Palm Centro: A Wise First Smartphone Choice For Those With Tiny Fingers

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Sprint recently introduced two new colors to their lineup of Centro by Palm smarphones. These new colors, olive green and vibrant rose, don’t add any new features however they create a different look to the phone which may attract someone whose criteria in phone selection is color. The question I had when Sprint asked us to take a look at the phone is not whether a power user would like the phone (I think the answer is no). Rather I was curious to know if the Centro would be a good phone for your wife, kids or significant other to use when they are just getting interested in using a smartphone.

The first criteria that I have to score the phone on is price. Sprint is in the ballpark with an after rebate and 2 year contract price of $79.99.

Who is the best candidate for a Palm Centro?

First time smartphone users
No need for push email – the phone includes Spring email which is quite good and easy to configure – however it only polls your email instead of having it automatically “pushed” to the phone (if you need push, Sprint has their BlackBerry Curve for $99 after contract/rebate)
Small hands

You may think I’m making a joke about needing small hands for the phone. However the keyboard is tiny. And if you’re trying to type and you have normal sized hands – be prepared to use the very tip of your fingernail to depress most keys.

The Centro runs on the Palm operating system. It’s no secret that Palm is l-o-n-g overdue for a new operating system. One key feature that the Palm OS in the Centro is missing is Wireless Internet or Wi-Fi. Instead you’ll have to rely on the Sprint EVDO network which in my testing is very fast.

Why Is This A Good Device For A First Time User?

The menu structure is clean, easy to navigate and hard to get lost in. I like that the Palm home screen allows for easy toggling to view all menu choices. There’s no confusing navigating of different folders. In the image below I’ve set the Centro to show all menu choices and I can use the scroll bar to move down and select the program to work with.

One of the big things that causes first time smartphone users to “jump ship” is confusion. With about 30 minutes of practice you’ll be able to find nearly all the menu options and navigate easily.

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Dedicated Menu Keys are Easy To Learn
There are four main menu keys on the Centro: Phone, Home, Calendar and Email.

These keys represent the main tasks that a basic user would want to use. They’re all represented on the face of the phone within easy reach of each other. This makes for easier navigation. And the easier you can navigate, the more likely you will be to use the smartphone (remember that beginning smartphone users are more likely to give up in frustration if they cannot quickly figure out how to perform simple tasks).

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Sprint Includes Cool Streaming Applications Right Out Of The Box
CNN Headline news streams directly to the phone without any additional setup or monthly fees. In my testing with a decent signal it provided a watchable stream of video and audio. There were a few spots where the video paused until the data stream caught up. Overall the experience of watching a live news feed on a smartphone is going to impress a novice. Having this all available without a need to download and install (confusing for first timers) a program is a huge win.

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Camera AND Video Controlled From One Screen – AND Easy To Use
I like that Sprint includes video capability right from their menu structure. This is something that a first timer may not use immediately but would make use of as their comfort level grew.

I use the video recording on my BlackBerry quite often to take quick movies of my kids and share the video with my family via flickr. The Centro supports the same type of video recording and while smartphone cameras don’t produce the highest quality images they can help capture a lot of impromptu family moments that you might otherwise miss by leaving a camcorder behind in the house.

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Music Player Included – Device Uses Standard Headphone Jack
The included Pocket Tunes Deluxe media player supports both audio and video playback from either main memory or the MicroSD (which unfortunately requires the batter cover – but not the battery itself – be removed to access). The headphone jack is not some dopey configuration that requires an adapter – this is your standard stereo headphone jack.

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There’s PLENTY of Room For The Beginner To Grow Into A Power User
Just because I find this to be a good device for a first time user of smartphones, doesn’t mean there aren’t some features typically used more steadily by power users.
One example is the support for a MicrSD card (4GB max).

For example, you’ll find:

– BlueTooth Support
– 1.3 megapixel camera and recorder
– Speakerphone
– 128 MB ROM, 128 MB RAM
– 65k color scree with 320×240 resolution (adequate)
– Documents to Go version 8 allowing you to download, view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents
– Voice Memo/Recorder
– Palm OS 5.4.9
– Instant Message integration to Yahoo, MSN, AOL
– Email integration to AOL, AIM, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail and Work (POP and IMAP)

Things That Take Some Getting Used To:

The Keys Are Too Small and Close Together
This is a smartphone for someone with small hands. Don’t even think of trying this if your glove size is medium or large.

palm centro hands.jpg

The Menu Keys Don’t Give Enough Tactile Feedback:
I had a LOT of trouble determining whether a button push had registered or not. There’s very little feedback when you push the green (call) or red (call end) button. There’s even less on the phone/home/calendar/email buttons. The lack of button feedback is my biggest gripe with this Centro.

The Palm Centro is a nice compact phone that would be perfect for the beginning smartphone user who wants a phone to carry in their purse or pocket. Size wise the phone’s overall dimensions are smaller than the iPhone and BlackBerry Bold – though as you can see in this photo, the phone is considerably fatter than the other two.

palm centro size comparison.jpg


As a starter smartphone for someone with small fingers who is unlikely to want to load a lot of third party software – the Palm Centro is a very good choice. I like the menus and the added software that Sprint ships already included and activated on the phone (Sprint TV, Documents to Go, Pocket Tunes).

Link: Sprint Palm Centro

Categories: Reviews

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2 replies

  1. Unless Palm has made a very quiet change along with the new Centro colors, the headset port is still 2.5 mm, not the 3.5 mm for most headphones. There are some available with a 2.5 mm plug, and there are adapters available. So far, though, the Treo Pro is the only smartphone from Palm known to offer a 3.5 mm port.

  2. Hi Wayne. My name is AJ from the Palm Outreach Team. Thanks for writing this article about the Palm Centro. I think you’re right on about the phone being a great deal for new smartphone users.

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