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Handspring Treo Communicator 180- it surfs, emails, organizes and lets you talk on the go. (Released early 2002, now Discontinued)

Introduced in the US in mid-February 2002, the Treo Communicator line may be the hottest Palm OS smartphones (PDA + phone) to date. The year 2002 has been exciting times for wireless PDAs: the much rumored and anticipated Palm i705 was also introduced at the same time as the Treo 180 (the i705 doesn't double as a phone), and the Samsung I300 color Palm smartphone came out with Sprint service a few months before that. Apparently, many folks think that Handspring has gotten it right with this phone-- the company stock rose 25% the first day it was available for sale in the US.

Currently, the Treo competes with the Kyocera 6035 and Samsung I300 smartphones. The Treo is significantly smaller than these competitors and is somewhat bigger than a Motorola Startac. Wonderful! Two reasons smartphones don't have a higher adoption rate is price and their large size. The Treo is definitely highly portable, and at $349 with activation, it's less expensive than its competitors were at introduction.

  Handspring Treo 180g

 

The Treo 180, like the VisorPhone works only on GSM/GPRS networks such as Cingular and VoiceStream.

We played with a Treo 180 at PalmSource Expo and loved it. Aften extended use, we still loved it. The size is great, and the protective flip cover acts as the earpiece when flipped up, making the phone just the right size for comfy conversations (it functions like a clamshell/flip phone, the earpiece is at the top inside edge of the flip cover). For those of you who've used a VisorPhone or the Samsung I300, you won't be getting many greasy face-prints on the screen, thanks to the standard clamshell angle that keeps the phone away from your skin. There is a clear door in the flip cover that protects the screen while still allowing you to view screen-- nice!

The product folks at Handspring say this unit has been designed to be a cell phone first and a PDA second. The form factor is indeed that of a flip-phone and the phone-related software takes precedence. Handspring figures everyone uses a cell phone these days, while not as many use a PDA, therefore the cell phone functionality is paramount. The grayscale screen shows the standard 160 x 160 pixels. You have your choice of the increasingly popular thumb keyboard or graffiti models (see picture above). The color screen Treo Communicator 270 and 300 models came out in late Spring 2002, and are the same size as the 180 and come only with the same thumb keyboard. For a tiny keyboard, the thumb keyboard actually works well and I didn't find myself missing Grafitti as much as I expected (I'm a Grafitti person).

 

 

 

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The dual-band GSM phone has speed dialing, dialing from Palm address book entries, vibrating and auditory ringers, 3 way calling and support for GPRS (general packet radio service, a wireless data mode that's faster than GSM) where available in the US. You'll also get the standard Palm software and room for plenty of 3rd party software since this unit has 16 megs of memory. There is no Springboard slot or SD slot, so you won't be able to expand the device. Handspring left the expansion slot out to keep the unit small and again, because they intended this to be a phone first, and a PDA second. Oddly, the phone doesn't have a voice dial feature. A product rep at Handspring claimed the processor isn't fast enough to do voice dialing, but both the Kyocera and Samsung phones running at only 20 MHz compared to the Treo's 33 MHz do offer very functional voice dialing. Hmmm...

What about Internet access? Blazer, an excellent Palm browser that supports SSL, cookies, HTML and WAP comes with the phone. You also get a POP3 email application and support for Palm PQAs. Surfing feels snappy, and actually faster than a T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone because Blazer does such a good job of optimizing data transfers compared to Pocket IE. If you're paying by the meg rather than the minute, you'll be happy to know you can turn off image loading in Blazer.

Original List Price $349 with activation, $549 without activation.

Pro: The small size, pleasing slate blue color, processing power and Internet access have us drooling. Battery life is significantly better than with a Pocket PC Phone Edition PDA, so if you're away from battery power for extended periods of time, you'll like the Treo Communicator 180. You can turn off the wireless section of the Treo for in-flight PDA use. Con: if you want this phone, you'll have to go with Cingular wireless, T-Mobile (formerly known as VoiceStream), Rogers AT&T in Canada and select other GSM providers. Their reputation is good, and they have coverage in most metro US regions, but if you're not in a major city you'll have trouble getting a call or email out. If CDMA service is better in your area, Handspring makes the color Treo 300 which support CDMA (including 1xRTT high speed data) on the Sprint network.

 

Specs:

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion, 2.5 hours talk time, 60 hours standby.

OS: Palm OS 3.52H

Memory and Processor: 16 megs RAM, 33MHz Dragonball VZ processor.

size: 4.3" x 2.7" x 0.7"; 11 cm x 6.9 x 1.8 cm. 5.2 oz (147g)

Expansion: None.

Syncing: USB cradle. Serial cradle and cables optional

Display: grayscale: 16 shades of gray

Software: All the Palm OS built-in programs (contacts, datebook, etc), Handspring's Date Book Plus, Blazer Internet browser, One-Touch Mail™, Pocket Mirror (sync to Outlook on the PC). Comes with Palm Desktop for Mac and PC.

 

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