Wireless companies for years have told us smart phones would burst into the mainstream. We're still waiting. The iPhone added to the allure for more people, but at $400, it remains too expensive for all but true believers. Now Palm hopes to start reaching a true mass market with a fully equipped smart phone that can be had for only $100.
The Palm Centro is arriving this week at Sprint; the price requires a two-year contract and monthly data plan. The Centro is an attractive, smaller, more rounded version of the Palm Treo, from which it draws its powers. The Centro is only a fraction of an inch smaller than the Treo 700, but it feels considerably smaller, partly because it weighs a third less. And the Centro can do just about everything a Treo can.
The phone has a camera, a multimedia player, Bluetooth, and a speakerphone, and it connects to Sprint's high-speed data network. It also has a hardware keyboard that makes it adept at E-mail and text messaging. That means it has a smaller screen than the iPhone, which eschewed keys in favor of simplicity and screen space.
The Centro is clearly aimed at a different crowd from the iPhone, one that's more interested in getting things done than playing music, snapping photos, or playing videos—though it can do all of those. But like the iPhone, it is targeting consumers with its camera and fun, red color as an option (only black is available at first, though). With its smaller screen, the Centro may not be an iPhone killer. But its price may breathe life into smart phones.