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PalmOne Upgrades Treo PDA Phone

Milpitas, Calif. — PalmOne stepped up the feature content of its latest cellular PDA phone, the Treo 650, by adding more e-mail functions; giving users the ability to edit e-mail attachments; and adding such features as Bluetooth, an integrated MP3 player, a back-lit keyboard, improved LCD display and a more phone-like interface.

The GSM version gets high-speed EDGE (enhanced data rates for GSM evolution) wireless-data technology for the first time.

Available in GSM/GPRS/EDGE and CDMA 1X versions, the Treo 650 will be available to consumers around November at around $499, said product manager Michelle White.

PalmOne didn’t announce carrier customers but pointed out that the current Treo 600 is available through AT&T, Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The 600 will continue to be available “as long as the carriers want,” said White. More than 661,000 Treo 600 models have been sold worldwide since its launch last year, she added. Most were sold in the United States.

Like its predecessor, the Treo 650 features Palm OS, QWERTY keyboard and dialing keypad, onscreen keyboard and dialing keypad, touch screen, proxy-less Web browser, VGA camera, POP3 e-mail, support for carriers’ e-mail redirection services and SD card slot. Like the GSM-network version of the 600, the 650 GSM version is a worldphone operating in 850/1,900MHz networks in the United States and other countries and in the 900/1,980MHz bands in other countries.

The new model features a 312MHz Intel processor compared to the 600’s Motorola 144MHz Motorola processor, integrated Bluetooth, removable vs. embedded lithium-ion battery, and storage of user data in flash memory instead of volatile RAM.

The 650 also incorporates enhancements to the following:

Data: The GSM version adds EDGE for the first time to download data at expected average throughputs of 70Kbps to 80Kbps. Web browsing is still proxy-less, but the 650 browser will be rejected by fewer sites because it’ll better handle Web site frames.

Display: A 65K color display vs. 3,375-pixel display improves resolution, and TFT technology will prevent washouts in sunlight.

Email: IMAP e-mail support has been added to complement POP3 e-mail. The 650 also adds Microsoft Exhange Server ActiveSync protocol, enabling corporate users to synchronize their desktop Microsoft Outlook data via cellular without the expense of installing a redirector server at the enterprise. Like before, the 650 supports carriers’ e-mail redirection services.

It ships with third-party Documents To Go application that lets users view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files. The 600 allowed only for viewing of Word and Excel documents in e-mailed attachments.

Multimedia: The VGA camera has been improved with 5-lux low-light sensitivity compared to the 600’s 20 lux. The camera also adds 2x digital zoom, video capture up to 30 fps and self-portrait mirror. An integrated music player is also new. The Real player plays music in Real Audio and MP3 formats.

User interface: The keyboard keys have been back-lit, and the keys have been arranged in a slight smiley-face curve to allow for larger, flatter keys that make typing more comfortable. Also new: hard send and end keys. Previously, users initiated and ended calls only by navigating an onscreen menu.

CDMA talk time has been improved to 5 hours from 4.5 hours, and standby time goes to 300+ hours from 240. GSM talk/standby times remain at six hours and two weeks, respectively.

The current 600 was sold initially for around $500, but it has recently been advertised anywhere from $199 to $450, palmOne said.