Palm and Sprint officially introduce the Palm Centro smart phone at Digital Life in New York.
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Well, it wasn't a complete secret, but today, Palm and Sprint officially took the wraps off the Palm Centro at the Digital Life event in New York. It's the first non-Treo, as well as the smallest and lightest, smart phone from Palm, and the company hopes it will attract a new customer base of those ready to make the jump from cell phone to smart phone. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.1 inches wide and 0.7 inch deep and 4.2 ounces, the Centro has more of a cell-phone-like form factor but still has a full QWERTY keyboard and 65,000-color, 320x320-pixel touch screen. It also manages to pack in all the features of a Treo and then some.
Messaging options are aplenty with VersaMail, Microsoft Direct Push Technology compatibility, support for Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo accounts, and threaded text messaging. Like the Treo 755p, Sprint also throws in Yahoo, AIM, and Windows Live instant messaging clients, which we always love to see. Web browsing should be swift with EV-DO support, and you can also access Sprint TV, YouTube, Yelp, and MySpace from the device. There's integrated Bluetooth 1.2 for hands-free kits, wireless headsets, and dial-up networking but no Wi-Fi. For multimedia, the Centro is equipped with a 1.3 megapixel camera with 2x digital zoom and video recording capabilities and for the first time, the smart phone ships with Pocket Tunes Deluxe (instead of the Standard edition) so you can listen to DRM-protected music. For now, the Centro won't work with the Sprint Music Store, though this is something that may be added in the future. Other highlights include 64MB user-accessible storage, a microSD expansion slot (can accept up to 4GB cards), Documents to Go Professional 10, Google Mobile Maps, and Palm OS 5.4.9.
Sprint will have a 90-day exclusive on the Palm Centro, which comes in onyx black or ruby red, and it's expected to be available in mid-October for $99.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates. Sprint Power Vision packs start at $15 per month.
First impressions Palm actually stopped by our offices a couple of weeks ago to give us a sneak peek at the Centro, and I've got mixed feelings about the device, mostly about the design. The size of the Centro is certainly smaller than the bulky Treo, and I think it's a nice compromise between a regular cell phone and business-centric smart phone like the Sprint Mogul. However, the design doesn't do much for me. It lacks the flash and "wow" factor of a device from HTC or Nokia, and in the hand, it feels, well, a bit cheap. The navigation controls below the display feel plasticky, and I think the QWERTY keyboard may give some users problems since they had to cramp it into a smaller space. If anything, I could see the Centro attracting more female customers than men, which is part of Palm's goal.
As for features, it's pretty well-stocked. Of course, the Palm OS is a bit outdated but it still offers ease of use and out-of-box Mac synchronization. You pretty much get all the essentials for work and play, the extra apps are a bonus, and hey, you can't beat the price. Anyway, those are just some initial thoughts. We expect to get a review unit within the next week or two; in the meantime, you can check out CNET TV Rich DeMuro's First Look video above and CNET UK's review of the similar Palm Treo 500v. Also, talk back to me! What do you think of the Centro?
Get the CNET TVs, Streaming and Audio newsletter
Become a home entertainment expert with our handpicked tips, reviews and deals. Delivered Wednesdays.