Palm guru Larry Becker returns to bring you the top 10 essential accessories for your Treo 650 (most will work on the 600 if you haven’t upgraded yet). If you haven’t already, read Larry’s Treo 650 review. If you want to use your Treo like a pro, Larry lets you in on the secrets. Four honorable mentions are also included on the list.
Read on for the list along with why each accessory is useful.
Top 10 Palm Treo 650 accessories
10) A Backup Card ($35 - $70) - Not to be confused with a regular, blank expansion card, a backup card is an SD or MMC card which contains a dedicated backup program. Upon inserting it into your smartphone (or practically any palm) the backup program can be run. Its job is to copy everything from the smartphone’s RAM.
Sure, I know you HotSync every day, but it’s nice to have a complete backup everywhere you go. Your Treo’s new memory won’t die if the battery dies, but other things cause catastrophic crashes occasionally and this is just one more insurance policy. Pop in the card, hit restore, and it’s as good as a restore from a HotSync but you don’t have to run back to the office or home to make it happen. If Treos are for road warriors, this is our portable safety net.
There are a few options here. You can use the palmOne Secure Backup card (around $50-$70) but you’ll need to download the free patch from palmOne’s web site because the new Flash RAM on the Treo 650 requires it. Alternatively you can use a program like BackupBuddy VFS or BackupMan ($20 and $10 respectively). These two programs are great because they can run from/on any inexpensive SD card but neither claims to be perfect on the new Flash RAM devices like the Treo 650 or palmOne’s T5. I‘ve had pretty good success with the more affordable BackupMan but it doesn’t restore pictures. Watch for updates in this area and eventually someone will come out with solid software.
9) The Horizontal Case ($30) - As a guy I belt clip my phone. There are a few options here but I like the horizontal mounted palmOne leather case. It seems to provide the quickest access and solid security on the hip with minimal likelihood of being accidentally knocked off. If you carry your Treo in a purse, the case form might be different, but look for something that surrounds the smartphone.
MiDi Ring Tones (Free to $$) - MiDi is the format of the musical ring tones for many smartphone including the Treo 650. You can buy them from carriers and other sources. And while I spend tons of money on gadgets and add-ons, I just have a problem paying for ring tones.
Use your Treo’s web browser and surf to www.mididb.com and pick a few of your favorite TV theme songs or classic rock tunes and download them for free. Then use your Treo’s Favorites screens to assign custom ring tones to your frequent callers so you know who’s calling before you even look at the screen. To save time, use your PC or Mac’s high speed connection to visit the free MIDI site first and plan which tunes you want to download.
7) The 650 ROM Update. (Free) - Okay it’s only available for the Sprint version of the 650 so far but when it comes out for your phone, get it. It adds back about 30% more RAM space and seems to have improved my device’s stability (though this may just be my imagination). There are two ways palmOne says you can install it… One method if you have 11MB of available space and a different method if you have less than 11MB available. Because it provides additional backup security, I recommend you use the second method.
6) Extra Battery or Travel Cables, Chargers, etc. ($25-$100+) - Depending on how you use your smartphone, you may just need the car charger ($25) or you might need to spring for an extra battery ($60) plus a dual-charging cradle ($60). The battery is long lasting but you will still need some form of extra power for those busy talk days and trips.
5) Wireless Keyboard ($70) - Give your thumbs a rest! If you’re happy with the thumb keyboard for short messages, but dread lengthy e-mail replies, you need an external keyboard. The best I’ve found is palmOne’s universal keyboard because it is a full-sized keyboard that folds to a compact unit for travel. It can go months on 2 AAA batteries and it makes typing on your Treo a real pleasure. Because it ‘beams’ typing into the Treo (or any Palm or PocketPC) it will work when you upgrade to the next Treo, and the next, and the next…
4) Handmark Express ($5 to $8 per month) - One interface, many programs. Weather, news, sports, stocks, movies, and more are available as information that has been optimized for your Treo’s screen. You set up the programming and your smartphone will automatically retrieve your news, stocks, etc. every day. It uses the data portion of your smartphone very sparingly and can even be set to disconnect the data radio automatically following updates. (A great feature for those who don’t have an unlimited data plan!)
