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Treonauts Verdict: Treo 650 _IS_ the Best Smart Phone in the World

Some of you have wondered about my MIA over the last couple of days and my arguably puzzling silence while being at the center of the action at CTIA in San Francisco where our long-awaited Treo 650 was officially released on Monday.  The answer is that I have been gathering as much information as possible from people at palmOne and PalmSource as well as other attendees and spent a lot of time absorbing this, thinking and slowly formulating my own opinion as to whether the Treo 650 was just OK, great or fantastic.

On Monday morning I woke up in a foul mood after the press release announcing that the Treo 650 would only have 32MB of memory, that the camera was not the anticipated 1.2 megapixels and the rumour (later unfounded) that the Bluetooth might have been crippled by Sprint.  It was all painfully disappointing - so very close to perfection...  Little happened early that day at CTIA to lift my spirits but later I finally had the opportunity to play with a Treo 650 on my own for over an hour and this considerably swayed my mood back upwards and prompted me to rapidly write my last post.

However, I remained annoyed, filled with doubt and still unsure as to how I really felt about the Treo 650.  For me it was not a simple question of grabbing a press release and running a spec sheet on the blog.  I needed to be able to get to a stage where I could categorically state that the Treo 650 had supplanted its sibling to become the very best smart phone in the world.  What I needed was more one-on-one time with the Treo 650...

I am glad to report that my wish has now been granted and that I've had a chance to play with it for many, many hours... so here is my honest and final take on the Treo 650.

First of all it must be noted that the Treo 650 is not just a 'minor' upgrade to the Treo 600 but a completely new redesigned smart phone that happens to share its sibling's winning form factor but very little else - there are so many new features and improvements that it is simply unfair to say that palmOne did not deliver purely because of the issue of the memory and the camera.  It is a fact that the overall experience of using the Treo 650 for what it has been primarily designed to do - phone, email, browsing, SMS and PIM applications - is in absolutely no way hampered by the lower memory or camera resolution.  On the other hand palmOne could have avoided a lot of grief by increasing the first and fully upgrading the second... 

Thus yes, power users like myself and many of you will have to continue using a launcher or PowerRun to install our spillover applications on an SD card but within the greater scheme of things this is but a minor inconvenience.  As for the camera, I like many carry a high-end 4.0 megapixels one with me pretty much at all times and my Treo would never be a replacement for it.  Like the mini Polaroid camera which takes stamp size pictures for the fun of the moment the camera on the Treo 650 should be seen as a complementary feature for specific uses (palmOne has built one such use in its improved Contacts application for example).

Now that I've gotten these sticky issues out of the way (and out of my system) let me take you through both the new and improved hardware and software features that in my opinion combine to make the Treo 650 the absolute best smart phone on the planet (now leaving our Treo 600 as the second best one...).

HARDWARE

1. Antenna
While I would naturally have preferred the antenna to be built-in to the phone the T650 sports one that is smaller than that of the T600.  My understanding from speaking with various people at palmOne is that there were design constraints within the need to deliver quad-band capabilities which we'll all agree is considerably more important.

2. Infrared Port
Tested - works fine, fast and without any hicups whatsoever...

3. Ringer On/Off
As always this is as simple as sliding the button to On or Off mode and is identical in shape to that found on the Treo 600.

4. Expansion Card
Finally you can insert the card facing up as would seem 'logical' to most Treonauts.

5. Sim Tray
Remove, insert SIM card and you're ready to go.

6. Digital Camera (Improvement)
One of the most contentious issues on the Treo 650 has been that it does not sport a higher resolution camera.  While this is true I can say that while the resolution may be the same the one on the Treo 650 is significantly better than that found in our current Treo 600.  Aided by the higher resolution screen, a 2X digital zoom and a much more intuitive interface this feels like a completely new camera.

7. Stylus
A smart looking grey stylus crafted in one piece is in my view a significantly much smarter presentation than the T600 stylus with its 3 piece structure and the relative annoyance of having to unscrew it in order to reset the phone.  Now the tip of the stylus can be used directly to fit the reset slot.

