Palm, the innovative brand behind the PDA, is reborn and it’s coming out of the gate with a product that aims to create a whole new category of smart device.
Simply called “The Palm,” this is a perfectly functional Android 8.1 smartphone with a custom skin and it can run the full version of your favorite Android apps. It’s hitting the market at a time when large phones have become the industry standard, but the point isn’t to replace your enormous Galaxy Note or iPhone—it’s to provide a complementary device that helps you disconnect during downtime. It’s essentially an alternative to a dumb phone or a smartwatch that gives you more features while hopefully discouraging you from staring at a screen all the time.
The most unique thing about The Palm is that you need to already have a smartphone and a cellular plan with Verizon. Palm is betting that there are enough people out there who will be willing to pay $349 for the Verizon-exclusive device and $10 per month to add this onto their existing phone number. Dennis Miloseski is a former Samsung designer who’s joined other industry veterans to relaunch the Palm brand. He told Variety that The Palm is all about on-the-go activities like listening to music, working out, or just enjoying your weekend. “It’s about technology receding,” he said.
One feature that Palm is pushing is “Life Mode.” The device has an 800mAh battery that the company claims will last about 8 hours on a single charge. That’s not great by modern standards, but the whole concept of this phone is to use it as little as possible. When Life Mode is enabled, the cellular and Wi-Fi radios will disable unless the screen is on and battery life should extend to a full day. That also means you won’t receive calls or notifications unless you’re actively using the phone.
With a 3.3-inch display, it’s just 0.2-inches smaller than the original iPhone. And its specs are from a different era, as well. It’s packing 3GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 435 processor, and 32GB of storage.
One retro feature that won’t be coming back is the headphone jack. You get a single USB-C port and one virtual button. Headphones can connect via Bluetooth and you have to swipe down on the screen to adjust the volume.
Palm is also promoting the device as a large-ish wearable that you can strap on with an armband for workouts. A G-Sensor, Glonass, GPS, Proximity sensor, E-compass, and Gyro take care of your fitness tracking needs.
The 12-megapixel rear camera probably won’t be producing photos that impress, but may get the job done anyways. And the 8-megapixel selfie-cam also handles facial recognition. That means no notch, but it also means it’s a hell of a lot less secure than Apple’s dedicated face ID.
For iPhone users, there’s an extra layer of hassle. You’ll need to disable iMessage whenever switching to The Palm. Apple lovers might want to stick with the cellular-connected Apple Watch for their screen-limiting needs.
The real question is whether consumers will see The Palm as a better alternative to smartwatches, in general. There were skeptics of the tablet when the iPad first launched and few people these days question that device’s usefulness. And 24 percent of US households have gotten on-board with smart speakers. Palm has either seen the future or built a cheap phone that it can repurpose after users show no interest. We’ll just say that the idea of holding something that feels like an original iPhone has a certain appeal.