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What Is An "Unlocked" Treo 680?

Judging by the number of requests that I have received it appears that in both my posts about Choosing Your Next Treo and Treo Family Comparison Chart I may not have properly explained exactly what an “Unlocked Treo” means so…

When you purchase a Treo with or without a contract from your wireless carrier the Treo that you receive will in almost 100% of cases have a software “lock” that will not allow you to use that particular Treo with any other carrier.  This “lock” will typically be in place for either the duration of your contract or until you request for your carrier to “unlock” your Treo – they may offer to do this for free or for a fee. 

Carriers lock the Treo that you purchase because they often offer this smartphone to you at a subsidized price that is below the retail price and they naturally want to protect the investment that they are making by locking the device.  For example, the Treo 650 retails for $549 but is offered at $249 with a 2 year contract by Cingular – thus saving you $300 but locking you into a contract to allow the carrier to recoup its investment.

Therefore, a locked Treo provided at a cheaper price by wireless carriers in return for a 1 or 2 year voice and/or data service commitment will appeal primarily to Treonauts who are looking to minimize the initial cost of their Treo purchase and are not so concerned about the contract aspect of it.

An “Unlocked Treo 680” on the other hand will appeal to a different set of Treonauts who are much less concerned about price and a lot more concerned about having the freedom to choose which specific carrier they would like to use.  However, because in the US there are two competing wireless standards – GSM and CDMA – an unlocked GSM Treo will only work with a GSM carrier such as Cingular and T-Mobile (as well as over 100 GSM carriers worldwide) while an unlocked CDMA Treo will work only with a CDMA carrier such as Verizon or Sprint.  (I know… it’s all a bit confusing…)

Most Treonauts prefer an Unlocked GSM Treo (53% of people stated that they would choose an Unlocked Treo 680 when it is released) because 1) it’s the only Treo smartphone that will work with Cingular and T-Mobile (since this carrier does not offer the Treo on a subsidized basis) 2) they can use it much more widely internationally thanks to the huge global footprint of GSM carriers and 3) they can easily change the SIM card to make use of cheaper local calling rates – for example using pre-paid SIM cards widely available in Europe and Asia.  A CDMA Treo on the other hand can be used primarily only in North America and be used with only one carrier.

Assuming that you have finally decided that you’d like to purchase an Unlocked Treo there will be one last choice to consider – you can buy your Unlocked Treo new, refurbished or used…  Palm offers a new GSM-only Unlocked Treo 650 for $549 while the Treonauts Accessories Shop offers the same but refurbished GSM Unlocked Treo 650 for $379.95 and a CDMA Unlocked Sprint Treo 650 for $329.95

Additionally, Palm is expected to shortly begin selling an unlocked GSM version of its forthcoming Treo 680 for $399 (estimated) via its website.

Treonauts are always unlocking things

Posted by Andrew on October 25, 2006 at 03:58 PM

Treo 680

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by Eduardo | Oct 25, 2006 4:29:44 PM

When!? When!? I have almost no nails left!!!

by Andrew | Oct 25, 2006 5:03:03 PM

Eduardo - like you I am also anxiously awaiting this release! Palm CEO Ed Colligan had hinted that it would become available before the end of the month... So far I am not getting the faintest indication that it will be released this week... I therefore now have to assume that a more likely launch will come next week.

Cheers, A.

by Kevin | Oct 25, 2006 5:31:17 PM

I'm a little confused about unlocked CDMA...even if you buy a CDMA phone sans contract, you still have to select which carrier you're going to use it with; ie, Sprint will not activate a Treo with a Verizon logo on it.