8. Removable Battery (Massive Improvement)
While I personally never found myself in a situation that required more juice than the T600 could deliver in one fully charged stretch it is obvious that many other Treonauts will welcome the convenience of carrying multiple batteries over long travel or active usage conditions.

9. Volume Button
A slightly redesigned volume button works as well as the previous one.

10. Customizable Button (New & Useful)
While rumours had previously circulated that this additional side button was intended for push-to-talk functionality it is in fact a customizable button that will bring up any preselected application when you hold it for a few seconds.  It is my understanding that the button comes factory-mapped to the RealPlayer for MP3 playback.

11. Phone Speaker (Slight Improvement)
The phone speaker has been upgraded to provide better audio quality for your calls.

12. 320x320 Color Display (Massive Improvement)
It is without a doubt that the brilliant 65,536 colors TFT display on the Treo 650 is absolutely stunning and has no point of comparison to the Treo 600's  low-res 3,375 colors.  As I've noted previously, even the smallest details can be clearly seen without straining your eyesight.  The display alone significantly increases the feeling that the Treo 650 is a more 'robust' unit than its sibling.

13. Applications Button
Aside from a change of location on the phone the apps button performs exactly as before.

14. Phone/Send Button (New & Useful)
You can 'wake' the Treo 650 by pressing this key and it will open the 'phone' app as before.  Pressing it a second time will bring up the 'call log' which was previously done by the center nav button.

15. Calendar Button
Again, the function of the button has not changed but the calendar application itself has improved (more in Software below).

16. Menu Button
This was perhaps the button that took the most getting used to but once you've memorized its new location you realize that from a usability perspective it is much improved.

17. Power/End Button (New & Useful)
Trust me when I say that the previous Power button is not at all missed on the Treo 650.  The new one which also serves as the call end button works perfectly well and pressing it for a few seconds will connect or disconnect your carrier session.

18. Email/Messaging Button
Exactly the same function as before with the ability to map a primary and secondary application to the button.

19. 5-Way Navigator
The nav button feels slightly more responsive on the Treo 650 but aside from this it retains the same functionality as on the T600.

20. QWERTY Keyboard (Massive Improvement)
The new keyboard is absolutely fantastic (an understatement).  The slightly larger keys and minor shape change as well as the flattenning of the keys and a better 'press' responsiveness combine to deliver an extraordinary improvement over the T600 keyboard.  I don't think that I am exagerating if I state that I felt my typing ability to have improved by at least 20% on the Treo 650 keyboard.

21. Phone Dial Pad
This remains located in the same place but with the keyboard improvements it is now much easier to dial the numbers quickly and without input errors which I experienced occasionally with my T600.

22. Headset Jack
I am now resigned to stop complaining about the 2.5mm jack issue.  The Treo 650 is a phone and 2.5mm is standard in the phone industry so this is what would seem logical to implement.  As I've written before I've had a 2.5mm headset for a while on my T600 and I'm very happy that this will be one of the accessories that I'll be able to reuse on the T650.

23. Multi Connector
While I am certainly not 'happy' that I will not be able to reuse my current accessories on the Treo 650 I am willing to put up with it by telling myself that this is the last time

24. Microphone (Improvement)
To my astonishment I discovered that the tiny opening at the bottom back of my Treo 600 was in fact the microphone!  The microphone on the Treo 650 is therefore not a new addition but a repositioning to the front where it will be less prone to pick up peripheral noise.

25. Status Indicator
It still blinks as before...

26. Speaker (Improvement)
I am by no means an audio expert but to my normal ears the new speaker on the Treo 650 sounds clearer and louder than on my current Treo 600.

Among all of these hardware features it is evident that the enhanced screen and keyboard, removable battery as well as the repositioned buttons are not only the most important improvements but combined also deliver a completely different experience to that of the Treo 600.

Furthermore, the build quality on the Treo 650 is leagues ahead of the Treo 600 as the many mistakes and issues found in this generation have been corrected.  Overall the Treo 650 feels like a grown-up version of the Treo 600 - slightly wiser and more robust.  You could say that the Treo 650 is an evolution revolution.

