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AT&T Palm Centro Review

The new AT&T Palm Centro released yesterday offers an ideal solution for people looking for an affordable (only $99 with contract), user-friendly, powerful and extremely versatile smartphone – one that offers a full QWERTY keyboard and high resolution touchscreen which has proven ideal for text messaging, IM, corporate and personal email.

AT&T Centro In My Hand

Although it holds relatively less appeal for existing Treonauts because it is in essence a mini Treo and provides little additional upgrade benefits, the fact is nonetheless that the Centro has proven to be an extremely successful platform for Palm.  Although the company has not yet released any unit sales figures, many sources point to the Centro being the “bestselling phone at Sprint retail stores” – a clear indication that Palm has done something right and is regaining traction (at least at the entry level end of the market).

AT&T Centro Keyboard

As Phil McClendon, Palm's product line manager for consumer smartphones points out: ”The people that will be interested in Centro are new to the smartphone market [migrating from a traditional mobile phone] and tend to be fairly price-sensitive.  That is one reason why Centro is a fraction of the cost of the iPhone [and why it has proven so popular].”

Centro, Treo Size Comparison

My own rationale for upgrading from my existing Treo 680 (or other PalmOS model) to a Centro is fairly straightforward: I am extremely attracted by the much more compact and lighter form factor of the Centro combined with a fully functional (albeit smaller) keyboard while having the benefit of retaining ALL of the other features that continue to make a PalmOS device so appealing to me.

White AT&T Centro Open Back

Aside from the great form factor and impressive small keyboard, among others I continue to like the following Centro hardware features:

  • Touchscreen: although the touchscreen is smaller in size Palm has 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 and 16GB SDHC cards currently on my Treo 680 the present maximum of 8GB on a microSDHC 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.

One of the few downsides on the Palm Centro is a relatively low battery life with a Talk Time of 3.5 hours.  Naturally, an extra battery combined with a cradle significantly reduce the limitations.  Additionally, we still expect to see an extended battery introduced within the next few months.

AT&T Centro Side

On the software front the Palm Centro also continues to deliver impressive ease-of-use and one of the most extensive application offerings with solutions for your communication, entertainment, information and productivity needs.  These are now further enhanced on the AT&T version with Push To Talk, Xpress Mail, IM, Pocket Tunes Deluxe and MusicID – I will naturally review all of these in a separate post. 

Overall there is no doubt that if you’ve never previously owned a smartphone you’ll quickly start to wonder how you managed to do without one for so long and praise the day that you finally got your hands on a Centro.

For more information please also read my original Sprint Palm Centro review as well as our top Centro accessories review and Top 100 Centro software list.

Centronauts always have something to rave about


Posted by Andrew on February 20, 2008 at 05:44 PM

Palm Centro

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Comments

1
by Rome | Feb 20, 2008 6:55:08 PM

I got one of these AT&T Centro's last Friday and I love it. The store had only one and I got it!

It is just like my treo 650 but smaller and more horse power! I switched from verizon because by the time they come out with their treo's it 2 years too late and the technology is already behind.

By the way my new carrier has better signal coverage where I live. I always dropped calls at home even when I stood on a rock outside my front door where I got the best signal. Not anymore. I can use the phone or surf the web anywhere in my house.

I am more thrilled about this Centro than I was when I got my first Treo.

2
by tgwaste | Feb 20, 2008 6:59:10 PM

doesnt this phone have a 1.3 mp camera as opposed to the VGA camera of the treo 680?

3
by Andrew | Feb 20, 2008 7:06:15 PM

Rome - glad to hear that like me you've found the upgrade to Centro worthwhile!

tgwaste - yes, one of the added benefits of the Centro is that it has a 1.3MP camera versus the 0.3MP on the Treo 680.

Cheers, A.

4
by Treo 90 Guy | Feb 20, 2008 8:08:06 PM

I've been using Treo since the 90 and had a 750 prior to Saturday. I have to say that this XBOX 360 looking device is just as functional as the 750 in a more compact size. I got mine at a local AT&T store on Saturday - I bought their last one. I struggled to convince myself to go with this phone rather than an iPhone. Sure it is not as sexy but with my 2 year upgrade and the sale of my 750 I actually made over $50. ($100 mail in rebate) So far so good - this phone is very addictive and I love it.

