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It seems an obvious idea: Everybody carries a cell phone, and many businesspeople pack a PDA, too. Why not put the two together? Obvious, sure, but business buyers haven't been that impressed by smartphones--nor have they been willing to pay $400 to $600 to lose the convenience of their inexpensive cell phones. That's changing.
With the advent of broader-band cellular networks, wireless access to office data and applications from far-flung locales is becoming both possible and necessary. For many travelers, the need for wireless e-mail alone "is right up there with food and water," says Todd Kort, principal analyst for technology research and consulting firm Gartner Inc. More PDAs are getting cell phones--and vice versa. Sales of Treo smartphones from market leader PalmOnedoubled in 2004 and should nearly double again this year, says Kort.
We can thank Research in Motionfor teaching us to thumb-type in taxicabs. But it was PalmOne that put in the spadework needed to find a good balance between phone and function--and it came up with the Treo 650 ($449 street).
Yes, it's bigger than a candy bar. But those of us on the wrong side of 40 can clearly see letters and numbers on its two-and-a-half-inch display. Its silver-and-blue-steel case looks professional, and 6.3 ounces fit very comfortably in your palm or pocket. Treo's small qwerty keyboard looks crowded, but your thumbs will quickly acclimate, thanks to good key height, travel, and backlighting that really helps in dimly lit situations.
One-handed thumb-clicks are all you really need to navigate Treo's menus to an Outlook contact or the numbers on its big on-screen dialer. A clear speaker/mic, earbud and speakerphone give you options for your phone conversations.
Treo's high-resolution, 65,000-color display provides a remarkably clear window on a large library of Palm OS applications and some desktop favorites--Word, Excel and even Power-Point presentations, care of DataViz.
It could use a little more memory and integrated Wi-Fi. But an SD expansion slot, built-in camera and MP3 player really make Treo a remarkable gadget.