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Palm Centro Review

SPECIAL OFFER: For a limited time get 10% Off your purchase of any accessories (see my Editor’s Choice recommendations at the bottom of this post) in our Centro Store.  Just enter coupon code CENTRO10 during Checkout.

I kindly received my Centro review unit from Palm yesterday and after playing with it for a full day (as well as looking for a whole new bunch of Centro accessories) I can now confirm that my very positive original impressions when seeing the device for the first time at Digital Life in NYC have not changed – on the contrary I’m loving my Palm Centro more by the minute.

Palm Centro Review

On the hardware front here are a few points that I’m particularly delighted with:

  • Colour: I’ve been wanting a Black Treo for some time and now I finally have one (Palm call it “Onyx Black” and there’s also the “Ruby Red”).
  • Form Factor: this smartphone is very compact, solidly built and shaped just right (rounded back and edges) to fit comfortably in your hand or pocket.
  • Weight: at only 4.2 oz (119 grams) with its battery the Centro is extremely light (up to 1/3 lighter than previous Treo smartphones).  It shaves a full 2.2 oz (62 grams) from the Treo 700p and 1.4 oz (40 grams) from the Treo 680 and you’ll notice the difference this makes the moment you hold one (image below and see also Palm Centro & Treo Comparison Chart).

Palm Centro Size Comparison

  • Full QWERTY Keyboard: some people can argue this point all they want but the fact is that I still consider that there is no substitute for a full usable keyboard on a smartphone.  Yes, the Centro’s keyboard (below) is incredibly small but what is even more incredible is how well it works – it’s not quite as fast or comfortable as my Treo 680 but it comes very close (it’s also a hell of a lot faster than the virtual keyboard on the iPhone).

Palm Centro Keyboard Palm Centro Keyboard

  • Touchscreen: again, the touchscreen is smaller in size but luckily Palm kept a high resolution 320x320 display.  I didn’t have any problems at all viewing all sorts of information on this screen but admittedly the smaller size does make it just a bit harder to reach some buttons or menus with your fingers using the touchscreen.
  • Memory Expansion: although I’ll be missing the 8GB SD cards currently on my Treo 680 the present maximum of 4GB on a microSD card for the Centro should nonetheless prove plenty for most Centronauts.
  • New 5Way and Flat Hard Buttons: these new larger flat/flush buttons make the Centro a more elegant (reducing the relative clutter of so many keys) and slimmer looking device.
  • Back Speaker: until you hear it it’s hard to describe just how LOUD the new back speaker is – making it perfect for an impromtu music session, for your morning alarm clock and naturally more importantly to ensure that you actually hear your phone ringing when someone calls or texts you (comparatively I’ve been missing about 50% of calls on my test iPhone because both the speaker and the included ringtones are designed for people with bionic ears and not the average user).
  • Camera/Video: I haven’t yet been able to make some proper comparisons but based on first impressions both the images and video that the Centro takes appear to be much improved over earlier models.

One of the few downsides on the Palm Centro is a relatively low battery life with a Talk Time of 3.5 hours but as with the Treo 680 previoiusly I found that an extra spare battery as well as maintaining regular charging cycles (overnight in a cradle for example) significantly reduce the limitations.  Additionally, it’s also clear that as before we should expect to see an extended battery introduced within the next few months.

Palm Centro Review Back & Side

On the software front I have found an equal number of features to like:

