Cigar Aficionado

Treo Communicator

Available since February, the Treo communicator from Handspring is a phone, Palm, wireless Web and e-mail system compacted into a less-than-6-ounce wonder.

The flip phone has a Palm operating system, 16 megabytes of memory, a monochrome display, its own Web browser (Blazer) and compatibility with most e-mail programs as well as instant messaging capabilities. You can choose from either a built-in keyboard (Treo 180) or a Graffiti writing pad (Treo 180g). The steel blue communicator is 4.3 by 2.7 by 0.7 inches and 5.4 ounces and is both Windows- and Mac-ready out of the box. The communicator has so many bells and whistles it won Best of Show at Comdex 2001.

While the device has all the features you would expect (all 11,000 applications that a Palm can run, the Treo can run), a number of unique features make the Treo a must-have. Blazer, which Handspring says is four times faster than similar Web browsers, will freely access most Web pages, not just sites set up for wireless use. While you cannot operate two wireless functions at once, you can access the Palm functions of the device while on a call or surfing the Web, and all the operations cross-reference so your e-mail and phone calls can be made from the same phone book. The phone has a dual band so you can make calls in the United States and in Europe. Additionally, you can be both hands- and headset-free due to a speakerphone function.

By midyear, Handspring will come out with a color version, the Treo 270, as well as a multilanguage function. The Treo 270 will not be available with the Graffiti writing pad and will retail for about $599. The Treo 180 and 180g retail for about $399 with service and $549 without, and come with a stylus, USB HotSync cable, travel charger, hands-free headset and software.

Service is the one caveat here. Treo runs on the GSM network, which 85 percent of the world uses, with the exception of the United States, where there are three networks. Currently, VoiceStream and Cingular can provide service on the GSM network. Before the end of 2002, Handspring will release a CDMA version, which can be serviced by other companies like Sprint or Verizon.

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