SOFTWARE

Phone (Improvement)

A redesigned and enhanced home Phone screen provides information on three top lines with an 'unread email notice' (not shown) appearing to the left of the time and a 'next appointment' appearing below the time.  The bottom line below the dial pad provides access to the customizable favorites menu.  Users can also select to replace the dial pad display with any picture on their phone or SD card.  Alternatively you can also choose to fill the screen with seven lines of favorites.

Bluetooth (New & Useful)

Never having had the opportunity to use a Bluetooth device before I was very curious to see just how easy or complicated it might be to setup a BT headset on the Treo 650.  Here it was simply a matter of clicking Setup Devices.

Next there is a two step Hands-free Setup which took barely a couple of minutes to complete.

Here my test Jabra 250 headset has been successfully paired to the Treo 650 without any problems at all.

On the top right hand corner you'll notice that the BT icon has changed to display a small headset indicating that my Bluetooth is active and that the audio portion of the calls is now being relayed to my Jabra headset.

Contacts (Improvement)

As I mentioned earlier a simple use for the camera has been incorporated into Contacts.

You can add a picture taken with the camera or any photo on the phone and 'map' it to your contacts.

Is this case I am in the home of Joe Banana so I snap a picture of one of his products (the picture taken is automatically cropped in a square format).

A reference picture for Joe Banana is now mapped to his contact.

Joe Banana's complete details with picture.  Should JB call my Treo 650 his picture will automatically pop-up on the screen.

Calendar (Improvement)

The familiar Calendar view.

Enhanced by the ability to select multiple user-defined categories for each appointment.

A new aggregate daily view which provides you with a complete list of appointments, tasks and emails for a given day.

Versamail (New & Useful)

As we'll all agree, eMail is probably the single most important feature that Treonauts are looking at on the Treo 650.  VersaMail has been completely revamped and now supports up to 8 email accounts on POP, IMAP and MS Exchange Server.

While VersaMail does not support 'push' in the traditional sense you can however set your email to sync automatically on a periodic basis from every 5 minutes to hours and schedule this for different times of day and days of the week as well as to set alerts whenever a new email is received.  To be honest with you I consider this to be more than enough for my purposes but as previously reported there are also a number of other solutions provided by third-parties such as Good Technologies and soon BlackBerry that will provide mobile professionals the choice to fit their particular needs.

Messaging (Improvement)

Having to date considered the messaging app on my Treo 600 to be the very best in the world I didn't immediately expect that this could become even better.  Aside from keeping all of your SMS messages in the now familiar thread format you are now able to make use of MMS by taking/attaching pictures and sound at the simple press of a button. 

Camera (Improvement)

The camera interface has been completely revamped and is now not only more intuitive to use but also feels like a quality modern camera as opposed to the toy-like feel of the T600.  Naturally the higher resolution screen helps enormously to add value to the camera.

There is now also a 2X digital zoom which is useful if you're looking to take product close-ups for example.

It's perhaps difficult to judge from this picture alone but the image quality and resolution of the picture taken on the T650 is significantly higher than that on the T600.

Camcorder (New & Useful)

The Treo 650 now supports video via the same interface as the camera.  You can see the Camera and Camcorder icons to the left of the center navigation button on the screen.  I found it useful not to have to switch or launch yet another application to use either.

Media (New & Useful)

The new Media application on the Treo 650 allows you fast access to your photos and videos both on the phone and SD card.  You have different view options as well as a slide show with the single press of the bottom right button on the screen.  There are many other functions such as the ability to add a voice memo to each of the pictures which I find extremely neat.

One of the great things that I found was the ability to rapidly select any media to send via either BT, SMS or eMail.

Web Browser (Improvement)

Blazer 4.0 on the Treo 650 not only delivers such a superior experience thanks to the higher screen resolution but is now also much easier to use thanks to full 5-way navigation button support.  To many it will also immediately feel much faster as the browser rapidly downloads text first and images only later.  I could not test it on EDGE but it is obvious that browsing on a faster network should make the entire experience even smoother.

