Unique Android launcher
Too small, could be easy to lose
Poor battery life
The camera only captures adequate photos
Lacking a swipe-capable keyboard
Palm is one of those brands people will remember fondly til the day they die. Despite failing to stay in business, the company built phones and an operating system (webOS) that developed a cult-like following.
When TCL bought Palm from HP back in 2014, many hoped the Chinese company would breathe new life into the company. At long last, TCL has brought a new Palm-branded phone to the market, but it’s nothing like what once was.
Instead of running webOS, the Palm Phone is an Android-powered device with a custom launcher. While it technically works as a standalone smartphone, it’s meant as a companion device so users can leave their primary handset at home on the weekends.
Do either of these aspects make the Palm Phone worth picking up from Verizon for $350? Find out in our Palm Phone review.
Hardware and design
The Palm Phone keeps the minute handset size old webOS devices were known for. The last actual Palm handset was made in 2010, when all phones were relatively small and the Samsung Galaxy Note hadn’t even hit the market yet, but this doesn’t feel like a phone from a decade ago.
Like almost every other device on the market these days, the Palm Phone features glass on the front and back of the handset, brought together with an aluminum frame.
While this combination makes the tiny phone feel premium, it also makes it incredibly slippery. This isn’t what you want on a phone already hard to hold.
The Palm Phone’s look closely resembles the style popularized by the iPhone X. What I mean by this is the phone features a glass and metal construction and places the rear camera in a vertical stack in one of the top corners.
Another unique aspect of this phone it only has a power button. If you want to change the device’s volume, you have to adjust everything from the quick settings panel.
The minimalist approach here is all about having you use the phone as little as possible. Remember, you’re carrying this thing around instead of your main handset so you aren’t always looking at a screen.
As if I even had to write it, no, the Palm Phone does not have a headphone jack.
Software and performance
Other than its size, the Palm Phone’s main focal point is its custom-built skin that runs on top of Android 8.1 Oreo. Instead of having various home screens and an app drawer, the device shows a running list of your installed apps the moment you unlock it. This makes it easy to find whatever app you’re looking for and minimizes the number of distractions.
Navigating the Palm Phone is another learning curve that was pretty easy to get used to. Instead of Android’s default Back, Home, and Recents software buttons, the handset features a single button below the screen, displaying three tiny dots. You can tap it once to go back, twice to go to the home screen, and long press to open the Recents menu.
Going back to Palm’s idea of using this phone as a way to disconnect, let’s talk about Life Mode. Basically, the company made an ultra-powered Do Not Disturb mode that silences all incoming notifications and doesn’t show anything when the phone’s screen is off.
Of course, you can configured Life Mode to still surface specific notifications, but it’s all about keeping you from checking your phone unless it’s essential.
Despite being a cool feature, it’s not really unique compared to Google’s Digital Wellbeing and other manufacturers’ various Do not Disturb modes.
Other than the special features made for the Palm Phone specifically, the handset looks and acts like any other Android device. Users can download any apps from the Google Play Store. As you aren’t supposed to be distracted by the handset, you probably shouldn’t scroll through Twitter, watch YouTube videos, and browse the internet as I did.
If you do, the Snapdragon 435 CPU and 3GB of RAM runs everything like a champ.
The biggest downside I found with using the Palm Phone as my only handset for a couple of days was having to use the Fleksy keyboard. For whatever reason, Fleksy doesn’t include a swipe input method, so you have to try and manually type on the tiny screen.
Thankfully, as the Palm Phone runs on Android, I could download Gboard and make it my default keyboard. This fixed any issues I had when typing on the phone.
I’ll also give props to Palm for adding face unlock to this handset. This is such a simple feature more smartphone manufacturers are now including, and it makes getting into the Palm Phone so much easier. Its inclusion makes you wonder why it isn’t available on phones like the Pixel 3.
There isn’t too much to say about the Palm Phone’s battery. It only holds 800mAh of juice, and even with the small display I got just two to three hours of screen-on time.
The battery life was affected when I checked social media and scrolled through the internet, which makes sense. However, what was upsetting was how much power drained when the phone was in standby mode. Overnight, I could expect at least 20 to 30 percent of the battery to be gone if I didn’t plug it in.
In a perfect world where I use the Palm Phone as my weekend device, I would like it to at least hold a charge for over two days, so I don’t have to think about it while out and about.
When you buy a mid-range or budget phone, you typically expect a functional but not a fantastic camera. Expect the same with the Palm Phone.
While I didn’t focus on the handset’s camera that much during the review, it was nice to know it was there in case I wanted to snap a quick picture or something. However, featuring a 12MP sensor around back and an 8MP camera up front, I expected more.
As you can see from a handful of the photos I took with the Palm Phone, it’s possible to take a decent-looking picture, but the subject needs to be adequately lit and not moving. I found that the shutter was way too slow for anything that moves and the phone’s camera app didn’t adjust the exposure enough to account for too little or too much light.
The Palm Phone’s cameras get the job done, but don’t take it with you if you want to capture high-quality memories.
Pricing and availability
The Palm Phone feels like a standalone smartphone in many ways, but it has to be tied to another phone on Verizon. All of your text messages and calls from your primary device are forwarded to the Palm Phone. This way, you don’t have to juggle two phone numbers or worry about missing messages.
To get this luxury, you’ll have to buy the Palm Phone from Verizon for $350 or spread out the payments for 24 months and pay $14.58 a month. You’ll also have an additional $10 a month service fee to use the phone on Verizon’s network.
For a limited time, Verizon is knocking $50 off of the price of the Palm Phone at checkout. If you decide to buy a smartphone along with it, you’ll get $100 off.
|Palm Phone (2018)|
|Display||3.3-inch LCD HD Display
Gorilla Glass 3
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 435|
No expandable storage
|Cameras||Rear: 12MP sensor and flash
Front: 8MP sensor
|Durability||IP68 water- and dust-resistant|
|Connectivity||4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.2
WLAN 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz)
Non-removable nano SIM
|Software||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Dimensions and weight||50.6 x 96.6 x 7.4mm
Just buy a smartwatch
>When the Palm Phone was first announced, I thought the idea was a bit of a novelty, but I could also see why someone might like having a weekend phone. After using it for several weeks, I don’t think anyone should buy this phone.
It works fine. There’s not a single thing wrong with it, but who actually wants a secondary smartphone roughly the size of a credit card?
In the end, the Palm Phone made me want an LTE-enabled smartwatch. I liked being able to leave my primary smartphone at home and not worry about missing anything important. Having a miniaturized smartphone wasn’t the solution.
A watch wouldn’t be another thing to throw in your pocket. It sits on your wrist and serves multiple purposes.