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Chokaay's Palm Centro Review - After 1 Week

Discussion in 'Other Smartphones and Mobile Operating Systems' started by chokaay, Jan 26, 2009.

  1. chokaay

    chokaay Junior Member
    Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2009
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    My Phone:
    Palm Centro
    Wireless Provider(s):
    Sprint
    ***NOTE: Unlike other reviews, this review will NOT state the specs of the Palm Centro, the physical dimensions, what programs come with the Centro, what colors the Centro comes in, etc. That information is easily obtainable from Google, Palm's website, Sprint's website, websites carrying Palm's press release, or the hundreds of websites hosting Palm Centro previews/reviews. My review will assume you are at least somewhat familiar with the Palm Centro, and will dive into my first impressions and experiences after receiving the phone a week ago.***


    BACKGROUND: I was looking for a smartphone (something to replace my PDA + Motorola RAZR V3), but nothing too complicated, too expensive, or too big. Something that has an address book, a calendar organizer, can send and auto-receive e-mails/text messages, is fast, reliable (doesn't crash or have many bugs), and could fit comfortably into my pants/jeans pocket were my main criterias.

    CHOICE: After looking at all the smartphones all carriers carried (I didn't mind leaving my current carrier), I discovered the Palm Centro. It seemed to fit all of my wants and needs pretty well, so I ordered one from Sprint to try it out.

    SUMMARY:
    + Great aesthetics and design (very pleasing to the eye similar to the Blackberry Pearl).
    + Small size (not much bigger than the closed RAZR + plastic case I was used to carrying around).
    + Bright and responsive screen (although size is a bit small).
    + Solid construction (although made of plastic).
    + Solid keyboard (although keys are very small).
    + Fast operating system (at least compared to my Motorola RAZR V3... fast enough for me).
    + Very intuitive operating system (IMO Palm OS is probably the easiest smartphone OS to get used to quickly... very important for non-techies and/or seniors).
    + Very stable operating system (haven't had it crash once yet).
    + Ability to upgrade earlier Palm Desktop versions to 6.x without losing data (but 4.1.4e works with the Centro as well).
    + Has lots of features similar to other more expensive smartphones (even though most have been simplified in Palm OS).
    + Palm OS has a very large selection of programs you can download/install thanks to open source development (you can probably find a program that can do anything you can think of).
    + MicroSD card slot supports MicroSDHC cards up to 8GB (maximum size for MicroSDHC so far).
    + Doesn't lose your data and settings when you run out of battery (unlike older generations of Palm PDA's).
    + DON'T have to pay extra for a Blackberry Internet/E-mail package (unlike Blackberries).
    + Cheaper price than other smartphones (after rebate).


    - Extremely small keyboard (especially for people with big fingers).
    - Screen a little small (but still high resolution and very responsive).
    - Palm OS 5.x graphics a bit dated (looks 2D, and a bit cartoony).
    - Limited multitasking ability (most Palm OS programs do NOT really multitask or run in the background, but some programs can like Versamail).
    - No built-in handwriting/graffiti recognition (although you can buy a program that does it).
    - No built-in voice recognition/dialing (although you can buy a program that does it).
    - Phone does NOT dial "p" or "," pauses in phone numbers listed in your Contacts (only does it through Favorites and Speed Dial).
    - Caller ID function seems to get confused and choose an entry randomly if multiple entries in Contacts share the same phone number (wish it would just display the Company Name, instead of randomly choosing a person's name).
    - Battery life seems a bit short, even for smartphones (depends on usage, but I'm averaging 1/2 empty with minimal data, a couple messages, and about 1.25 hours of talking).
    - Camera is below average (approximately on par with the original Motorola RAZR V3's).
    - Plastic stylus works OK but feels a bit cheap (would have preferred a stiffer stylus, or a metal one).


