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Palm Centro for AT&T

Tue Feb 19, 2008 - 8:21 AM EST - By Dieter Bohn

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Would you recommend Palm Centro for ATT?
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Product Info


Battery Life, Camera


The Centro sports an 1150mAH battery - which is pretty much meaningless to all but smartphone junkies who understand what a touchscreen, PalmOS, GSM Treo draws. The important number is this one: 35 hours. That's about how long I'm able to get off a single charge with moderate to heavy usage. That's grabbing email from two accounts every half hour, an hour or two of web browsing, 45 minutes or so on the phone, and an hour or so of fiddling around with games and other applications.

Palm lists the talk time on the AT&T Centro at about 4 hours of talk time, 300 hours of standby. That's actually pretty accurate if you count data usage as talk time. Granted, this is most likely less than most featurephone users are used to these days, but it's about average for a smartphone of this size. Competing Windows Mobile devices like the BlackJack get about the same.

The upshot is that you'll want to plug it in every night, but once you do you should be alright to get through a full day and night with the Centro. If not, you can always buy a spare battery to keep around just in case.

The Centro has a 1.3 megapixel camera that's capable of taking short videos as well. The standard these days tends to be 2 megapixels, so that is a little disappointing. The camera also struggles a bit under low light, but under normal conditions you can get some nice snapshots. With the Centro's many ways of connecting to the internet, it's also easier to get the pictures off your phone and into, say, your blog or Facebook account than it is with a featurephone.

Below is a shot I took under average florescent light in my office, as you can see the Centro picked up the color very well without giving it the standard blueish or yellowish tint that often occurs under these conditions.



The photo browser on the Centro is passable enough, but it's not nearly as slick as the photo browser on the iPhone. Still, it does the job of letting you store and sort your photos into albums and show them off to your friends and family.


Centro Centro

Probably the biggest benefit to your average featurephone user is the full QWERTY keyboard. Moving up from T9 to QWERTY will change the way you feel about a phone - suddenly texting and email can become more chat-like, browsing the web ceases to be a gigantic pain (by dint of the fact that it's easier to punch in web addresses), and you can use your phone to write memos, calendar appointments, even shopping lists.

It's really a feat of engineering that Palm has managed to squeeze a full keyboard into a space that's about the same area as a RAZR's 12 keys. The real question, though, is whether it's even possible to type with such tiny keys. The short answer is yes. Take a look at the YouTube video below

Basically the "magic" of the keyboard is that it is built much differently from your standard QWERTY -- or even your standard 12-key -- keyboard. Instead of hard plastic, the keys on the Centro's keyboard are soft. This means it's much less likely that your thumb will slip off the button you're pressing. They are also uniquely curved so that, even though they're spaced very closely together, you're still only going to be pressing one key at a time.


...Of course, the keyboard isn't going to be as fast or accurate as a larger keyboard, but as a relatively heavy email and text user I can say it's definitely "good enough." It's certainly better -- to me, anyway -- than the iPhone's virtual keyboard.

The keyboard is also backlit -- it's plenty bright even in "dusky" situations where these devices often are difficult to read.

Tech Specs

Amazing that it's taken us this long to get to the technical specs, isn't it? That's partly a function of the fact that, for smartphone aficionados, they're nothing to write home about. It's also partly a function that Palm figured out what sort of processor and RAM the PalmOS needs to run efficiently and hasn't really deviated from it. Still, let's touch this base:

  • 320 x 320 Touchscreen Display with 16-bit (65,000) colors
  • Quad-Band (850/900/1800/1900) GSM/GPRS/EDGE Class 10
  • Bluetooth 1.2
  • 64 Megs of user storage
  • 1.3 megapixel camera
  • 1150mAH batter for 4 hours talk, 300 hours standby
  • microSD card slot for memory expansion
  • "Athena" multiconnector
  • Compatible with Windows XP, Vista (in Beta), and Mac (though not with 10.5 as of this writing without 3rd party software)
  • Available in White
  • 4.2" x 2.1" x .7"
  • PalmOS v5.4.9

We've already pretty much covered all these bases. I'll just note that 64 megs of storage is a little less than I'd prefer (though even with more you're still going to want a memory card for pictures and music). I'll also note that while it's slightly disappointing that the Centro still only uses Bluetooth 1.2, it's neither surprising nor a deal breaker. Although the Centro doesn't support Bluetooth Stereo Headphones out of the box, there is an excellent piece of 3rd party software that enables it.

The bluetooth is primarily meant for use during standard phone calls, and it connects up to headsets easily. Range on bluetooth is substandard but still passable - about 5 to 10 feet before static starts in. The Centro connects up to the desktop via a USB cable that also charges it (but not as quickly as the wall plug).

One quick note about the microSD card - the max the Centro can read is 4 gigs - more than that and it will do anything from just see the first 2 gigs to actually erasing data off the card..

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