The Palm Centro Smartphone: Small But Satisfactory - InformationWeek
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11/1/2007
04:19 PM
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The Palm Centro Smartphone: Small But Satisfactory

I was wary of the claims made about Palm's new Centro smartphone. The iPhone aside, I've found few smartphones -- or, for that matter, plain mobile phones -- that have made me say, "Maybe I want that one." Those that I do like are usually so expensive that I can't imagine paying for one. But I'm sold.

I was wary of the claims made about Palm's new Centro smartphone. The iPhone aside, I've found few smartphones -- or, for that matter, plain mobile phones -- that have made me say, "Maybe I want that one." Those that I do like are usually so expensive that I can't imagine paying for one. But I'm sold.

The Centro isn't the slimmest on the market, but it is small (2.1 by 4.2 by 0.7 inches and 4.2 ounces) and fits comfortably in the hand. In fact, I found it very comfortable to use on several fronts -- for example, as someone whose eyes cannot handle small print without the aid of glasses, I was pleased to find that I had little trouble reading the Centro's 320 x 320 pixel touchscreen. And though the qwerty keyboard looks incredibly tiny, even for thumb-typing, the keys are shaped well enough that it isn't difficult to type at a reasonable pace without errors.

True, the Centro goes against popular trends by using the Palm OS instead of Microsoft's Windows Mobile, but who really cares as long as the interface works? If you're worried about working on your Office docs, by the way, the Centro comes with Dataviz DocumentsToGo, which lets you read and (after registration) edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.

The phone is currently limited to Sprint's network, although there was some suggestion at the news conference that it could eventually migrate to other services. It uses Sprint's EV-DO 3G network to connect to the Web via a Blazer browser (I was able to connect to my Gmail account and establish it as my main e-mail with little to no problem). It comes with a 1.2-megapixel camera with a 2X zoom and video recorder, PocketTunes Deluxe music player, contacts and calendar apps, POP3 or IMAP e-mail (including attachments) -- in other words, almost anything a smartphone needs to do.

It's certainly not a perfect phone. For one thing, it doesn't have Wi-Fi, which I consider a real negative -- I understand that phone companies would rather that we pay the high fees for their Internet connections than have us wander into the nearest Starbucks, but that doesn't stop me from wishing. And the microSD memory card slot is only accessible if you remove the battery cover, which can be incredibly awkward, especially if you like to keep your videos and music on separate cards.

But otherwise, I was very taken with this phone. The Centro is being marketed for the up-and-coming, 20-something crowd that wants a cool, multifunction smartphone but can't afford the $300-plus prices that the phones garner. At $99.99 (with a two-year Sprint contract and a rebate), it's definitely not a bad deal.

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