Handspring Inc. is unveiling this week a pair of color Treo PDAs, one of them a cell phone combo device that may make their predecessors look gray and drab.
New are the color Treo 270, which combines functions of a wireless phone with a personal digital assistant (PDA), and the lightweight PDA-only Treo 90. The Treo 270 is available initially from Handspring.com and, within a few weeks, from retailers and service providers. Its price is expected to be US$499, and the Treo 90, $299. Both have 16MB of RAM and run on the Palm operating system with Handspring extensions.
Combo and Color
The Treo 270 is essentially a color version of the pioneering Treo 180, the model that dispenses with Palm’s Graffiti handwriting input in favor of a thumb keyboard. The 270 sports a handsome 4000-plus color screen, and, at 0.8 inches thick and 5.4 ounces, it is about the same size as its monochrome sibling. Initial units support GSM wireless phone technology, and a CDMA version is due this summer.
As cell phones go, the Treo 270 is bulky and wide, but its flip-up cover with a clear plastic window is designed to cradle nicely against the face. Or you can simply attach an included earpiece-microphone and hold the device in your hand. The unit’s battery supports up to three hours of talk time and 150 hours of standby, according to Handspring.
If you like your palm-sized PDA to come with a keyboard, this one’s distinguished from the pack by keyboard backlighting that’s genuinely helpful in the dark. However, the passive-matrix screen washes out when outdoors to the point of being unreadable in bright sunlight.
You’re Got Treo Mail
The Treo 270 comes with an application for sending and retrieving POP3 email or you can pay an annual fee for the recently introduced Treo Mail service, which uses a desktop application to automatically relay your e-mail at periodic intervals (or on demand).
The Treo 270’s keyboard may take some getting used to. A jog wheel on the left side of the device permits single-handed dialing (with a little practice). Graffiti fans, however, are out of luck: Handspring won’t make a color version of the Graffiti-based Treo 180g because the keyboard-equipped model was far more popular.
Handspring says the Treo 270 will also be marketed through GSM service providers; the expected $499 cost of this two-for-one device entails the purchase of a service plan.
Treo Without Wireless
For those who like the looks of the Treo 270 but don’t require a phone (or are on a budget), Handspring is offering the $299 Treo 90. Much lighter at 4 ounces, the 0.65-inch-thick Treo 90 is also significantly slimmer than its siblings, and it shaves about 0.2 inches off the girth of the competing $279 Palm m130.
Because the 160-by-160-pixel screen doesn’t include the Graffiti writing area, it seems effectively larger than those on the Palm m130. But as with the m130 (and the Treo 270), the transflective display becomes all but unreadable in sunlight.
Other new features of the Treo 90 include a combination Secure Digital/MultiMedia Card slot for adding storage or applications, and keyboard locking capability to avoid turning the device on unintentionally. The Treo 90 lacks the keyboard backlight and jog dial of the 270 (which in turn has no SD/MMC slot).