I purchased my first Treo 600 (before founding the Treonauts blog) money was very much the least of my concerns – I wanted to have the functionality that only the Treo could offer me and I was willing to pay whatever (within reason) to own one.  I have evidently not been at all disappointed with that decision which in hindsight was probably one of the smartest things that I have done in my life…

Depending on your situation, choosing your first or next Treo smartphone may prove to be a very easy or rather difficult choice but I hope that the above will at least have provided you with a little more information to decide.

At the same time, please take a moment to share your experiences choosing your Treo with your fellow Treonauts in the short survey below.

Choosing Your Treo Survey
1. Which operating system do you prefer?

  Windows Mobile
  No Preference

2. Which mobile standard do you prefer?

  No Preference

3. Which is your preferred wireless carrier?

  Cingular   Sprint  
  T-Mobile   Other  
  Verizon   No Preference  

4. Have you or will you choose your Treo based ONLY on its wireless data speed (EDGE, EvDO, HSPDA)?

  Not Sure

5. Which Treo smartphone would you most prefer to buy/upgrade to?

  Treo 650 (PalmOS)   Treo 700wx (WM)  
  Treo 680 (PalmOS)   Treo 750w (WM)  
  Treo 700p (PalmOS)    
  Treo 700w (WM)        

6. Will the slimmer, lighter and antenna-less form-factor of the new Treo 680 and Treo 750 influence your purchase/upgrade?

  Yes - a lot
  Yes - a little
  No - not at all
  Not Sure

7. How much does your budget influence the Treo smartphone that you will buy/upgrade to?

  A lot - key factor
  A little - it's one criteria
  Not at all - I don't care how much I spend
  Not at all - getting the best smartphone is key
  Not important

Click Here To View Current Results

Treonauts always make the right choice 

Posted by Andrew on October 18, 2006 at 01:44 PM

Treo 650 , Treo 680 , Treo 700p , Treo 700w , Treo 700wx , Treo 750 , Treo 750p

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by James | Oct 18, 2006 2:20:09 PM

Great article, but I believe the T650 has EDGE, doesn't it?


by Simon | Oct 18, 2006 2:23:03 PM

RE: Verizon and Sprint racing to bring Treo 750 to States....Am I missing something? Everything that I've read refers to Cingular bringing the Treo 750 to the states.

by Supp0rtLinux | Oct 18, 2006 2:53:29 PM

The 650 is also EDGE, not just GPRS. The 600 (which isn't available much anymore) was GPRS only.

by Supp0rtLinux | Oct 18, 2006 2:58:24 PM

Also, your listing seems to be missing the 750v... which is significant as its the the first Treo with UMTS support, though sadly its WinMo and not PalmOS. :(

by yerfdog | Oct 18, 2006 3:09:37 PM

I prefer Palm OS, but my company recently announced more stringent security requirements for mobile email. It seems that Windows Mobile may be the only choice that supports these requirements. If that remains true, you will see increased conversions to Windows Mobile.

by Wes | Oct 18, 2006 3:16:00 PM

another factor which influences my decision on which model to get is the fact that treos running WM have screen resolutions that are only 240x240 vs 320x320 on Palm OS treos. i would have long jumped to a WM treo if it weren't for this shortcoming.

by TreoWanter | Oct 18, 2006 3:37:05 PM

Cingular 750P? When the hell is that coming out? (See Bandwith chart above).

by Supp0rtLinux | Oct 18, 2006 3:53:43 PM

yerfdog - Your company is using security and Windows in the same sentence? Yikes! :) FWIW... running GoodLink on a PalmOS Treo can be made more secure (including enabling FIPS tests and remote wipe) than a WinMo device chatting with Exchange can be. And maintenance wise, it ends up being less in the long run. Run that by your IT dept.

by Kevin | Oct 18, 2006 3:59:59 PM

"Both Verizon and Sprint are front-runners in the race to bring the Windows Mobile Treo 750 to the US – possibly at the end of this year or beginning of 2007."

