Ever since I got a $5.40 bill from Cingular for using their GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network for ONLY about two (2) minutes-to access the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s website (www.inq7.net)- using my old but trusty Treo 600, I had long been aching to have WiFi access on this gadget.
Using GPRS for web browsing isn’t just the way to go these days. It maybe convenient for e-mail and SMS (where our friendly phone companies charge very minimal fees), but GPRS for web access is not only slow compared to WiFi but it is also painfully expensive (Well, at least, here in the U.S. Someone informed me that Telefonica Movistar, for sometime, offered data service via GPRS in Mexico for free). The only advantage of GPRS over WiFi is that the former goes together wherever your phone signal is available. The latter…well, you’re constantly in the lookout for ‘open’ WiFi networks or, the nearest Starbucks or Borders.
The Treo 600 as well as the newer 650 model didn’t come with built-in WiFi. Maybe, PalmOne wants you to also get their Tungsten C or any of their new PDAs that can use an SDIO WiFi card like the Zire 72. Since free WiFi hotspots had been sprouting like mushrooms all over the world in the past two years, why not take advantage of them?
Treo 650 users had been buzzing for the last 3 months now with the release of a hack for the SDIO WiFi card that PalmOne specially designed for the Tungsten T2, T5 and the Zire 72. The SD WiFi card sells for US$129 at the PalmOne Store while the hack is available at www.uneasysilence.com
In this picture comes in Enfora, Inc. – a Texas-based company that had been involved in mobile computing solutions since 1999. Last March 10, 2005 they issued a press release on their website stating that they will offer a ‘WiFi-sled’ for both the Treo 600 and 650. This is very good news for Treo users that had long been dreaming to have WiFi access on their beloved devices.
The last company that tried to address this shortcoming by PalmOne was SanDisk. They were able to come out with an SD (Secure Digital) WiFi card for the Pocket
PC platform but failed to deliver one for the Palm OS platform –specifically, for the very popular Treo 600 due to power constraints.
WiFi cards are, indeed, power hogs. Even most notebooks with WiFi cards built-in or connected via the PC Card slots and are in use, can have their power juice run down quickly compared to ones not actively using their WiFi cards.
What’s promising about Enfora’s approach is that, the ‘WiFi sled’ is a device in itself where the Treo 600/650 slips in. Hence, it has its own power source and will also charge the Treo as well. But how the device will behave in wireless data mode using WiFi is a big question. Can a call comes in while web surfing? Will other built-in apps on Palm OS 5.x work well with the bundled software?
But, just like ‘vaporware’, a press release is a great way to whet the appetite of people eagerly waiting to lay their hands on the actual device. Whether Enfora (www.enfora.com) can actually deliver these products in the market before PalmOne finally comes up with yet another new version of the Treo with built-in WiFi, remains to be seen.
In the first week of September 2005, the WiFi sled for both the Treo 600 and 650 became available to the general public by showing up in retail store shelves like CompUSA as well as online stores.