5
by ES | Feb 21, 2008 1:53:12 AM

Can we run a stable chatter email in this centro?

6
by Dr Ron | Feb 21, 2008 1:59:55 AM

I hope you have better luck with the speed at AT&T then my son has with his iPhone. Our Centro's with Sprint are literally 3x faster in downloads, emails, web brousing, etc. Also, I love the size of the Centro after having had a 680 and a 650. May the Centro (and those wonderful ads you talked about) be a sign of the New Palm!

7
by Corey | Feb 21, 2008 12:11:33 PM

I have a Treo 680 and desperately want to switch phones. I have nothing but problems all of the time, from syncing, to my phone resetting while I am taking notes on it (I take all of my notes for school on my phone), to my phone disconnecting from the bluetooth keyboard while I'm typing. I love the Treo because it is such a versatile phone, when it is working properly. So with that, does the Centro have Docs to Go and/or the ability to put it on the phone? Otherwise, I think I will be switching to an iPhone and I don't want to. I've had a Treo now for about five years. Thanks!

8
by JCD | Feb 21, 2008 3:26:31 PM

I heard the Centro won't read microSDHC cards over 4GB. Have you tested an 8GB card? I would like to upgrade my 680 but this would be a certain dealbreaker if all I could carry was 4GB at a time...

9
by Andrew | Feb 21, 2008 4:56:01 PM

ES - I don't have any information about Chatter Email yet.

Dr. Ron - I agree that data speeds with Sprint are much faster but the downside for me is the CDMA which doesn't allow me to roam globally as the GSM AT&T Centro does...

Corey - Centro does have DocsToGo built in and as I mentioned earlier provides all of the same features and functionalities that you have been used to on your Treo.

JCD - for some odd reason Palm continues to _incorrectly_ state that the maximum SDHC cards that both the Centro and Treo 680 can read is 4GB. I am currently using 16GB on my 680 and 8GB micro SDHC on my new Centro.

Cheers, A.

10
by forgot | Feb 21, 2008 7:54:21 PM

@JCD: The Centro (and the 680) will see and give you access to the larger SDHC cards, but it will only "see" it as a 4GB card. So, if you have over 4GB of info on the card the Centro (and the 680) will show that there is no room left, but will still allow you to store and retrieve the extra GB's of info.

11
by Rick | Feb 22, 2008 1:21:07 AM

Hi Andrew,

Great review. I am dying to get an unlocked Centro (I am a T-mobile customer). Any idea when an unlocked US Centro will be released? Also, any idea on the price?

Thank you,
Rick

12
by Andrew | Feb 22, 2008 1:29:06 AM

Thanks Rick. I guesstimate that an Unlocked Centro will be released relatively shortly (within 2 months) and I anticipate the price to be in the $299 to $349 range.

Cheers, A.

13
by Rob | Feb 22, 2008 5:00:09 PM

I have been trying to order an Unlocked Centro from the UK Palm store. They won't ship out of country :( Any ideas how I can get one? I can't stand the white and green color scheme.

Thanks!

14
by Brian | Mar 3, 2008 9:18:52 AM

I got my Centro a few days ago, and I love it. The phone's keyboard is a little bit cramped, but not horrible for typing short messages or e-mails on. It seems to work flawlessly with my Universal Wireless Keyboard, which means I can take it to meetings and take notes without a laptop.

I'm considering getting a more expensive data plan, just because the one I have now is kind of limited, and I think the benefits of using the phone for Web and e-mail are substantial.

One thing I'm bothered by: Why does the phone reboot twice when it resets? Docs To Go (when I was using it) used to always reset my Centro, and it was a pain in the neck because the reboot process looks to be double what it should be.

15
by Chazz | Mar 4, 2008 7:39:35 PM

The math is simple / bottom line, for a c-bill this phone does the trick, big time!

