Coming in a rounded, symmetrical design that is considerably smaller than its Treo predecessors, the new Palm Centro represents the dying gasp of Palm’s venerable operating system – but is it modern enough to provide a credible challenge to rivals in the marketplace?
After the cancellation of the Foleo and the news that the long-promised, Linux-based upgrade to the Palm operating system was unlikely to materialise until next year, some felt that time might be up for the Palm OS.
With the last Palm OS phone being released as far back as November 2006 – and that was the Treo 680 which represented little more than a minor upgrade to the long serving Treo 650 – insult was added to injury with the launch of two, well received Windows Mobile-based Palm phones, the Treo 750 and Treo 500.
With some industry pundits preparing their funeral speeches for the Palm OS, the company hit back with the low priced Centro, which immediately went on to be a huge hit in the States where it’s reported to be Sprint’s biggest seller.
A small, fully featured smartphone packing a ton of functionality, the quadband Centro looks good in the hand and is small enough to avoid giving your trouser pocket the over excited look.
Running the Palm OS 5.4.9 from ACCESS with an Intel PXA270 312MHz processor, the handset cuts a dash in a two tone specked black finish, with the navigation controls placed flush across a central metal strip.
The Centro’s screen is bright, crisp and sharp with a 320 x 320 resolution outgunning, although it is physically quite small though and annoyingly recessed a fair bit from the fascia. This makes it great for keeping the screen safe from scratches, but not so good if you’re trying to touch something on the far corner of the touchscreen.
We’re big fans of proper QWERTY keyboards and have had no problems rattling out lengthy articles on our old Treo 650, but we did have our doubts when we saw the near toy-like one on the Centro.
Despite its diminutive size, it’s surprisingly easy to use and we found it much quicker at inputting text than battling with fiddly predictive text, virtual keyboards or indeed the iPhone’s onscreen affair.
We should say that if you’ve got fingers the size of over-stuffed sausages, then perhaps this isn’t the phone for you, but all of our testers had no problem getting up to speed. We think Palm’s engineers have done a grand job here, but be sure to test it out for yourself before buying.
In the next part of our review, we start using the phone.