Visiting Treonauts on the Treo 650...

Tasks (Improvement)

The main improvement on the Tasks front is that you now have the ability to sort more easily as well as to view pending tasks by date thanks to easily accessible tabs at the top of the screen.

Calculator (Improvement)

I can't imagine anyone not finding a practical use for such a complete calculator and now that the interface has been completely revamped it also makes for a considerably more enjoyable experience.

World Clock

The familiar WorldClock but now with the addition of a built-in alarm clock. 

I had been clamoring for such a simplified alarm ever since switching from my Nokia where I used one regularly and I'm glad that I'll now finally be able to set wake-up alarms on my Treo 650 with but two clicks and without using a stylus.

CONCLUSION
Considering that the Treo 600 was already the best smart phone in the world, that no other contender comes even close to matching the overall capabilities, flexibility and usability of either the Treo 600 or 650 there really can be no other logical conclusion than that the Treo 650 is now the very best - perhaps even the only real - smart phone on the planet.

Our job and that of palmOne is now to go out and show the world just how much more fun Treonauts have getting things done in their private life, at work and when playing...

[UPDATE: The Treo 650 is now available with free shipping directly from palmOne.]

                                                  


Posted by Andrew on October 29, 2004 at 10:23 AM

Treo 650

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Comments

26
by heru | Oct 30, 2004 11:54:29 AM

check this out guys

27
by Rich...! | Oct 30, 2004 1:00:27 PM

I'm a long time palm and smartphone user but found the treo 600 to be extremely lacking and reverted to my p900. Issues like the call waiting, poor audio, and terrible camera were a bug. The fact that it was a phone that you couldnt use as a modem for your laptop without third party software (and there was none for mac) was archaic, this is an entry level feature on just about every gprs enable phone in the world) made it imposible to use.

My fingers are crossed for these features.

The fact that you said that the treo 600 was the best smartphone before pulls credibility from your current review. It was nowhere close.

Otherwise, thanks for a nice, if top-level, review. It's nice as a preview but I feel you didnt dig deep enough for a complete review. Having said that, you need to really use the kit for a weeek or so before you'll really be able to comment on this...!

28
by zakkhan | Oct 31, 2004 3:26:40 AM

and that last comment had something constructive in it?

--

either way, it was a good review, maybe the editor should compare other similar products to the 650. what is new and improved could be just standard features on other devices.

29
by Dude | Oct 31, 2004 2:29:50 PM

can it do voice recording like the T, T2, T3 and Zire 72?

if not

can it do voice recording with the mic like the sony t616?

if not

can I get a 3rd party program to do voice recording with the mic?

(notice that the first question and the second one are different since the sony t616 recording is more of a memo in a sony format, which can be use as a ring tone unlike the first question were the Voice recording is a dedicated recorder in WAV format

30
by Treo600 owner | Nov 1, 2004 10:59:50 AM

Best In the World?... :O
in the planet? :P
Your whole world don't include Japan?...
I think this is the worst publicity in this device, You should say the true about your feelings, DoComo & Kddi have the best smartphone in the planet, We're just trying to reach them, but time will say it.
(I think this message is going to be erased, since it's not good publicity to the new toy; even that I support it, PalmOne people, please; you can do it better).

31
by Bla | Nov 4, 2004 10:43:45 PM

Wow that has got to be the least biased review I've ever read[/sarcasm]

32
by BobK | Nov 5, 2004 1:01:14 AM

Does anyone know when Verizon will get the 650? I was recently told next July, but hoping this is wrong.

33
by FRANK | Nov 5, 2004 12:19:29 PM

IS THERE A 650 OUT OUT THERE WITH OUT THE CAMERA AND VIDEO THAT PALM WILL SELL FOR SPRINT USERS.

