Orange dials up new smartphone deal

Orange's latest 'signature phone' is from the newly reunited Palm and Handspring

Less than a week after signing a major deal with Motorola and Microsoft, Orange has announced its latest 'signature phone' - the Treo 600 from Handspring.

The sleek handset combines voice with data features such as SMS, email, photo messaging via a built-in camera, a Qwerty keyboard and an SD/MMC expansion slot. It will initially sell for £299.99 in the UK, starting in October, and be available with regular Orange tariffs, including an all-you-can-eat GPRS data bundle. (See ZDNet UK Reviews: "Handspring Treo 600: a first look")

The launch in London was backed up by Handspring chief executive Donna Dubinsky and PalmSource president and chief executive David Nagel. A co-founder of the original Palm device within 3Com, Dubinsky will soon be rejoining palmOne following Palm's acquisition of Handspring, and she claims a focus on communications was one of things Handspring always did differently on its own.

She defended the idea of a single handset -- as opposed to connected devices used for specific functions -- for reasons of integrated functionality and easier mobility.

"It is crazy to think people are going to carry two or three devices," she said.

Nagel, whose company will soon sit completely separately from palmOne, once again pointed to the large numbers of developers and applications for the Palm platform, as well as the simplicity at the heart of the Treo 600.

The device will sport the network-based Orange Backup and Update services, also prominent on Orange's other, Microsoft-based smartphones, but won't be so locked down in terms of applications available.

Orange VP global product management Martin Keogh admitted that is due to the greater maturity of the Palm OS environment.

Dubinsky added: "It's rare to download a rogue application to the Palm OS."

Microsoft's Smartphone OS is still relatively new, and rogue downloads are more commonly associated with the company's desktop and server software.

Orange's Keogh also spoke about the simplicity of the device -- which is not to say, given a new keyboard and various calling options, that it looks one-dimensional -- saying: "Devices are often too complicated. If customers can't figure out how to use a device then we've lost the battle before it's begun."

The Treo 600 runs Palm OS 5.2, a TI-made ARM processor and is being called a "quad-band" phone because it also works on the 850MHz GSM frequency used in some parts of the US. It will be manufactured in Mexico.

In an effort to know its user base, Orange and Handspring are offering an MP3 player in exchange for registration. Other apps, such as an IM client, are not included but available to download.