Besides news, weather, and all the other usual stuff, there are two other amazing aspects of Express: Maps and 411. The 411 program is everything you might normally expect to find by dialing 411, but you can do as many queries as you want and there’s no extra fee! Add to that the fact that search results can be immediately dialed, added to your Contacts, or mapped with the companion Express Maps program. And speaking of maps, you can request driving directions, save recent locations and routes and more. This is an indispensable ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for your Treo’s data service and if you use your carrier’s 411 service regularly, you’ll save a ton.
3) Expansion Card ($30-$130) - Available in sizes from 64mb to 1gig, no Treo should be without extra storage space for tunes, camcorder recording, extra program storage, file storage, and whatever won’t fit nicely on your built-in RAM.
2) Bluetooth Headset ($79) - The Treo 650 paperwork says it should work with any Bluetooth cordless headset. Nevertheless, there is one headset new to the market that is far and away superior to any other offering. It is the new palmOne Treo Bluetooth headset. While palmOne previously recommended the Jabra 250 and even offered a specially tuned Jabra 250 with the palmOne brand name on it, nothing works as well as the new, very light weight, Treo Wireless Headset. It’s so comfortable, within 2 minutes you forget it’s there and it’s still comfortable at the end of the day. Another bonus is that the supplied domestic/foreign travel charger is the same as your Treo uses! One charger for both devices (though not for simultaneous use) is a brilliant touch. The fit, functionality, compatibility with the Treo 650, and the battery life (7hrs talk, 170hrs stby) are all state of the art. It’s simply the best handsfree headset for the Treo 650, hands down.
1) Audi A6 ($42,620 MSRP for V6 model) - This has to be the coolest Treo 650 accessory available so far. While several auto makers offer Bluetooth integration, that doesn’t always mean that your Bluetooth car and Bluetooth equipped phone will play nice together. The palmOne engineers have been having lunch with the Audi engineers and the result is an amazing user experience. Just pair your Treo 650 with your Audi A6 one time and that’s it. Whenever you’re in the car and your phone rings, your sound system quiets the music and your caller’s voice comes through the surround sound system. Caller ID is on the dash board and you can easily dial the phone from the ergonomic dash panel too. It’s an elegant implementation of technological integration that’s cordless and screams ‘cool!’ Come to think of it, all Audi A6s should come standard with a Treo 650 (and vice versa).
- eGrips ($10) - Available in colors that match your 650’s color scheme, these grippy stickers are more elegant than the grippy pads for the dash board and they go everywhere with the phone.
- Fake Call ($10 Shareware) - This clever little program can be set to alarm any time you like but the alarm is a very convincing ‘phone ringing’ screen with actual voices on the other end of the fake call to help you get out of a meeting. Sneaky, funny, expensive for a 1-trick-pony but, depending on the meeting you’re trying to escape, it might just be priceless.
- Voice Dialer ($20 shareware) - Popular in customer reviews, this nifty program calls whoever you say. Similar to offerings from some carriers, your carrier may offer voice dialing for free (then ignore this program) or for an ongoing fee (then get Voice Dialer and pay just once). The only reason I don’t use it regularly is that this program (and all voice dialing) as yet doesn’t work via the Bluetooth headset.
- Voice Recorder (Free to $100) - Sure, you can use the camcorder to record voice notes but that wastes space because it captures video you don’t need. Unfortunately the voice recorder program from the Zire 72 and Tungsten T series isn’t available for the Treo 650 so you have to buy an after-market option or use the free program from InfinityBall. They all seem to work but each has its own quirks. VoiceRec from InfinityBall is my choice but it’s buggy on the 650 and can’t save to the memory card like it does so well on the Treo 600. Other software is expensive or missing options I would want in a paid program, so I’ll just stick with the freebie and be careful of its quirks. If your needs and budget differ from mine, you might prefer one of the commercial solutions available at Handango.com or PalmGear.com. Visit either site and search for “voice recorder.”
The Treo 650 is great, but there’s no such thing as perfect. People who visit this site and own Treo 650s are obviously gadget people, so I hope I’ve further tickled your gadget fancy and inspired you to modify your 650 to make it even better.
Right now I’ve got to get going and e-mail those guys at Audi again. I keep trying to get them to give me an A6 for review purposes.
Larry Becker is an author, technology trainer, and writer and lists among his clients GE, Sony, palmOne, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, the National Association of REALTORSยฎ, and others. Larry produced the first ever Palm OS training video (now a series) and has released several videos about using Treo 600s and Treo 650s. Information about Larry Becker’s training videos can be found here.