  • PalmOS: it may be old/ageing but the fact is that the PalmOS is not only perfectly usable but it also still does things much better than competiting operating systems on a great many fronts such as the Onscreen speakerphone and mute buttons, “Ignore with text” function, Google Maps integration, Messaging, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks among others.  The additional benefit for existing Treonauts is that like me they’ll be able to simply plug their Centro to their PC and synchronize it using their current HotSync ID to have a fully customized new smartphone in minutes.  There are also a few additional minor modifications within the OS and I’m trying to get a full list of these from Palm.
  • Pocket Tunes Deluxe: with a value of $39.99 the full version of this top MP3 player is conveniently included in your Centro purchase ready to provide you with hours of fun with music on the go (something that I use almost daily).
  • IM: bundled for the first time, the new IM application provides support for AIM, MSN and/or Yahoo! to instant message your buddy list while on the go – it works great and even lets you know of incoming message via an alert when you are out.
  • Sprint TV & On Demand: part of the exclusive Sprint content and services found on the Centro (also includes Sprint Mobile eMail).  Most of the programming is free (On Demand alone used to cost up to $10 per month) and includes things such as streaming news, video, music, radio as well as news, sports, weather, 411 and TV Guide.
  • Google Maps: the latest version of Google Maps is also now pre-installed in ROM and provides a superbly useful solution and now also includes Contacts integration so that you can quicly view directions to a contact’s address.
  • Nuance Voice Control: this voice recognition service works surprisingly well and the only downside is a relatively long delay as it’s an application that runs wirelessly via a server instead of being an on-board application.
  • Third-Party Software: with hundreds if not thousands of fantastic third-party software designed for the PalmOS, you can customize and further enhance the functionality of your Centro to your hearts desire (see my Top 100 Treo Software).

Palm Centro Camera Palm Centro Body Detail

Palm Centro Lanyard Slot Palm Centro Mute Slider

Overall the Palm Centro will prove to be a terrific smartphone for existing Treonauts wishing to greatly reduce the size and weight of the device that they carry in their pockets every day without having to make any significant compromises.  Newly minted Centronauts for their part will find a device not much larger than their current standard 12–key phone – one that now offers them all the amazing benefits of owning a Treo smartphone.

Editor’s Choice Centro Accessories

Centro StylusSeidio 2in1 Pen Centro Stylus
If you’ve ever been anywhere struggling to find a pen at hand to write something down you’ll quickly understand just how useful this dual pen/stylus for your Centro really is.

Centro Screen ProtectorSPE Centro Screen Protector
You could risk scratching your screen accidentally or simply choose these great screen protectors for your Centro instead.

Cellet Centro CradleCellet Cradle Dock
This is the slimmest and most elegant Docking + Battery Charging cradle available for your Centro and my own top choice.

Palm Air CasePalm Air Case
My favourite and Editor’s Choice Centro case provides a slim but very robust all-round protection against scratches and drops for your smartphone.  (See my review)

Centro Screen ProtectorCentro Screen Protectors
The simplest way to ensure scratch protection for your delicate Centro touchscreen these screen protectors are the #1 bestselling accessory.

SPE Retractable S&C CableSPE Retractable S&C Cable
Probably the single best value accessory and one of the most essential items in my kit – this is one product you should never be without.  (See my review)

Palm Centro BatteryAnother great offer for Centronauts is the price drop of a spare original 1150mAh Palm Centro Battery which is now available for only $29.95 – saving you $20 (40%) off Palm’s MSRP.

This 1150mAh spare Centro battery from Palm (see my review) will provide you with an additional 3.5 hours of talk time or 240 hours of standby time – perfect for that extra juice you’ll need while on the go.

Both the AT&T Centro and Sprint Centro are now available for FREE with a 2 year contract or for $99 directly from either AT&T or Sprint.  For additional information and full specifications please see these previous posts:

Treonauts & Centronauts are always amazing…


Posted by Andrew on October 11, 2007 at 07:18 PM

Palm Centro

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» 7 Takes On Palm Centro from Gizmodo
Released just yesterday, the Palm Centro has our eyes for a few reasons. First, their Treo smartphones have some of the highest ratings in smartphone history on review sites like CNET. So when Palm essentially shrinks their famous Treo and... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 15, 2007 11:35:50 AM

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Affordable way to manage your social life and work life. It’s been well documented that Palm’s marketshare has been declining over the past few years as RIM/BlackBerry and Windows Mobile have taken a more dominant chunk of the US smartphone... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 5, 2008 4:12:00 PM



Comments

1
by Paul | Oct 11, 2007 8:06:00 PM

The IM program. Does it use Data or SMS? Background mode?

2
by Andrew | Oct 11, 2007 8:09:05 PM

Paul - From what I can tell, IM uses data and does work in Background mode (you get an Alert notifying you of an incoming IM message).

I hope this helps.

Cheers, A.

