Palm's new Centro phone: Treo lite

Palm's new PDA/ cell phone hybrid

Palm Thursday announced the Centro, its first non-Treo PDA/cell phone hybrid based on the Palm OS.

Slated to debut on Sprint in October, the Centro is significantly smaller and -- after a slew of rebates, at least -- cheaper than Treo counterparts that likewise support Sprint's superfast EvDO 3G network. Sprint has a 90-day exclusivity agreement for the Centro.

The phone lists for $US400, but rebates for a new two-year contract and a $25 or $30 all-you-can-eat data plan signup can reduce the initial expenditure to $100. (The $30 monthly plan adds unlimited messaging; the $25 monthly data plan offers fewer messaging options).

Available in bright red or black, the petite candy-bar handset targets a more mainstream audience than the business-focused Treo does. It measures 4.2 inches high, 2.1 inches wide, and 0.7 inch thick, and it weighs a mere 4.2 ounces.

Other hardware specs include a 1.3-megapixel camera with 2X digital zoom and video capture; Bluetooth; a 320-by-320-resolution, 65,000-color transflective touch screen; and a Micro-SD slot that supports cards with up to 4GB of storage capacity. You'll probably need a card if you intend to use the Centro to play music or store images, because the device has only 64MB of user-available internal memory.

A removable and rechargeable 1150-mAh lithium ion battery -- which Palm says will support 3.5 hours of talk time and up to 300 hours of standby time -- powers the Centro.

The device ships with an impressive software bundle of Documents to Go, Google Maps, the Deluxe version of the Pocket Tunes music player, Sprint TV, and even a Sudoku game.

Palm's messaging support includes clients for AOL, MSN, and Yahoo instant messaging services, which can run concurrently. Text messaging is displayed in threaded, IM-like format.

Palm announced the device at the Digital Life technology show, which runs through Sunday at the Javits Center in New York City.

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