palmOne Tungsten T3 Up Close
The Tungsten T3 is a little longer than the old Tungsten T, but it's also a bit thinner
Lots of information leaked out last week about the upcoming palmOne Tungsten T3 that we first told you about over two months ago and then updated you on last month.  The early photos and specs seemed to be dead on, but thanks to some new photos and access to the user manual, we have lots of exciting new information to share.  If you're looking to get one, all signs point to an official release date of Friday, October 3rd, which means that you may be able to find them in stores any time now.

The Hardware
First, the specs that have been confirmed:
  • 4.25" long x 2.99" wide x 0.63" thick, 5.4 oz

  • 320x480 transflective screen that supports both landscape and portrait modes

  • Bluetooth

  • Voice Recording

  • 64MB RAM

  • SDIO Memory/Expansion Slot

  • Infrared

  • 400Mhz CPU

  • Palm OS 5.2.1

Gone is the controversial clear snap-on cover in favor of a good old flip-cover
A couple of surprises that were revealed through some of the most recently leaked photos are that the T3 is actually a little bit longer than the earlier Tungsten T's.  However, it also looks to be a little thinner.  So, overall, when closed, this looks to be a very compact PDA.  One pleasant surprise was that they dropped the odd clear plastic snap-on cover used on the earlier Tungsten T's and have switched to what appears to be a leather flip-cover.

I have to say that I completely don't understand palmOne's decision to change the shape of the D-pad from round to oblong.  I wouldn't like that design on the regular Tungsten T, but it makes even less sense on a device that can be used in landscape mode.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the buttons are simply horrible.  Just give me some good round, oval, or square buttons that are reasonably large and easy to press, please.  You know, the kind that Palm could always be relied upon for.  Instead, palmOne's design team seems to have won out with their button design that sacrifices usability in favor of looking "cool."

Battery size seems to also be an unknown.  With the larger screen, a larger battery would seem to be a necessity, especially considering that it's still not replaceable, but some reports suggest that it may be no larger than the Tungsten T2's battery.

Zen 2.0
As companies fall all over each other trying to integrate all sorts of gee-whiz features into their latest handhelds, it's nice to see that palmOne's software team spent some effort in adding simple, but valuable improvements to the built-in PIM applications.  After all, it was the perfectly tuned PIM functionality of the original Palm Pilot 1000 that created the PDA market in the first place, and PIM functionality is still the central purpose of PDAs today.  While it took them too long to get there, I'm glad to finally see a dedicated Birthday field in the Contacts app.  Like Microsoft's Pocket PC, you can now, finally, directly link a birthday reminder to your calendar, without having to resort to extra software and extra steps.

The Contacts app has been enhanced to include multiple addresses and more
The Address Book has been renamed "Contacts."  palmOne seem to have given in to those who have long complained about the lack of separate home and work addresses (something, I never quite cared about, partly because there were workarounds and partly because I never needed to store two addresses for anyone).  Not only are there now dedicated work and home addresses, but they threw in a third "Other" address.

As if that wasn't enough, they increased the number of custom fields (which you can rename to suit whatever specialized purpose you may have) from four to nine, added dedicated fields for multiple IM addresses, and added a quick connect feature that allows you to quickly dial a contact's phone number on a Bluetooth phone, prefill their email address in a blank email, send them an SMS, and more.  One concern I would have is that all of these new fields could clutter up the interface, resulting in having to scroll page after page just to get to a field that you want to edit (a chore required on the Pocket PC).  Thankfully, they thought that one through and only show you the fields that you have data stored in when you go to edit an existing record.  You can add in a new, previously blank field, quickly through an on-screen button.

Unfortunately, you can still assign each contact to only one category.  The ability to assign a contact to multiple categories, as well as an increase in the number of categories, is expected in Palm OS 6.

The extra screen real-estate is put to good use by several of the built-in apps
The Date Book application has been renamed "Calendar."  New features include the ability to assign a location to an event, as well as the ability to assign events to different categories.  You can color-code the categories to make them easy to spot in different calendar views.  The additional screen real estate of the TT3 is made use of in the month view to display two smaller monthly calendars for the previous and following months.

The Memo Pad application has been renamed "Memos."  A small, but long cried out for, improvement to this app is that each memo is no longer limited to 4KB in length.  That limit has now been significantly increased to 32KB.

The To Do List application has been renamed as "Tasks."  Like the Memos app, new features are minimal but useful.  Here, you can now create a recurring task.

Other Software
In addition to the PIM functionality, there's also several other built-in applications.  The Web Pro browser can work with either palmOne's proxy server, a proxy server of your choosing, or no proxy server at all.

Additional apps include the Note Pad application, an SMS app for sending and receiving SMS messages via a Bluetooth phone, the Photos application, which now supports more formats and hopefully, though not specified in the manual, should take advantage of the TT3's larger screen real estate.  There's also the VersaMail email application, a Voice Memo app, the Expense app, and the World Clock.  Doubtless, many of these apps have been improved or tweaked, but I lacked the time or energy to go through them all one by one.

Final Thoughts
palmOne is really packing a lot of features into this device.  The rumored list price of $399 seems pretty darn good, too.  I was surprised to find that online retailer Harmony Computers is not only offering it for sale already, they're actually discounting it down to $349 plus shipping.  At that price, it really marks a huge shift from the premium prices Palm previously set for their devices upon release.  It's hard for me to get past that oblong D-pad, though.

One thing's for certain, this holiday season will bring some outstanding values on feature-packed PDAs, with the Zodiac starting at $300, the HP iPaq 1935 PPC and palmOne Tungsten E at $200, and this Tungsten T3 at $400 (and available for $350 already).  Other devices of interest include the "old" Tungsten T2 and Tungsten C, which look to be repriced at $300 and $400 respectively.  Add to those, the upcoming Dell and HP models, and we've got a lot of multimedia-capable PDAs in the sub-$300 range.
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