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Palm Centro

Tue Oct 16, 2007 - 1:09 PM EDT - By Dieter Bohn


Why "Centro?"

The Centro is a surprising little device. Although it offers no really new features at all, it does offer a new form factor that makes the standard features somehow more compelling. The new, smaller size and the new, smaller price point are both great features. I honestly can't give any reason for any user to purchase a Treo 755p now - you can get the exact same feature set (slightly better, actually) in a smaller and cheaper package.

The Centro is not designed to compete against the iPhone and I have to admit that although it does do a better job in a few areas (specifically email, PIM, and productivity), it still doesn't hold a candle to the iPhone's fit, finish, and media capabilities. No matter; against phones like the RAZR and against other "smartphone-lite" phones like the Sidekick and the Pearl, the Centro stacks up very, very well. So well, in fact, that I think that Palm is going to achieve their goal of broadening the smartphone market. PalmOS might look old and tired to me, but to somebody who's never used a Treo it's probably not too bad.

The above probably explains why Palm decided to name this device "Centro" instead of "Treo" (though they did it fairly late in the development of the device). Although it's a Treo 755p inside, it's not meant to appeal just to Treo users. In fact, it's meant to appeal to users that may have previously shied away from Treo's for being "too much phone" for them. I hope that the second part of this new name is that the "Centro" will be more than just a single smartphone released on Sprint but instead a platform of inexpensive smartphones offered across all carriers. The Centro has a real shot at owning the low-end smartphone market and seems like a good move for Palm.

For Treo owners, my hope is that using the Centro for the low end means that Palm is about to re-commit themselves to making the Treo a high-end smartphone once again, competitive against giants like the AT&T Tilt and, yes, the iPhone.

Should you Upgrade?

Treo users first: In a word: maybe. If you're still one of the many using a Treo 650 or 600 on Sprint, an upgrade to the Centro is practically a no-brainer. The increased internet speed and the improved form factor are so compelling I've actually called everybody I know in the 650 on Sprint camp and told them they should upgrade ASAP. For Treo 700p and 755p users the bag is mixed - the functionality isn't really any better, it's just about the great form factor. Many will suggest waiting yet another year for the Linux-based PalmOS and I'm sympathetic to that view.

On the other hand, if your phone is a little beat up or a little big for your tastes, it's pretty difficult to argue against spending just $99 on an improved phone experience for a year. It's a lot easier to argue against $399 for the same, which is the Centro's price without any rebates. For 650 and earlier I could recommend it, for users with the 700p or 755p, the no-rebate price isn't worth the new form factor.

For Treo users on carriers other than Sprint, you should stop and think very carefully about switching carriers. As I have written at our sister site WMExperts and said time and time again in the TreoCast Podcast, there is almost never a time you should pick a device before you pick a carrier. Coverage is just too important and poor coverage will ruin your experience with a smartphone no matter how cool it is. All that said, the Centro is what the Treo 680 should have been. It's small, it's inexpensive, and it's very accessible to the general consumer.

For first-time smartphone users and for people who've never considered a smartphone, the Centro is a great option. Anybody considering getting some random featurephone just because it sports a full keyboard should stop what they're doing right now and head over to a Sprint store to check out the Centro. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, it is also superior to the Sidekick and the Blackberry Pearl for the average consumer.


I wasn't expecting to give the Centro this rosy a review since it doesn't offer any flashy new features. Yet here I am reading the preceding paragraph that lacks only the words "BUY BUY BUY!" The Centro is the perfect "last hurrah" for Garnet/PalmOS: an inexpensive, cute, and accessible smartphone that does everything a new smartphone owner could want and nearly everything a power user could want as well.

What's old is new again -- one last time.

Discuss our full review in our forums!

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Form Factor 5
Included Software 5
Battery Life 4
Cost/Benefit 5
(not an average)
  • great form factor

  • 3G data speeds

  • Crisp, sharp screen

  • Price

  • Cons
  • Battery life

  • Battery door tough to open

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