34
by phil enright | Nov 9, 2004 7:51:43 AM

HELP!! Any way to be sure t650 will aloow sorting according to company name, just like the 600 desktop version...(which does not allow either on the handheld)..only last name first name.I can't buy the new 650 without this feature anddon't want to get involved in third party software for this. thanks

35
by อาร์ต | Nov 11, 2004 11:22:26 AM

น่าสนใจครับ

36
by Alfredo Anzola M. | Nov 15, 2004 11:52:45 AM

"""As Ed points out however the GSM release of the Treo 650 in Europe and Asia will have pretty much the "same time frame as in the US" sometime "early next year""".
WHAT ???? You mean not even for Xmas !!! Is somebody playing a joke ???
AAM

37
by AB | Nov 16, 2004 6:41:51 PM

I have heard the Verizon is not going to carry the T650 at all because they want to wait for a unit with EVDO. Alsom the free Jabra offer is for anyone with ANY Palm, not just a Treo! So get your Palm S/N ready...

38
by John | Nov 25, 2004 9:21:19 AM

I have a few gripes about the new Treo 650...
The first gripe - the backlit keyboard.
It is just too bright, and I would like to turn it down a little. The old keyboard on the 600 was a little difficult to see, but at least it wasn't so darn bright. I do appreciate the repositioning of the alt key and relocation of the home and menu keys, which allowed them to make the other keys just a little bigger. The new keyboard is a little easire to use, but just a little.

39
by Paul | Nov 27, 2004 7:30:02 PM

Found this site via Google...

I've been reading all about the T650 and am anxious to get not one but two ... my wife and I both use T300s and have been mostly happy with them for the past two years. I get that the memory management is f'd up but don't think that will be a problem and the bluetooth headset capability will be useful, particularly for my wife who is always getting tangled up in her headset wire....

So, here's the question: how hard is it to upgrade, and migrate from the old T300 to the new platform? How do I get my contact databases, eMail (Snapper) configurations etc. out of the old units into the new units? Will the software recognize an "upgrade" when I install and then copy all the data to the T650 when I hot sync? Boy, won't that make things easy...

This particular subject I dont see covered anywhere on this site, but it seems to me it would be a useful thing as no doubt a lot of people contemplating the T650 will be upgrading from an earlier model...

Thanks,

--PS

40
by whatyoucumhere4 | Nov 28, 2004 10:14:19 PM

I ordered the treo 600, I didn't know about the 650 until after the fact. I am a gadget girl so it's mainly for looks and basic emailing and organizing, is it worth sending the 600 back and waiting until the 650 is available thru tmobile and I guess it would cost 150 to 200 more since I already have service.

thx

41
by GreggK | Dec 14, 2004 10:53:49 PM

after reading all the news about the memory, i picked up a 512mg card and run as many apps as i can through the card. I have not run into any issue.

i am in the second week and my only hang up is not having a cover for the screen. I have cut down a WriteRight and make sure when i put it in my e-holster, the screen is facing in.

get one and you will not be disapointed.

42
by Lou Massa | Dec 15, 2004 12:09:06 PM

Will the Qool Labs QDA-700 become
available for the US market?

43
by sojo7 | Dec 18, 2004 6:56:50 AM

I have had my t650 via sprint for 2 days now-used a palm zire 72 before. The main feature for me was that I was hooked on my zire! This is essentially like a zire 72 with a phone. All my programs from my zire 72 switched over to the new phone.(most of the software people were kind enough to give me replacement codes) Now I dont have to carry so many things!(phone, pda, camera)of course the camera is not for professional jobs - but for spontaneous stuff! I really love this phone-the game graphics are awesome! The mp3 player is the same as the zire 72 "real player"-but I also had aeroplayer on my zire which works with this too. My only beef is that I have to buy a stereo adapter to convert the 2.5 over to fit my stereo headphones-but that is between $2-$5 (big whoopie) I am waiting for the aluminum case for the treo 650 with card holders in it-my aluninum case saved my zire so many times- many times it fell or I dropped it accidently with no damage. Will the treo 600 aluminum case fit it? Some say yes, but I haven't tried it.The phone is slippery to me without the aluminum case.
My Excel and powerpoint is great with multi colors and I used my zire for everything it was worth: ebooks, beaming, spreadsheets, budgets, contacts, alarms, etc, and I suppose I will with this too. I have really no complaints yet, it feels comfortable and speaker phone works great- camera seems improved from zire 72. Alarm and mail syncing works great with versamail. I pull all my mail from my personal account and my yahoo mail. Web browsing is fast, I use it in my business to look up invoices sent to me.Just needs a cradle ( I prefer a cradle at home)
This will work for me for a long, long time.