As a phone calls are clear and very simple to manage. Schedules are a breeze with Palms tried and true calender appi. Communicating via text; SMS, MMS, IM, Email, and more, is a pleasure. The keyboard is indeed small, but I have big hands, I can lay my thumb on the keyboard and it literally covers half of it, but its unbelievably workable, so much so that I lost interest in thinking that the phones lacking handwriting recognition was a problem. Internet makes me happy on this phone, I've played with a Razr V3xx and a Nokia 9500 for the last year on my service plan with AT&T, and just couldn't stand how slow things where moving along, (This is the key reason for looking into another phone.) the Centro changed all of that. Even on one bar, Blazer can bring up some of the graphics intensive image gallery's from art sites I like to browse at very pleasant and most certainly useful speeds. The camera isnt all that, but it does seem to use lighting a lot better than most phones at this price level. Microsoft files are viewed and edited like a pro with a fully operational Documents To Go appi, not a watered down demo.

Speaking of appi's that aren't crippled to the point of being useless, the Centro comes with a full version of P Tunes! With the capability to slip in a 4gb microsd card, this thing becomes an Iphone Nano Killer. Here's the kicker... Its Palm OS, all the way baby, not some watered down wannabe Mac OS X thingy. What's this mean to you? It means that if you find something lacking, say for instance you suddenly get hit with the urge to go all retro, and you want to play your favorite Gameboy game again, but you cant find your Gameboy or better yet, you would rather not carry around 2 devices... Well your covered, and the possibilities just go on and on and on. People have been releasing applications for Palm OS for going a decade or more, the better part of them totally free, and those that have a price tag wont steal food off your plate or fuel from your tank.

I had actually taken this phone as somewhat of a demo unit (I thought it was going to be too small for me, and lacking in extendability), because the store didnt have any of the phones that I really wanted to look at, and the only Palm OS phone they had on hand to play with was just this one Centro.

Turns out that 3 days later I decided that >>for the money<<<, this thing was "IT"!

16
by takeitback | May 9, 2008 7:49:54 PM

Hey, everyone. This may not be the correct place for REALITY regarding Centro/ATT combo. But, here goes. Part of this is rather amusing.

As a REALTOR I recently decided to add one more bundling issue to my already tightly bundled relationship with ATT. A part of the MS Gulf Coast MLS Tech revolution included GE Supra giving us the alternative to bundle our Key Access with Smart Phones, certain PDAs or to choose a separate Active Key and own phone/PDA .

I thought about it and thought about it. The bundled option would of course cost more... Conversion day arrived. I had a special problem. Not only was I already in contract with AT&T, but we had a house fire a few days before and my son's phone literally melted. What would I do? What were my options?

Actually, AT&T came to my rescue. They allowed me to swap my son's phone with my phone and allowed me to take advantage of the conversion offer on the Centro
for only $100 on the spot. That option of course required a 2 year contract. I didn't mind since our family is already so heavily bundled with AT&T, it didn't matter. I asked about insurance. They told me we couldn't buy insurance for the Smart Phones but that our insurance companies may have a plan to cover them.

Without insurance, I knew I needed a a case. So I bought the Centro Snap together case.

So I walked out of the MLS Tech conversion bundled to the hilt. The next day I was out in the boonies with a client showing properties. My key access worked on the first 2 or 3 homes, then would not work afterwards. It was quite embarrassing. I called Supra and they said I should have referred to the Centro manual which would have told me to remove the battery and put it back in. (I don't usually take manuals with me on showings, but I guess I will in the future.

I found the battery cover very hard to get off, but I finally managed. The next day, I go to pick up the same client. My centro in the case and hooked to my belt loop. Somewhere in the process, the case comes apart and drops the centro (which still had the front part on). About 30 minutes later I realized I didn't have my phone. At that time it was downpouring. I found it face down in my drive way.

Because I dropped it; and AT&T will not accept water logged returns I am now stuck with a new 2 year contract and a Centro.

So, when I recover from the money I already spent, I hope to find a refurbished BlackBerry. Anyone wanna trade?:-)

Before the case dropped it in the water, I was thinking about returning it anyway. The keys were very small, making text messaging on the fly very cumbersome.

Things I like:
#1 Touchscreen
#2 Syncing
#3 It recovers somewhat from being dropped in water.

