COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | PHIL BAKER

The best of the Treo add-ons

The Treo 600 smart phone is an example of how a single product can create a mini-economy, benefiting palmOne (Nasdaq: PLMO), the company that sells it, as well as the many companies creating products and services for it.

The Treo 600, available for Sprint, T-Mobile Cingular and AT&T networks, is expected to sell 600,000 units in 2004.

It will generate $500 million to $600 million in combined revenues for palmOne, the accessory and software companies that support it, and the service providers. Orange, one of the United Kingdom's largest carriers, has found the Treo 600 to be one of the highest revenue-generating handsets on their network, contributing 100 euros per month vs. 50 euros for their average phone.

I've been using the Sprint version ($549, less $150 with a two-year contract).

Having been a long-time Verizon customer, I hesitated to move to Sprint. But Sprint's unlimited data plan, which is a must with this phone, is just $15 per month vs. Verizon's $45. (Verizon lags behind its competitors offering advanced phones, and doesn't yet sell the Treo, but is expected to shortly.) So far I've found the Sprint data and voice performance to be very good.

The Treo 600 does a number of things better than any other smart phone, including: syncing contacts and appointments with Outlook; dialing contacts with the push of a few buttons; receiving and sending e-mail with its built-in keyboard; browsing the Internet; a full complement of phone features including a speakerphone and camera, with a large screen to make them easier to use; 50 one-touch dial numbers and 100 bookmarks, each labeled with a name; and the ability to run all of the Palm applications.

I've been trying out a number of applications and other add-ons. Here are some of my favorites:

  • PdaNet (www.junefabrics.com) lets you use the Treo as a wireless modem for your PC. It runs up to twice the speed of a modem connection and almost as fast as some of the add-in cellular cards for your PCs at just $34.

  • Handmark Express from Handmark Software (www.handmark.com) is an incredible new information system for wireless devices (I've been testing a beta version). It quickly retrieves a variety of information from online sources on demand, including: 411 directory (finds a person, neighbor, business, reverse address and reverse phone number), sports news, maps, directions between two addresses, movies (what's playing in your local theaters, start times and reviews), news, stocks and weather. This product is due to be released within the next few days at $40. No more need to pay for 411 calls. Also available for PocketPC.

  • Two cases designed specifically for the Treo are much better than what's typically available in the stores. Covertec (www.covertec.com) offers a beautifully made leather case with a top opening that stores the phone horizontally on the belt for $30. Good if you don't like antennas sticking into your belly. Rip-Offs (www.ripoffs.com) makes a foam-padded, industrial quality, black nylon case with a large rugged steel belt clip for about $30. Both companies make cases for other devices, as well.

  • Wine Enthusiast Guide 2004 from Landware (www.landware.com) reviews and rates more than 10,000 wines from 20 countries, and costs $20. It's great for selecting a wine from a restaurant's wine list. Also from Landware is Leonard Maltin's 2004 Movie and Video Guide, which rates more than 6,500 DVDs, for $16.

  • Snapper Mail (www.snappermail.com) is a mail program with most of the features of your PC mail program. It retrieves mail of any length automatically from multiple accounts, handles attachments and lets you use your finger instead of a stylus. Its use is limited to pop mail accounts and costs $30.

  • Standard Time (www.stdtime.com) is a feature-rich program that runs on your PC and the Treo for tracking time by client and project -- a big help for those that bill their time. Time can be tracked on the computer and handheld and then synced to provide a full record on both devices. Price is $135.

  • Pocket Tunes (www.pocket-tunes.com) plays compressed audio files (MP3, etc.) and uncompressed WAV files from a flash memory card, as well as streams MP3 live over your wireless Internet connection. Turn on the speakerphone and listen to radio streaming from the Internet.

  • Chatter (www.imchatter.com) and VeriChat (www.pdaapps.com) give you instant messaging on the Treo just like on your computer for $20 and $25, respectively.

  • eWallet from Ilium Software (www.iliumsoft.com) is a $20 backup to your wallet that stores credit cards, banks, memberships, health cards and other information. But there's no need for a cash compartment, because after outfitting your Treo with all of these items, you'll have very little cash left.

    And with sales of the Treo continuing to grow, this is just the beginning.


    Baker has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others. He is the holder of 30 patents and was named San Diego's Ernst & Young Consumer Products Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. He can be reached at phil.baker@sddt.com.

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