Here's a treat for any of you who have a Centro (or Palm OS Treo) and want to hold your own with those sporting iPhones. Handmark, a leading mobile media company, has released a new version of its award-winning Pocket Express mobile news and information service, featuring a full on-device application store... and it's FREE!
The announcement actually took place on February 12. It was Ryan at Palm InfoCenter who brought it to our attention.
Pocket Express is a really slick application that'll have you be-bopping through information gathering in a snap. It is optimized for the Centro/Treo's D-Pad, so you have the advantage of quickly thumb navigating through a simplified, 3 by 3 menu of options: News, Sports, Weather, Market News & Portfolio, Showtimes & Entertainment, Search (411), Travel, Maps and Assist.
Want to know where Palm's stock closed? Tap on Market News & Portfolio. Tap on Portfolio Tracking and there you have it (after a one time setup that's way simple).
Tap again to see details. At any time, you can make sure you have the most recent available information by tapping Update (note: Stocks may have a 20 minute lag).
PageOne always brings you back to the 3 by 3 opening screen.
Want the weather in your neighborhood? Since part of the installation process includes providing your zip code, Pocket Express does the rest. Seriously. Just one tap on Weather and another tap for details, and there you have it. Again, pressing on the Update button will ensure you have the most current conditions.
The Travel button brings you to a concise list of key areas of interest: Flight Status, Flight Schedules, Search Hotels, Travel Phone Numbers (i.e airlines, rental car companies), and even a currency converter.
The Maps button used to be a premium feature. Now you can freely enter a location and have a map magically appear.
Things You Need to Know:
Pocket Express v4.25 is available now directly from Handmark. It is compatible with most devices running Windows Mobile or Palm OS 4 or higher with an Internet connection. That's key too so youâll want to make sure you have an unlimited data plan or this "free" app will be costly.
Once you have installed Pocket Express, Handmark makes it easy for you to Share it with your friends. On PageOne there is a Share button. Just type in the phone number and a text message that includes a link to download Pocket Express will be sent. It's extremely efficient.
Also, you need to do a clean install for the FREE parts to work. I found this out the hard way. I had a previous version of Pocket Express running on my Centro and was very frustrated after I updated the app (via the "Check for Updates" menu item), and I kept getting a message saying that Maps and the 411 Search would cost me an additional $9.99. So I uninstalled it and then reloaded it to my SD card, just to play it safe. It worked like a charm.
Note: Make sure to run it from your Palm's All Apps page. If you run it from the SD it will just keep reinstalling the app. No point in putting yourself through Groundhog Day here.
App Store Confusion...
I seem to be a magnet for problems with app stores on my Centro. One of the attractions of this free app was that it was supposed to also gain you access to the Pocket Express Store where you can shop "a selection of quality games, ringtones and apps." In fact, in my Inbox (an option on PageOne), there was a message that included the following offer:
As a welcome gift, we're offering you 20% off your first purchase. Simply enter EXTRA20 in the coupon code field at checkout.
Since the press release stated that the Pocket Express "Store" features the most popular, high-quality games and applications from top-tier developers in the industry, including Capcom®, I-Play™, Reset Games, and Mobifusion, Inc. that could be downloaded quickly and easily over the air (OTA) from their device, I was eager to give it a try.
So I hunted around looking for this store. Aha! Itâs under the Extras tab. And you need to hit the Update button a lot.
When you pull the trigger to Buy, you come to a screen that asks: Would you like to pay with a credit card or bill directly to your phone? Just tap the button for your preference.
If you press Credit Card, you are asked to enter the card number, security code and expiration date. It tells you "Full credit card number is not stored on device or Handmark servers. It is securely managed by VeriSign." It also tells you that this card will be used for all recurring charges for Handmark products.
There's one more thing to note. If you opt out of the credit card, then the next time you go to buy something, it automatically defaults to the "bill to your phone" option. That seemed weird to me. I was expecting to always have the option of selecting how Iâd like to pay.
From my quick run through the Games section, it looks like the offerings are mostly in the $9.99 range. I didn't have success with the Ringers section. In "What's Hot" I was offered the Wheel of Fortune Road Trip game for $9.99. In the More section, prices ranged from $3.99 for a monthly subscription to ZAGAT TO GO, to $39.99 for OfficeSuite or Agendus Pro.
Pocket Express is a sweet app that is truly functional and easy to use on a Centro or Treo. The price, FREE, is right. It seems like Handmark is taking a page from Apple's playbook and is using something that's free as a hook for attracting buyers for paid apps that can be installed easily over the air (OTA). For sure, Handmark scores points for convenience. It comes down to your comfort level with purchasing apps this way AND without having a trial option.