Monday, May 22, 2006

It was only after a few days into testing of the Palm Treo 700p, a CDMA-based “smart phone” from the handheld device maker, that it hit me: Palm has won, hands-down, no questions asked, the race for smart-phone supremacy.

Nokia and Motorola will want to dispute that, of course, so will Samsung and LG, Sony Ericsson and others. But the fact remains: There is no better handheld phone on the market today than the Treo 700p — at least for users in the United States and especially for those who want to keep in touch with their businesses, or even the world at large.

My Treo came with Sprint Nextel’s mobile service and, while I encountered the occasional reception/connection problem, overall the service was crisp and clear.

On the Internet side, the phone uses EVDO (Evolution-Data Optimized) to pull down Web pages with incredible speed. Yes, the display is still small, but once you master the trick of moving around the screen, it’s refreshing to have pages load so quickly.

What’s more, the phone can also be a wireless (or wired) modem for a PC or Macintosh computer, adding a connectivity option that easily replaces the sign-on-with-a-password-for-$9.95-a-day deals at coffee shops and other public places. Cool beans, as one of my colleagues would say.

If the Treo 700p, available for around $400 with a Sprint service plan, did only these things, I’d be enthusiastic. Yes, the Treo 650, which runs on the Cingular network among others, is a nice phone; I use one daily.

Yes, the Treo 700w, which runs Windows Mobile, is also fast, but there are limitations inherent in that Microsoft operating system and there’s little way to get around these.

But wait, there’s more: the Treo 700p, as Sprint implements it, offers a huge range of multimedia choices, including dozens of streaming television channels, music of almost unlimited variety, and heaven knows what else.

Prices vary, but run around $7 to $10 a month extra for a given service, such as Sprint TV, which is mind-boggling.

How so? Click a few buttons and you are watching the Weather Channel, C-SPAN (or C-SPAN2), Discovery, Bloomberg TV, Fox News Channel or Fox Sports.

This will make waiting in an airport much easier. Add stereo headphones and you have a portable concert hall. Pack along the incredible charger/dock/stereo speakers/speakerphone known as the Altec Lansing inMotion iMT1, a $179 option, and you’ve suddenly got a system that will be the envy of just about everyone.

Where does this leave users? With a rather complete communications/data management system on the road. There’s enough software on the Treo 700p to make any user happy, and with SecureDigital cards of up to 2 gigabytes available, there’s enough storage to satisfy most needs.

That data storage is useful, by the way, because the Treo 700p has a 1.1 megapixels digital camera, which can also record short video clips.

If there are flaws in this new product — and perhaps there are — I have yet to discover any that are truly significant. The button layout is a bit different, but not so much so that longtime Treo users won’t adapt. Palm has won the smart phone race, and Treo 700p users may hold the best prize.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily on The Washington Times’ Web site, at

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