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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.

Palm Centro in Black & Red

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

Posted by Andrew on September 28, 2007 at 01:10 PM

Palm Centro

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by Rick | Oct 1, 2007 12:50:26 PM

What is the spec. difference between the Treo 650 and the Centro (i.e. battery life, weight, size, memory, etc)

by ry | Oct 1, 2007 1:20:03 PM

Fitting a Qwerty keyboard on a smaller phone is not revolutionary... They just made the keys smaller. Big woot. No doubt they do have the best keyboard on a phone, but making it smaller is not a revolutionary design.

Palm needs to make their OS much more stable and stop coming out with the same phone in a different shell.

That's my take...

by Richard Baggett | Oct 1, 2007 3:18:29 PM

OK I am thrilled that my wife can finally get one thats affordable enough that if the grandkids drop, eat or poop on it the world doesn't end. My problem is my 755 keep rebooting? What is that about?

by ry | Oct 1, 2007 3:46:28 PM

Fitting a Qwerty keyboard on a smaller phone is not revolutionary... They just made the keys smaller. Big woot. No doubt they do have the best keyboard on a phone, but making it smaller is not a revolutionary design.

Palm needs to make their OS much more stable and stop coming out with the same phone in a different shell.

That's my take...

by 3nity | Oct 1, 2007 9:42:21 PM

Hey Andrew please confirn the release date for the Centro is it October the 14th or another date.........Thanks 3nity

by Treo650addict | Oct 4, 2007 3:11:28 PM

If anybody is looking for the main difference between the Centro and the 755p its the EVDO support. The Centro is Rev 0 (approx. 400kbs-700kps) vs the 755p being Rev A (approx. 700kps-1.5mbs). Now if you're not looking for a smartphone that can act as a secondary modem then by all means.... CENTRO IS A STEAL!! But if your looking for that do it all Treo phone that can act as a Phone-as-Modem replacement to your standard DSL, then look to the 755p.

Oh, and for the guy that said that a great do-it-all Treo is impossible, picture this:

A Treo 800p, with a full face touchscreen that slides up to unveil the full qwerty keyboard (OMG... so unimaginable!), SDHC card support (OMG, just need a firmware update! and did somebody say up to 32Gb cards, anyone?! ANYONE!?)and some God for sakin wifi!?!?!?!

Thats all I'm asking for! Who needs gigabit after gigabit of storage BUILT IN when you can just use SDHC!?!

That's why I'm not upgrading. Palm has been milking this hardware/software setup for WAY to long. It doesnt take rocket science to know what the public truely wants.


by hallye | Oct 8, 2007 4:40:34 PM

Ok, I know the phone will be "officially" released on October 14, but does anyone know when they will actually be available to purchase in the stores? I've called several Sprint stores and I've heard, "We don't know," "End of November," and lots of other crap that contradicts the Sprint webiste.

Will the Centro only be available to order from the Sprint website on the 14th, or can I purchase in the store on that date?

by kevin k | Oct 10, 2007 1:55:38 PM

hey andrew,

is it true that the centro is only REV. O and not REV. A??

(Data: Sprint 1x-EV-DO (Rev. 0) and 1XRTT) from above

if this true then what where they thinking??? why go backwards with this spec.

so i was going to get my wife and myself one of these as we don't have internet at home yet but this finding may halt the proceedings.

can anyone help out with this confusion??


by robo45h | Oct 19, 2007 3:00:46 AM

Sprint and Palm both "hide" the Rev 0 vs. Rev A information, so this is very hard to verify. Even the downloaded User Guides don't have Rev 0 or Rev A information in the Specifications sections.

But from all my research, it appears that Treo650addict is *wrong* -- both the 755p and Centro have Rev 0. :(

This makes it all the more clear why the Centro is "not a Treo." At such a price difference, they don't want it to be obvious that the two phones are technically identicle, and that the only real differences are:

* keyboard size (755p bigger and probably easier to use),

* screen size (but not resolution; 755p bigger),

* Docs to Go (Centro has newer v.10)

* VersaMail (Centro has new v4.?)

* Battery power (755p lasts longer)

If it were obvious, tons of business people / companies would buy the cheaper Centro. Like I will -- if I buy anything. Mind you, what I really want is a Linux-based Palm device in a Samsung SPH-i500 or SPH-i550 form factor (clamshell). I'm not holding my breath. The Linux / Palm thing is about 3-4 years too late, and just announced for another 1 year delay. Palm could have had a "real OS" on their phone before Apple. They BLEW IT.

by andrew | Dec 28, 2007 12:20:42 PM

i needed to know how to set the DTM (Data Transfer Mode) so that i am able to recieve incoming calls while on the internet browsing? please thanks, andrew

by stepmom43 | Dec 30, 2007 3:07:08 AM

Palm, until the Centro, could not compete with the Blackberry as far as ease of use of the keys. Even with a similar layout, Palm devices have had the rounded top keys which are slippery. The Centro intruduces a new (smaller, and, yes, revolutionary) keyboard -- the real improvement (IMO) is the *coating* of the keys so even the clumsiest of thumbs won't slip. The Blackberry Pearl has a wonderful *candybar* form factor, however, the keyboard and the typing process are painful -- even for the most adaptable smartphone users!

