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Centro Intro: pt 1: Get to Know Your Centro

Wed Nov 28, 2007 - 9:35 AM EST - By Jay Gross


Centro does it all, or most of it, at least. It doesnít pour your Wheaties, or bake your bread, but that little powerhouse you just got will let you browse the web, send and receive e-mail, IMís and SMSís, listen to MP3ís, and a whole lot more. Oh yeah, itís a phone, too.

It looks great while doing all of that, and it doesnít weigh you down. Maybe youíve already figured out how to use some or all of the sweet features, but come with me and letís explore Centro.

First things first. Fashion! What color is your Centro? I held out for the daring red model, naturally. I appropriated a white cloth lanyard that I got with a Smartphone Experts case for one of my other cellphones. When I go out, I wear the Centro like a necklace, daring all who approach to admire its beauty. So far, so good. The phone is admirably small and sleek, and it does so much I hardly know where to start, but here goes.

For the record, Iím writing this for Newbies, the market that Palm is hoping to reach with the Centro, so weíll try to keep the verbiage in this series simple and avoid complicated references to Things Beyond Human Understanding - like operating systems and marketing. This is the first of several articles, so if thereís some burning question on your mind, send me an e-mail (click the byline) and Iíll try to answer in the next installment, or in the TreoCentral Centro forum. In fact, for a great experience, you can post a question to the forum and probably get a quick answer from someone who hangs out there. In fact, do a search before you post, and you might find that your questionís already been asked and answered and you donít even have to look any further. TreoCentralís forums are open to everyone. You donít have to be a customer to view them.

What it is

Weíll explore all of these bulleted items in this and other installments, but hereís a quick list of what you get when you opt for a Centro:

  • A phone, of course. Since Sprint currently has an exclusive from Palm, your phone will connect to and operate only on Sprintís high-speed network. The low or high speed of a cellular network doesnít matter much for talking on the phone, but it makes a major difference for your digital information exchange, like browsing the web and doing e-mail. Youíll know if youíre not on a high speed network. Snails come to mind, limping, and I donít mean the kind that deliver (bah! old-tech!) paper mail to your door.
  • A music player. Your Centro will play any MP3 music that you feed it, and you can simply load it up from files on your computer, as Iíve wished in these very columns. A sweet little utility comes with it for this purpose. That means youíre not limited to buying songs over the air (ďOTAĒ is the affectionate term) and downloading them.
  • An SMS machine. Ahhh, the joys of a full, albeit small, QWERTY keyboard. Iíve never understood how anyone managed to send SMSís with anything else. I had a phone with the capability for years, but couldnít even manage to keep my contacts in it, on account of the hassle of dealing with the number pad to get letters. Klutzy! On the other hand, Centro gives you a real, button-intensive, mechanical (and electronic) keyboard, so you can wax poetic with your friends in SMSís galore. In fact, while youíre signing up for your data plan Ė I recommend ďunlimited,Ē if you plan to do much web browsing, Googling, or Google Maps Ė consider adding the ďunlimited SMSĒ option. It doesnít cost much extra, but per-message charges can mount up quickly. Remember you get charged for incoming as well as outgoing SMSís, so if you encourage people to text you, well, you know. I put unlimited SMS on both of my Sprint accounts, but really, I only need it on one.
  • E-mail and IM powerhouse. The same joy that applies to SMSíing works just as well for e-mail and instant messaging. Namely: QWERTY. Nuff said. Weíll devote a whole section to this issue later in the series, explaining the setup process in detail, but it really is quite easy, especially if youíve ever set up an email reader on a computer. I count ďmultimediaĒ messages as e-mail, but Centro handles that too. Youíre better off using e-mail, however, so you wonít have to worry about incompatibilities with the recipientís device.
  • A computer. Okay, I know weíre approaching the fringe of Stuff Thatís Complicated here, but thereís a good reason to have a computer in your pocket (purse?), or hanging around your neck. The reason is: power. The little computer that is your Centro keeps track of your appointments with Calendar, keeps voice or text notes, and offers a bundle of calculators to handle most anything. With one or more of the thousands of available programs that will run on the Centro, you can install inexpensive software to perform specialized tasks for getting organized, storing and retrieving information, and performing creative tasks.
  • Game box. The Centroís screen is small, but the fact that itís a touch screen brings joy to my latent gamerís heart. There are thousands of games available, many of them free or way inexpensive, but weíll delve into those in a later installment, just as soon as I get over my obsession withÖ well, never mind.
  • Camera. The Centroís built-in digital camera has a fixed-focus lens, no flash, and only a megapixel of resolution, so it isnít much to write home about. Still, youíll find it plenty for snapping shots of your friends to associate with their phonebook entries so you can see whoís calling. Indeed, for many utilitarian purposes, itís probably adequate. With some image processing, and attention to some details, you can get nearly decent results. If you need a good digital camera, however, Centro isnít it. Iím extra picky about cameras, being a recovering commercial photographer, so weíll take a close look at this marvel of mediocrity in due time.
  • Document store. Through a program called Docs To Go, which comes with it, Centro can read and write some popular file formats for word processing and spreadsheets. Work that you do on a larger computer can thereby be transported on your Centro to the comfort of a coffeehouse for further reading or revision, and work you do on the fly, so to speak, will be easily edible by Microsoft Word, or Excel when you get them onto your laptop or desktop computer.

So what?

Now the biggest question of all: ďSo whatís the big deal?Ē Answer: Thatís just it. There isnít any big deal. Centro does all this quietly and unobtrusively, with a simple, versatile user interface that doesnít get in the way. Itís an easy learning process, but because it does so much you might find it a little daunting at first. Persevere. Youíll find that you can use most of it one-handed, keeping your other hand for important tasks like dunking biscotti (NOT driving, please!), and you can choose to operate the device with the stylus, or with the keyboard, or with the 5-way navigator buttons, or any combination thatís convenient.

The Palm thing-in-life is that their smartphones, including Centros, are synchronizable. You can also connect your Centro to a computer and keep its data matched, move music and programs to and from its clutches, and back up any data that it contains. Indeed, you can reap the benefits of hooking the Centro up to a larger computer when you face the task of typing your initial Contacts entries. Type them on the larger computer and perform a ďHotSync.Ē Theyíll land on the Centro like magic.

Tip: Be sure to explore the joys of HotSync before you get too much data into Centroís clutches, so itíll all be restorable from the computer, in case of disaster. More on this topic, too, in later installments of this series.


There are things I donít like about the Centro Ė its uninspiring camera, for example Ė but overall itís an impressive critter. I love mine, and Iím looking forward to further exploration of its features and functions here, in the hope of turning you on to your Centro, too. Ah, but all thatís another story, on hold for another part in this on-going series. The good news is: weíll take off next time from the very beginning, with a shopping trip.

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