3
by Mac | Oct 11, 2007 10:06:57 PM

Does the Centro have the same sync connector as the Treo 650 and other Treos? For sync cables and charging cables. I haven't seen a comparison or confirmation about this anywhere.

Thanks,
Mac

4
by Aaron | Oct 11, 2007 10:18:04 PM

And the same crappy web browser Palm has had for the last five years.

Why not get a real version of Opera Mobile running on the Centro? And why aren't there any third party options? I'd gladly pay $20 for a decent browser.

5
by Andrew | Oct 11, 2007 10:36:02 PM

Mac - yes, thankfully the Centro uses the same connector as all Treo smartphones so existing sync cables such as my favourite retractable one:

http://shop.treonauts.com/content/accessories/5-19--424.htm

and also existing wall chargers and car chargers will work fine.

I will write a separate post with a list of the top Centro accessories. Currently the biggest gap appears to be the lack of cases and also spare batteries but these should become available within a couple of weeks.

Cheers, A.

6
by MikeTeeVee | Oct 12, 2007 12:29:17 AM

Is the speaker loud enough to use the built-in speakerphone in a noisy moving car?

I find my Treo 680 speaker is loud enough in a quiet office, but useless in a car.

7
by jb | Oct 12, 2007 1:14:09 AM

any word on a Verizon Centro?

8
by Dan | Oct 12, 2007 1:56:13 AM

And just to avoid any future headaches... how is the BLUETOOTH integration with this phone? Better than the past? I've tried everything from the Cardo Scala to the Jawbone bluetooths and they're all lousy.

9
by serged | Oct 12, 2007 3:34:29 AM

Hello
As SKYPE has just announced its coming free acces handset to telephone communication worldwide I still can't imagine why Palm is persisting on machine without WIFI access ...
Wake up Palm you are loosing your faithfull allies!
There is not a single Palm machine without frustration, when all technology and knowledge is here around...
Exemple: My present Treo 680 is without dictaphone and without WIFI and fed so poor photos and video images quality.
How do you expect me to buy a Centro ?
Serge

10
by Pat W | Oct 12, 2007 5:39:45 AM

Do you think this Centro will be available from other carriers such as Verizon in the near future?

11
by Stan | Oct 12, 2007 6:36:11 AM

Several questions:
-Are you saying that the cardle that I used for my 700p will work with the Centro?

-In your opinion, which bluetooth headset will work best with the Centro. I too share Dan's opinion about the Jawbone and Cardo. They do not work very well with my 700p. Any suggestions?

12
by Andrew | Oct 12, 2007 12:16:03 PM

MikeTeeVee - yes, I would consider the speakerphone to be loud enough in the car. I would also use Volume Care Pro to ensure that you can boost the volume even more if you need to.

http://software.treonauts.com/product.asp?id=2158

jb - no word on Verizon or AT&T yet. We do know that a GSM version of the Centro will be released but not before Jan 08 when Sprint's exclusivity period runs out. My bet is that both Verizon and AT&T will definitely carry the Centro (or a variation with the same form factor).

Dan - I haven't found any problems at all with Bluetooth on the Centro using either my Jawbone or JX10 with both inbound and outbound calls connecting to the headset quickly and seamlessly (much better than on my Treo 680 or 700p). I will also be testing other units next week.

Stan - I haven't tested the existing cradles for compatibility with the Centro yet but I will know more next week. Also, I don't think that there is a headset that will work "best" with the Centro. My personal preference is for the Jawbone but other equally good alternatives include the JX10 and Jabra BT5020.

Cheers, A.

13
by PalmIsDead | Oct 12, 2007 12:18:43 PM

This device is a sad attempt to squeeze every last penny out of the few remaining suckers that still think Palm is a reputable brand.

Enjoy the rituals that take place every new product release:

- Having to throw out your old accessories and re-buy them. Case in point, the SD cards. Which you can conveniently buy from Palm with a shiny palm sticker on the front at only double the price of what the card costs everywhere else. If you upgraded last time to a micro-SD card, too bad for you, buy another one.

- Having to go through every app you have installed and figure out which one it is this time that's causing sporadic resets several times a day.

- Having calls drop or go directly to voicemail, and then crossing your fingers and praying for an update which comes a year late and bricks your phone.

