HP's ambitions to make a smartphone that would compete with PalmOne's Treo have taken a battering.

Its major distributor, T-Mobile USA, has suspended sales of the iPaq h6315, and is offering to take back units already sold, and exchange them for Treos - for the understandable reason that users don't like having to re-boot their phone.

The h6315 was released last July as HP's answer to the popularity of PalmOne'sTreo (read our review of the Treo 650).

HP had added phone capabilities to one of its iPaq PDAs with a GSM/GPRS modem, and also installed an 802.11b wireless chip and Bluetooth connectivity. Early reviews were kind, in part because of the device's ability to shift between GPRS and 802.11b networks.

However, since its release users have been underwhelmed by the phone capabilities of the device, according to numerous posts on handheld enthusiast websites and user review sites. The device does not appear to work consistently as a phone, as many users reported having to frequently reset their units after software lockups.

Now, T-Mobile USA has suspended sales of the h6315, pending a ROM update from HP that is expected to fix many of the problems experienced by early users, said Mike Hockey, an HP spokesman. HP will offer the software update as a free download from its website during the first week of April, he said.

The ROM update will correct many of those problems with new code for the software that controls the GPRS and Bluetooth chips, HP's Hockey said. T-Mobile is working with HP on the problem and will alert customers when the update is available, a T-Mobile spokesman said.

However, for customers who can't wait, or don't trust HP's ability to fix the problem, T-Mobile's is offering to exchange the h6315 for other phone/PDA devices, including the PalmOne Treo 600 or the BlackBerry, according to sources familiar with the problem.

For several years, PDA users and analysts have been calling on companies such as PalmOne and HP to add communications technology to their PDAs. Shipments of unconnected PDAs have been in steady decline for

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