Palm – My thoughts on the mini-smartphone

This diddy smartphone is on Vodafone and you can get one here for £31 per month. In the USA this has been sold as a “companion phone” which I can sort of understand.

See, I’m a little confused.

It’s like Brexit in a way. There’s really no middle ground. You’re either Remain or Leave.

Hmm.. I’m going to struggle a little with this analogy, especially as every politician seems to have their own ideas of what should happen, but let’s go with it. See, for years we’ve had smartphones looking the same. They’re all big-ass screens and beautifully flat. We like them. We love them, but they’re all a bit similar.

Deep down, there’s a want to have something different. A new design. Something that wasn’t just another shiny slate. The BlackBerry, with that physical keypad, looked interesting. Even the old Nokia 3310 raised a lot of eyebrows. YES! Phones could be interesting again.

But…. like Brexit, when you actually paid your money and took that BlackBerry or Nokia 3310 home… was it everything you hoped?

That’s where I am with this thing, but let’s take another look at it first.

It’s a beautiful little device, and sits nicely somewhere between a “normal” smartphone and the ultra-tiny Unihertz phones. To begin with I quote liked the Palm screen (a 3.3″ 1280 x 720 pixel panel) as there’s a custom “finger-friendly” menu system which increases the size of app icons to make them easy to launch.

In all honest I’m always quite surprised to see how easily Android deals with different screen sizes and orientations. It just seems to work. However, there’s no real getting around the fact that, once in your favourite app, you’ve got that standard on-screen keyboard. Yes, you can download bigger keyboards and yes, you can get GBoard or something similar to swipe your words in. You also get a quick-entry system where you just draw a letter and it brings up any contacts or apps that start with that letter – it’s a good way to open what you need.

You’ve got to decide, I guess, whether to give up that extra real estate in exchange for a very unnoticeable handset. You can pop this in your pocket and, as I found out, you can forget it’s actually there. This actually nearly ended up in the washing machine because it’s about the size of a credit care and just 7.4mm thick.

In the US this has been sold as a “companion” phone, sitting alongside your main phone. You can take it out with you and switch on the “Life” mode to minimize distraction from the various apps on your device. It also, and let’s be honest here, reduces battery usage. It’s got an 800mAh battery which, I’ll be honest, isn’t really enough unless you switch on that “Life Mode”. If it’s on that mode, you’ll easily get a day of usage, however if you use it like a normal phone then you won’t get as long as you’d like.

The Palm has water and dust resistance and feels great in the hand. It measures in at just 96.5 x 50.5 mm and has a lovely aluminium frame with Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and back.

Inside there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 octa-core 1.4 GHz CPU with 3GB RAM and you get 32GB of storage plus a microSD card slot for more. It’s certainly quick enough and you don’t struggle a great deal with multi-tasking.

On the sides, as you’ll have seen in the video, there’s no volume controls. Instead it’s all on-screen and in all honesty it doesn’t feel like you’re losing a great deal.

On the back, a single 12 megapixel camera which is actually rather good. It has an LED flash too. Up front, an 8 megapixel shooter for your selfie shots.

The usual WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS technology is here and I tested out Strava and Google Maps – it was quite weird trying to put this tiny thing in my car phone holder to navigate around, but it worked perfectly well.

In my earlier story I showed off the cool finger-friendly GUI, plus the camera quality, so do take a look to learn more. However, for me I was split…

– Yes, I do want to see phones that look a bit “different”.
– I do like to see an increased design choice of smartphone.
– This phone raised a lot of eyebrows when I carried it around.
– Using it as your main phone, especially if you’re doing lots of data-entry, could be tricky.

That last point – if you’re keen to add lots of Twitter or Facebook updates – is important. Without “Life Mode” the battery won’t last very long with that level of data and screen use. You’ll also have to cope with the smaller screen.

This, then, is for someone who does want a smartphone. They want a phone that’ll do all the usual Android stuff, maybe play a few games, but you don’t want to be interrupted by social media updates or emails. It’s a phone that can sit in your pocket without you even thinking about it and, if and when you actually want it, it’s there for you.

For more, check out the first part of my review below, or get one on Vodafone