Our Smartphone Stores.  Buy Accessories For Your... Blackberry Android Moto Q iPhone Centro Treo

In-Depth: The Treo 650 Memory Debate

Here I was, relatively content to have put the issue of "only 32MB of memory on the Treo 650" to rest, when to my dismay I find out a few days ago that the new Non-Volatile File System (NVFS) implemented by palmOne on the Treo 650 actually further reduces the amount of memory available to the user when compared to the Treo 600.  The issue has been brewing (some say raging) on a number of forums this weekend as well as featuring on Slashdot yesterday and I am pretty certain that it will spill over to a wider audience shortly.

I do not want to enter into the nitty gritty and relatively complex technical details of NVFS but would instead like to focus on the wider consumer and business considerations and why I believe that palmOne made a mistake when it decided not to upgrade the memory on the Treo 650 to 64MB.  Let me therefore explain the current memory issue with the Treo 650 as briefly as I can.

For those Treonauts not familiar with NVFS - simply called Flash memory - it is a system that continuously backs up your data and permanently stores it so that even if your Treo battery runs down completely you will not lose any data.  As anyone who has ever lost data on their Palm powered device will attest, NVFS is certainly very long overdue and now a welcome new feature - lack of which I believe has cost palmOne significant sales in the past.  It is without a doubt that NVFS constitutes a massive improvement over previous devices which makes its association with the memory issue all the more disappointing.

As I mentioned, the Treo 650 comes with 32MB of memory of which 23MB is 'user-available' (the other 9MB is reserved for system files) and the Treo 600 is exactly the same story.  However, because the NVFS on the Treo 650 stores any data under 512 bytes in full 512 byte chuncks it means that both applications and particularly databases (including your contacts) will now typically use up some 30% more of your available memory.  The practical side of this is that existing users will have 30% less memory to use when compared to the Treo 600 thus bringing the 'true' user-available memory down to only 16MB.

So who will be affected by this?  Some people have argued that the only ones who will suffer are a minority of 'power users' who have 'too many installed applications' but I strongly disagree with this view as some Treo 650 owners have reported maxing their memory with as few as five applications which hardly qualifies them as power users.  Yet others have quite rightly pointed out that the mere fact of owning a Treo by definition makes you a power user.  It is therefore becoming evident that anybody who would like to have the freedom to exploit the full potential of their Treo 650 is affected.  As it stands, this freedom has been seriously curtailed.

I am pretty convinced from a number of comments made to me that palmOne's rationale for limiting the memory to 32MB was that its market research demonstrated that a majority of its users only had a few applications installed and would therefore have no use for additional memory.  This is a bit like a research team presenting Ferrari's board members with a chart demonstrating that drivers of its supercars actually only average speeds of about 55MPH and then recommending that the company's next car have a maximum speed of only 100MPH...  I can just picture the speed at which that research team would be flying out of the boardroom window.

The entire issue with the memory must now stand as one of the worst kind of business rationalizations that I have  come across and may be a strong and very sad indication that bean counters are now running palmOne.  The fact is that what this will in turn achieve is for prospective buyers of the Treo 650 to consider making their purchase in a highly 'rational' manner which will slow and reduce overall sales.  It really should not be that difficult for the company to realize that selling a $600 phone no matter how 'smart' it is will be made a hundred times easier if the product can appeal to people's emotions - our decision to buy should be an absolute no-brainer.

While being aware of the situation, palmOne has thus far been rather dismissive of the whole issue arguing that SD card storage has now become so cheap that considerations for additional on-board memory are not that relevant.  This kind of attitude leads me to believe that the company is strongly - if not completely - disconnected from its customer base.  Not upgrading the memory to 64MB was a poor business decision and as I am not known to suffer fools gladly you'll have to forgive some of my disparaging remarks.

It is true that while SD cards are great for storing files (I personally have 2.5GB for movies, music, ebooks, audio programs and the like) they are for many reasons however simply not adequate for running applications.  Again, not wanting to enter into long technical discussions let me just say that neither palmOne nor PalmSource have fully addressed this matter nor provided users with the tools to properly manage applications running from an SD card.  At the same time not many developers have implemented their programs in such a way that they can actually be run from a card and figuring out which programs can or can't further adds to the user burden. 

Furthermore, from a competitive standpoint it should be evident that palmOne has much to gain from users installing as many additional applications as possible on their Treo.  This will increase both loyalty to the platform and long-term switching costs thus securing much needed future revenues from a strong installed base.  Also, while competing smart phones can match the phone, email, SMS and browsing capabilities of the Treo they currently cannot offer anywhere near the breadth of applications available to Palm powered devices.  However, a low average number of applications installed on the Treo will be indicative of an inability on the part of palmOne to fully exploit this advantage.

I am extremely disappointed and frustrated that the consumer appeal for such an absolutely incredible smart phone as the Treo 650 should in any way be limited or diminished by something as banal as its memory.  Like many, I am still completely dumbfounded trying to comprehend why palmOne did not just upgrade the memory to 64MB in the first place as everybody had anticipated - particularly in light of the many benefits that would accrue to the company. 

