After Palm launched the Treo 500, it was apparent that the once business-focused company was starting to stretch its legs and make a run for the consumer world. The Centro is a further move into the consumer domain but is this smaller Palm device what consumer users really want? We spent some quality time with it to find out.
It's currently available SIM-free from the Palm Web site for around £200 and we've been informed that it will also be available soon on a major network for free with a monthly contract.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Centro was just a carbon copy of the Treo 500, but it's much smaller. It's not as thin as phones such as the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8110, HTC S620 or Samsung i600, but it feels comfortable to hold while texting or making a call. It's also not too heavy or light and slips comfortably into a pocket.
Although the Centro's layout is almost identical to the Treo 500's, the full Qwerty keypad has a much more squashed design. While it's not difficult to use, the keypad isn't for the large-thumbed and you need to use the tips of your thumbs to type properly.
We like the large navigation key and large dedicated function keys but as with the Treo 500, we feel it's unnecessary to use up so much space for these keys. They could be smaller and free up some space to make the keypad larger. Interestingly, there is a well-sized on-screen keypad for dialling but not for texting.
The Centro's interface is straightforward: most of the icons make sense and they're all labelled clearly. You can navigate the menu using the Centro's navigation key or touchscreen but it's not always finger-friendly and you might find using the provided stylus is easier.
Although this phone is aimed squarely at the youth market, the Centro still has all the Palm features that you'd associate with a business phone including access to email -- Gmail and Yahoo -- as well as support for Microsoft Exchange and a third party document app that lets you view and edit Microsoft documents.
On the consumer front, there's a basic 1.3-megapixel camera that doesn't do anything spectacular. You can shoot pictures and video and send them to friends via Bluetooth, email or MMS. Palm hasn't included an LED photo light or a xenon flash, which is unfortunate for those wishing to take pictures in less than sunny conditions.
We were equally disappointed with the Centro's MP3 player. It isn't very intuitive but does let you set your music to shuffle and create playlists. There's no built-in 3.5mm jack for a standard pair of headphones or an adaptor in the box. It's also a shame that there's no stereo Bluetooth, but we can live without it.