Last year saw the revival of the “Palm” brand in pretty much the weirdest way possible — a tiny little Android phone that’s designed to be used alongside your normal Android phone. This is an interesting idea on paper, but the problem is that the Palm Phone is just more fun as a tiny phone.
What’s the purpose of the Palm Phone?
Palm pitches its new, tiny smartphone as a device that saves you from the time you waste on your current smartphone. The minuscule size is supposed to make it easier to bring the device around with you on a run or a weekend trip when you want to disconnect from work without cutting yourself off from friends or family.
As I said, this is a great idea in theory, and the hardware itself is suited for this. With a 3.3-inch display, the Palm Phone has a footprint so small that it fits in the coin pocket on your jeans. That size means you will likely not want to spend time watching videos or playing games. Rather, you’ll want to limit your time and just focus on what you need from your phone.
The software also encourages this with a super-basic homescreen and one-button navigation that you’re just not fully used to. It’s even got a built-in mode that shuts down all internet access to let you fully disconnect when you want to and just listen to music (there’s no headphone jack, obviously).
Then, there’s how the Palm Phone gets its connection. Verizon sells the device (exclusively) as a companion to your regular phone. A $10/month addition to your bill grants the Palm access to the network and lets it share the exact same phone number as your normal phone. Calls work pretty seamlessly between the two, but text messages are admittedly a pain as you’ll be required to use Verizon’s frankly awful Message+ app.
All of this makes sense on paper, but in practice, it just doesn’t work. Why’s that? Well for one, it depends on the user. If you’re not dead set on eliminating apps from your life, the Palm Phone is just a much smaller canvas to access them on. Since it runs a full version of Android with Play Store access, there’s nothing to stop you from downloading the same games and time-wasting apps as you’ve got on your regular phone. It’s a smaller, less powerful place to do that of course, but it won’t stop you.
Meanwhile, it’s just plain fun to use a device this small to do all of that. I’ve been using the Palm Phone off and on for quite a while, and every time I pick it up I just use it as a typical smartphone, and that’s because it’s just fun. It’ll get your friends talking when they see you whip it out to respond to a message or check Twitter, and you don’t really lose any functionality with it either.
And what doesnt?
That said, the battery, speaker, and camera are also pretty terrible, and those are really big deals at the end of the day. In my use, the Palm Phone used without having another device in the other pocket would be dead by dinnertime. The camera is also a travesty for the most part with dreadful low-light performance and a slow shutter. Those two alone would probably kill a purchase for many.
It’s a shame really that the Palm Phone can’t be sold without the Verizon tie-in. With its standard SIM card slot, I could see those who do truly want a smaller phone for a day or two using this by switching out their SIM card or even as an independent line with something like a Google Voice number on board (which works flawlessly by the way.)
The Palm Phone is absolutely adorable and I love pretty much everything about it, but it’s a novelty gadget at the end of the day. It’s also a gadget that has a very niche use case that, because of how it’s sold, only means fewer people will want to use it.
If it were sold unlocked and drastically cheaper (think around $199, or free on contract), the Palm Phone is something I could actually recommend to people who want a tiny Android device for music streaming. Even for its intended purpose and disconnecting from the rest of the world, it works. In its current state, though, this is a device that’s tough to recommend for anyone except a few people who just like the novelty.
If you fit in that market, Verizon is the exclusive seller of the Palm Phone.
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