A trade-up to Treo gets a bit sweeter

Handspring says since people are buying the cell phone/handheld combo to replace multiple devices, it wants to fuel that momentum by offering a $100 rebate.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
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John G. Spooner
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Handheld users torn on whether to upgrade to Handspring's Treo wireless PDA may now have a little more incentive.

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The company said Tuesday that it would offer owners of its Visor handhelds a $100 rebate for purchasing a Treo 180. The program also applies to Palm, Pocket PC, Research In Motion, Symbian and Sharp handhelds, Handspring said.

When purchased with a one-year service contract, the Treo 180 sells for $399. As a standalone device, the combination cell phone and handheld sells for $599. Subscription prices for service contracts vary between about $30 and $200 per month, depending on the level of service.

Visor owners can get the rebate when they purchase the Treo 180 on Handspring's Web site by supplying the serial number for their current PDA.

On the other hand, owners of non-Handspring devices must go through the process by mail, though they won't actually have to send Handspring their old devices, company spokesman Brian Jaquet said. The rebate form will contain questions so that the handheld maker can get an idea of what kind of product a person has been using, he said.

The trade-in program follows a recent promotion on online retailer Amazon.com in which the Treo 180 was rebated $150 without a trade-in, making the device $249 with service activation. The promotion ran from April 16 to April 30.

The Amazon promotion illustrates that consumers can find many deals for the Treo phone. For example, on Handspring's Web site, Cingular Wireless subscribers renewing their service contracts can get a $200 rebate on a Treo, which can be combined with the trade-in program.

Programs like these are fairly popular among companies that sell computing products. Gateway, for example, allows customers to trade in their old PCs when buying a new Gateway machine. Handspring has also offered similar programs to its VisorPhone customers.

Companies often use these types of programs to help establish new products, eliminate inventories of older products and even gain sales over competitors. The Handspring program, which will last until June 2, appears to be the result of a number of these factors.

"Early Handspring surveys are showing that customers are purchasing Treo to replace multiple devices, and we want to fuel that momentum even further by making this offer available to anyone who currently owns a handheld computer or wireless e-mail-enabled device," Karen Sipprell, Handspring's vice president of corporate marketing, said in a statement.

The company said the Treo has sold well so far, with 47,000 units shipped during its third fiscal quarter ended in March, but analysts have said it faces a tough road because of a slower-than-expected adoption of so-called 2.5G and 3G cellular phones.

Handspring plans to introduce a color version of the Treo this quarter that runs on Sprint PCS's network, and also has plans to release a new type of handheld. Company executives have said little about that future PDA except that it will fit Handspring's goal of selling only wireless devices.

The Treo 180 uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks, allowing people to make calls and send e-mail and short messages. A software upgrade will also allow the device to work with the next-generation GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks, otherwise known as 2.5G cellular networks.

The Treo 180 now runs on the Cingular and VoiceStream Wireless networks and is available directly from Handspring and via retailers such as Best Buy and CompUSA.