    REVIEW:
    So the first thing you notice when taking it out of the box is that the phone is BEAUTIFUL (IMO), and is very well built (although some other more expensive smartphones are built better). It does not look too wide or bulky (like some other smartphones), and it actually looks like a PHONE rather than a PDA (so you won't look ridiculous when other people see you talking into it)! The Sprint version of the Palm Centro features a polished metallic/glittery finish to the plastic housing, which is a nice departure from "regular" polished plastic or matte/rubberized finishes found on most phones.

    The phone fits comfortably in the average male's (or female's) hands when using it as a phone, but feels very cramped when trying to type on it with 2 thumbs (smaller/feminine hands won't have as much of a problem). The tiny, stiff keys make it even more difficult to type/dial with 1 hand (even though each key is a significantly raised bump). When using the QWERTY keyboard, I have resorted to holding the phone in one hand, and using my index finger on the other hand to type. It took a few days to get used to it, but now I can type about 3 characters/second using this method.

    However, whatever shortcomings the Palm Centro has with its keyboard, it TRIES to make up with its screen. Even though it's a bit smaller than many PDA or smartphone screens (a little larger than the Blackberry Pearl), it is bright and still retains high resolution. The responsiveness and accuracy of this touchscreen is also very good. Most Palm OS screens give you oversized icons/buttons/adjustable fonts to press with your thumb or fingers. But even so, at times when I felt my fingers were too big to accurately press an icon/button, the screen would correctly interpret what I wanted to press (at least most of the time... much more than I was expecting). The Palm Centro comes with a plastic stylus as well, which I use when I need to press really small icons.

    The operating system itself is very fast and responsive, and feels just like a Palm OS PDA with an integrated phone feature, (which was exactly what I was looking for when shopping for a smartphone). It does not seem to be too bloated with useless programs, or have many bugs or issues (can't really remember any off-hand). I do wish they gave you more than 68.8MB of internal memory (some of which is already used for the operating system), but most Palm OS programs are pretty compact, and there's a MicroSD slot if more memory is needed (up to 8GB MicroSDHC cards can be used). As it stands right now, after downloading 2 free games and updating all the software that came on my Sprint phone, I sill have 43.3MB of internal free.

    The major difference between Palm OS PDA's and the Palm Centro is that the Palm Centro does NOT support handwriting/graffiti recognition out-of-the-box. You will need to buy a program if you want to use graffiti input (or otherwise use the tiny QWERTY keyboard or the hunt-and-peck virtual software keyboard that most applications have). Otherwise, the operating system pretty much behaves like it would on a Palm OS PDA.

    One major difference between a cellphone and the Palm Centro, is the power button. The Power/End Button on the Palm Centro controls the power to both the PDA portion, as well as the phone portion of the device. From what I've figured out, if you press it briefly, you will turn on/off the PDA portion (essentially you can only tell by the screen turning on/off). Hold it down, and you will turn on/off the Phone portion (device will read "Phone Off" and have no signal indicator). Therefore, it is possible to have the PDA and Phone status in the following combinations: both off, PDA On but Phone Off, both On, or Phone On but PDA Off. However, it might take a few days to get used to using the power button (you can't just press it briefly to get back to your cell phone's "desktop" anymore... that will turn off the screen/PDA).


    (maximum character limit reached... to be continued...)
     
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  2. chokaay

    chokaay Junior Member
    Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2009
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    My Phone:
    Palm Centro
    Wireless Provider(s):
    Sprint
    (review continued from above...)


