Back when I was a kid, a Palm was a PalmPilot. They debuted in 1997, when I was only 16 years old, long before everybody had a cellphone, much less a smartphone or tablet. Yet it was the precursor to the modern tablet, called a Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA.
While the company did attempt smartphones that included physical keypads and touchscreens during the transition to iPhone-like devices, it fell to the wayside and became a forgotten brand. I actually owned a Palm Pre (and a Microsoft Zune…I’m aware I’m retarded). Companies continued selling the name for its equity though.
The modern-day Palm does bear the same name and logo, but it’s an entirely new company. A San Francisco-based startup bought the name from TCL back in 2017 and launched a Palm-branded smartphone by the end of 2018. At the time it cost $350 and was a Verizon exclusive.
In 2020, you can buy an unlocked Palm for $299 on its website or $100 for a refurbished phone on Amazon. The company sent me one to try out and learn its capabilities. I got the phone and a 30-day plan for free, so my view on its usability may be tainted. Also if you click the Amazon links to purchase the phone, I receive an affiliate commission, while I do not receive any commissions if you buy direct from Palm.
With that said, I kinda like this phone, but it’s certainly not a primary phone. Of course, it’s not trying to be either. It’s meant to be a minimalist phone replacement, flying straight in the face of Apple going against Steve Jobs’ wishes and making larger devices. The lines between phones and tablets is blurred, but the Palm may be here to save the day.
In fact, it even came with a book from Catherine Price, aptly called, “How to Break Up With Your Phone.”
How to Break Up With Your Phone
We spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes on our phones every day, according to research from RescueTime. Palm has a tiny 3.3″ LCD touchscreen that holds 445-ppi and is about as long as the Samsung Galaxy S9 is wide. It comes with a Snapdragon 435 processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB of internal memory, and acts as an add-on for Verizon or can be activated as its own phone on any GSM carrier.
It’s made with Gorilla Glass 3 and is IP68 water- and dust-resistant.
Palm charges with a USB-C port, 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera. Neither camera takes pictures anywhere comparable to phones like the Pixel, iPhone, or Galaxy. It runs Android 8.1, although not as lightning-fast as you’d hope from a brand new phone straight out the box.
Because it lacks buttons, you’ll need to get used to Android swiping, which is a little more difficult on a smaller phone. The GUI also resembles a smartwatch more than a smartphone. While apps were more limited than my Galaxy smartphone or tablet, the proliferation of wearables did give this device a ton of compatable apps, even if many were limited.
Using in the Real World
As a standalone phone, Palm was interesting to walk around with. I could listen to music and access messages, but I wanted to keep it as pure as possible and focus on the minimalist smartphone-free options. I spent several weeks bringing it on my daily walks and it honestly was more of a liability than my normal phone.
Because I’m not used to it, I was constantly paranoid I would lose it. The version I got came with a corded necklace that made me feel a little better, but I was still constantly checking for it more than usual. That aside, the experience was overall not bad. The battery life is abysmal, but that’s to be expected with such a small battery. It paired easily with my earbuds and did its job well.
I would’ve even prefered if the cameras were removed entirely (or just pared down to one) and the extra room was used for more battery life or a microSD
A big selling feature is the ability to activate Life Mode on the phone. This is the mode that turns off notifications and WiFi/cellular radios while the screen is off. It lets you focus on what you’re doing, and I appreciated the addition.
Overall the Palm phone is worthy of the iconic name it bears, even if it isn’t the same company. The phone is a reminder of a forgotten era before the Motorola Razor and Nokia phones in which PalmPilots were the Blackberry of their time. If you recognize any of these names, you’re old.
Palm is a bit old itself at two years, but it’s still a solid phone and an interesting device to consider if you’re tired of the bulk of modern smartphones.
It performs well for its size, although it does try a bit hard to be everything to everybody, which isn’t a good look for a minimalist phone. It’s a good idea for people who like to jog with no more than a housekey on them. Others may find it little more than a trinket.