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Jewish World Review
February 29, 2008
/ 23 Adar, 5768
A centro for GSM users
The Palm Centro, first introduced about four months ago in a
then-exclusive deal with Sprint, is branching out in life. Now, you
can get one at your local AT&T store, again for $99.99, with a
two-year contract. When your reviewer first examined the Centro three
months ago, I speculated that a GSM-based unit would be of interest.
Now it's possible to test that theory, since AT&T's wireless network
is based on the Global Standard for Mobile, or GSM, used worldwide by
many carriers. A GSM phone should function as easily in Sweden as it
does in Springfield.
As with the Sprint version, there's some extra multimedia available,
which gives the phone something in the way of competition with Apple's
wildly successful iPhone. The Centro's screen is smaller than the
iPhone's, 320-by-320 pixels versus 320-by-480 for the iPhone. But it's
not unreadable or unusable for video. You don't get the same
experience as the iPhone, which can switch from portrait to landscape
mode automatically, something unnecessary in the Centro's square
display, I guess. However, it's good enough for many applications,
such as the mobile TV service AT&T offers for an extra $9.99 per
Like the other version, the Centro offers a 1.3 megapixel camera,
something I believe is essential for a mobile phone these days. That's
about one-third less resolution than the iPhone, but it's sufficient
for many purposes; if the subject is in sufficient focus, for example,
a newspaper should be able to use a 1.3 megapixel camera's photo in
Multimedia and photos are nice touches, but the main purpose of any
phone, of course, must be for voice and, increasingly, data calls. On
these points the Centro scores quite well.
The AT&T network is getting better all the time; in and around
Washington, D.C., I've had few problems making or receiving calls. A
highlight came in the Ft. McHenry Tunnel under Baltimore Harbor,
which, apparently, is wired for cellular service. Thee Centro
performed there admirably.
Data is, as mentioned, a growing element of cell phone usage. Here,
the Centro and AT&T do not disappoint. Using Palm's Blazer Web
browser, I could retrieve most Web pages easily, as well as access my
e-mail using Web portals. For an additional $9.99 per month - a price
AT&T seems to like - one can also utilize a GPS navigation feature
that includes turn-by-turn voice directions. I would imagine this
being particularly interesting to those who travel frequently in the
U.S. and don't want to schlep, or rent, a GPS device for their cars.
There are three stand-alone e-mail options for the Centro, including
AT&T's own e-mail software, XpressMail, Good Mobile Messaging,
and the Palm VersaMail e-mail client. My personal preference
has been to use the Palm software, but all three seem good options
alongside Web-based e-mail.
Those who are Palm devotees will find the usual array of Palm
software, including that for contacts and calendar management. These
elements can sync with Windows and Mac computers, a not-unimportant
asset for the mobile worker. After all, what good is being a road
warrior if you can't easily take your information with you?
And how is typing on the small, QWERTY-esque keyboard of the Centro?
Not bad at all, thanks for asking. It's not as thumb-friendly as your
average Research In Motion BlackBerry, but it's not bad, and the
notion of using a separate key to invoke the numeric keypad, the only
way to type numbers, quickly becomes second nature.
In terms of price, performance and portability, then, the Centro from
Palm is a winning product. Many users already know its interface, and
the price $349 without a new contract, $99.99 with a two-year pact
-- is reasonable. I liked the Centro before, and now am more
enthusiastic since is arrival on the GSM platform, which makes it a
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com