Unless I'm missing something.

by Supp0rtLinux | Oct 25, 2006 5:55:48 PM

If worth pointing out that *if* T-Mobile *does* offer it in the future, they are known for providing unlock codes upon request. You simply call them and tell them you are going to travel internationally and need to use prepaid SIMs and they'll email you an unlock code within 14 days. The new Cingular is similar (old Cingular: aka AT&T "Blue" does not provide unlock codes at all), only they require that you're account be paid on time and have been active for at least three months before they'll provide an unlock code. FWIW: I've never heard of an "unlocked CDMA" phone being sold by a phone manufacturer. Maybe I'm wrong... or just stuck in a GSM world, but while there *are* unlocked CDMA phones, I've never seem a phone manufacturer (Palm, Motorola, etc) sell them directly. The only cases where I have seem them is Ebay and cellphone websites.

by Confused | Oct 25, 2006 6:07:31 PM

"Carriers lock the Treo that you purchase because they often offer this smartphone to you at a subsidized price that is below the retail price and they naturally want to protect the investment that they are making by locking the device."

this is what they tell you, but it is a bunch or crock.

if you break your contract, they charge you a penalty and they don't ask for the phone back.

so, locking a phone is just their way of keeping you on their service usind their "features."

it cost them nothing to unlock it, because you are still under contract and you are still paying the monthly bill.

and yes, tmo will unlock it upon request if you have been with them for a couple of months.

I'm waiting for an unlocked something. 680 or 750v.

by Mike Hardy | Oct 25, 2006 6:37:49 PM

I agree with comment #5 by Confused, locking is a crock. They already have you in the contract and are guaranteed a return on their investment.

Perhaps their rationale is that they rely on the nearly punative overage charges built into the typically consumer unfriendly wireless contracts. That's another discussion though.

Luckily Cingular unlocked my Treo 650 with a simple request and a minimum of fuss so I could travel easily.

by floretbroccoli | Oct 25, 2006 6:45:36 PM

Do we know for sure that T-Mobile will not be offering the Treo? I've been assuming that's the case, but quietly still hoping.

I have a much cheaper plan on T-M than I could get on Cingular -- the difference would pay the additional $200 for the unlocked phone in under a year. I wonder, though, if there are disadvantages to an unlocked phone. That is, will I run into support problems, with Palm blaming T-M and T-M blaming Palm for any glitches?

by Java Man | Oct 25, 2006 8:39:17 PM

Well, I did it!! Got on eBay a week ago, found someone who was selling an unopened Vodafone Treo 750v...and I put in my bid. Ended up winning it and had it shipped to me here in the States. Got it this morning, followed the link to get the thing unlocked and...joy of joys...the thing works!!! I can't believe it!! It's gorgeous...and fast!! Faster than my old Treo 650 was in terms of pulling down web sites, email, documents - EVERYTHING! Put in my Cingular sim and it connected without any errors. I'm in love!! Am wondering just WHEN Cingular/Palm is going to market this baby here. Oh well...got tired of waiting...my Treo750v works here in the US - NOW :)

by Confused | Oct 25, 2006 10:01:12 PM


I have been using my 650 on t-mo since the 650 came out. I dont remember ever calling tmo or palm to get it to work. it just did.

it is my understanding, that tmo wont be carrying any treo, it has been rumored that they had a very bad time with the 270s and 600s.

in any event, buying an unlocked phone you probably have to go through palm to get help.

by Peter | Oct 25, 2006 11:40:08 PM

Why is the 680 estimated to cost so much less than the 650? It seems to compare very favorably in most categories and has the larger ram.

by andreas | Oct 26, 2006 1:27:15 AM

btw, correct me if i'm wrong--but i believe that tmobile is really just a mvno in southern california. meaning that they lease gsm tower time from cingular. so while pricing and customer service might be different, the gsm network service (coverage, etc.) should really be the same. can someone else weigh in on this?

