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Palm Treo 680
The Palm OS is so widely used around the globe it’s in a class by itself. The loyal following that the Palm has, is akin to India’s population - growing. It’s versatility for adapting to the plethora of third party applications that are designed for it's OS is exactly what makes these phones one of the most used handsets the world over. Lets see how their latest edition, the Treo 680, fares.
The 680’s design is a familiar design, not very dissimilar from most of the previous Treo models. The 680 doesn’t have an external antenna. Of course it has the Treo’s traditional QWERTY keypad that, as most Treo users will know, is an extremely handy thing to have but you’ll need to use two hands so messaging or mailing while driving is a No-No. But the fact that the keys are a little too close together makes it a bit difficult while typing fast. Until you get used to it.
The 680 is a wee-bit heavy weighing in at 157 grams, though it does look a little plump, it's actually quite ergonomically designed. It has a nice big 2.75-inch display sporting a 320x320 pixel resolution so suffice to say it’s clear and easy to read, even in the sunlight. By the way did I mention, it’s a touch screen. But if you’ve been a Palm user, then this is no surprise. The 5 way navigation pad and dedicated keys for the menu, main screen menu, messaging and calendar really come in handy for quick access.
On the top of the phone is a small switch that allows you to swap between silent mode (with only vibration and no sounds) and normal mode with the ringer on. On the side are 3 keys, which have no indication of any kind as to what they are for. The first two, you’d assume to be the volume / zoom keys for the VGA camera located at the back near the speaker, but you’d be half right. They’re just for volume. The third key is what I like to call an ‘Open’ key. It can be assigned to any specific application. On the other side of the 680 is the SD/MMC card slot. And at the bottom is the 2.5mm earphone socket and propriety USB connector and charger slot.
Functions / Features
It’s rather disappointing that the 680, as is, is so average when it comes to features. There are no particular features that stand out against most other high-end phones in its class. But let’s start off with the business functions the 680 is capable of. The best feature as far as I’m concerned is the fact that you can edit word and excel documents and view PowerPoint presentations as well as .PDF files.
What makes the phone, in this respect, more appealing is the fact that it supports GPRS and EDGE. Since the 680 supports PushMail, all you’d need to do is download you’re documents off the net, make your changes and upload or send them to whomever you want. So for the on-the-go businessperson, you don’t have really have to go to work. You’re 680 is quite capable of handling most of your office needs literally from the 'Palm' of your hand.
However, you have to take into account the fact that the there are an insane amount of applications for this OS available for download. From office applications to games. So what you don’t have, you can quite easily get. Software are available to be bought or you could even download freeware. From software like Voice Dialing to watching Live TV, or finding your way via GPS tracking or even to something like managing your diet, there are plenty available. Have Internet, will download.
Here’s a feature that promises to be more of a hindrance than a help (depending on the situation). If you ever decide that you need to downgrade your handset to something more conventional, you’re obviously going to want to erase all your contacts and data if you’re going to sell your phone. Backing them up is easy but there’s no easy way to delete them. There probably is but if you find out how, do let me know.
This is how it works. You have to save the contacts on the phone first and then export them to your Sim card. By the way, even after the Sim is removed the phone backs up the data in its cache memory so your Sim contacts are still available to you if you have to remove your card for any reason. But I wasn’t able to figure out how to erase them. You can hide them but not erase them. One way to erase the contacts from the phone memory is to open each contact, one at a time and delete them one by one. Good luck with that.
If you’re used to the End call key taking you back to the main screen, don’t try it here. It locks the keypad. But you’ll get used to it.
Other features are pretty average. There’s the organizer that allows you to store your schedules, appointments etc. etc. Nothing new there, except that you can also change the view to see the whole year. You can also of course, sync the phone to your PC to back up your contacts and other data, leave memos (voice or regular), set Tasks and it even has a world clock for frequent travelers. But this is where I have a problem. The fact that I have to download software and not have too many pre installed is in no way a good thing. Fine, there are tons of freeware available out there but why not include some of them with the phone itself? Specific to the traget audience of course.
Although the interface doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary, nor is it new for that matter, it is as user-friendly as all of the predecessors. But of course you know that underneath all of that external jazz, lies a really dynamic OS. So don’t let that be a basis of your judgment. The large icons make things a lot simpler for navigation. I had a bit of problem using the screen at times though, even after calibrating it. Most of the time I could use my fingers to select options but any options that appeared at the bottom edges of the screen were a real pain to choose. So I had to use the stylus. But this could just be a problem with this particular piece (hopefully).
With regards to connectivity the Treo 680 is well equipped with Bluetooth and Infrared. I mentioned it has GPRS and EDGE, but no Wi-Fi. What the…?! I mean it’s supposed to be a high-end business phone, but no Wi-Fi? This is obviously not software you can download, so I’m stumped.
Another oddity is – when you’re transferring or receiving files via Bluetooth or IR you cant use any other applications till the files have been successfully transferred. I also had a problem connecting the phone to the PC using the USB cable. It kept showing up with the Hot-Sync option and not as a Mass storage device. Perhaps that’s because I removed the SD card. But it does have 64MB of internal memory so when I wanted to transfer my files I had to use Bluetooth.
Media and Camera
The 680 is capable of playing MP3s which can be played on the pre-installed pTunes application. But for some strange reason you only get a mono headset included with the box. It also supports WAV files. That said, the sound quality and output is actually quite good.
The 680 also plays videos but I sent a normal 3GPP video captured from a Nokia N80 and though the file played it was only one fourth of the screen. BAD! The speaker is quite loud as is but somehow the volume drops drastically when you use it on a call, you’re hardly be able to hear anything (the mic pick-up range is great though).
The phone is also equipped with a VGA camera that supports video recording and playback. The pictures are clear on the phone’s display but on the PC they just aren’t too good. But it is a VGA camera so ‘nuff said, considering. But the camera is totally minimal with no settings or effects of any kind except 2x digital zoom. Just point… and shoot. It does auto-adjust to low light levels though. The pictures may not be clear with too much digital noise present but they’re ok.
But let’s face it. The Treo 680 is NOT a media phone. So these particular traits are not important enough to make any real judgment. But at the same time, if manufacturers add features like this, I think they should make good on them.
There’s really nothing much to say about the battery actually except that it just ain’t good. After charging it to its capacity, it lasted for all of ONE whole day. My usage was no more or no less than with any other phone I’ve tested or owned. I hadn’t even used the music player. Just the camera, a few messages and a few calls.
At Rs. 26,000 I don’t really believe it’s really worth THAT price as the features are so very minimal and the battery is such a disappointment from the previous models. But on the other hand, the sheer volume of applications available out there can increase the overall functionality of the phone virtually ten-fold. The Treo 680 is obviously targeted at the hardcore businessperson who will definitely make the best use of this age old “Tradition” of the Palm operating system. So the bottom line is – had the phone been at a more reasonable price it would do a lot better. But For users who swear by the OS, the battery is the only major drawback I see.
|Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, EDGE |
|Physical||111.8 x 58.4 x 20.3 mm, 157 g|
|Display||320 x 320, 65k colors|
|UI||Palm OS 5.4.9 |
|Memory||64MB internal, SD/MMC|
|Media||MP3, 3GP, MPEG4|
|Camera||VGA, video (CIF) |
|Connectivity||USB, Bluetooth, Infrared|
|Battery||300 hours stand by, 3 hours talk time|
|Street Price ||Rs. 26,000|