Palm Centro Review
The Centro runs Palm OS, clocking in with version 5.4.9. It has not changed much over the years, and anyone who has ever used a Palm should feel comfortable picking up the Centro. In fact, users who have never used a PIM or smartphone before should be comfortable picking up the Centro too. As always, the Palm OS runs smooth and stable, and the layout couldn’t be more intuitive. Power users can find third party applications (both free and for a fee) that will allow them to do just about anything with their device. The beauty in Palm OS is that it is easy enough that new users won’t feel intimidated, yet it is powerful enough to be a true all-in-one unit.
That said, the OS is growing stale. The layout and basic functionality has not changed in nearly a decade. Features like a camera, web and multimedia players have been integrated since its initial inception, but the OS remains fundamentally unchanged. To be fair, the OS lends itself to seamless integration of new applications and features so functionality and ease-of-use remains without endless submenus. The OS is very customizable- the user has the ability to edit and create categories, as well as reassign any application to any category they see fit- but it lacks the personalization found with Windows Mobile. There are several color themes available, but they cannot be personalized. The user can only use a wallpaper in the phone screen, and that is at the expense of an on-screen dial pad. If Palm would incorporate a customizable home screen into the OS a-la Windows Mobile we feel it would do wonders for the aging OS.
The phonebook on the Centro is as robust as it comes. The user can store just about any piece of information they want with a contact and is limited only by available memory in the phone. You will find standards like multiple phone numbers and email address, photo caller ID and personalized ringtones onboard, and the user has room for multiple addresses, IM names, birthday and anniversary, 9 custom slots as well as a memo for each entry.
The contact list can be managed both from the device as well as from your computer using the included Palm Desktop software or Microsoft Outlook. Contacts can be beamed to other devices via either Infrared or Bluetooth, or can be sent by email.
Voice Control is the application that handles voice dialing. In addition to calling by either name or number, the user can also dictate emails, add calendar appointments, launch websites and check weather and stocks online all with their voice. There are no voice prompts like with VoiceSignal and it sometimes takes up to 30s to process a more complex command, but once you learn how to use it Voice Command is an excellent voice dictation program.
Palm Desktop or Outlook, and users can add and edit events on the go as well. It is the same calendar application Palm has used for years, and appointments can be set as a one-time or recurring event. Reminders can be assigned at any time interval, and appointments can be filed under customizable categories and tagged with notes. They can also be set to private, meaning that the user can choose to hide the events in the event that someone gets a hold of the device.
The Centro includes other PIM features, such as a Memos, Calculator Tasks and Voice Memo. These applications work exactly as one would expect them to. The user can store up to 100 minutes of voice memos, and the calculator features an advanced mode that not only offers features like a preload list of common constant numbers (Pi, Avogadro’s number, speed of light, etc) but also has several modes such as Trig, Finance, Statistics, Length and others. The World Clock features an alarm clock function, though that was not the first place we would have thought to look for an alarm.
Mobile Email is powered by Seven, and comes preloaded with configuration settings for AOL, AIM, Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail, but users can configure their personal Sprint PCS mail or any POP or IMAP client as well. It expands on the versions found handsets such as the Muziq and Katana DLX by incorporating a contact and file finder that pulls information from the Centro’s memory and allows for easy sending of attachments. Versamail is similar in function, and allows the user to set up POP and IMAP accounts, but also supports Exchange email.
As we have seen on the Treo, the SMS application on the Centro allows for threaded messaging. This is a wonderful feature, and allows text messages to basically become instant message conversations . We are not sure why more phones don’t incorporate this feature given the popularity of text messaging.
Sprint Mobile Instant Messaging is included and offers access to AIM, Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger. This program is free of charge, and is web-based so anyone with a data package (and who owns a smartphone without one?) can IM until their heart is content. Users can be signed into all three services simultaneously, and the program runs in the background which means users will have their IMs delivered to them even when the program isn’t being used.
Connectivity and Data:
The Centro is an EV-DO rev0 device, and so users can expect broadband-like speeds when downloading files and surfing the web. Using the included data cable or Bluetooth the phone is able to be tethered with a phone as modem plan from Sprint. The phone features Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR, meaning Bluetooth tethering will be similar to that with a cable. Other Bluetooth profiles supported HFP, HSP, A2DP, AVRC, and hot syncing is available as well.
As with any Palm device, Blazer is the native browser, and version 4.5.8 is found on the Centro. Blazer is capable of handling HTML pages and attempts to optimize them for the device, but it chokes up on larger pages. For example PhoneArena loaded well enough, but a more complex page such as ESPN.com took forever to load and was fairly unusable. YouTube videos were easily viewable via m.youtube.com (to which we were automatically directed,) but when switching to classic view the page took much longer to load and Blazer couldn’t handle the flash format.
The Palm Desktop software is included in the package and handles PC Sync. Users can choose to sync their contacts and calendar either with the program itself, or if they are already running Outlook they have the option to sync data with it. The sync program also allows for users to install third party applications to the phone; users download them to their computer, and then next time the phone syncs they will be installed on the device.