- If this if your first Palm device, having to buy a headset to make the phone functional, as the build in speaker/microphone do not work other than in a sound isolation chamber.

I feel bad for the children whose parents buy this for them thinking it's cool. You can't fool them, who in their right mind would consider "Onscreen mute button" a major feature? Wi-fi is a major feature, this devices "features" are nice to haves at best.

This device and this company are ancient history. Please move on.

14
by Jack | Oct 12, 2007 2:47:31 PM

To poster PalmIsDead:

1. If you purchased a micro card, just get the adapter to use it as a mini or full SD card. You can always adapt up, just not down.

2. Sounds to me like most accessories are going to be compatible, such as the charging connector, headphone jack, etc. Battery is obviously different size because device is smaller. You surely cannot reasonably expect Palm to never change anything about the Treo line just so accessories don't change, do you?

3. If the resets are caused by an app, and not hardware, then this is the fault of the person writing the errant program, not Palm. You can find the same problem on the WinMo devices too, as I have a Mogul that is WM6 based, and there have been programs that I've deleted because they weren't well written and cause freeze ups of the device. Same can be said for the PC too. Sometimes it's actually not Microsoft's fault, but shoddy programming from others.

4. Speakerphone? I don't get it. Mine is clear and fairly loud. If I want to make it louder, I can always add a program like VolumeCare to allow me to move past the present limitations.

5. WiFi, I'm with you on that comment. Palm needs to add this feature, like yesterday. It would definitely improve the value and usefulness of their products.

6. Finally, you sound like someone who has been burned in some fashion and is just disgruntled now. I know I was furious with Palm for awhile regarding their handling (or lack thereof) of the 700p ROM update. When they finally got it out, it has done a good job making the 700p a solid and stable phone. I was bitter for some time, but from the things I read it does seem as if they are trying to respond to the public outcries, and I choose to give them that chance. They've brought a lot of great technology out over the years, and although outdated, Palm OS is still way faster than WinMo, and more stable to boot. WM6 right now has more bugs than the Orkin man could handle. That's why my Treo 700p is activated, and my brand new Mogul is gathering dust.

15
by PalmIsStillDead | Oct 12, 2007 6:13:34 PM

@Jack

Thanks for proving the whole point of my post.

No matter how terribly palm treats their users, someone is always there to apologize for them. If you bought your 700p right when it came out, you got, at best, a buggy, at worst, a completely broken device. They refused to acknowledge the problems for a few months, and took a full year to fix it. If you were lucky the fix worked and didn't brick your phone. During that year, all of their development efforts were focused on a $499 "accessory" that could only sync email and couldn't run any other apps. When everyone (rightfully so) laughs at them, they ditch the device and take a $10M loss. How they have avoided lawsuits from their users and their stockholders is a mystery to me.

And somehow you still support a company like this? Why?

The Treo 650 was a great device. 3 years ago. If you like it so much, just buy another one. This "new" device is the same old thing in an ugly new skin and whatever minimal effort extras they could throw in. And whatever small hardware things they can change just enough to make you re-buy some accessory they sell at ridiculous markup. And you lap it up like a puppy.

Also, I have to call you out on your statement about the resets. What you claim is pure garbage. The resets are usually caused by Palm's flaky Versamail and SMS app updates breaking well designed third party apps that work fine on older devices. Not some random third party crappy software. You don't have to trust me, go look in the forums.

Who said anything about WM6? It's very revealing to me that you immediately attack it. At least they are trying. They have way better multitasking, WiFi, will soon have full VGA screens, and the OS has been updated once a year and each year is gets better. When was the last PalmOS update?

You say WM6 has so many bugs but don't list a single one. There are many, many more WM devices out there, how do you know it's the OS and not the device? I seriously doubt you own one.

You also don't even mention the iPhone once, I wonder why that is?

I think that anyone that supports this company by buying or recommending a new Palm device after what they've done is being irresponsible. I wouldn't recommend one to my worst enemy. If for no other reason than they'd chuck the useless brick back in my face.

