First off, I failed to cover this a couple of weeks ago. On June 12th the Palm Centro became available on the Verizon network. As is usual with the Centro, the standard price is $99.99 with a 2-year contract. But through July 6th it is eligible for the above deal, a $50 rebate that drops it to $49.99. And Verizon is offering a $29.99/month ‘email and web’ plan for the Centro.
And now, as of Monday, Palm is selling an unlocked GSM Palm Centro for $299. It is more than the $99.99 you can get with a subsidy locked phone from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, but those require a 2-year contract and only work on the purchase network. The unlocked GSM Centro has no contract requirements and it works on any GSM network, just stick in you SIM card.
And there’s more good news for all Centro owners. Google Mobile Maps has finally been updated for Palm OS, from 22.214.171.124 to 126.96.36.199 – including ‘My Location’. ‘My Location’ is a beta feature for Google Mobile Maps which uses the cellular network to estimate your location. It isn’t as accurate as GPS would be, but it can be pretty close. You can download it directly to your Centro by visiting http://m.google.com/gmm using the browser on the phone. Well, actually, I fibbed – it isn’t all Centro owners. My Location doesn’t work on the Sprint Centros – yet. Sprint users have to wait for a software update due this summer.
Actually, the update is available for all Palm OS Treo models as well. However, the ‘My Location’ feature only works on the Centro – for reasons yet to be explained. If you try to use it on a Treo, like my Treo 680, it tells you:
The My Location feature is not available for this device. It is available for Palm Centro phones.
Palm, and Google, claim that the issue is that the version of Palm OS on the Treo lacks the API’s required to support My Location. OK, well, I have an idea – update the blasted software to add the APIs! Is that really so hard? They’re doing it for the Sprint Centro!
Actually, it is worse than that. Reportedly the APIs are in the OS already, but they’re private so 3rd party developers like Google can’t access them. They’re used for the E911 location requirements for emergency services. So it would seem all Palm would have to do is make them public, as they are on the Centro.
I have a suspicion that it is really some stupid business decision to try to draw people to the Centro by giving it features the other models lack. Why do I suspect this? Because there is a freeware patch to GMM 188.8.131.52 for the GSM Treo 650 and 680 (sorry, not CDMA Treos nor the old Treo 600) which adds ‘My Location’ functionality! So, clearly, it isn’t a hardware issue on GSM Treos, and it isn’t even a big software issue if a 3rd party developer can hack together a patch! (It may well be possible for CDMA Treo’s as well, but the radio systems are different.) Even if the APIs used on the Centro are missing, it seems more like a convenient excuse. And, again, software can be updated. If Palm has any plans to do so it would be good customer relations to say so. At it stands it looks like they’re snubbing the users of their more expensive phones.
Things like this really make me less likely to stick by Palm, and more likely to jump to the first decent Android handset I can get. Heck, I’d even consider the iPhone now that it is 3G, if only they’d get it past 60GB storage so it could replace my iPod completely. And I’m not the only one upset by this, going by the comments on Palm’s blog. I’ll note that the moderate comments, so those comments are only those that Palm approved. And I know they haven’t approved all the comments they’ve received, because mine never appeared. Readers at Treonauts and Palm Infocenter are rather displeased as well.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive smartphone with a lot of capabilities, the Centro is the one I’d recommend. It has more features than many phones that cost far more. There are ‘feature phones’, which are a step down from smartphones, which cost more and don’t have as many features as the Centro, let alone the thousands of applications (many free) available for Palm OS. Palm could stand to improve their customer communications though.