Smart phones have been getting bigger in recent years, with fewer and fewer options for those who want something for small hands or small pockets. The new "Palm" phone beats this trend and offers a tiny secondary device.
"Palm" is in quotes because while this device is called only Palm, it shares no DNA with the iconic Palm Pilot, the pre-phones that developed the original company running WebOS, or even the few TCLs Android phones, which had the Palm branding to the right, were mixed by several corporate hands. This design comes from a startup that has re-licensed the Palm name and is now trying to use it for a new form factor: a tiny Android device that has neither the performance nor the longevity of a mid-range smartphone. It is offered exclusively on Verizon in the USA
The Palm phone (stylized "PA-LM" in two rows) the backlogo) is designed to expand your primary phone, not replace it with something smaller. The idea is that you pay Verizon both for the second phone and for a second data line, and you can do it for a short trip, a night in the city, a jogging or cycling trip or maybe a camping trip where you try it to avoid the countless digital distractions of the modern world for a few days. In that sense, it's not unlike a clutch purse, the little pouch for-if-you-don't-want-your-real-wallet popular among more fashionable types.
The Palm phone is indeed very fashionable. It looks like someone has tapped a modern-day iPhone with a shrinking beam, a 3.3-inch screen (just a bit smaller than the original 2007 iPhone, by the way), and a tiny 800 mAh battery. Palm says it will take about 8 hours of screen time or a full day of normal use. Creature comforts like wireless charging or a fingerprint reader are avoided, but since this thing is supposed to go out with you in social events, it sticks to a powerful 12-megapixel rear-view camera and 8-MP front camera. The processor is a low-end Snapdragon 435, with a decent 3GB of RAM and 32GB of memory, and its IP68 waterproof body can survive a quick dunk.
Software is Android 8.1, with some extras from the new company Palm and Verizon. The former has some interesting interface enhancements to make Android more friendly on the tiny screen, like a swipe gesture that activates a mini-launcher with huge, finger-friendly links to your most important apps, and a built-in Fleksy keyboard. "Life Mode" is a kind of Super-Do Not Disturb, mute all incoming calls and texts when you are not actively looking at the screen (or using GPS). Verizon provides a synced connection to your master account (if not your primary phone), much like an LTE smartwatch: You get calls and SMS from your primary number without having to swap SIM cards. You can not do that anyway, because the Palm phone uses an E-SIM. Palm positions its tiny gadget as a more powerful, flexible alternative to a smartwatch for some users.
The idea of a secondary cell phone that is less distracting and pocket friendly will probably appeal to at least a subset of users, especially those that are often found without pockets. Palm seems to lean in with accessories that include a case with an integrated camera grip, and another by Kate Spade that makes it look like a small wallet. But with $ 350, not to mention the additional monthly fee, they'll have a hard time persuading consumers that it's worth adding another device for their lives and their bank accounts. It will go on sale later this year at Verizon.