Treo watchers who've waited anxiously for an updated version of the popular handheld/phone combo will have to remain patient for just a few months more. The totally redesigned Treo 600, which arrives this autumn, eschews the flip-phone style of the original model, but it's more compact. In addition, it has a Secure Digital (SD) card expansion slot, a built-in camera and a new QWERTY mini-keyboard, which some may find a little cramped at first.
In addition to going with the 'candy-bar' style, Handspring -- which is in the process of being acquired by Palm -- has revamped the Treo's buttons, making it easier to use the phone with only one hand, sans stylus. There's even a dedicated Home button, which was sorely missing from the original. The LCD is brighter, but in the interest of battery life and cost, it remains 12-bit (4,096 colours) and low-resolution (160 by 160 pixels). For emailing and Web surfing, the screen won't be an issue, but buyers who have checked out the high-resolution displays of the new Palms and CLIEs will be disappointed when it comes time to play games, view images or watch video. The aforementioned keyboard is sure to be a source of debate. Handspring has made the keys slightly larger, while shrinking the space between them. In our limited typing tests, we found the keyboard usable for composing sentences, but you'll probably want to go with the on-screen dial pad for making calls and cutting down on misdials. As for features, this Treo -- aside from its display -- competes well with other Palm OS handhelds. Running Palm OS 5.2 with 32MB of built-in RAM, the 600 sports a faster 144MHz ARM processor, a new browser for full Web surfing and secure access to corporate intranets, and a built-in colour VGA camera. For MP3 playback, there's a smaller, non-standard stereo jack that requires an adapter to accommodate your regular headphones. You'll also find an SDIO expansion slot at the top of the unit, allowing you to either add memory or possibly an SDIO device such as a Bluetooth adapter. As you'd hope, this model also has all the latest phone features, including MMS, two-way SMS, picture caller ID and a speakerphone. The GSM/GPRS Treo 600 will be available in late autumn, but Handspring is keeping mum about its carrier partners. No official price has been announced yet, but Handspring has indicated that the new device will cost no more than $500 in the US (~£300) or possibly less, depending on carrier subsidies.