May's Treo Leapfrogs Past Others

David Pogue The New York Times

The electronics industry operates like a very expensive game of leapfrog. You buy something in April, and then a newer, faster, less expensive version comes out in May. Rats!

On the other hand, you might get lucky; you might not buy in until the better version comes along. There you sit on the train, on the plane or at the baseball field, smugly looking over at the poor saps who bought last month's phone, music player or camera.

If you've been shopping for a smartphone - a multipurpose cellphone with Tic-Tac keys for tapping out e-mail - the game is picking up speed. This week, Palm unveiled the latest model of its popular Treo phone, the 700P, only four months after the previous one.

The Treo has found a special place in the hearts of the upwardly technical. It offers a beautiful phone that fits sweetly in your hand, displays photos on a big, bright touch screen, does e-mail and Web browsing just about as well as a cellphone can - and doubles as a Palm organizer, effortlessly synchronizing its calendar, address book and Microsoft Office documents with your Mac or PC.

All-in-one gadgets rarely do any single job as well as a dedicated one (think scanner-printer-fax machines or camera-music players). But the Treo has always come deliciously close.

Somehow, Palm has managed to pack into it a BlackBerry-style keyboard (brightly illuminated, at that); a physical switch that silences all sounds (which, as the overture begins, you can hit without even taking the thing out of your pocket); a built-in digital camera; a voice-memo button that can also record phone calls (which is great to have when someone starts rattling off driving directions over the phone); a slot for an SD memory card (to hold more music, photos and videos); a removable battery (4.5 hours of talk time, 300 hours standby); and a five-way rocker switch that lets you operate most functions with one hand.

Somehow, all of this works together without becoming a train wreck of complexity.

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Monty Solomon
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