Nothing beats the touch screen of the Palm. Even the iPhone touch screen is not as versatile.

The Centro is balanced and feels great in your hand.

The resolution and quality of the screen/picture of the Centro makes one forget that the screen size is smaller than the Treo siblings.

The 2+ ounces shed from the Treo to the Centro makes the difference for being *shirt-pocket* size.

The Centro is faster than the Treo predecessor ... internal and card apps install, transfer, and run faster than ever before.

The Centro support for the media card (MicroSD) is greatly improved (truly up to 4GB instead of limited to half or less).

The Centro does leave battery life to be desired ... compared to the regular battery on any Treo, the Centro pales. When extended batteries become available for the Centro, they will be welcomed.

I am sitting here with both my 700p and my Centro ... The Centro wins, hands down, for which one to keep! Especially ... the RED!!!

by Jackson2000 | Feb 28, 2008 4:07:49 PM

I just picked up my Centro, after my CEO once again ridiculed me for my "brick" of a 650. First, I don't agree with the view that this an "entry level" smartphone. I am a looong time palm user (we're talking Palm Pilot here), and consider myself a power user (maybe with the exception of using it as a modem). I was hesitant buy opted for the centro to carry me over until palm comes out with a new OS in 09 (yeah, right).

Okay, so my review? This is awesome. Seriously, its like night and day from the 650. The form factor and weight alone put it ahead of the 750. My biggest concern was the keyboard, but to be honest, I can type without error at near Treo speeds. I was also concerned about screen size, but that's no prob. (except for playing scrabble)

The biggest gaffe, IMHO is the placement of the menus button.

The stylus is cheap, but I lost in in the first day of ownership (lol).

All and all, I love it

by naymax | Mar 15, 2008 10:26:48 AM

when will it be available to SunCom customers? I know Tmobile has taken over but previous SunCom customers remain the same without the ability to use any products made for ''T mobile''

by DarienTemples | Apr 2, 2008 3:04:12 PM

I've had the centro for about like umm for like 4 months now I love it I mostly never make mistakes with the keyboard and I have big thumbs a downside to the phone is that the menu style needs an upgrade! the internet on it ok I guess I thinking of buying the treo 700.. I did have trade in my centro last month for a new one because of a hardware problem but in all I like it! :D I would like to see palm bring out a newer version tho. one with windows mobile the touchscreen to me is a little iffy tho I have sometimes press really hard for it work and sometimes I just the 5 way navigation haveing to open the battery case to insert the mini sd is really crap! the keyboard light is really dim and putting the brightness on the phone really drains battery life I was at 29 percent of battery left after useing it to 9 - 12 the speaker beeing on the back is awfull! the programs on the centro are good and run smoothly exept pocket tunes with freezes on my phone one thing that bouthers me is the fact that it simetimes reboots it self I would be on a website and out of nowhere I get the palm screen and it restartes I sometimes have to bookmark lots of pages just in case that happens but in all I really like the centro the blackberry pearl is a really nice phone but the buttons are confuseing a plus side for me is the touchscreen on the centro its small deisghn is pocket friendly I would recommend this phone for a person buying there first smart phone! this is my first smartphone and I'm thinking of sticking with pda/smartphones from now on!

by jjmo | May 8, 2008 11:51:47 PM

had this fone for about 3 days.

awesome except for:

the battery cover creaks when i press buttons. i returned my first one because of this but now realize it is a feature designed into the phone itself because my new one does it to. makes it feel cheap. and the sound is annoying

the video recording quality sucks ballz. looks to be about 12fps and is choppy during playback. not to mention the awful, low-grade 3gp compression.

the camera sucks equivalent amount of ballz.

nobody, in any posts on the internet, for any darn smartphone, seems to go into detail on what types of video formats these phones can play. yes, i downloaded the tcmp core player (that they say can play ANY type of video format). Some mp4's work. definately not all. seems there are about 8 different mp4 codecs...so to get my video library to work on the centro, i have to use the damned conduit manager to add movies to my phone. short clips convert to .asf quickly, but a full movie takes FOREEVER to convert. i tried loading different movies onto the miniSD directly to no avail,so without going through YET ANOTHER conversion round (via the conduit software) my movies don't play. i assume then that they all have to be .asf. This is a major problem created by the ancient OS Palm still sells to its customers, combined with core players inability to live up to its claim that it plays all mp4 codecs.

does anyone know why the hell more forums/review sites don't go into detail about the video playback abilities of this and seemingly all other smartfones?

nice keyboard, though.

by Manuel | Jul 17, 2008 6:20:15 PM

Yeah, maybe faster than the Treo 680 et all, but nothing beats the Zire 72 when it comes to speed and responsiveness, becuase the Zire 72 has a RAM file system, rather than the slooooow-ass NVFS. With NVFS everything takes 2-3 seconeds, like changing apps, or launching pTunes, or...

by Manuel | Jul 17, 2008 6:22:19 PM

Oh yeah and they still haven't fixed the useless green button. It was better implemented on the Treo 650. I don't know who makes such idiotic decisions at Palm, do they have monkeys in the engineering team or what?

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