Palm Centro AT&T Review

Introduction and Design

For years the term “Treo” has been synonymous with smartphones; the line had become iconic, and the rumors and speculation surround new releases were once the talk of the mobile industry. Now-a-days, however, you’re more likely to find a BlackBerry or Windows device in the hands of a smartphone user, and many are criticizing Palm for resting on its laurels while others are innovating. Palm has responded, and the Sprint Centro set out to quiet those pundits. One million units later and the line is an undeniable success. AT&T is hoping to capture some of that lightning in a bottle with a GSM Centro of its own, but will the lack of 3G hurt the device?

Included in the box the user will find:
  • Handset
  • 1150mAh Li-Ion battery
  • Travel charger
  • PC Sync cable
  • Palm Desktop software CD
  • User manual


From the minute you pick the Centro up its obvious that the device is totally different than the Treo. While it retains the candy bar form factor found in most smartphones, it is smaller in all dimensions and feels wonderful in your hand. The Centro strikes a near perfect balance between thinness and narrowness; it’s narrow enough to be grasped comfortably and thick enough so that the device doesn’t feel fragile and get lost in your hand.

You can compare the Palm Centro to many other phones, using PhoneArena's Visual Size Compare tool.

The casing is two tone, both jet black and white versions will be available, with silver accents. The plastic casing is slippery, and while we would have preferred the soft-touch paint found on the 755p the construction is still good. Palm definitely skimped on materials to bring the Centro to market with such a low price-point, but that is not to say the device feels cheap.

The touchscreen is with 320x320 pixels, supports up to 65k colors, and is easy to read in all lighting conditions. Underneath the user will find a silver strip, flanked by the send and end buttons. In the center is the 5-way directional pad. To the right of the D-pad is the home and messaging buttons, to the left sits the phone and calendar keys. Buttons are easy to press and give good feedback.

At the bottom of the phone is a full QWERTY keyboard, with ALT, Shift, Backspace, Enter, 0 and context menu hard keys. The Shift key and keys containing numbers contrast with the rest of the keypad, making for easy differentiation. The black version has a sensible black keyboard with white contrast keys, but the white version has a white keypad with a God-awful puke/lime green contrast. When pictures first surfaced of the white Centro we thought it was a joke.

The keys themselves are constructed of a rubber-like material that makes them just grippy enough that size is not an issue. We had no learning curve using this keyboard, and within minutes of picking it up were already typing faster than we do on larger keypads. The keys are placed far enough apart, and there is auto-correction software onboard which generally fixes the occasional mis-type. We actually find ourselves preferring this keyboard to larger keypads found on models like the Q and even the Treos. We gave it to some people with larger fingers and they had no problem using it either.

The left side of the phone houses the volume rocker at the top, with a programmable side key just below. On the right is the Infrared port and a pretty much hidden microSD slot. Unlike the Sprint version, there is no sticker to tip users to the presence of the door, and it is integrated almost seamlessly into the silver trim that rings the sides of the phone. The slot is pretty hard to open, and users without fingernails will find themselves removing the battery door to access the microSD card.

That battery door monopolizes the back of the phone, but at the top the user will find the speaker and 1.3 megapixel camera. The stylus tucked away at the top left, and on the right is a rubber plug that hides an external antenna port. Along the top of the phone is a sliding switch that quickly puts the phone into vibrate, and the bottom is the standard Palm charging/data port.

Overall, we have found the design of the Centro to be excellent. It is as close to perfect as we have encountered for a full featured smartphone, and it’s hard to describe just how great this device feels to use. The Centro is a major upgrade from the already good 750/755p design. It is good to see Palm put some forward thinking into the design of their devices.

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