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Handspring Unveils Third Treo PDA-Phone

Mountain View, Calif. – Handspring announced plans to ship its third Treo PDA-phone series in the fall, but the company’s planned purchase by Palm in the fall leaves distribution strategies up in the air.

Handspring markets its two current Treo Communicators to carriers, having dropped direct sales to dealers earlier this year. Palm, on the other hand, sells direct to retailers, a Handspring spokesperson said. For now, Handspring is operating under the assumption that it will sell to carriers, the spokesperson added.

The new Treo 600 series will offer two versions of the same device, one for CDMA 1X networks, and the other for GSM/GPRS networks. One version will be a quad-band model operating on 850MHz and 1,900MHz networks in the U.S. and 900MHz and 1,800MHz networks in other countries. A second version will operate on 800MHz and 1,900MHz CDMA 1X networks in the United States. They’re expected to retail for around $500.

The 600 is promoted as more phone-like than its predecessor because 600 series phones are smaller. They also lack their predecessors’ flip cover.

Sprint, which currently sells the Treo 300 at $499, will likely offer the 1X version in the U.S., Handspring said. Carrier T-Mobile sells the Treo 270 at $399, including rebate, and Handspring sells the 270 on its Web site with AT&T activation.

The Treo 600, which features Palm OS 5-based organizer and fast ARM processor, is narrower than its predecessors and features smaller keyboard, but a domed key shape with more surface area than the keys on previous Treos makes for quick typing, the company claimed. The keys’ letters and numbers are bigger, too.

The color screen is smaller, but resolution remains the same at 160 by 160 pixels, and it’s brighter than the other Treos’ screens to improve readability, a spokesperson said. The new model also adds a five-way navigation system that’s said to be tightly integrated with the software, making it easy to use one hand to move between and within applications, the company said. Likewise, the QWERTY keyboard is also tied closely to the software so that phone numbers, applications and e specific application functions (such as looking up a specific Web page) can be assigned to any of the keyboard’s 26 different keys for one-touch execution.

In another change, the company incorporated a proxyless version of its Handspring Blazer Web browser to enable full Internet browsing and secure access to corporate intranets. It also features SMS, MMS, an SD/MMC memory slot, two speakers and built-in VGA camera for taking and sending pictures and setting up picture caller ID.

The device also delivers longer talk and standby times than its predecessors, but details weren’t available. Handspring plans to offer a trade-up incentive for owners of current Treos.