By Walter S. Mossberg
For years, Palm's Treo smart phones have set the standard for combining a good phone and a great data device into one relatively small package that also sports a full keyboard for typing email. But the Treo is being strongly challenged by a bunch of new rivals that are thinner, lighter and less expensive.
The slender Motorola Q, despite software that is markedly inferior to that of the Treo 700p, is wooing some users because it is much slimmer and now can be had for just $99, versus $299 for the Treo. The Nokia E62 is about the size of the Q and also costs just $99 these days. The tiny BlackBerry Pearl is just $199. And Samsung has introduced the skinny BlackJack for $199, too.
So, this month, Palm is striking back with a lighter, thinner, cheaper model of its own, the Treo 680, which is being offered by Cingular Wireless at $199.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile has introduced a new slim, light competitor called the Dash. It has built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking to supplement the slower cellphone data network. And it costs just $149.
I've been testing the new Treo and the Dash. Both are OK, but neither is as good as it could be. The new Treo still has great software, but it makes some compromises and still fails to match the new competitors in slimness, lightness or price. The Dash has very nice hardware, but is hampered by lousy software.