Pocketable, slimmer and sleeker than the Palm Treo 680, the Palm Centro's size is ideal. The screen is noticably smaller, but it's big enough for scrolling through documents and webpages.
The build quality, however, isn't as satisfying as the Treo 680. The shiny, speckled-black plastic casing creaks as you handle it. The stylus is also disappointing – it’s so flimsy you can barely press it before it starts flexing.
The spec is unimpressive, compared with previous Palm handsets. There's no 3G, Wi-Fi and the camera is pretty poor.
Palm is positioning the Centro as a mass market handset with consumer appeal. The fact that the Centro's Palm operating system is extremely easy to use should be a major asset.
An excellent internet browser, simple email program. Palm’s idiosyncratic operating system remains as adorable as ever and it’s the OS that ultimately overcomes other deficiencies.
The poor battery life present on earlier models has also been addressed. The battery on the Palm Centro lasts a good two days with regular calls, email requests and web surfing.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:50:26 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Exceptionally accessible Palm operating system. Neat and easy to use features. Excellent email program. Hugely improved battery life.
No Wi-Fi, no 3G and a poor camera. In many ways this is a four-star device, but the features let it down.
Palm seemed to lose its way a couple of years back, producing new models with Windows Mobile as the operating system. These were the Palm Treo 750v and the more recent Palm Treo 500v, which, although excellent smartphones in their own ways, weren’t the real deal for demanding Palm fans.
Now the Palm Centro, the smallest smartphone from Palm to date, run on the Palm operating system. The last phone with a Palm OS was the Treo 680, which was released in October 2006. Although under-powered (no 3G, no Wi-Fi and just a VGA camera), it remains an attractive machine, thanks to an excellent internet browser, simple email program and dense but effective QWERTY keypad making text and email composition a breeze. However, with the increasing number of compact smartphones on offer, it feels slightly on the large side.
The Palm Centro’s size is ideal – pocketable, slimmer and sleeker than the Treo 680. The screen is noticeably smaller but, at two inches, it’s just big enough for scrolling a document or a webpage. The screen is also brighter than before.
The QWERTY keypad is compact, with the keys closer together than previous handsets. Fears that it would be hard to use were soon allayed, though. There was a slight adjustment period, but it didn’t last long and soon we were typing with ease.
Smartphones often have dud navigation buttons – a slight wrong press and an upward nudge becomes a confirming press inwards and so on. Happily, the raised ring and smooth Palm logo-embossed middle button on the Centro works well. In making the other buttons more sleek and flush, however, two of the four function buttons don’t have as much travel as previous handsets, which is a minor niggle.
Two of Palm’s best features are preserved intact on the Centro: press the end call button and the screen switches off and the keylock automatically engages. The keylock is not flawless but it’s one of the best around. The other handy feature is the mute button: a slide switch which locks the ringer on or off. It’s simple and very effective (the Apple iPhone uses a similar system).
The poor battery life present on earlier models has also been addressed. The battery on the Palm Centro lasts a good two days with regular calls, email requests and web surfing. Call quality is also better – the crisp sound is an improvement on earlier models.
Unfortunately, at just 1.3 megapixels, the camera seems outdated and the music player is rudimentary.
The build quality on the Centro isn’t as satisfying as the 680. The shiny, speckled-black plastic casing creaks as you handle it. The stylus is also disappointing – it’s so flimsy you can barely press it before it starts flexing.
Palm is an American company so it’s no real surprise that, like BlackBerry, the need to move to 3G hasn’t been urgent. But we know from Windows Mobile models the 750v and 500v that it can be done. Perhaps the smaller form factor of the Centro made this more difficult, and let’s face it, for many features like email, the time saved by the faster data connection is negligible.
The lack of Wi-Fi is a disappointment, particularly when using the excellent Google Maps feature. Although the smaller screen and lack of magnifying features means it’s no match for the Maps function on the iPhone, it’s still a decent program, but relying on GPRS for data transfer can be tiresome.
Versamail, the splendid email program common to Palm devices, is on-board and largely unchanged. Although there is a development which will annoy the faithful: previously when you checked your mail the screen would show what the phone was doing; logging on, waiting to connect, how many messages it was downloading etc. Now, a swirling arrow tells you it’s working, but that’s about it. On the plus side, the previous system locked you to this screen but now you can browse mails downloaded earlier, for instance, as you wait.
Previous Treos have come with prominent notices about a powerful magnet in the speakerphone, warning that this could erase data on a credit card. It should have noted that hotel magnetic key cards and Oyster cards are also vulnerable. The speaker on the Centro is smaller, but the user guide still contains the warning, so take care.
Palm’s idiosyncratic operating system remains as adorable as ever and it’s the OS that ultimately overcomes other deficiencies. Who can resist a phone that lets you reject a phone call with a text message (either from a template or of your own crafting)?
Or the dozens of shortcuts to take you quickly through to the features you want? Best of all, there are the thousands of software programs developed by third parties for Palm OS devices.
Even post-iPhone, Palm gadgets are hard to beat, and this compact model, although far from perfect, is just about the best Palm OS smartphone yet.