44
by v boy | Dec 21, 2004 3:14:09 AM

Hey,

I've had a Treo 650 since mid-November. Here is what I think....

1) Wait for the unlocked GSM worldphone to be released. When traveling simply purchase a SIM chip in the country you are in and save your US SIM chip until you return. I was really eager to get a new phone (mine was 4 years old), but had they released the GSM phone along with the Sprint phone, I would have dumped Sprint and gotten a GSM plan. On the plus side, the Sprint data plan seems cheaper than competitors.

2) I owned a Palm Vx. All of my information migrated without problems. Some programs that were incompatible with the Treo were excluded automatically when I migrated.

3) My first T650 did break in less than 24 hours. It wasn't dropped or mishandled. It just stopped working. The replacement has not had any problems, but be aware.

4) Otherwise, the MP3 functions well. The camera and video work well. The web browser is good. I like it... but like everything else regarding tech-toys, you may want to wait and see if something better comes along...

45
by mike | Dec 27, 2004 9:23:23 PM

will there be a chance that a wifi card will be out for the treo 650 ?

46
by Nate | Jan 9, 2005 2:47:51 PM

My understanding was the new 650 would have only a basic calculator, not the "advanced" like what was on the previous treo's. I can't tell from your post what type of calculator comes with the 650. I currently have a 600 and use the FINANCE, WEIGHT/TEMP, LENGTH, AREA, and VOLUME features of the advanced calculator very frequently. Please inform me on the current features of the 650's calculator (especially FINANCE). Thank you in advanced for your help. BTY great post, very detailed

Nathan Hicks

47
by Ted Starr | Feb 3, 2005 9:56:39 PM

One question - can I use my Palm Keyboard with the Treo 650? That would be awesome. I'm 90% there to getting one for my company e-mail and Franklin Planner software. If the keyboard was usable to allow me to use it when I'm on the client site that doesn't allow me to plug in to the internet while onsite, that would be a slam dunk.

48
by Kenn Lowy | Feb 3, 2005 11:03:49 PM

nice review, a little too nice. the fact that the treo 650 has less user memory than the 600 is a huge mistep. the fact that everything on the 650 was available over a year ago on other palm devices is also something you neglected to mention. bluetooth, better screen, old news. EDGE and bluetooth and probably the biggest reasons to upgrade. yes, the new screen looks great. but less memory? come on, be a little more honest.

if I have a treo that has 6 MB of free ram, can i upgrade to the 650? I have many clients who cannot! they get loads of email and have large contact databases. don't you think a fair review would mention these issues??

49
by Andrew | Feb 4, 2005 10:04:19 AM

Kenn,

Please note that Treonauts were the first to review the Treo 650 back in October 2004 and that at the time nothing was known about the 'memory issue'.

As soon as we were made aware of the NVFS memory issue in November, I wrote one of the strongest editorials on the matter and condemning palmOne for their huge mistake(http://blog.treonauts.com/2004/11/indepth_the_tre.html). The uproar from close to 1,000 Treonauts over the next 72 hours was among the reasons why palmOne issued an official statement and offered to provide a free 128MB SD card to all Treo 650 owners.

In this light, I hope that you will reconsider your remarks about my 'honesty' and 'fairness' - something which is at the very heart of this blog and that most Treonauts know I take extremely seriously.

Cheers, A.

50
by Charles | Feb 7, 2005 8:29:17 AM

You guys are sadly mistaken. The Sony Ericsson P910a is absolutely the best manufactured smartphone in the world right now. It doubles everything th treo can do including boasting as a better multimedia device Symbian UIQ will lead the way as the number one mobile operating system. Palmone will only continue to disappoint. Sorry Treonauts

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
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