palmOne Announces the Treo 650

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In a completely expected announcement, palmOne has formally announced the Treo 650. There are few, if any surprises, considering they’ve done an amazingly bad job of protecting against leaks. I’m not sure they even really wanted to protect this information given the numerous pictures available, references to the Treo 650 on palmOne sites and a marketing person referring to it in an interview last week. Alas it’s here though, and a major improvement in many ways over the Treo 600.

So the good news is that it’s announced. The bad news is that no one is offering it…yet. From our conversations with various people in the know, it sounds like several carriers are close to getting the Treo 650 certified, so it should be available by more than one service provider this year. You can expect Sprint PCS to be at the head of the pack, though it doesn’t look like they’re getting any special treatment this time as they have in the past. Both a CDMA/1xRTT and GSM/GRPS/EDGE version are available to carriers now, so there won’t be any lag waiting for the hardware. With the CTIA kicking off today, it will be interesting to see if any carriers pre-announce plans to carry the device.

If you haven’t been keeping up on the rumors, here’s an overview of what’s new with the Tree 650:

  • Higher resolution display – the Treo 650 features a 320×320 display, compared to the 160×160 in the 600. It’s more vibrant and clear as well, which should make it better for outside use. The 600 lacked a display to take advantage of the web browser and productivity apps like Docs To Go. The 650 will be much better in this arena without sacrificing much in the way of battery life.
  • Faster processor – The 650 features an Intel PXA270 312 MHz processor. While not the fastest CPU on the market, it doesn’t need to be. The 312 will be plenty quick enough to handle browsing the web, working in an Excel file or playing a quick game of Bejeweled.
  • Removable battery – The battery in the 650 can be removed by the user. This should be big for battery sales as I can anticipate a good percentage of 650 owners buying a backup.
  • Non-volatile memory – Even with the option for a backup battery, should the battery go dead, 650 owners will not lose all their data stored in the system memory. Sadly, the Treo 650 didn’t get a bump in memory. It only has 32MB of which 23 or so is available to the user. With 128MB in their Tungsten T5, it’s a little surprising palmOne didn’t raise the bar a little bit in this area.
  • Integrated Bluetooth 1.1 – So they didn’t go with the latest protocol, but that probably won’t matter for many. Bluetooth will give users the option to use a wireless headset, which is huge, or other Bluetooth accessories like car kits and external keyboards. This is a big enhancement for mobile professionals and one that will make upgrading to the 650 worthwhile.
  • Improved camera – The 650 adds support for video recording out of the box, no messy third party hack needed. The camera is also said to be improved for low light conditions, though it is the same .3MP resolution as the 600. The back of the 650 features a small mirror so users can frame self portraits. When sending pictures, 650 owners will be able to record a voice message to go along with it.
  • Improved keyboard – The 600 lost a little on the keyboard side when compared to its predecessor the Treo 300. This time palmOne has given a little more space for the keys by bending them up the corners or the device. The keys are now in a crescent shape rather than in straight lines. They’re a touch larger as well, though looking at comparison pictures it’s hard to tell. palmOne has also improved the backlighting to make the keys easier to see in low light conditions.
  • EDGE integration – There are very few cities that offer EDGE right now, but it’s coming and the GSM version of the phone will be ready. This essentially means data transfer rates much faster than the current GPRS system, allegedly 200-500kbps.
  • Support for Exchange 2003 – palmOne has licensed ActiveSync from Microsoft to make their business tool more friendly with much of corporate America who runs Exchange Server. 650 owners who are on an Exchange system will be able to connect to their mailboxes through VersaMail, making email much easier and more efficient.
  • Multi Connector – the Treo 650 is the second palmOne unit to leverage the new connector. So now the T5 and Treo 650 can share accessories via this port. palmOne has told us they intend to offer the MC on most of their new devices going forward.
  • New hardware buttons – The 650 adds new pick up and hang up dedicated buttons. The new red and green buttons should make managing calls a little more intuitive.

For more of the top-level information, download this PDF sales sheet for the Treo 650.

There you have it. The Treo 650. Timing and pricing is unknown and the specs that we all knew have been confirmed. Andrew is attending the CTIA show that kicks off in a few hours, along with the keynote speech by Ed Colligan, palmOne’s CEO. He’ll also be getting up close and personal with the 650 at a press briefing, so I’m sure he’ll have plenty of pictures for us.

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