The Rise and Fall of Palm Treo: A Smartphone Pioneer

Palm Treo devices were a line of smartphones that combined the features of a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a mobile phone. They were originally developed by Handspring, a company founded by the inventors of the Palm Pilot, and later acquired by Palm, Inc.

I owned a few Palm devices. The first was the Palm Teeo 700p. I later also owned the Palm Pre (running WebOS), which I still have in my small collection till date.

Palm Treo 700P was my first Palm smartphone
Palm Treo 700P was my first Palm smartphone

The First Palm Treo Device

The first Treo device, the Treo 180, was released in 2002 and ran on the Palm OS operating system. It had a flip design with a QWERTY keyboard and a monochrome screen. It could send and receive email, browse the web, and sync with a desktop computer.

The Treo series evolved over the years, adding color screens, cameras, faster processors, more memory, and different form factors. Some models also ran on Windows Mobile instead of Palm OS, such as the Treo 700w, the first Treo to use Windows Mobile and the first to support 3G networks.

Palm Treo Apps

The Treo devices had a number of applications, such as the built-in PIM suite (contacts, calendar, tasks, memos), the Blazer web browser, the VersaMail email client, the PocketTunes music player, and the Documents To Go office suite. They also supported thousands of third-party apps that were developed for the Palm OS platform.

Palm Treo phones had an app store, but not in the same way as modern smartphones. Palm Treo phones ran on the Palm OS operating system, which supported thousands of third-party applications that were developed by independent developers and distributed through various channels, such as online stores, CD-ROMs, or direct downloads.

One of the most popular online stores for Palm OS software was the PalmInfocenter Software store, which carried thousands of Treo software applications for different categories, such as productivity, games, entertainment, and utilitie. The store also offered freeware, shareware, and commercial titles, and most apps included a free trial period. Users could access the store either through their desktop computers or directly on their Treo smartphones using the Blazer web browser.

Another way to get apps for Palm Treo phones was to use the Palm Desktop software, which was a desktop application that allowed users to sync their Treo devices with their computers, backup and restore data, and install and uninstall applications. Users could download Palm OS software from various websites, such as PalmGear, Handango, or FreewarePalm, and then use the Palm Desktop software to transfer them to their Treo devices.

While Palm Treo phones did not have a centralized app store like the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, which offer a unified and secure way to browse, download, and update apps for iOS and Android devices, they had a vibrant and diverse software ecosystem that gave users a lot of choices and flexibility to customize their devices and enhance their functionality.

The Last Palm Treo

The last Treo device, the Treo Pro, was released in 2008 and ran on Windows Mobile 6.1. It had a sleek design with a flush touchscreen, a 2-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It was also the thinnest Treo ever made.

From Palm OS to WebOS

The Treo series was discontinued in 2009, when Palm introduced a new operating system called webOS and a new device called the Palm Pre. The webOS was designed to be more modern and user-friendly than the Palm OS or Windows Mobile, and the Palm Pre had a sliding keyboard and a gesture-based interface.

Palm Pre

Dying Flames

However, webOS failed to gain enough market share and developer support, and Palm was acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2010. HP discontinued the Palm brand and the webOS devices in 2011, and later sold the webOS software to LG Electronics.

The Pioneering Spirit of Palm Treos

The Treo devices are often remembered as the pioneers of smartphones, with features that were ahead of their time and a loyal fan base. They influenced the evolution of mobile devices and paved the way for the iPhone and Android phones that dominate the market today.

Palm Treos Were America’s Delight

Palm Treo devices sold the most in the US market, where they faced competition from other smartphones like BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android. The Treo 700 series was available in the US through Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless, and Alltel, and in Canada through Telus Mobility. The Treo 800w was exclusive to Sprint Nextel in North America. The Treo Pro was also sold in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe through various carriers.

Palm Treo devices faced increasing competition from other smartphones, such as BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android, which offered more advanced features and capabilities. In 2009, Palm introduced a new operating system called webOS, which ran on the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi devices. However, webOS failed to gain enough market share and developer support, and Palm was acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2010.

TCL’s Palm

Palm Phone 2018 specs - press render

In 2018, a new company called Palm, backed by TCL Corporation (the owner of the Palm brand), released a new device simply called Palm Phone, which was an Android-based companion device to a larger smartphone. However, this device had no relation to the original Palm Tree devices or the Palm OS software.

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