The only thing holding the Treo 650 back from achieving true 'greatness' now is the memory issue.  palmOne should acknowledge this fact quickly, upgrade the memory to 64MB and make sure that in the future it listens less to its 'market researchers' and quite a lot more to its avid and passionate followers who have no other wish than to see the company develop the best products in the world and succeed beyond people's wildest expectactions.  Alternatively it can do nothing, continue to alienate its most devout customers and we'll then have to painfully watch as the company squanders yet another category defining opportunity that it created.  Treonauts cannot and will not let this happen.

[Via TreoCentral Forum and Slashdot.  Also Red Mercury for a good overview of NVFS.]

UPDATE: Take the Treo Memory Survey and learn more about how current and prospective Treonauts feel about this issue.

Treonauts are more outspoken... 

Posted by Andrew on November 22, 2004 at 08:34 AM

Treo 650

| Permalink


by Nando | Nov 23, 2004 4:49:18 PM

I was really looking forward to the arrival of the Treo 650: however, after hearing the limitations in its memory capacity, I think I will hold off for a better smart phone.

by Midmofan | Nov 23, 2004 5:06:49 PM

I attended the Chicago Roadshow. Three things about the memory issue struck me.

First, the P1 people at the show seemed not to realize how much memory some of the apps use or that some programs cannot be run from SD cards. They did not seem to realize, for example, that you needed to have enough Ram available to pull the maps off of Mapopolis even if you are using and SD Card.

Second, When pressed on the memory issue, one of the P1 types said that "Although memory is inexpensive right now, there is no telling what may happen to memory prices in the future." That got a chuckle from several of us. Someone wispered "Oo-Ooo, I know, I know, the price will go down even more!"

Third. One of the vendors there was not very happy (to put it mildly) with the memory situation. He said the P1 explination (that their survey said most did not use all of the memory) nuts, wondered who they surveyed and, even if true, limiting memory limits any growth in the use of the product. He said with memory so cheap, the decision was "silly" Of course, he was probably biased. The App he was tying to demonstrate and to get us to buy crashed on his 650 due to "insuficent memory" I thought, goodness, if a vendor at the P1 dog and pony show is so upset that he wont stay on script, and if HE can't get his own app to work for a sales presentation, then this might be a real problem.

by tony | Nov 28, 2004 6:05:51 PM

I recently purchased the new treo 650 as an upgrade from my treo 600... The camera on the phone was a suprise on the difference not as good as i expected but much better than the 600, Memory was not a difficult thing to upgrade to at least 128... I have a 1 gig sd card for music storage and i use the on board for programs i have 3 programs on the treo with 3 mb left on the memory, leaving very little mem to use the camera and video... not something that will kill me but you figure after spending 450 for the first treo and 450 for the second treo the price of investment you should expect a lot more than recieved all together I do like the new treo and love the bluetooth feature but the memory is really a kill on it.

by Matt W | Nov 29, 2004 4:46:52 AM

Wondered if anyone can help? Can't seem to figure this out... :-(
I am considering buying a 650, but I want to put a BIG SD card in it for music files + I want to use it as a sat nav device - Wondered if anyone can tell me - If I want to use sat nav will I have to take out the SD card and put in one with the sat nav map info on it? That would be a pain as I obviously want to drive with my music and navigate at the same time. + I want to use this as a bluetooth GSM phone at the same time!

by Marwan_Bn | Nov 29, 2004 3:23:11 PM

Dear Seller
I interested your item !
Will you ship it to Indonesia via FedEx InternationalPriority ?
I will buy your item US$369.99
and cover the shipping cost if you could charge my credit card
Please let me know soon.
Thank you

by martha | Dec 1, 2004 7:47:36 AM

I'm waiting to upgrade to a smartphone - I've used Palm for years. I thought the Treo 650 would be the answer. However, I don't want Sprint. Can Palm data be shared between the new Blackberry or the new Motorola MPx which is supposed to be out soon?

by Amenankhra | Dec 1, 2004 9:45:27 PM

I was an unabashed PPC user but I rushed out to get a shiny new T650. I promply started loading the Palm equivalent of all the programs that I use daily and quickly ran up against the memory constraint. IMHO, 16-20MB is nowhere near enough space to be comfortable. Otherwise, I love my celly/pda.

by billmack | Dec 2, 2004 9:18:03 AM

Would it be possible to patch the Treo 650 software so it had variable length records instead of fixed 512 byte records ?

by Glenn | Dec 2, 2004 7:18:25 PM

Does anyone know if it is possible to disable the backup feature of the NVFS and just take your chances with the possibility of data loss? I think I would sync this thing with my desktop anytime I added anything important and if I had to restore once in a blue moon I wouldn't really care.

by Traci Manuel | Dec 4, 2004 7:13:22 AM

In summary, is it suggested NOT to get TREO 650 as first time user and wait for resolution of memory?
on their spec sheet I do not see 32 mb it just says 22mb ?
Also is there a comparable phone out there w/64mB?
I have waited this long, maybe I should wait longer??

by JeffB | Dec 6, 2004 5:05:29 PM

Anybody know when the GSM T650 will be available? I live in Jerusalem and I just switched my cell carrier to 'Orange' which uses GSM. I bought the SIM so I could reserve the cell number I wanted, but as of yet, no T650 to install it in. Any estimates on availability? Also, how serious is the loss of data problem on the 600?

by scstraus | Dec 6, 2004 6:14:38 PM

I agree fully. This problem, combined with the appearent lack of an upgrade path from the treo 600 will be the cause of a lost sale to me- a customer who has bought 3 handspring devices including every model of treo.

