New Treo smart phone delivers

The scoop: Treo 680, by Palm and Cingular, about $200 (plus monthly service and two-year agreement).

What it is: The latest smart phone (converged PDA organizer and cell phone) from Palm operates on the Cingular Enhanced Data for Global Evolution (EDGE) wireless network, and is aimed at consumers and business users who have feature-rich cell phones but not smart phones. The quad-band phone lets users make calls from six continents -- more than 190 countries -- with wireless data roaming available in more than 115 countries.

Treo 680

Users can access their e-mail through Cingular's Xpress Mail application, Microsoft Exchange Active Sync, Good Mobile Messaging from Good Technology and POP3 or IMAP accounts. Other features include a 1.3-megapixel digital camera-camcorder, digital music player (via the Pocket Tunes application), and support for the TeleNav GPS Navigator (with the use of a separate Bluetooth GPS receiver).

The device runs Version 5.4.9 of Palm OS and has 64MB of memory for user storage and 320- by 320-pixel resolution. The system includes Bluetooth 1.2 for hands-free headset connectivity and a memory card slot for a MultiMedia Card, Secure Digital (SD) or SD I/O cards. The device's removable and rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides as much as four hours of talk time and as much as 300 hours in standby mode.

Why it's cool: Cingular customers have had to look on with envy while Verizon and Sprint customers use the Treo 700p, 700w or 700wx. The Treo 680 gives them the latest version of the smart phone that operates on Cingular's EDGE network. The only hardware innovation is the elimination of the antenna nub at the top of the device. The antenna now is integrated into the device, making the Treo 680 slightly smaller than its Treo 700 cousins.

Some caveats: Because the device connects to Cingular's EDGE network instead of the higher-speed Evolution Data Optimized network from Sprint or Verizon, average download speeds were much lower than when I tested the 700p or 700w devices. With the Treo 680, I averaged about 191Kbps, much lower than the 820Kbps I got with the 700p on Sprint's network earlier this year.

The Treo 680 may appeal to users who appreciate the lower price and don't mind the lower data download speeds. For example, users who want just to download their e-mails and do some basic Web surfing probably won't notice the lower speeds. If they're looking to do multimedia streaming, they'll notice. Still, this is an upgrade for Cingular users from the Treo 650, which could access only GSM and General Packet Radio Service networks.

Another disappointment is that Cingular offers only the graphite version -- if you want to get the Arctic, copper or crimson versions, you have to buy an unlocked version from Palm and transfer your Subscriber Identity Module card.

Grade: *** (three out of five)

Learn more about this topic

Palm starts selling low-end Treo


Review: Treo 700p (with Sprint or Verizon Wireless service)


CES - Palm's Windows-based Treo to be available Thursday


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