The Palm Centro should not be considered so much a low cost Treo as a shot into the area of affordable smartphones by Palm. While the operating system and even aspects of the design are similar to this company's Treo models, the pricing and timing of its introduction makes the Centro a compelling buy in view of other devices in its price range.
Because of the arrival of the iPhone, users are looking at smartphones now more than ever, and the Centro is a suitable alternative for those who need the functionality (and even a bit more in areas), but cannot work with the price of entry of Apple's device.
The Centro is in many ways what the Treo 680 should have been. That being said, the target markets for both are slightly different, though overlapping. The Centro is smaller, lighter, and has a faster available Internet connection. It loses some in terms of battery life, but for mild usage, it will hold up for two days just fine. Internet usage will cut that down quickly, though.
Yet, even in this cut-down mode, the Centro is a very capable phone. It has several applications installed on it (Documents to Go 10 Professional Edition, Google Maps, Sprint Instant Messaging, Pocket Tunes Deluxe, Sprint TV and Astraware Suduko). These applications, plus the size and price of the package, makes the Centro a terrific bargain, and this value sets it apart from the field of current smartphones and feature phones.
As a phone
The most impressive thing that a mobile phone can do is work. The Palm Centro hits this spot on. Because of the many generations of Treo smartphones, the Centro's heritage is solid and familiar. General phone features such as placing a call, listening to voicemail, and setting up contacts are all exactly the same as found on the Sprint Treo 755p. This familiarity is not only good in itself but makes it easy to turn to other Treo users for questions and comments.
Voice quality, speakerphone volume, and screen clarity are all impressive. Compared to my Treo 680, the screen is more vivid, yet does seem a bit cut off on the top edge (about 1px). Of note, the speakerphone had very good sound clarity when the volume was at its maximum. This quality of the speaker comes into play with some of the multimedia aspects of this device as well.
While the interface is familiar, it is dated. I would have expected the same phone interface to be used as what is on the Treo 680, but it isn't. Besides being a freshened design, it also makes the concession towards users who might not be as familiar with using a touchscreen.
The form factor is very similar to the Treo, just smaller. The buttons took a few days to get used to, but are quite usable. To those coming from the Treo 600, they will find that the buttons might feel very similar, just tighter together. Those with longer nails or flat fingers might have some issues, but others should be fine.
Overall, it's a good phone. The size makes it a lot more acceptable to my pockets than many other smartphones, but the ease of use makes its something set apart from some of the other devices in its price class.
As a PDA
Unfortunately, while the phone aspects of the Centro are familiar and suitable, the same familiar aspects of the PDA side of the Centro are marred by inadequate graphics and some inconsistencies with applications.
It is very easy to get started putting information into the Centro. Whether you use the stylus or the keyboard, the experience is generally easy. Some users who've seen the Centro remarked that it was easy to figure out what they wanted to do, but that it didn't look as pretty as the iPhone.
With the Centro you don't have to depend on just SMS messages. You can exchange full email messages from any POP3 or IMAP account, including attachments. This is one of the popular reasons why people get smartphones, and this one does the task well. This is one of the areas where the built-in keyboard really shines.
The calendar, contacts, memos, and task applications are all the same as found on Treo smartphones, and are a big help with organizing your life.
Documents to Go 10 -- which lets you work with Microsoft Office files -- Google Maps, Astraware Suduko, and several other applications come bundled the Centro. These are so good they make a $99 price that much better. The value of all of these, let alone the other thousands that are available, makes the Centro just too good compared to other devices in its price class.
I found, though, that without some instruction, or clear help items, that a few users had issues with getting going with some of these applications.
In addition to the Palm software, the Sprint-specific applications add considerable value to the wireless aspect of the Centro. Sprint TV came in handy while waiting for a parade to begin (and entertained a 3 year old, too). On Demand is a Sprint-branded version of Handmark's Pocket Express program. And just like Pocket Express, there is a deluge of content at your fingertips, like up to date news, weather, and sports..
There is also an instant messaging program that allows you to connect to AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo Instant messaging services. The program sends your remarks as SMS text messages, but this is not a problem with the data plans you're required to sign up for with the Centro.
It also comes with Pocket Tunes Deluxe, and MP3 player. For people who want to carry plenty of music, you can add a 4 GB microSD card.
Overall, it's the same package as the 755p, only smaller and cheaper. Nothing about the applications are striking, but because of the cost of the device, these capabilities are available to more users.
Overall, I was impressed with the price and the size of the Centro. The operating system is old, but stable and highly functional. The wireless connection is just fast, but not the latest which allows voice and data at the same time.
If you will, the Centro is a list of compromises, but those compromises increase the size of those who can get into the smartphone game. This is a solid compromise, and possibly the best one that needs to be made in this class of devices.
- Palm OS 5.4.9
- 320 by 320 pixel touchscreen
- 2.1 in by 4.2 in by 0.7 in
- 4.2 oz
- 128 MB ROM, 64 MB user accessible RAM
- microSD card slot supporting 4 GB microSD (SDHC untested by reviewer)
- Sprint EV-DO Rev. 0
- 1150 mAh battery with up to 3.5 hrs continuous talk time
- 1.3 megapixel camera with 2x digital zoom
- Bluetooth 1.2
- Included Applications: Google Maps, Sprint IM, Documents to Go 10, VersaMail 4.0 email client, Pocket Tunes Deluxe, trial version of Nuance Voice Control, Astraware Suduko, and built-in user manual in the My Centro application