Palm Centro - The Mini Treo For The Masses
After spending a couple of hours with the new Palm Centro – announced by Palm yesterday at the Digital Life show in NYC – my first impressions are that the device can successfully and proudly claim to deliver a revolutionary new form factor with the first, smallest and lightest smartphone in the world featuring both a high resolution touchscreen and full QWERTY keyboard in a candy bar form factor.
Everyone in the smartphone ecosystem can clearly see that the combination of these hardware design features (size, weight, touchscreen, keyboard and overall form factor) make the Centro a truly innovative, unique even revolutionary device (along the lines of the original Treo 600) – one which it is important to note none of Palm’s much larger and more resourceful competitors (such as RIM, Motorola and Nokia) have been able to achieve to date.
This candy bar smartphone form factor with a full QWERTY keyboard is actually a bit of a “Holy Grail” in the industry – one that finally allows Palm to have a device that will appeal to a vast audience that had heretofore been unwilling to consider buying a smartphone specifically because they were put off by the size and weight of the devices. The fact that Palm’s stock rose by 6% in a single day following the announcement also clearly demonstrates that the market understands the potential upside of this.
Again, from a hardware perspective, the Palm Centro is a very attractive, solid and extremely well built device that has left me and many others impressed – the new rubber-sheet keyboard is not only a fantastic innovation but also surprisingly fast and easy to use; the microSD expansion slot is elegantly hidden by the side; the touchscreen may be small but it packs a full 320x320 resolution; lots of internal memory and additional memory expansion with microSD; EVDO wireless connectivity; the fantastic silent slider first introduced by Palm on the Treo 600 is still there; the dedicated hard buttons and 5Way navigation; there’s a new lanyard clip at the bottom right of the device and finally we have a smooth high quality plastic used for the body that feels great in your hands.
The Palm Centro is essentially a mini version of the Treo 680 or Treo 755p (which still annoyingly makes me wonder why they had to call it Centro instead of Treo) as it delivers all of the functionality of these higher end and more expensive smartphones without any hardware compromises (see specifications below) and actually a few unique additional software features such as Sprint’s IM client. Given this fact, it’s actually very likely that I will be upgrading my Treo 680 to the Palm Centro as soon as a GSM version becomes available (I’ll explain my rationale for this in a separate post).
- Form factor: Candy bar; slimmest form factor with full QWERTY keyboard, five-way navigation button and internal antenna design
- Colors: Ruby Red and Onyx Black
- Dimensions: 2.1” W x 4.2” H x .7” D
- Weight: 4.2 ounces – 119 grams (with battery)
- Operating System: Palm OS 5.4.9
- Power: Intel XScale processor 312 MHz
- Memory: 128 MB of ROM / 64 MB RAM
- MicroSD Card Slot: Accommodates up to 4GB SD card (sold separately)
- Digital Dual-band: CDMA (1900mHz and 800 MHz)
- Data: Sprint 1x-EV-DO (Rev. 0) and 1XRTT
- Web Browser: Blazer v4.5.8
- Battery Specifications: Standard rechargeable Li-Ion (1150 mAh)
- Talk time: Up to 3.5 hours continuous digital talk time
- Full-color touch-screen: Vibrant 1.56” x 1.56” TFT display with 65K colors and 320 x 320 color pixel resolution
- Sprint Mobile Broadband with Power Vision: Experience EV-DO Rev. 0 data speeds averaging up to 400-700 kbps and peak speeds up to 2.0 Mbps when accessing Sprint Power Vision services and content. Supported Power Vision applications include:
- On-Demand: Retrieve customized, up-to-date web content such as sports, weather, news, money and movie information with the push of a button.
- Sprint TV: Sprint Power Vision allows you to watch live TV – from channels you know - on the go with full-motion video and vivid sound at broadband-like speeds
- Sprint Picture Mail: Take, save, publish and share quality digital pictures and videos.
- 1.3 Megapixel Camera/Camcorder: 1.3 MP camera with 2X digital zoom and video capture.
- Phone as Modem: Take advantage of Sprint Mobile Broadband on your laptop by using your smart device as a wireless modem (USB cable included). Requires appropriate service plan.
- Built-in Bluetooth Wireless Technology (v. 1.2): When used with your Sprint Phone and compatible accessories, Bluetooth allows fast, secure transmission without cables or wires, even though the two devices are not in line-of-sight. Bluetooth wireless accessories sold separately.
- Software Applications: Includes standard Palm OS productivity tools such as calendar, contacts, memo and tasks. Also includes a world clock, calculator, memo pad and alarm clock.
- Google Maps Mobile: mapping application so users can get directions, perform local searches and view moveable/scalable maps, location satellite imagery and traffic updates while on the go.
- Instant Messaging: Sprint’s IM client delivers Yahoo!, AOL IM and Messenger IM available on the go. This is in addition to the SMS text messaging that is always included on Palm Smart Devices.
- Enhanced Attachment Viewing: Documents to Go (version 10) offers Microsoft® Office compatibility. Download, view and edit Word and Excel compatible files; rehearse PowerPoint® presentations anywhere; consult important PDFs on the go.
- Data Transfer Mode (DTM): Set in the default position allowing users in an active data session to be notified of incoming voice calls, rather than having them go automatically to voicemail. Data session is suspended when incoming calls are picked up.
- Wireless Email: Supported email clients include Sprint Mobile Email and VersaMail. Send and receive email from multiple corporate and personal email accounts. Get wireless email access to popular commercial POP3 and IMAP accounts like AOL, Gmail, Earthlink and Yahoo! Versamail application right out of the box allows wireless access to Outlook email with a direct connection to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.
- On-Device User’s Guide: Located in the Quick Tour and My Centro sections, customers can view the full User’s Guide right from their device, providing convenient access to tips, troubleshooting techniques and how-to instructions.
- Pocket Tunes Deluxe: Gives users more ways to access their favorite tunes on your Treo no matter where you are. Seamlessly integrated with your phone, users will find Pocket Tunes intuitive and easy-to-use.
- Mobile Voice Control: Use the Nuance voice control to respond to email, text messages, look up a contact or browse the Web.
- Voice/Memo Recorder: Record verbal reminders and ideas with built-in voice recorder.
- Built-In speakerphone: Hands-free operation made easy
- TTY Compatible: This phone connects to a TTY device, allowing anyone who is hearing impaired the ability communicate.
Having said all this, I can understand the main reason why existing Treonauts will be disappointed as the Palm Centro is clearly not the new high-end device that everybody is waiting for (with a new OS, GPS, WiFi, etc) and to a lesser extent also the fact that Palm has made only minimal software improvements to the Palm Centro from the earlier Treo 680 and Treo 755p. These same existing Treonauts should nonetheless be excited to see that the Centro hardware design shows that Palm has not lost its edge and points to what future high-end Treo smartphone form factors (large and small) may also look like.
Overall the Palm Centro is a terrific device whose core achievement is undeniably the design of a revolutionary new smartphone form factor. It’s true that its OS and software are a bit aged but it provides a robust solution that I still gladly use every day as well as access to a vast set of additional third-party software applications to further enhance your smartphone experience – a combination that few if any other competing devices can claim to have.
Treonauts are always revolutionary…