    Another major difference is the Contacts/Phonebook. In the past, I've always put the number I needed to call into my cellphone's phonebook, and left the rest out (since in my old phone there wasn't any space for anything else other than the contact's name and phone number). Now, with the PDA functionality, suddenly EVERYONE is in your Contacts/"Phonebook". Therefore, I've noticed that: A) it's a lot harder to quickly find the person you want to call if you have to go through your Contacts every time, and B) it's a lot easier to have duplicate numbers for multiple contacts (which sort of confuses the Caller ID as to which person's name it should display when that person calls you). So far, the only way to reliably remedy Problem B is to limit each number to only one contact in your Contacts/Phonebook. (I REALLY wish that Palm allowed you to select WHICH number you wanted to display in Caller ID if there are duplicate numbers though!) As for Problem A, there are a few ways Palm made it easier: 1) you can search your Contacts quickly by entering the person's initials you want into the "Find" field (but not typing out the whole first or last name unfortunately), 2) you can assign your most frequently called numbers to a Favorites menu (which is essentially like a 1-touch dialing list), or 3) you can assign your most frequently called numbers to a Speed Dial key on the QWERTY keyboard (just hold down the button to call). (And Speaking about the "Favorites" fuction, one annoying thing I found was that the Palm Centro does NOT dial pauses ("p" or ",") in phone numbers listed in your Contacts. This functionality DOES work through Favorites and Speed Dial though. Therefore, if you're thinking about programming your calling card number and/or a phone number with a password you don't want to type every single time, you only can make it a 1-touch dialing button in your Favorites menu, or in your Speed Dials.)

    Other negative issues (IMO) include: Palm OS graphics look a bit dated and cartoony, some icons are small and require small fingers or the stylus to press (but I guess that's to be expected on a small screen), limited multitasking ability (Palm OS was NOT really meant to multitask and have programs run in the background, but some programs have this ability like Versamail), no built-in voice recognition/dialing (although you can buy a program that does it), battery life seems a bit short... even for smartphones (depends on usage, but I'm averaging 1/2 empty with minimal data, a couple messages, and about 1.25 hours of talking), camera is a joke (picture quality is about as good as my 3+ year old original Motorola RAZR V3), and the plastic stylus works OK but feels a bit cheap (would have preferred a stiffer stylus, or a metal one).

    However, in spite of all these negative issues, IMO the pros greatly out weighs the cons (at least for me). Sure, some of these issues could be solved by getting a "real" Treo, or a Blackberry, or a Windows Mobile device... but then there would be other negative issues and problems for me. Remember that I was looking for "...a smartphone (something to replace my PDA + Motorola RAZR V3), but nothing too complicated, too expensive, or too big. Something that has an address book, a calendar organizer, can send and auto-receive e-mails/text messages, is fast, reliable (doesn't crash or have many bugs), and could fit comfortably into my pants/jeans pocket...", and to that extent the Palm Centro does an excellent job!

    Other positives (IMO) I haven't mentioned yet include: very intuitive operating system (IMO Palm OS is probably the easiest smartphone OS to get used to quickly... very important for non-techies and/or seniors), very stable operating system (haven't had it crash once yet), the ability to upgrade earlier Palm Desktop versions to 6.x without losing data (and as an extra bonus, Palm Desktop 4.1.4e works with the Centro as well), lots of features that other more expensive smartphones have (but most have been simplified in Palm OS), Palm OS has a very large selection of programs you can download/install thanks to open source development (you can probably find a program that can do anything you can think of), the Centro doesn't lose your data and settings when you run out of battery (unlike older generations of Palm PDA's), you DON'T have to pay extra for a Blackberry Internet/E-mail package (unlike Blackberries), and the price is cheaper than other smartphones (after rebate).


    RATINGS:
    For my criteria = A :thumb:
    Overall as a phone = B :hmm:
    Overall as a PDA = A- :)
     
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  3. chokaay

    chokaay Junior Member
    Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2009
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    My Phone:
    Palm Centro
    Wireless Provider(s):
    Sprint
    UPDATE: After updating Sprint's Palm Centro's ROM to 1.07 (released a few days ago), and adding Attention Grabber freeware (at the suggestion of another forum member), I'm upgrading my rating for using the Palm Centro as a PHONE to "B+". Now if only I could find a solution for hanging up conference call lines individually instead of all at once... :confused:


    UPDATED RATINGS:
    Overall as a phone = B+ :rolleyes:
     
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  4. chokaay

    chokaay Junior Member
    Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2009
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    My Phone:
    Palm Centro
    Wireless Provider(s):
    Sprint
    UPDATE: Now that I've had the Palm Centro for 6+ months, I actually like the phone MORE now than I did before (or at least am more tolerant with most of the CONS that I originally listed in my review):


    The keyboard STILL is a little small for me and I do make typing mistakes once in a while. But that's the price I pay for getting a small(er) phone that has a full QWERTY physical keyboard. (I imagine with larger keys and spacing, like on the 755p, I probably woudn't make typing mistakes anymore.)