by Jaman | Oct 27, 2006 2:00:21 PM

I bought my treo 650 from cingular with a pay as you go plan about 18 months ago. I loved it. I rarely used the cell phone at all so paying 10 cents a min on a prepaid account made sense. For about 6 months I must have only shelled out $60 TOTAL for both surfing the internet and/or phone calls. Then I got a girlfriend in Singapore! Well the SMS messages were crushing me. What was previously $10/month pay as you go plan quickly became 50-60$/month!
I had already talked to cingular and they had already unlocked my phone for me. So I checked cingular's unlimited data plan ($90/month minimum) and t-mobile's unlimited data plan ($50/month advertised) and when my girlfriend came out I switched to t-mobile. Now mind you I had to call technical services at both cingular AND t-mobile to get the GPRS and internet services working. They bounce you around both services do! At least 2 hours finally getting to the right technical person to activate the internet properly. Mobile phone activated easily. But after switching to T-mobile, I found out that their network won't allow you to configure the minimum minutes plan with unlimited data so they gave me $120 rebate and switched me to the $60/month plan! I've had unlimited data plan on t-mobile... still saving about $30/month over cingular and now I actually use the phone since I have 300 "anytime" minutes that I never use.
I will however give both cingular and t-mobile kudos because they have mutual network aggreements where if you can't connect to t-mobile, you can connect to cingular and not get charged for roaming. Both networks together have MASSIVE COVERAGE I went hunting way out in the boonies in AZ and one point got to the top of a high plateau only to find wonder of wonder 2 bars connected to a cingular cell somehow. Hadn't had coverage for 2.5 days. I called home, and my girlfriend. My hunting buddy (who has a verizon cdma treo 650) never got coverage until we were about 20 miles out of town, me having had coverage for 30 minutes prior.
Last but not least what's so killer about an unlocked treo and unlimited data is when you travel you're in heaven. Played WoW over dial-up networking using my treo as a modem to the internet while I was laid over for 4 hours in portland, oregon. Plenty of speed for gameplay. Then when I got to Singapore, I called my gf to pick me up ($1.50/min roaming lol). When she got to me she handed me a local Singtel pay as you go SIM which I used the entire week I was there. AWESOME!

by andrew | Oct 27, 2006 4:13:08 PM

I just bought a 700w from someone on ebay, and now it seems that there is no current known source to get it unlocked, as I have a Cingular account, anyone know anything on this? It's locked with Verizon, does anyone think they would unlock it for me?

by SimplyAZ | Nov 4, 2006 1:10:18 AM

VideoMMS does not work on Tmobile USA when using an unlocked Treo.. and both Palm or Tmobile refuse to support the issue.

by mugo | Jun 19, 2007 10:46:36 AM

Does Treo750 have an auto re-dial capability - for when you can't get through the first time...

by Robert | Oct 28, 2007 2:41:47 PM

The Verizon phones are locked to Verizons CDMA service and cannot be flashed, unlocked or made to work with another service provider.

by carla | Nov 6, 2007 10:34:05 PM

define gsm please

and define cdma

by Robert Smith | Nov 15, 2007 9:46:27 PM

I have a Palm Treo 680 with Att. I am thinking about having my Palm treo 680 unlocked? I want Att and T-mobile or Alltel so I will have more coverage.I want one phone and to have multipal coverage where needed.Once a Palm Treo 680 is unlocked can a carrier lock a phone whenever they want to?I would be frustrated to pay to have my phone unlocked and a particular carrier lock my Palm Treo 680 after spending money to unlock.

by dgarts | Mar 4, 2008 7:22:59 PM


I'll give you a short answer and then encourage you to do a search for the terms and read up for the details.

Basically, CDMA is a communications platform preferred in North America because it allows a telco to restrict use of a hardware device to their service. So, a CDMA phone released by Company A will not work on Company B's network. Thus, Company A protects its revenue opportunity by forcing "loyalty". You do not need a SIM card with CDMA phones.

GSM, on the other hand, is preferred in the rest of the world, because it allows ease of bouncing from on network to another with the simple switch of a SIM card. So, for example, you live in, oh I dunno, Chicago and are taking a trip to Europe. With your GSM phone, when you get to "the continent", you can pocket your SIM card, buy a paygo SIM card in France and you're good to go. When you get to Germany, if the SIM card you got in France doesn't work, you can get one in Germany, swap and go. Etc.

Carriers can still "lock" a GSM phone to their network, preventing connectivity on another network, however GSM phones can be "unlocked" allowing swapability.

For our user purposes, that's basically it. For more technical info, look it up and read to your heart's content.

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