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Gadget Review New phones from Sprint - Samsung i500 and Treo 600

By Kailas Narendran

features columnist

The Lowdown

As the world gets small and more integrated, cell phone technology blazes the path to the future. The new i500 and Treo 600 from Sprint are the forerunners this season, giving you personal digital assistant/cell phone convergence in a very functional package.

The trademark of the i500 is its clamshell design, giving you a very small package you can easily tuck into a pocket (unlike its predecessor, i330). Opening the phone reveals a PDA screen on the upper half and a tiny graffiti area with a real keypad on the lower half of the phone.

The Treo 600 takes the next step giving you a phone, PDA, and digital camera all in one. The QWERTY keyboard makes the device a bit large, but very easy to use for thumbing in e-mails while you’re commuting to campus or work. The camera gives you VGA resolution with decent colors and resolution; definitely better than missing that priceless moment due to the lack of a camera.

i500

Between the two phones, this was my favorite. I personally don’t want an e-umbilical cord with constant e-mail access, but I do like to read the news or browse the web when I’m stuck on the T. The small graffiti area is good enough for occasional data entry, as well. The screen is bright and easy to see in most lighting conditions. Best of all is the fact that this phone folds down to 3.5"x2.5" -- it is very easy to drop in your pocket and the screen is folded away safely.

Treo 600

As cool as the QWERTY keyboard and built-in camera are on this phone, the size is still a little much for me. If you are one of the people that already carries a PDA, cell phone, and a digital camera on your belt (I’ve seen at least one around campus), then this is the perfect next step for you. While it’s a little too big to slide in your pocket (and you run the risk of damaging the screen), it is still much smaller than its predecessors. The keyboard allows you to send e-mails blazingly fast. The camera will free you from saying, “you just had to see it!” ever again.

Service

I found the entire wireless service offered by Sprint to be much more reliable and easy to use, compared to the phones I reviewed last year. The service is reasonably fast, allowing you to send (on average) about a picture a minute as an e-mail attachment (no more links to web pages like on older phones). Using the Treo, you can send pictures to up to ten recipients at once -- much better than the older camera phones.

The Bottom Line

Both of these phones are on the bleeding edge of cell phone technology. As a result, purchasing them can cause your wallet to bleed. The MSRPs for both the i500 and Treo 600 is $600 though these prices generally come with rebates. If you want to use all the web browsing and e-mail capabilities, you will need to spend an extra $15/mo (on top of a cheapest plan of $35/mo). I looked around online and didn’t have any luck finding great deals on these phones. If you want to learn more about the i500 you can check out http://www.samsungusa.com/wireless/ and navigate to the Sprint phones. To find out more about the Treo 600, check out http://www.handspring.com/.