What I don't like (And I am not sure if it is a result of being waterlogged, or typical behavior)

#1 Battery life is substandard
#2 Bluetooth does not maintain connection with Jabra
#3 Substandard sound quality
#4 The AT&T reach is not as good as it was with my Motorola Razor.
#5 I now have to work the end key to get a call to end. Simply pressing end will not work. I have thought several times that a call had ended when it had not. What a way to chalk up airtime for AT&T.

My conclusion for myself:NO to bundling my Suprakey with SmartPhones. You break or lose the unit and you are totally out of business until you get back to your computer or the MLS to get an emergency Active Key.

AT&T/Palm/GE Supra What a combination. I received a lot of empathy and sympathy for ruining my device day 2 of a 2 year contract. But--Rules are rules, there are no exceptions to this one.

Never mind the fact that the reason I purchased the case was to protect the phone. (AT&T said that I must not have snapped it back together properly. If that is so--the only reason I unsnapped it was to take out the battery and put it back in per Supra/Centro instructions. I would not have had to do that had the dumb phone been working correctly.)

In short, for me and my opinion, Thumbs down on Centro.

17
by ali | Aug 6, 2008 4:20:43 PM

guy/girl above me ...

1. read instruction manual (every piece of electronic equipment tells you to)

2. Snap case more securely

3. Make sure you're COMPLETELY prepared before stepping in front of a client

Follow these instructions carefully and you'll give the centro a thumbs up... you didn't complain about ANYTHING that had to do with the actual phone..just customer service/stuff you didn't know how to do...

I'm 19 and I am also in Realty ..and I know how to snap a phone in place and read instructions...man looks like I'll be up for a promotion soon ...


good day

18
by mike | Aug 26, 2008 3:44:08 AM

me and my wife bought our centros yesterday. WE LOVE THEM!!!!!!!!! true batt life short and screen small. but its for new smartphone users like me and her. its simple to use and dependable! and the blazer browser works great!!!!! I'm postin this now using my centro!!!!!!! :-p and most of all p tunes play my music great! also with the AT&T centro. you get navigation. mobi tv. and xm mobile radio!!!! and last but not least. the push to talk that me and my wife LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

19
by melissa duprey | Oct 27, 2008 8:41:42 PM

so me and my fiance bought palm centros just over a month ago and wish we would have NEVER got them... he is on his 3rd phone and i am now on my second.. they both lock up in the same problem... they keep trying to hot sync themselves... we never tried to do anything........ they just started to make noise and locked up... after hours with customer service... we still got no help... so we have lost all of our pics and videos... the phone when reset is going automatically into hotsync mode and freezing up and not allowing to do anything else.. any suggestions?

20
by Rob | Nov 9, 2008 2:39:09 AM

In regards to short battery life , I had to upgrade the battery to extended one because my original battery did not even last a day. btw I got it off ebay for very reasonable price and free shipping

21
by ReduceGadgetEnvy | Dec 23, 2008 4:32:51 PM

This review has been linked from http://reducegadgetenvy.com/Item.aspx?i=6

22
by Heather | Jan 13, 2009 9:48:47 PM

The palm centro sucks you dont want one mine is all messed up right now i cant do anything on it! it keeps saying hotsync and cancel so i click cancel and then it goes right back and then something comes up that says the connection between your hand held computer and the desktop could not be esablished please check your set up and try again then you hit ok and its right back to the same thing i hate this phone

23
by dede centro | Jan 30, 2009 3:36:47 AM

so me and my husband got these phones and the middle button didn't want to scoll down and we only had the phone for 6 months they replace it..but now it's what 9 or 10 months from first getting the centro and my phone is doing the same too!!!.. what sucks is having problems with something you paid so much for... don't get me wrong I like the centro, I just hope they correct the problem... beside the scoll button, this is one of my fave's

24
by polkadots | Feb 4, 2009 8:43:02 PM

Do you have to pay for internet if you want this phone? OR can you have a regular phone bill and pay per time you use the inernet?

25
by amber | Feb 19, 2009 7:16:41 PM

I have had my palm centro for less than a year and had to relpace it twice, and now it is messed up again it is the WORST phone I have ever purchaced, and plan to replace it with something different on Monday morning

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