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Hands on with the Treo 650

Mon Oct 25, 2004 - 3:23 AM EDT - By Michael Ducker


The new home screen is great. I really like the new look of everything. It is very customizable; you can show the dialpad or a wallpaper. You can show anywhere from 1-7 rows of favorites by default. If you show less then 7, the other rows are still accessible by scrolling down. When you do that, all favorites roll up and are displayed in a cool apple-esque animation.

Home Screen

From the expanded favorites view you can store and navigate through 5 pages of favorites. All the message indicators are links to their respective applications. The Phone UI was slightly refreshed, but looks overall the same. The call log looks exactly the same as on the Treo 600.

One nice feature is that the Treo 650 now manages unknown numbers much better. After you finish a call with an unknown number, it will ask if you want to add it to your address book. And you can still add numbers from the call log into your address book.

The most notable software change is in the camera. There, a brand new icon oriented multi-buttoned silver interface has replaced the current bare camera interface. I did not think much of the 2x zoom, but I found most of the icons fairly intuitive. (Such as a trash can to delete, the camera/video icons, the four squares to go to the list view). At the same time, I longed for the simplicity of the Treo 600's camera application. Time will tell which method is better. A complaint that I noticed, and that was shared to me by the owner of this Treo 650 is that the list view of the camera application is very slow. I was surprised, as the processor was so much faster, but it still took a second or to to render even the VGA photos. Video is done by the same application, with a very similar interface.

Camera View

Below is a sample video and image. The video is in the native 3g2 format that the CDMA Treo 650 takes videos in. (GSM uses h.263, where as 3g2 is a MPEG4 variant) The latest version of Quicktime on Mac and Windows can play these files. In defense of the "improved" camera, the lighting in the room we were in was perhaps the worst lighting possible for a Treo. My Treo 600 was unable to even take semi useable pictures in the low light we had. Click to enlarge/play.

Blazer looks spacious and beautiful. I cannot give time comparisons, but the best features appear to have stayed in there. The preferences dialogues, for example, are almost unchanged. I was impressed however; I loaded the main TreoCentral page, which is a graphic heavy and hard to browse on my 600. On the 650 it still took a bit of time to load all of the images, but in the meantime it was much easier to scroll through and read while it was loading. I can't wait to play with Blazer more, but I think it will be a big win for the Treo 650.

As with the Treo 600, the Treo 650 comes with a built in HTML based tutorial system. Some samples screenshots are below:

Quick Tour Snapshot. The Treo comes with a full tutorial application, this is a sample screenshot from the "Top Ten Fun Features page".

Quick Tour

Bluetooth has finally arrived on the Treo 650. In the upper right hand corner, palmOne has added a blue when active, and grey when not Bluetooth icon. There is an application called "Bluetooth" in the launcher to setup Bluetooth devices. (Wizards are available for hands-free setup, and hotsync setup).

Bluetooth Configuration. Setup devices is a simple wizard to follow through to pair the Treo to a headset or computer.

We were able to successfully connect the Treo 650 to a Jabra SP100 Bluetooth Speakerphone that we had on hand. It was a gratifying moment, as we held the speakerphone on one couch, and the Treo 650 on another, while the conversation was being relayed into the speakerphone. We have brought a few other headsets and devices to test with the Treo 650, which we will do tomorrow (Monday).

Unfortunently, Bluetooth on the Sprint unit that I had access to appears to be crippled. What Sprint has apparently done is turned off the ability for the Treo 650 to act as a modem for other devices, such as laptops or other PDAs. This is done using a Bluetooth profile called Dial Up Networking. In our conference call with Greg Shirai, we had been warned that some carriers may do this, as they do not support appropriate pricing plans. In the Sprint unit I worked with, there was no mention of Dial Up Networking. However, on an unbranded GSM unit shown in video created for broadcast journalists, it is clearly shown in a screenshot that Dial Up Networking support can be turned on and off. The lack of this option in the Sprint unit suggests that it will not even be a feature. Luckily, the hardware should still support it, so it is likely that all we need is a enterprising developer to create a fix for it.

We will have more time on Monday to learn about the Treo 650, and spend one on one time with it. We will update this article, or create another one sharing these experiences. The Treo 650 adds many great features on top the Treo 600, but there are still parts that I feel that are weak, such as the 23 MB of memory. Changes such as the new keyboard will take some adjusting to, but mainly because some keys have been moved around. Overall, despite some shortcomings, the Treo 650 is better than the Treo 600, making it another great phone created by PalmOne.

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