Sunday 20 October 2019

PalmOne Treo 650 (2004)

PalmOne Treo 650
Announced October 2004

The history of the mobile phone market is a bit like the history of the world itself, with empires rising and falling and new superpowers emerging and sweeping the old orders away.

One of these old orders was Palm – which due to its Byzantine history was at the time called PalmOne. Palm pretty much owned the PDA market in the 1990s with the Palm Pilot, but they’d missed out on the emergent “wireless PDA” (or as we would call it “smartphone”) market in the early noughties. This led to Palm buying out a company called Handspring, who made wireless PDAs based on Palm’s own operating system – this enabled Palm to get into the market in 2003 with the Handspring Treo 600, followed by the improved PalmOne Treo 650 in 2004.

It seems a bit alien compared to a modern smartphone with the large keyboard and relatively small screen, plus a stick-out antenna which was old-fashioned even in 2004. The 2.4” 320 x 320 pixel TFT touchscreen display was very advanced for its time, and Palm OS 5.4 was a highly usable and sophisticated software platform which included good support for corporate email too.

Bluetooth, expandable memory and a decent multimedia player rounded off the specification, but unlike modern smartphones there was no high-speed data (it was GSM-only) and no GPS. Still, it was competitive for the time.

It was a valiant effort by Palm - but RIM, HTC and Nokia were all established in the “wireless PDA” market by the time Palm came along. Ultimately the Treo sold well to fans of existing Palm Pilots, but it only had limited success outside its existing market base. The Palm OS platform refused to go down without a fight, and it soldiered on for another three years with the Palm Centro being the last of the line.

Prices for the Treo 650 and 600 vary a lot, with decent ones starting at £50 and going up to £200 for ones in mint condition. If you collect interesting old phones you should probably have at least one running Palm OS, and the Treo 650 is certainly a good candidate.

Image credit: Palm

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