There was a time when the Palm operating system could do no wrong. The best handhelds ran the OS and all the cool, cutting-edge features you expected from a PDA could be found on all Palm devices. So it seems that a little strange that the changes PalmOne has made to its Treo smartphone initially come across as little more than a refresh than a serious overhaul.
On one hand, you could say that Palm got it right the first time so they don't need to try as hard. Only, the launch of the original Treo 600 didn't exactly take the smartphone market by storm. Sure, it's a highly usable device but we were expected more.
The familiar casing is in place, albeit it with a smoother finish. The main thing to notice on the 650 is the new styling of the thumpad, which now has flatter keys so yo can type easier. The keys are backlit, so you'll be able to see what you're doing even in the back of a taxi late at night. The 650 work best when you're using it two handed, as the size of it makes it a little awkward for one-handed operation - unless you're simply looking up a number that is.
However, it is the screen that will really make people want to upgrade from the old handset. The screen now sports a brighter display with a 320 x 320-pixel resolution.
The Treo still comes with a meagre 0.3-megapixel digital camera, which looks out of place in a market that is now dominated by 1.3MP. Within six months this will look even more dated. The camera has been enhanced and now supports 2x zoom as well as video capture. However, to improve quality, PalmOne has increased the light sensor, so at least it's now possible to take pictures inside and get a decent image.
In keeping with PalmOne's latest strategy, files are no longer stored in RAM memory, which is lost when you lose battery power. Instead, you'll find non-volatile NAND memory in its place. So, even if you lose battery power half way through the day, your files won't be erased.
The quad-band phone means it can be used regardless of location. PalmOne has quoted six hours of talk time and up to 300 of standby.
In use, we found this was a little ambitious, especially if you start to use it as your MP3 player too. We found that we needed to charge the battery on a daily basis. Bluetooth now comes as standard, so you'll be able to transfer data and images far more easily than was previously possible.
Running Palm OS 5.4, you'll find that the Treo is easy to manage and use. PalmOne may not be the innovators they once were but the OS remains stable and consistent.
It's hard to fault the Treo 650 as it manages to perform all its functions well. PalmOne has done a great deal to improve its usability in all areas but we're still left with the feeling that it's a half-measure.