Are Palm Treo 800w, Centro Signs Of A Palm Comeback?

With yesterday's release of the Palm Treo 800w (pictured), a leaner, meaner version of the mobile device maker's signature smart phone, and the sweeping success of its starter smart phone, the Palm Centro, all eyes are on Palm as the once-struggling device maker tries to recapture the mindshare it held back when its mobile Palm Pilots were all the rage.

It'll be an uphill battle for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Palm, for sure. Industry experts have said it needs to continue to introduce new device form factors and revamp its own Palm OS before it can latch onto some of the fervor that surrounds competing smart phone giants like the Apple iPhone, which released its second generation 3G model last week; Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd.'s BlackBerry roster, which includes the Pearl, Curve and the soon-to-be released BlackBerry Bold; Nokia; and the up-and-comer the Samsung Instinct from Sprint.

Research firm Gartner said as of the first quarter, Palm still lagged behind the competition with just 2.9 percent of global smart phone market share. Palm follows No. 1 Nokia, which holds 45.2 percent of the market; BlackBerry-maker RIM, which placed second with 13.4 percent; and Apple, which was vaulted to third place by the iPhone, giving it 5.3 percent market share. But with all device makers creating new phones and jockeying for position, this quarter's numbers are sure to shake the industry.

For its part, Palm has unleashed a fury in the past several months hoping to regain some market share. Here we take a look at the Palm Treo 800w and the various Palm Centro smart phones, devices Palm hopes will give it a new-found competitive edge.

With yesterday's release of the Palm Treo 800w, which runs Microsoft Windows Mobile Professional 6.1, Palm is hoping to capitalize on the ever spreading Apple iPhone 3G fever. The latest version of Palm's signature handset measures 4.4 x 2.3 x 0.7 inches and weighs in at 5 ounces, making it slimmer and more streamlined than earlier Treo iterations. The 800w also features GPS (pictured), Wi-Fi and EVDO Rev. A.

Along with new features, the Palm 800w features the enterprise staples that once made the Treo a household name, such as integration with corporate applications like email (pictured) and Microsoft Office applications like PowerPoint and Excel.

The device offers a 320 x 320 resolution touch screen with a full QWERTY keypad and features a 2.0-megapixel camera with camcorder, built-in media player and stereo Bluetooth. It also features a MicroSD card slot for up to 8 GB of memory.

Currently, the 800w is available from Sprint and lists for $599, but is available for $249.99 with a two-year contract after $250 instant savings and a $100 mail-in rebate.

The Treo 800w follows Palm's recent success with the Palm Centro, a device that Palm has said is geared more toward first-time smart phone users than the smart phone purists wooed by the Treo. Palm said as of March 31 it had already sold 1 million Centros since its launch in September, mainly due to its attractive sub-$100 price tag when paired with a wireless contract. Palm is now setting its sights on the 2 million mark, which the device-maker said will probably happen soon.

Last week, Palm and ATandT introduced the electric blue Centro as a limited time promotion available from Friday July 11 through Sept. 20. The electric blue model (pictured here) features all of the same capabilities as other ATandT Centros, but adds in ATandT services like XM Radio Mobile, Push to Talk, MusicID, TeleNav GPS Navigator and MobiTV.

If the electric blue is a bit too, well, electric, ATandT also offers the Centro in basic black (pictured). The Centro offers a full QWERTY keyboard with a 2.2-inch touch-screen that lets users transfer data or go hands-free with USB, Bluetooth and infrared connectivity. The device gives users access to mobile email, Instant Messenger from AIM, Yahoo and Windows Live, and Push-To-Talk. It also enables users to snap pictures and record video with a 1.3 megapixel camera and store it on a 4GB microSD memory card.

ATandT's Palm Centro is also available in glacier white (pictured). It offers the same functionality and features as the black and electric blue models.

As an added bonus, ATandT recently launched a special promotion offering Centro buyers the device for $69.99 with a two-year contract and a mail-in rebate, a great deal cheaper than ATandT is offering the Apple iPhone 3G, and you won't have to wait in line.

Verizon Wireless last month announced that it too would begin offering the Palm Centro and honoring the $99.99 price with a contract. Verizon's Centro is a slick cobalt blue (pictured) and is available through Verizon's online store, at Verizon Wireless stores and select retailers like Circuit City.

Verizon's Centro, which runs Palm OS 5.4.9 and supports EVDO wireless, hits all typical marks of a true smart phone, offering voice, text messaging, mobile email and Web access through a full-color 320 x 320 resolution touch-screen and QWERTY keypad. It weighs in at 4.2 ounces with the battery and measures 2.1 inches long, 4.2 inches wide and 0.7 inches deep.

On the mobile email side, Verizon's Palm Centro uses VersaMail 4.0 with built-in Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support for Microsoft Direct Push Technology. Direct push delivers email and calendar updates from a home or office PC using Outlook and pushes it directly to the handset. Centro users also have the option to enable Wireless Sync, Verizon's proprietary email solution to access personal or corporate email, contacts, calendar and tasks for their PC. Verizon said Wireless Sync supports both POP3 and IMAP email accounts and it supports major corporate email accounts through Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes and IBM Lotus Domino.

Much like with the Palm Treo 800w, Sprint had the Palm Centro first, announcing it on Sept. 27, 2007. At the time of the release, Palm said the "Centro is the smallest and lightest Palm phone to date. Centro has a modern, stylish look that feels comfortable in the hand, pocket or evening purse."

Sprint's Centro (shown here in Onyx black) lets users text co-workers and friends, manage email, keep track of their schedules, check stock quotes, watch YouTube videos, take and share pictures, browse restaurant reviews on Yelp and get directions from Google Maps, all on Sprint's Mobile Broadband Network.

Along with the black model, Sprint also offers a ruby red Palm Centro (pictured), It offers the same access to corporate applications and features Microsoft Direct Push Technology for delivery of Outlook corporate email.

Additionally, both the black and red Centro models from Sprint offer users access to a host of Sprint-only features and functions like Sprint TV, which lets users watch live or on-demand video; Sprint Picture Mail, which lets users store and send digital pictures from the mobile device; Sprint IM, which extends instant communication with access to Yahoo! Messenger, AIM and MSN Messenger; and Sprint Mobile eMail, which lets users access up to three email accounts from their device, including AOL, Windows Live and Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! and more.

And while ATandT, Verizon and Sprint are offering the Palm Centro at an attractive $99 price tag, the device maker last month also launched an "unlocked" Centro for $299. The unlocked Centro (pictured) can be used on any wireless carrier that supports quad-band GSM wireless, which operates at 850/900/1800/1900 MHz. And while the unlocked Centro doesn't offer 3G support, it supports 2.5G on the EDGE network.

The unlocked Centro, like the Centros available from the carriers, weighs in at 4.4 ounces and measures 4.2 x 2.1 x 0.73 inches. It features a 320 x 320 resolution touch screen and a full QWERTY keypad. In addition, the Centro features Bluetooth support, a microSD slot for up to 4 GB of expanded memory and a 1.3-megapixel camera with two times zoom and video capture.

The unlocked Centro comes in white with a grey number pad and accents.