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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

Core Applications

Phone Application

Centro Centro Centro

The phone application on the Palm Centro for AT&T is identical to the one on its predecessor, the Treo 680. This is a roundabout way of saying that it is not the same as the Phone Application on the Sprint version of the Centro. It's much better.

The "Phone application" serves as a home base for 75% of everything you'll do on the Centro. The main screen (at left) is simply your wallpaper. You can also set it to display your next upcoming appointment, and email, voicemail, and SMS alerts will appear here also. That's only half the story, though. By default, the Centro is set to "dial by number." Meaning that when you start punching away on the keyboard, the Centro looks for numbers to dial. This is surely the wrong way to have it set up. There's another option to "dial by name," and it's the option you want to use.

With this option set, you can simply begin typing the name of the person you'd like to contact (either via call, SMS, or email). The Centro then automatically filters down to the person you're trying to reach. The upshot is that, even for very large address books or even if you haven't set up a single speed dial, you can drill down to the person you're trying to reach with just a few button presses. Once you get used to this way of dialing, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Next to the main phone app is the favorites listing. This is again a hidden source of a very powerful feature. You can, of course, set up favorites as speed dials here. The nice thing is you can assign any key on the QWERTY keyboard to a favorite, effectively giving you 25 favorites (plus voicemail). You just hold down the key to launch the favorite - and you can actually do this from anywhere on the Centro, not just the phone app. As long as you're not currently "in" a text entry field, you can launch a favorite simply by holding down the key.

Note that I said "Launch a favorite" instead of "speed dial a contact." That's because the favorites on the PalmOS Centro are more powerful than they are on any other smartphone (bar none!). You can actually set a favorite to any of the below:

  • Speed dial a number
  • Send a text message to a number
  • Send an email to an email address
  • Open a web bookmark
  • Open an application / game / etc

So, for example, I have "G" set to open "Google Maps," "M" set to text message somebody else, "W" set to speed dial, "S" set to Google's home search page, and so on. You can see why I said that the Phone Application becomes your home base -- you can launch at least 75% of the stuff you'll do on your Treo on a daily basis directly from it -- all with a clean, easy to use interface.

Centro Centro

Next up on the phone app are your contacts listing. You can call a person, initiate an SMS, email, edit a contact, etc here. Like with the "Center" phone screen, you can also just start typing a name to drill down to the person you're looking for. Lastly you have a full call history (which includes Push To Talk, if enabled).

The Phone Application on GSM Treos (including the Centro on AT&T) is really slick. The app on CDMA (Sprint) versions of the Centro has much of the same functionality, but in a much more cumbersome interface. It's a real shame that Palm hasn't been able to get this application on every Treo.

Making Calls


When you're actually on a call with the Centro, you're offered a few options. You can put a call on the (pretty good quality) speakerphone, place the call on hold so you can add a 2nd caller to do a three-way conference, bring up an on-screen dial pad (you can also just use the keyboard for this purpose), or mute your microphone.

These options are presented as large, "thumbable" buttons you can press without getting the stylus out. If you've set the touchscreen to be non-responsive during a call (to prevent your cheek from hitting one of the buttons), you can also just use the 5-way pad to choose one of them.

One of the newer applications on the Centro is "Push To Talk." In my testing it worked reasonably well, but it wasn't nearly as quick as the PTT features on Sprint Nextel phones. Still it's a nice option if you need it.

Threaded SMS


One of the other Treo innovations (like the ringer switch) that has only slowly made its way to other smartphones (like the iPhone) is Threaded SMS Chat. With Threaded SMS, you no longer have your inbox and sent messages separated. Instead they become "threaded' like an instant message conversation. You can immediately see what the last message in a conversation with a given person was and respond to that. It's much more intuitive and easy than switching between different SMS mailboxes to see what the state of a given conversation was.

Of course, you can also send SMSes to multiple people as well as create multimedia messages with pictures or audio. There's a neat little menu for smiley icons as well, :-D , not to mention "quicktext" for inserting pre-built phrases.

Another innovation that's not technically part of the "Threaded SMS" is that when a call comes in, you are actually presented with a few different options:

  1. Mute the ringer (by pressing a volume button)
  2. "Ignore" the call and send it straight to voicemail (by pressing the on-screen button or the End button)
  3. Take the call (by pressing the on screen button or the Send button)
  4. "Ignore with Text" (with the on screen button)

That last option sends your caller to voicemail and then automatically sends you into the SMS application so you can send a quick "I'm busy now, will call you later" note. Slick.


The email application that's built-into the Centro is called "Versamail" and much like the PalmOS itself, it's getting a little long in the tooth but still does the job very well. It has built-in settings for all the major email services out there like Yahoo and Gmail (including IMAP!), but you can also enter in your own settings if you prefer.

Centro Centro Centro

Versamail also does "Push" email right out of the box. "Push" email is when your emails are "pushed" out to you automatically instead of having to have your email client go looking for the email either manually or at a set time interval. In order to get push email with Versamail, you need to have an Exchange server -- either from your corporation or from a 3rd party service. Once you have it set up, though, it's great.

Versamail can handle as many email accounts as you can throw at it and you can switch between them relatively easily by hitting Opt Mail when inside the Versamail application. It also has settings to automatically download your email at a set interval, basic HTML formatting, and full support for attachments.

Unlike what you may have heard, the Centro deals with attachments like Office documents, PDFs, and images in their native formats -- no need to reformat them as you receive or send them.

Of course, one of the best things about the PalmOS is the tens of thousands of 3rd party applications available for it. For email, for example, I prefer SnapperMail, and many prefer Chatter (which offers "quasi-push" email via IMAP IDLE).

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