Are you indicating that there will be a CDMA version of the 750 eventually? (I know there will invariably have to be one, but I'm wondering if you know something I don't.)

by Emanuel | Oct 18, 2006 4:09:58 PM

Would the 680 allow for voice calls to be answered when in a data connection?

by Mark | Oct 18, 2006 4:16:39 PM

If you had put a model "750p" in your survey, I bet many, like me, would have selected it over the 680p.

by What's in a name? | Oct 18, 2006 4:23:34 PM

I second that comment (would have chosen the 750p).

by palmrox | Oct 18, 2006 4:31:43 PM

How about a survey of which unit people would upgrade to if they could... a Palm OS 680 or a Palm OS 750? My bet is that the 750 would be at least at 74.8%.

by Joe | Oct 18, 2006 4:48:23 PM

What's up with the "possibly six soon" comment?
I've noticed that you are the only site that keeps teasing about another Treo announcment soon??

by 2Dr@gon | Oct 18, 2006 5:43:05 PM

I'm holding out for a 750c...and the "c" stands for CINGULAR, baby!!!!

by Waiting | Oct 18, 2006 7:13:47 PM

All this talk about a treo 750 palm, anyone confirm this yet?

by bcaslis | Oct 18, 2006 7:16:51 PM

Your data chart is wrong. The row you labeled EDGE is really UMTS, and the row you labled GPRS is really EDGE. The 680 is never going to get the data speeds you have shown, that is the 750v as currently released by Vodaphone.

by Scotty | Oct 18, 2006 7:35:51 PM

Yeah, that chart needs some work :)

600 GSM -- GPRS
650 GSM -- EDGE
680 GSM -- EDGE
750v GSM -- UMTS (upgradeable to HSDPA someday)
750p -- doesn't exist
750 cingular version (750c or just 750?) -- UMTS (upgradeable to HSDPA someday)

by James | Oct 18, 2006 7:50:34 PM

I'm waiting for the Treo 950 myself :) That's when they'll finally include wireless - hopefully ;)

by Kevin | Oct 18, 2006 8:00:07 PM

The Treo 950 will be OK, but the 980 will be slightly better. :P

by Tec | Oct 18, 2006 8:14:51 PM

As Palm developers, we work hard to ensure we're compatible with all carriers, because we support PalmOS, not carriers. But personally, we recommend Sprint. Sprint data speeds (and all CDMA, presumably) pound GSM in actual use, and the $10month/unlimited data plan is the clincher. My own phone, with unlimited data, is $50 a month. Other carriers want $80-90 for an equivalent plan.

by Juan | Oct 18, 2006 11:49:09 PM

Not sure if this was done on purpose, it seems like the comments are purposely designed to make CDMA seem better than it actually is...we all have our favorites, but fair is fair...

1) Your chart is off for one...The Treo 650 is EDGE and while the browser is slow in connecting upon startup, it is really fast when it is connected and connects with literally every site. Having sat next to someone with a Sprint 650, I was getting to sites on my Cingular 650 as fast as she was, so the alleged speed difference is either market dependent (who would have thought that) or non-existant...
Your comment about CDMA carriers being larger is not correct either. Cingular and Verizon are essentially 1 and 2 in terms of total subscribers.
T-Mobile and Sprint are next and while Sprint is larger for now, T-Mobile is slowly gaining ground and dominates the Euro market and with the recent spectrum auction, they picked valuable coverage that will allow them to grow and expand really fast...

by Omar McManaman | Oct 19, 2006 2:29:11 AM

I just hope for the next Treo will be a bi-phone. CDMA 800/1900 with EVDO ofcourse and Qudband/HSDPA, 2.000 mAh battery (it will be a new record ;P), video call (never mind if it's still 1.3 mpix as long it makes vid call), antenna-less, GPS (a must!) and still no WIFI (so we can still make a difference with others)

by Eric | Oct 19, 2006 12:11:08 PM

I'm so disappointed by Palm (and the 680). I have been a loyal Palm user since the Palm V. I have invested hundreds of dollars in 3rd party applications, for Palm OS, over the years and the idea of not having them hurts, but I find myself browsing the WM5 devices (HTC and other non-palm vendors)when ever I think of upgrading.

My next device will probably not ba a Treo - Palm looks to be falling behind the competition.

by mark | Oct 19, 2006 1:04:06 PM

Why didn't you add the upcoming 750p to the list of preferred devices??? I, like many users, refuse to buy another treo until there's a *Palm* version with all of the latest features. This is a serious flaw/oversight in the survey!

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