Being that my memory is already maxed, and I have a huge amount of PIM records accumulated over 10 years, I just can't bring myself to lose any memory.

It's a tradeoff, and when feeling like you are downgrading part of the device, it just isn't as compelling. So I'm going to wait for the treo 700 when I can hopefully get a hi res camera and finally a modern amount of pda memory.

by Muz | Dec 7, 2004 11:45:18 AM

Awww....this SUCKS!!!

by anaconda | Feb 25, 2005 1:55:35 AM

I've been a Handspring user since the Visor--even did the "phone module."

Since then I've moved through Clie's, Tungstens and eventually became a power user with the Treo 600. I read blogs, website threads, and discovered websites I never knew existed when searching for the "650 rumors."

I've had a Cingular GSM Treo 650 for two weeks and am incredibly excited at all the improvements--with the exception of one...MEMORY.

On my Treo 600 I had installed almost 20 apps with plenty of room to spare...from (big hogs) Docs2Go, SnapperMail, Bug Me, etc. and on and on. With the new NVFM on the Treo 650 I can only use TWO added applications--Goodlink and Docs2Go. Even though--in the past--I kept databases and "games" on my SD card on the 600 I still had plenty of room. With the 650, I'm limited to the two apps mentioned above and have to keep my fingers crossed for just enough memory to play a "solitaire" game.

Yes--great web, great colors, great BlueTooth, better keyboard, awesome email and phone...but at a cost. No room to run Docs2Go, databases, games, Express.

I'm torn between a massive improvement of the Treo 600 with the intro of the 650--and the posibility of not using the 650 with all I had on the 600. If you didn't have to give up your 600 to get the new 650, you might want to hang on to the 600 until you can decide for yourself. MORE MEMORY OR A CLEANER SYSTEM FOR SD CARDS.

But ultimately, I urge you to see the new 650 and decide for yourself. If I can't solve the problem of "low memory" I might be surfing EBAY for your old 600.

Who knows?

by Bob Kohn | Apr 9, 2005 4:49:20 AM

I agree completely with Treonauts for the reasons I've made clear here; http://discussion.treocentral.com/showthread.php?t=80569

Those of us who have been loyal Palm customers for years are the ones most adversely affected by the memory issue. That is because our Calendar and Contact files tend to have the most records (over 10,000 and 6,500, respectively, for me), and since you can only run them from internal memory, there is no room on the device for more apps.

If the decision to remain at 32meg was, indeed, the result of research, I'd sure like to know who was in charge of that decision.

by Frank John Corigliano | Sep 11, 2005 5:48:05 PM

I love my Treo600. However, I have not been able to play with all of the available features do to time and $ constraints (grad students). With that said I just found out that the Treo600 only has 20-30 mgs of memory! I was very excited about riping my cd collection to listen to on the subway going to class as well as downloading PDF journal articles to read. How is it that my friends IPod can hold 40GB of songs and I am looking at (at most 1-4 lonely, sad GBs?). PS does anyone have any feedback on the SanDisk 1GB Treo Compatable Memory Card that folds into a USB thing? This, for me, would be a Godsend. I love the idea of interfunctionability between my laptop, the school computer labs and my Treo. But again, I am a grad student and can fill 1GB without blinking!

by Cindy | Sep 21, 2005 10:04:02 AM

Regarding the memory issue. I upgraded to a 650 from the 600 and have quickly maxed the internal memory. What do you suggest? I keep all the added programs on a card but still have trouble accessing programs as the device is out of memory. Can I unlock the locked programs and move them to the card? What program will allow me to do that? Also, how do I safely remove left over bits of programs that haven't totally removed. It seems like all of you have a lot of programs on your 650? How are you accomplishing that without maxing memory?


by Yuhong Bao | Oct 5, 2005 7:09:30 PM

Have you heard of this firmware update for the Treo 650?


by Yuhong Bao | Oct 5, 2005 7:11:04 PM

Have you heard of this firmware update for the Treo 650?


The comments to this entry are closed.

Footer graphic
©2006 Treonauts.com | Subscribe to the Treonauts Blog RSS Feed


Treo Blog
Treo Forum
Treo Accessories Store
Treo Software Store


iPhone Blog
iPhone Accessories Guide
iPhone Accessories Store
iPhone Software Store


Centro Forum
Centro Accessories Guide
Centro Accessories Store
Centro Software Store