The new Palm Phone-Been There, Done That.

This week Palm (not the original Palm Company) introduced a tiny phone called the Palm Phone. It sports at the 3.3-inch screen and is designed to be kind of mini add-on to your primary smartphone.

When I first saw the pictures of this palm-sized phone and its diminutive size, it reminded me of the Palm Pre, also a very tiny smartphone introduced before Apple introduced the iPhone and was to be their next big smartphone to drive their growth. At that time they were a subsidiary of HP and was led by former Apple exec John Rubinstein. When I got the Palm Pre, its small size and tiny keyboard made it very difficult to use, and while it had some innovative features, it never took off. While it did indeed fit in the palm of your hand, it too small for most people to use for just about any app available on the Palm OS back then.

This new Palm Phone also fits in the palm of your hand and uses a much better screen and follows the basic designs of most smartphones, albeit with a tiny screen. It uses a dual sim configuration that allows it to have the same number as your primary phone. This makes it ideal as a secondary or sidekick phone to take with you should you not want to carry your larger phone with you for some reason. Some people were surprised it used Android instead of the Palm OS, but the ship has sailed on the Palm OS and getting developers to support it would have been an uphill battle for the maker of this new Palm Phone.

It is only available on Verizon for $349, and then you are charged $10 a month since it uses the same number and is priced more like you would if you had a data SIM card in an iPad or the Apple Watch.

This new Palm Phone will test the market’s interest in two key ideas, the first being the acceptance of the concept of having a smaller phone that mirrors your bigger phone. The problem is that while your big phone will run all Android apps, the Palm Phone does not. It has its texting solution, and many mainstream apps would not work on this smaller screen. It is an intriguing idea, but I am struggling with who this new phone’s real customer is. Most people are already comfortable with their current smartphone and have many options off-screen sizes now that ranges from 4 inches to 6.5 inches.

The second thing it will test is the interest in a small screen phone. Interestingly, the original iPhone was 3.5 inches, and Apple kept that small size in their phones for five years before they jumped to a 4 inch iPhone and eventually the larger screens we have today. I remember having a lot of discussions with Apple about moving to larger screens, arguing that people will want more screen real estate to watch videos and see their pictures on a smartphone. But for many years, Apple felt that 3.5-inch screens were enough for their customers, and it took serious competition from others to force them to move to larger screens for the iPhone.

Today, 70% of all video is consumed on a smartphone or tablet. And if you have ever watched a movie or video on one of these devices, you know screen size matters. The Palm Phone, sporting a 3.3-inch screen, is not optimal for video or for even playing most games. That makes it a very limited smartphone and convincing people to use it just as a backup or secondary phone I believe is a tough sell.

I am intrigued by the sidekick nature of the new small Palm Phone, but I have trouble seeing why I would want a smaller phone with me when I want the smartphone that I carry to have no limitations on what I can do with it. I suppose it will appeal to some, but I doubt that this audience is large.

That said, it will be interesting to watch if this smaller smartphone gains any traction. If it does, I can see someone doing a similar model that has no limitations and could serve as a primary phone instead of a secondary one. And it would have to be tied to its cellular number and network, and not be linked to a similar number on persons existing smartphone.

I admit that as I am getting older and my eyesight is not as good as it was 20 years ago, a larger screen is more appealing to me. The trend in consumer buying is to go for a larger screen, not a smaller one when buying a smartphone and $349 to pay for a sidekick on top of the money spent on a person’s main phone seems like a stretch for the majority of smartphone buyers.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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