A (former, not-so) new Palm fan

Author's Note: Well, folks, it's time for another episode of "From the Archives"! The show where I take those old draft blog posts that I never published, flesh them out and add this lame intro, and then publish them so that I don't have to bother coming up with new content!

Today's post is my review of my very first smart phone, a Palm Centro. Of course, it was only sort of smart, because I was too cheap to pay for a data plan, which was kind of pricey at the time. Still, I really liked that phone. On the next upgrade (because Verizon was still doing the "upgrade every two years for an absurdly low price" thing in those days), I actually ended up downgrading to a dumb-phone. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it's OK, because two years later i finally got a real smart phone (I believe it was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus) and never looked back.

Anyway, I figured this might be an interesting bit of retrospective trivia. This post was written on December 1, 2008, so cellt phones have obviously changed a lot since them. Enjoy!

Well, early last month I had my cell phone upgrade day. I dropped into the Verizon Wireless store on election day and picked out new phones for Sarah and myself.

For the first time since we signed up with Verizon, I got 2 different phones. For Sarah, I eventually settled on the Samsung Sway. Her requirements were pretty basic (camera, text and picture messaging, downloadable games and ringtones) with the one exception that she didn't want a clamshell design. Our last 2 phones were clamshells and she wanted something more like our first phone - a stick phone. Of course, they don't really make stick phones anymore, so I figured the sliding design of the Sway would be close enough. So far, she seems to like it well enough. The only problem is that Verizon, in their infinite suckiness, seems to have disabled the ability to set MP3 ringtones from files stored on the microSD card. Typical customer-hostile behavior.

I, on the other hand, totally geeked out this time and got a basic smart phone. I'd been going back and forth for a while, but I ended up going with the Palm Centro. So far I absolutely love it.

The Palm Centro, courtesy of Engadget

The Centro may be the low-end model (as compared to, say, the Treo), but it gives me pretty much everything I've always wanted in a cell phone. The reason I chose a smart phone was that I was tired of being limited by what Verizon decided I should be able to do. With a feature phone, you are limited not just by the hardware, but also by your provider's firmware. If Verizon decides you shouldn't be able to create custom ringtones or copy files over OBEX, you're out of luck. But a smart phone is just a very small computer - that's the main selling point. You have enough control over the system to add features and do some customization.

Let me start with the things I don't like about the Centro. There aren't many.
1) The single most annoying thing is the battery cover. It feels a bit flimsy and is hard to get off. This wouldn't be a problem, except that you need to get to the battery relatively often.
2) Relating back to point 1, you need to open up the battery cover to get to the microSD port. At least you don't need to take the batter out, but it's still annoying. The fact that the Centro has a side door for the card which you can't open with the battery case on just adds insult to injury.
3) Again, relating back to the battery, is the fact that the phone will actually crash on occasion. I haven't had any problems with the bundled software so far, but a few add-on programs have caused the phone to lock. And, of course, the only fix for that is to reboot the phone by taking out the battery.
4) Three words: non-standard data port. Seriously, what's wrong with micro USB? Plus, my data cable has a habit of falling out if I move the phone around the desk. Maybe that's just me.

Those are my only real non-fixable complaints. There are some other annoyances, but many of those are actually fixable by installing additional software. I'll get into a few of those must-have toys and utilities in another post. (Author's note: it's now 12 years later, so yeah, that's not gonna happen.)

So what do I like about the Centro? Pretty much everything else. On the hardware end, it's fairly nice. The touch screen is very handy and the QWERTY keyboard, despite being extremely small, is actually surprisingly easy to use. Yet despite the decent screen size and keyboard, the Centro still isn't that much bigger than a feature phone. It also has something I've never seen before - a physical switch to set the phone to vibrate mode. Still not entirely sure whether I like that or not, but it's certainly different.

On the software side, you actually get a fairly decent set of base programs to work with. The included PIM software - calendar, address book, todo list, memo app - actually isn't too bad. They also throw in a copy of Documents To Go, which can open MS Office files and PDFs. Unfortunately, the PDF viewer kind of sucks, but the Word document viewer seems pretty decent. And, of course, I was able to install a NES emulator, which is awesome to have right on your phone.

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