Neowin at Digital Life 2007: Palm Centro

One of the most talked about products, heading into the start of Digital Life, was Palm's new compact smartphone, the Centro. While it is much thicker than devices such as the Motorola Q9 and Samsung Blackjack, the Centro does keep the other dimensions well within respectability, though it's still unclear why Palm thinks it's anything worth mentioning. In reality, the smaller device size creates a larger problem.

As an owner of the Samsung Blackjack, I already thought that keyboards on PDA styled devices shouldn't get any smaller if they wished to remain useable. Apparently, Palm never realized this. The keyboard on the Centro is entirely too small to effectively type on. In order to hit only one button, I had to use the edge of my finger nail and, even then, it was tough. I can't imagine how anyone can be expected to type out an email or use the included instant messaging application with any kind of efficiency. The buttons are too small and too close to each other. The only good thing about the keyboard is the responsiveness that one expects from the keys (when you can actually press one) on a Palm device.

Moving past the frustrating keyboard, one's attention should be drawn to the screen and the Palm OS interface. Palm has finally increased their resolution to a slightly above standard 320*320. Unfortunately, the Palm OS UI does nothing to show off the beauty of the higher resolution display. The menus are nothing but a plain white background with basic icons consisting of few colors. I know, many of you may say that the UI shouldn't matter as long as it's useable and functional. That's fine and dandy, but with every other device on the market showing off vibrant colors and crystal clear displays, it would have been nice to see a little "flash" from the functional operating system.

I only had a few minutes to test out a display model, but the device was responsive, more so than other smartphones on the market. The browser opened very quickly and the device never seemed to drag its feet while switching between menus. In this case, the lack of eye candy probably helps, so I have to eat my words a little.

All in all, the Centro has a great price point and has some giddy up behind it. However, the overly thick size and frustratingly tiny keyboard make it more of a chore to use than a pleasure. Palm is on the right track, but there's work to be done. If they can manage to give the keyboard some space, one could easily look past the lack luster UI and find themselves with a very nice device at an even better price. Until they accomplish that, though, I simply cannot recommend the Centro to anyone looking to buy a smartphone.

View: Palm Centro

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