When I showed palmOne's new Treo 650 to a co-worker who had just bought the Treo 600, my now-jealous colleague paid this new model one of the highest compliments imaginable: a...

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When I showed palmOne’s new Treo 650 to a co-worker who had just bought the Treo 600, my now-jealous colleague paid this new model one of the highest compliments imaginable: a two-word obscenity we can’t print.

Treo smartphones seem to have that kind of effect on people. Maybe it’s because these useful hybrids of organizer and cellphone remind people of a Star Trek communicator. Or maybe it’s just because customers don’t want to carry around separate organizers, cellphones, MP3 players and digital cameras. A device that does all those functions, even if it doesn’t perform all of them very well, offers the promise of a less-cluttered pocket or purse.

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Since the Treo 180 debuted in late 2001, its developers — first Handspring, then palmOne — have steadily worked toward that goal. Last fall, the Treo 600 got the basics right, fusing a phone, organizer, low-resolution digital camera and digital-music playback capability in a package not much bigger than most cellphones. Now the 650, available only through Sprint PCS at the moment, refines the formula still further.

The big deal with the 650 is its beautiful, sharp screen, a color liquid-crystal display that, with 320 pixels of resolution along each side, offers four times the resolution as the Treo 600’s LCD. This means you can view maps and finely formatted text documents without eyestrain and can scan more of a Web page at once than before.

The 650 also adds Bluetooth, a wireless technology intended to replace everyday data cables. This is a snazzy idea in theory, but in reality it’s less attractive, thanks to Sprint’s half-baked implementation.

You can use a Bluetooth wireless headset (should you feel like replacing a $10 wired headset with a $50 model that will need recharging); you can send bits of data to and from another Bluetooth-equipped device; and you can synchronize the Treo’s data with a Bluetooth-enabled computer (expect the initial Bluetooth hot-sync to proceed with glacial slowness).

But the single most useful application of Bluetooth — linking the phone to a Bluetooth-compatible laptop, allowing you to go online anywhere wireless coverage is available — isn’t included. Sprint says it had to leave out the feature “due to lack of time for testing and quality control,” said spokeswoman Lisa Ihde, who said it would be added in “an upcoming maintenance release.”

PalmOne includes an extensive software bundle. Its online capability consists of the Blazer Web browser, which displayed a variety of mainstream Web sites legibly on the 650’s small screen, and VersaMail, which retrieved e-mail from both my EarthLink and America Online accounts without complaint.

Two other bundled applications are worthy of note: Documents To Go 7, an editor for Microsoft Office documents, vastly outstrips what Microsoft bundles with its own Windows Mobile handheld software, and RealPlayer provides basic MP3 management and playback.

Palm isn’t advertising improved battery life, but the 650 seems to exceed the 600’s already impressive endurance.

Sprint charges $600 for the Treo 650, but it offers $150 off to new customers. Sprint subscribers who haven’t upgraded phones in the past 18 months can get the same discount via a mail-in rebate.

Sprint has exclusive rights to sell the 650 through the end of the year, after which time I expect other carriers to offer it if they know what’s good for them.