Treo 680: A Millimeter Here, a Millimeter There

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In toying with the new Treo 680, I was reminded of old commercials touting a cigarette that was "a silly millimeter longer." It seems Palm is hoping 2 millimeters can help turn the Treo, a traditionally stuffy business device, into something fun for consumers. That's how much depth that Palm trimmed off earlier Treos, making the 680 the smallest–by a tenth of an inch or so–of its successful line of smart phones.

But what really might work with consumers is thinning the price tag, which Palm has suggested will be more attractive to nonbusiness users. Earlier Treos had started at $400 and up with wireless contracts. No carrier has yet announced if it will sell the Treo 680, much less pricing, and I didn't know which network carried the calls for my trial–but from the signal strength at my home, I'm guessing it was Cingular.

The Treo 680 has better and more applications than the popular 650, with more emphasis on music and video. The programs are similar to what's found on the more recent 700p. It does all the Palm functions well, including calendar and address book, which it merges nicely with phone dialing. It also does well with E-mail and the Web, although it initially will be for Cingular and/or T-Mobile, two carriers whose networks don't transmit data as quickly as competitors Sprint and Verizon.

Besides retaining the Treo's innovative and full Qwerty keyboard, the new model also keeps the 650's VGA-grade camera (less than a megapixel), which is a disappointment these days in a consumer phone. On the plus side, the 680 does away with the Treo's external antenna, giving it a sleeker look than other models. And as a final effort to fetch consumers, the new model will come in four colors – gray, white, red, and a rusty orange. But let's not get silly: What might finally work with the mass market is a consumer-friendly price, which means $200 or so.