First Look: Palm Centro Smart Phone

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Music and TV

The Centro comes with the Deluxe version of the PTunes music player, a nice addition. The preinstalled music sounded surprisingly robust through the device's rear speaker, but you have to be careful not to block the speaker by placing the phone on a desk with the display face up.

You also get Sprint's Music Manager software, which made transferring tunes easy. You'll need an expansion card if you want to play a lot of music, however, because the device comes with just 65MB of memory available to users--and you'll want to reserve some of that for applications.

The Centro's unmpressive 1.3-megapixel camera captures images at either at 1X or 2X digital zoom, and it can record a short amount of video. Image quality was adequate but nothing special, and Palm doesn't provide the image-editing tools that some phones with cameras now include.

I can't report back on Sprint TV: For some reason, when I tried to play trailers, the bundled Kinoma player stated that the format was not supported. Stay tuned.

Other Apps

The Centro comes with several other useful applications, including the excellent Palm client for Google Maps and DataViz's Documents to Go for at least basic editing of Microsoft Office applications. And I was a fan of the bundled Astraware Sudoku game before my Centro ever saw the light of day.

Sprint is offering two no-maximum data plans for the Centro. For $25 a month you can download unlimited e-mail and do unlimited Web browsing--but for unlimited text messaging (and IMs count as text messages) you have to purchase the $30-a-month plan. Though that isn't cheap, it's not out of line for 3G data services on a nationwide network.

When Palm came by the offices of PC World to show us a preproduction Centro last month, we were impressed by what we saw. The production unit largely lives up to that promise. It's not the most beautifully crafted cell phone available, but it's a good-looking contemporary handset looks--unlike the Treo, I'm sorry to say. And the low price certainly helps.

So while I'm waiting for a device that will support my legacy Palm apps and also provide the extras that I state-of-the-art devices on a competing platform offer, the Centro may turn out to be a satisfactory stopgap.

We'll update with a PC World rating once we perform battery tests. Again, stay tuned.

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