Whether you believe it or not; I, the super duper Linux geek, have never used a smartphone…until now. Yes, during the writing of this review was the first time I have everbeen able to use a smartphone for an extended period of time. Yes, the Centro was covered by Gear Diary when Sprint brought it out and when AT&T brought it out, but here’s my take on the Centro, written as a first time smartphone user.
Now to say that I have not used the Palm OS or Windows Mobile would be dead wrong. I have used Palm OS devices for as long as I can remember, and I even have the Fossil Palm OS Watch. I know the Palm OS, and I have used it a lot over the years, and the same goes for Windows Mobile. My first Windows Mobile device was the Casio EM500, and the last Windows Mobile device I used – before retiring it to the curb – was the HP iPaq 2495. So don’t get it in your mind that this is my first experience with Palm OS or a PDA OS; that assumption would be wrong.
But with that said, this is the first time I have used a smartphone, much less an OS designed for PDA’s on a phone; in other words, I am the target market for the Centro.
In addition to Sprint and AT&T, Verizon also has the Centro for the similar price of $99 with a contract; the pricing on the Centro is one of the things that makes it so compelling.
So what do I think? I like the phone application and how it is so easy to use when dialing regular phone numbers. I like how when after dialing a number, the Centro will ask if I want to create a new contact; this is pretty awesome in my book. This feature makes it easy for new users to get started with the Centro; it makes the Centro a little less like a smartphone and more like a feature phone.
The PIM synced up automatically with my work’s Groupwise sever, and whenever I got an e-mail or a calendar event, it always would pop right into the Centro’s PIM software. I used Intellisync to do this, which my work has a site license for (it’s the same exact software that Verizon uses except linked to our Groupwise setup). Everything worked as expected, except I noticed one kink with this software: when it was active, I could not sync it with Linux. When it was deactivated, everything synced up perfectly on Linux as most Palm’s will. This is not a bug in the Palm OS, but is an issue with Intellisync.
One thing I did notice was that Blazer, the included browser, is sorely in need of updating. I tried to run the Mobile Version of Opera on it, and I found it buggier than all get out. It looks to me, like Palm OS will be going out to pasture very soon. If you can’t get a regular browser on your smartphone, you may as well be dead in the water. Who do we have to thank for this disatisfaction? Apple. The iPhone has set the new bar for mobile browsing, and finally Microsoft and others are catching up. Blazer is unacceptable for mobile web browsing; with that said, with the proliferation of web sites for mobile phones and Palm based systems, it’s still useful (i.e. better than nothing) even though it really needs updating.
The biggest thing I liked about the Centro was the messaging application. The messaging application threads the SMS messages and makes them almost like a IM chat, except you’re now sending an SMS each time you use it.
The Centro also uses Kinoma to view Youtube videos, so the Palm OS can view YouTube. Other then that, I couldn’t view any other flash video sites on the Centro; this is because of the lousy browser, in my opinion.
As for the Centro’s size, I found it to be smaller than my current phone, and I was kind of surprised about that. The tightly spaced keys were a bit hard to hit for my fat fingers, but I got used to it.
With all of that said, I still think Palm has a winner. You might wonder why, with all of the negative stuff I said, I think that Palm has a winner? Sales. That’s why.
Since the Centro has launched, Palm has reported it’s market share up to 13.4 %, and that’s largely due to the Centro. The Centro may not be the latest and greatest smartphone available, but it’s a great first time user’s smartphone. It’s wonderful for people like me, who have never had a smartphone, mostly because of price. At $99, it’s the same or cheaper than some feature phones. The only negative factor I found is that in order to get the best price from Verizion, you must have the 30 dollar data plan. If you don’t have this, then you must pay more. At least you can tether with the VZW Centro which kind of surprised me a little bit (in a good way).
The Palm Centro is now available on Verizon Wireless for $99 with a 2 year plan.
What I liked: The price. I seriously want to keep this device, but it’s got to go back. This is one review unit I may buy very soon!
What I didn’t care for: It MUST be brought up. Blazer needs to be kicked to the curb and a more capable browser put in it’s place. I would have used the fast EVDO connection a lot more if the browser was better.