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Found the Future of Mobile Phones in My Closet



My in-laws are visiting for a couple of weeks and my wife tasked me with cleaning out our coat closet, which is behind the wall where I mounted my HDTV. One side of the closet has shelves that are home to my game systems, cable box, SlingBox and other gadgets. I wasn’t looking forward to organizing the closet, but I ended up having a great time as I found some long-lost gadgets, including my old Treo 650.

The Palm Treo 650 launched way back in 2004, two and a half before the iPhone. I snuck away from work on a cold winter day to buy one the day they showed up at a San Francisco Sprint retail store. The Treo 650 could be loaded up with apps and had an SD card slot, a VGA video camera and a stylus. The most important feature for me was having email on the go. For me, this device was magical.

Finding the Treo 650 brought back a lot of fond memories of being able to truly communicate on the go for the first time. I could edit work documents, respond to email, send photos and perform other tasks we all take for granted in 2010.

A few months later I was excited to attend a conference at Stanford University where a Palm exec was scheduled to talk about the future of mobile devices. There were several Palm execs milling about showing off concept devices, including what would become the Palm Lifedrive, a personal media player/portable 4GB hard drive. It looked like Palm would drive the future of smartphones forward. But then the presentation began…

The moderator asked the Palm exec what smartphones would look like in five years. All the Palm guy could up with was that in five years more people would be using phones that looked and functioned like the Treo 650. He pointed out innovative features like the physical ring/silence switch and the infrared port. It was pretty disappointing to see one of the guys behind the phone I loved so much forcing the issue of why it’s so much better to have such a switch than having to navigate menus to turn off a ringer.

I bought my wife a Treo 700 when it was released so she could also communicate more effectively at work.

In June of 2007 I unexpectedly bought the original iPhone after wandering down to the Apple store ‘just to check it out.’ I plunked down $600, placed the Treo 650 on a shelf in my closet and never looked back.

It’s sad for me to see the Palm brand in such shambles. It was only five years ago when friends were in awe of my Treo 650. About eleven years ago I carried a Palm Pilot and shocked people when I showed off its innovative features, including Grafiti. A few years ago, I thought Palm would be the future of mobile phones. Instead, the only Palm devices we own have been collecting dust for years. I can’t bear to let go of the devices and am putting them in my attic. It’ll probably be another 3-5 years before I look at them again. I wonder if there will even be a Palm brand at that point.




    06/12/2010 at 12:38 pm

    i wanted one of those lifedrives when they first came out, but never got round to getting one. But then the Nokia 770 showed up the same year, and palm kept putting new paint on the old palmos…

    its to bad that it took them seeing the end before they got around to actually trying to go beyond that old os.

  2. Jim Bow

    06/12/2010 at 2:14 pm

    I still carry my Palm Treo 650 with me even though it no longer has a SIM in it as it is still the fastest on, easiest to use OS out there. Yes it sucks at internet connectivity and the 2GB limit on the SD card is a barrier.
    However the flash new phones I have tried are so not with it in terms of UI versus OS interaction.
    My Treo 650 out performs both the Nokia N97 and the iPhone in the simplest of PIM tasks!! The handwriting with the stylus and the ready available keyboard, and that ringer switch that I could slide across without taking my phone out of my pocket!

    Sometimes old is better…

    So now I pack two phones as old out performs new on all tasks except internet access!!!

  3. GoodThings2Life

    06/12/2010 at 5:20 pm

    Meanwhile I think I was the only person on Earth that was going around saying Palm would never last, because I felt they were clunky and proprietary…

    Although in fairness, I’m just as often to be wrong… I said the same thing about Blackberry and even remember cheering when they were having legal issues and thought they might get wiped out, and my God how I wish they’d go away!

    • Joe

      06/13/2010 at 7:33 am

      Wow, if a decade of being on top is “never lasting” I’d be happy to fail.

  4. Oliver

    06/12/2010 at 5:33 pm

    So which Apps did you install on your iPhone back in 2007?

    • Xavier Lanier

      06/12/2010 at 11:14 pm

      Absolutely none, but I was able to finally browse (slowly) on a mobile device for the first time in a browser that kinda-sorta resembled what I used on a PC :-)
      I did miss Docs2Go and a few others.

  5. Dave

    06/12/2010 at 6:23 pm

    I never bought a Treo, I kept hoping for an all touch model based on the Palm V.Just think – it could have been the iPhone.

  6. Tim

    06/15/2010 at 1:30 pm

    I still have a Palm 650 and 700p. If the 700p had not died, and then fallen full victim to poor customer support at Verizon, I would probably still be using it. I tried a blackberry, then the iPhone. I loved the iPhone, but AT&T coverage was horrible. In an area marked 3g/broadband on their map I had absolutely zero coverage. No bars, no text, no data, no voice. So now I am back with Verizon with a Palm Pre+.

    I almost reactivated the 650, and there are times I wish I did. The biggest redeeming feature of the Pre is the ability to use it as a free WiFi hotspot.

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