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Craving a Palm Clamshell Phone

Mon Oct 20, 2008 - 4:17 PM EDT - By Jennifer Chappell


I was reading over at Endgadget Mobile this morning and saw an article about some new Sprint phones coming out. One of them is the LG Lotus, which is a unique square flip phone that reveals a full QWERTY keyboard when opened.

Holy drool bucket! I just Love the design of the Lotus, and the purple and black color combination is beautiful. This is the first flip phone that I've drooled over in a long time. The Lotus supports up to a 12GB SD card and has a 2.0MP camera and camcorder. If I didn't have a Treo and a Centro and I was on Sprint, I'd buy a Lotus today! Seeing the Lotus made me wish that I had a Palm clamshell phone. And thinking about a clamshell Palm jogged my memory.

Hmmmm.... remember at the end of last year when we wrote the TreoCentral 2008 prediction article? We mentioned in the article that an annonymous source told us that Palm would be releasing a "clamshell Treo" on Sprint that will come in both Palm OS and Windows Mobile flavors. We said that we thought at the time that the clamshell Treo would be given the "Centro" brand name. Well, obviously that was wrong. But Palm could still be working on a clamshell Treo. Maybe it could be one of the WM Treos that Palm will bring out before the end of the year. We just heard via WMExperts that they found a device referred to as a "Sprint Treo 850e" over at DSL Reports. We know that the Treo 850 is the Treo Pro, so the Treo 850e is another Treo Pro. Could it be a clamshell phone? Probably not. But.... Palm is still releasing new colors of the Centro, and the latest two Holiday colors for Sprint, the Olive Green and Vibrant Rose, were even built with twice the memory at 128MB. Who the heck was expecting that memory increase? I sure had no idea about it; only that the two new colors were coming. Could Palm be working on a clamshell Centro?

Of course I have no idea if Palm is even planning to come out with a clamshell phone at all. We did hear that rumor from someone though. And why not a clamshell? Flip phones are still very popular. I watch a lot of television, and let me tell you, just about every show that I see has someone talking on a flip phone. I do see a BlackBerry and a Treo of some kind pretty often as well, but it seems that the majority of characters pull out a clamshell phone. And each time that I see one of my favorite characters like Jethro Gibbs on Navy NCIS or Grissom on CSI flipping their phone open, I miss having a flip phone. There's some kind of satisfaction in flipping open a clamshell and then snapping it shut to end the conversation.

And hey, RIM is even getting into the clamshell ring with their upcoming BlackBerry Pearl 8220 (formerly known as the BlackBerry KickStart). We had an article about the KickStart recently and asked if the KickStart could be a Centro Killer. And if you're wondering if people liked the idea of RIM having a clamshell phone, don't forget that RIM's stock went up nearly 5% when the leaked KickStart pics emerged on the Internet. You can read Kevin's hands-on review of the Pearl 8220 over at our sister site CrackBerry.com.

Before I got my first Treo, I had some Palm OS PDA devices. One of them was the Sony Clie PEG-UX50, which was a clamshell PDA. I loved that thing! It was a clamshell plus a touchscreen device and it had built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a mini-USB jack. The high resolution screen had a 480x320-pixel display with a horizontal landscape orientation. The screen could be rotated and flipped too. The UX50 was one of the coolest devices I've owned and I wish that I hadn't sold it! My only complaint about the UX50 was its cluttered interface. I seemed to always have a little trouble navigating my way around on the device. I always thought that the UX50 was a device before its time and that it was like having a mini laptop. And nowadays, you see actual mini laptops and netbooks everywhere! I was so sad when Sony got out of the PDA business. Looks like Palm has gotten out too now. Once Palm's smartphones started selling so well, Palm concentrated on that market.

In our predictions article, we said that a return of the clamshell form-factor might be an interesting way for Palm to continue to "grow the pie" by bringing new users who haven't previously considered a smartphone. We know that Palm accomplished getting new smartphone users with the Centro, of which more than 2 million units have been sold.

I wonder how many more new users Palm could get by taking one of their old designs and making it new again. I think a Clamshell Treo or Centro would be sweet! One of the nice things about clamshells is that you don't necessarily have to have a case for it. I had clamshell phones before I got my first Treo and I just slipped them into my purse as they were. I didn't have to worry about accidentally pressing any buttons because the buttons were inside. I've had several people tell me that they've accidentally pressed buttons on their Treo with their face while talking on the phone. Note that the Centro and the Treo Pro have flush buttons on the front for Calendar, Home, Phone function, Email, Okay, and Windows Start. Anyway, I'm sure that Palm would make the buttons on the inside of a clamshell device flush like on their newest smartphones.

Palm's smartphones are getting thinner. Look at the Treo Pro compared to the Treo 700wx or 750. I can imagine a clamshell being thinner as well. Dieter mentioned in the prediction article that the Treo 270 (pictured above), which was a clamshell, was innovative for its time and it is thinner than the 755 (at least when open). That article was from last year before the even thinner Treo Pro came out.

Marcus wrote an excellent article in 2006 entitled "A trip down memory lane" about past Treo releases. Go give that a read and see if you get nostalgic like I did. And speaking of memory lane, go check out Dieter's excellent article which gives "10 Reasons to Bring Back the VisorPhone".

Above is a pic that I doctored to try and imagine what a future Palm clamshell phone might look like. LOL, I know it's a pitiful example but it's what I came up with in a short amount of time. I'm not exactly a pro at photoshopping anyway. ;-) I'm sorry that I can't hand all of you who are laughing until you cry some tissues?heehee! I think I can hear Dieter laughing from all the way down in Florida! I wanted to change the color and make the phone more square shaped, but I'm working with an ancient copy of Microsoft PictureIT! so bear with me. But heck, laughing is good for you and releases endorphins, makes you lose calories, lowers your blood pressure, and activates your immune system. I hope that I've done you all a good deed for the day with this pic. ;-)

Palm's next generation platform Nova is supposed to come out next year. Heck, maybe one of the smartphones running Nova will have a clamshell design. I hope at least one of them will! I think that Palm had a winner with their clamshell phones and I think that they could do it again. And the clamshell would be even better with the new technology and higher resolution screens, and of course their sweet full QWERTY keyboard.

I would buy a clamshell Palm smartphone. Would you? Discuss this in our forums. And I'd love to see some photo-shopped pics that any of you can come up with for a new Palm clamshell phone. I know that many of you could make some really great pics for us to drool over.

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