16
by Andre | Oct 12, 2007 6:42:56 PM

Am looking fwd to upgrading my 23 mth old handset; been following Treo related news since the release of the 300-series. I'd never thought Palm would release a product gearing to the consumer/prosumer market, save for when they bought out Handspring. (did the handsprings have a phone module way back when?)

So this will be my first step into the "smartphone" genre. I've had a non-phone Palm device before, and look forward to becoming familiar with the OS again. Since it looks like there is a dearth of cases at release, what would be a good tip on protecting the Centro from scratches on the screen/case? I know I'll be keeping the plastic sheeting upon unboxing...

17
by Robert | Oct 13, 2007 8:04:00 AM

@PalmIsStillDead
But the iPhone has no search, no copy-and-paste, no note-syncing with your computer, no officially-sanctioned third-party software, and a virtual keyboard that some people (not all) have a lot of problems with. For me, the iPhone is not an option.

Yes, Palm has been a disfunctional company for the last few years. Access, 700P, Foleo, etc. And their hardware (including the Centro) have a frumpy, disjointed and tacky look. Palm, PLEASE improve your industrial design! It's not that hard! Despite all that, I think the Centro might be my next phone. The price is right. The feature-set is awesome. The size is good. I'll just wait until I can thoroughly test out its keyboard. I'm also going to wait and see what others say about its stability.

18
by G. | Oct 13, 2007 1:06:04 PM

To Dan:
As far as bluetooth, I found that Plantronics 510 worked best with my 650, and now with 755p. I use it for biz, and people have no idea I am on a cell phone, let alone on a headset.

19
by cc878 | Oct 14, 2007 2:45:43 PM

I have never seen a negative review of things Palm on this blog!!
The voice feature (while technologically great) is way way oveer priced at $7/month.

20
by masshysteria | Oct 14, 2007 3:34:09 PM

Get over yourself palmisdead, if you dispise palm so much then get yourself a new phone and let the people who use this site for info on new Palm phones, us it for that. I personally am going to get a Centro as soon as it becomes unlocked because A) I have had my 650 for 2 years at that time, B) that is the nicest design palm has made for a phone (and out there other than a few high end phones) and C) that is what is to come in future OS models design wise. Hey the 650 is an ugly big phone but it has treated me well for what I needed it to do. Yes every feature you can stuff into is nice, but I would rather wait for all of the new stuff to debut on a palm device with a sleek built from scratch new OS and a better design (aka centro). The one good thing about the Iphone is that other companies will need to add the extra features but I do not want all of these new features on an old OS that could bug it out more.

21
by wushuhsu | Oct 14, 2007 5:39:36 PM

Does the Centro have GPS, wifi, or 3G?

22
by wushuhsu | Oct 14, 2007 5:40:19 PM

Or FM radio?

23
by Jacob | Oct 14, 2007 5:50:40 PM

I wanna say first off, I LOVE all my treos (Started out with a 650 and now have my GREAT 755P), But you made a mistake on your report the first treo to have IM bundled was the 755p it has all the programs you spoke of on this treo and the great keyboard that you love on your 680.

I hope that they plan on scaling up the processor soon I do get tired of the mp3 playback skipping when the treo connects or gets dropped from the network (it shudders then goes back to regular play), I dont know if this happens on all but both my 650 and my 755 did this (ptunes), or it could be that palmOS just dosent do mutitasking well.

Jake Lunde :)

24
by forgot | Oct 14, 2007 10:50:05 PM

@wushuhsu: No 3G, FM radio, or wifi. GPS is an option via bluetooth, but not built in.

25
by DG | Oct 15, 2007 5:32:02 PM

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but I'm not interested in Palm's efforts to get in with the in crowd. I'd be very interested in their taking care of their core customers, like me.

Let me type it in all caps slow so they perhaps might understand...

BIGGER SCREEN, PLEASE.

What in the world is the value of saying "we're nailing Documents to Go down into the ROM, you can't delete so you might as well use it" and then limit me to a screen big enough for the first few letters of the title of a document?

Have any of you at Palm SEEN the screens on the average PocketPC? Somehow, they keep selling, so I'm pretty sure a larger screen is a viable option for your core customer who is TRYING to be patient as you get your ducks in a row.

Hurry up.

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