    I now got used to the screen size, and I think it's fine for the phone, (although if you plan to watch Sprint TV or videos on it, it's a bit small for comfort IMO. Surfing the Internet is a little better since you can set the page to "optimized mobile" mode, or "full-sized mode".) However, I didn't buy a phone to watch TV on it, nor surf the Internet (for extensive periods of time) on it. I bought it to be a phone, text messaging device, e-mailing device, and PDA device... of which it does all of those functions very well IMO. (I imagine the larger screen of the 755p would look even nicer, but that would mean carrying around a larger phone... something I'd rather not do.)

    The OS in both the 755p and Centro are almost the same, so I'm not going to say much on it since either device you get, the software will basically be the same. However, if you do plan to use the MY LOCATION feature in Google Maps, get a Palm Centro (the Treo 755p does NOT support this feature for some reason, and I doubt that Google will support it in the future since it's an "older" phone). For me, the OS is fine since I grew up using a Handspring Visor, then a Palm m500, and now the Palm Centro, so I'm very familiar with the OS, have a bunch of old(er) compatible programs for it, and it does everything I need it to do (without crashing).

    Both the 755p and Palm Centro does NOT have handwriting/graffiti recognition by default, but you can buy a program to do it. I personally got used to not using handwriting/graffiti anymore, so now I'm OK with it.

    As far as voice dialing, I bought "VoiceDialIt", which works pretty well on my Palm Centro. So that solves the "lack of voice dialing" problem.

    Although the battery life is shorter than some other smartphones (like BlackBerries), I'm fine with it now (after I adjusted the power settings and other application settings to conserve power). With VERY heavy talking, texting, and minimal data I can get through a full work day on 1 charge. (Not great, but enough for what I need... I just charge the phone after I get back home from work.)

    I still feel the same way about the Palm Centro's camera, but usually I have an actual digital camera with me anyway, so I don't need to rely on a cell phone camera. It's still good to have anyway... in case of emergencies.

    The the stylus is still made of plastic, but I'm fine with that now (since I found that I don't even take out the stylus, much less use it for anything anymore... most of my data entry is from Palm Desktop + Hotsync).



    The PROS basically stayed the same.

    However, I'd like to note now that there are 16GB MicroSDHC cards out now, but I don't know if it will work in the Palm Centro or not (haven't read anything about it yet).

    Also, Sprint now has select plans (Simply Everything Plans, Simply Everything Family Plans, Simply Everything Plus Plans, Everything Data Plans, Everything Data Family Plans) that includes BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), so you can use BlackBerries on those plans with no additional monthly charge. (However, with other Sprint plans, and other carriers you still need to pay an additional monthly fee for BIS.)



    This may be the last time I update this review (since Sprint now has officially discontinued this 1st generation Centro model for an "almost-exactly-the-same" 2nd generation one), so to those who are still deciding whether or not to get a Palm Centro (whether 1st generation or 2nd generation), I wish you good luck! :thumb:
     
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    1 person likes this.
  5. TWX

    TWX Mobile Enthusiast
    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2006
    Messages:
    1,184
    Cell Tower Picture Gallery:
    8
    Likes Received:
    117
    Location:
    Rogers City, Michigan
    My Phone:
    iPhone 5s
    Wireless Provider(s):
    AT&T
    Great review. That is by far the longest review I have ever read on this forum.
     
  6. chokaay

    chokaay Junior Member
    Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2009
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    My Phone:
    Palm Centro
    Wireless Provider(s):
    Sprint

    Thank you for your compliment! I try my best to be complete. ;)
     
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