Few tech brands trigger nostalgia for me like Palm. My first PDA was a Palm V, and my first smartphone was a HandSpring Visor Prism with the VisorPhone attachment. Bulky by today’s standards, but at the time this was cutting edge.
This isn’t the space to chronicle Palm’s epic fall from grace, but suffice it to say I never thought I would hold a Palm-branded phone in my hand again. And yet…
Thankfully, a startup in San Francisco has brought back the Palm brand. When the new Palm Phone was launched, it was a Verizon exclusive, and only meant to work as a “sidekick” phone. This did not excite me. While I get the idea of being able to leave your phone behind for a run or whatnot, I think a smartwatch with LTE is a better choice in that regard. But then they announced that no, the Palm Phone will also work as a stand-alone phone and is unlocked for any network and I went “Okay mayyyybe”. Then they sent me one and… woah.
The first thing that strikes you about the Palm Phone is the size. While every other company has gone larger and larger, Palm went tiny. My son actually asked if it was a phone for toddlers.
The Palm is roughly the height and width of some credit cards, as you can see in the photo below. It’s thicker, of course, but I have thicker pens. In short, it’s small enough to forget about.
At the same time, it grabs attention whenever I take it out. I spent three days using it as my main phone in public and had a dozen people stop to ask me what phone I had. I actually had four people request the URL to purchase it. And before you ask, we’ll get to that.
Looks aren’t everything of course: how does it feel to use a phone so small? Not bad! The Qualcomm 435 chip inside is speedy, and while you’re probably not going to stream Netflix on the 3.3” 720p screen, you could very well do so without stuttering. It even does okay in daylight. 32 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM make for a fairly strong mid-range device. The only things holding it back are the 800 mAh battery, which—let’s be honest—is to be expected on a phone this size. You’ll have to remember your charger and charge at least twice a day if you’re a heavy user. Note that the Palm gets a little warm at times.
There are no volume controls on the Palm or headphone jack. In fact the only port is a single USB-C. Thankfully, the 8 MP selfie camera does an exceptional job handling face unlock. On the other hand, the single rear 12 MP camera with flash may not be on the level of what you’re used to from a flagship phone, but it’s more than I was expecting. Colors looked correct and light balance was nice. See for yourselves.
Software is a main feature of the Palm. Android 8.1 has been skinned to resemble some elements of past Palm phones, and the default keyboard is a Flesky install that really looks like a webOS keyboard to me (I am actually planing on installing Graffiti Pro for the nostalgia factor). The home screen and app launcher have been melded together, and you can choose to have a navigation layer, or tap the three dots on the bottom of the screen in different patterns.
Personally, I’m anti-skinning of Android. I tried installing NovaLauncher and using the Palm as a slightly more traditional phone, but it didn’t feel right.
Even with another launcher you can still take advantage of Life Mode. By turning this feature on, you will not get calls or texts when your screen is off. It’s a great feature for disconnecting, and a step further than just turning off your ringer or setting up Do Not Disturb. It helped me step back further from my tech.
Call quality on the Verizon network was exceptional as expected in my region. Data was fast and stutter-free. I was wondering if the smaller antenna size would be an issue, but nope!
Who is This For?
Would I buy the Palm myself? I’m not sure. I need a battery that can get through the day, since I’m on the road a lot. But at the same time, I really loved having a phone I could throw in my pocket and forget. I’m strongly considering putting my Key2 away for a bit, pairing my TicWatch to the Palm, and using it as my main device. After all, I have a tablet already. Why should I need an almost-tablet-size phone?
I also know at least two tinkerers who want this phone, including a magician who is considering how he can integrate the Palm into his act. It’s small enough to hide for shows. I bet Palm wasn’t thinking about that when they made this. And if the custom ROM community ever makes a pure Android version for this puppy, that would be amaaaaazing.
Still though, $350 is a lot. Which is why Palm is offering an exclusive deal to our GeekDad readers: Use this link (or code Geek75 at checkout) for $75 off. This brings it down to a very manageable $274.
If you’re someone who doesn’t need a “phablet” but still wants a smart phone, and want a good deal, then I strongly recommend the Palm.
As I finished this review, I came across my Palm Pre, and realized something: the new Palm Phone is the size of the Pre’s screen. I know it’s too much to hope that the next Palm handset brings back the awesome slider form factor, but ah, to dream.
Note: Palm sent me the Palm Phone and patiently waited through the Jewish High Holidays for me to get on this. Such nice boys – their mothers are very proud I am sure.