Sunday, February 26, 2006

Treo 600

I know--the Treo 600 is old news (the Treo 650 and the Treo 700w are out), but this blog is not about late-breaking technology news. The Treo 600 is a smartphone, a cell phone that also does other stuff. This particular smartphone runs the Palm operating system, so it can run pretty much any Palm software, and it can browse the Web through your cell phone service. The web browsing is of course a different experience than it is on a computer, but it's still pretty good. Other Treo 600 features include a QWERTY keyboard that can type on with your thumbs, a camera (only 0.3 megapixels, so it's not a substitute for a real digital camera), and a speaker (good for use as a speakerphone or sometimes even to listen to MP3's). My favorite hardware feature is the 5-way navigation button, which allows you to do a lot of stuff without having to tap on the screen with the stylus (I'm always trying to avoid "pointing devices" in my computing).

I never got into PDA's before because I couldn't find anything that made it worth carrying an extra gadget with me. I like the Treo because I would carry a phone anyway, and it's worth the extra size and weight to have so much more in my pocket. Some of my major uses for it are:
  • MP3 player: If I'm going on a long trip I'll take the iPod, but for everyday things where I don't want to worry about carrying an extra piece of equipment the Treo does just fine. I have a 1 GB SD memory card that I update maybe once a week with fresh content, including music and podcasts. Playing MP3's drains the battery a bit, but for my 20-minute commute it's just fine.
  • Web browser: My lunch hours at work are usually spent using the web browser on my Treo to read my favorite feeds in Bloglines. The web browser also comes in handy if I'm out somewhere and an unanticipated question comes up (What time does that store close? Where's the Ikea in Pittsburgh? What drinks can you make with chartreuse?).
  • Contacts, appointments and reminders: These traditional Palm applications come in handy for me. If I put an doctor's appointment or an orchestra rehearsal date in my phone then I don't have to depend on a piece of paper that (1) won't be with me all the time and (2) might just get lost. I use a special program (Butler) for reminders for occasional special things to do during the day (meeting with boss, take medicine, etc.).
  • Camera: It's no substitute for a full-featured, high-quality digital camera, but for fun snaps or documenting something at work ("load the paper into the printer *this way*") it can be just the thing, and you can send a picture to an e-mail address easily.
  • Phone: Sometimes I use it as a phone, also. :-)
I got my factory-refurbished Treo 600 in 2005 for a little over $200 from KM Electronics. It has worked just fine for me except that it developed a problem that's common to the Treo 600: If the battery was not completely charged (or plugged into the power cord), you couldn't make or receive calls. The fix was easy (although I had to buy tools to do it): Take the back off, unplug the battery, and plug it back in.

Newer models: The Treo 650 is very tempting. It has a much more high-res screen, a better keyboard, and Bluetooth (so it can communicate wirelessly to other devices such as a headset). The Treo 700w (available only with Verizon service right now) is also interesting; it runs Windows Mobile as the OS (some people really like the new "Today" screen, and it might be nice to be able to play DRM-ed files that play only on Windows Media Player), and it has a higher-resolution camera.

I'm very happy with my Treo 600. I use it every day, and it has a lot more applications that I haven't mentioned (The Shifted Librarian lists a bunch of them).


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