Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Palm phone review: The tiny phone that’s quite expensive

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
350
Pay as go

A credit card-sized smartphone that’s riding on the coattails of a long-lost brand, the Palm phone is intriguing but ultimately flawed

Pros 
Pocket-friendly size
Useful UI
Full support for Android apps
Cons 
Rather pricey
Woeful battery life
Advertisement

Tiny phones still carve a particular niche. With smartphone screens steadily increasing and pockets bulging, there’s a bit of free space in the market for a phone that fits comfortably within the palm of your hand. Sony’s Xperia Compact lineup of smartphones have successfully offered flagship performance in a pint-sized chassis in the past, but even that won’t prepare you for a phone as small as this one.

READ NEXT: The best smartphones you can buy today

Palm, best known for the PalmPilot PDA from the mid-1990s, is hoping for a grand resurgence as 2018 draws to a close, and it’s betting on a brand-new device. This is a fully-fledged smartphone squeezed inside a tiny chassis, but is the Palm phone just another throwaway gimmick or could it actually replace your trusty phablet?

Palm phone review: What you need to know

In case I haven’t made it clear enough, the Palm phone is very, very small. Intended as a secondary device, or something for the holidays or boozy festival, the credit card-sized phone has a tiny 3.3in 720p IPS display and weighs a mere 60g. This is the smallest, and lightest, smartphone we’ve ever reviewed.

Despite its diminutive size, the Palm phone comes reasonably well equipped. Powering the dinky phone is Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 435 chip, clocked at 1.4GHz and working in tandem with 3GB of RAM. There’s also 32GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded with a further 256GB via microSD. A 12-megapixel camera is on the rear of the phone, along with an 8-megapixel selfie snapper.

Palm phone review: Price and competition

Alas, the Palm phone’s availability is a bit of a hurdle. First of all, it’s exclusive to Vodafone in the UK (or Verizon in the US) for £350 with a £10 pay-as-you-go SIM. 24-month contracts, on the other hand, start at a whopping £31 a month with 4GB of data – accruing a total cost of £744 at the end of two years.

Buy Palm phone now

At that price, the Palm is competing with some of 2018’s strongest Android flagships, including the Samsung Galaxy S9. It’s significantly more expensive than rival mid-range phones. Heck, you can even buy a SIM-free iPhone XR for less than £750, although you’d have to pay extra for the contract. The Palm phone is unique, yes, but you’d be daft to sign up for a contract as pricey as this one.

If you did decide to pick up the Palm phone without a contract, you’ll be faced with cheaper alternatives such as the Moto G6 Plus, which is still one of our favourite budget phones, while Xiaomi’s terrific Pocophone F1 offers flagship internals for a similar price.

Palm phone review: Design and key features

So, you might ask, why would you fork out for a Palm phone when there are so many excellent alternatives to consider? Its key appeal lies in its uniqueness: there’s simply no other phone on the market quite like this one and that alone means it’s well worth a look.

It is, as I’m sure you can tell from my images in this review, unquestionably tiny. The Palm phone’s 3.3in 720p screen is the smallest I’ve ever encountered and the phone itself weighs just 60g. It might take some getting used to if you’re familiar with big, bulky smartphones dragging your pockets down – I had to show some restraint when answering calls, for instance, to prevent myself from flinging the phone across the room.

Slightly smaller than a credit card, the Palm phone is capable of fitting quite nicely in most wallets. It looks pretty swish, too, with a glossy rear and rounded gunmetal grey edges. The rear camera arrangement is quite iPhone-like, with the solitary snapper situated on the right corner, and Palm branding in the centre of the phone. It’s also IP68 dust- and water-resistant.

There are some potential stumbling blocks, though. First, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s fine if you always use Bluetooth but not so much if your favourite headphones are wired. Second, the battery is only 800mAh in capacity, which isn’t too bad considering the size of the phone’s screen, but does lead to a few stamina problems (I’ll go into more detail later).

There’s also the absence of a physical volume rocker to contend with. Instead, you’re forced to drag the notification bar down at the top of the screen and adjust the phone’s volume with the onscreen slider.

Palm phone review: Display

On to the phone’s 3.3in screen, which is an IPS panel with a resolution of 1,280 x 720, translating to a dot pitch of 445ppi. You might think that’s quite low, especially for a phone in 2018, but considering the Palm’s screen is almost half the size than most smartphones, you won’t notice any discernible differences.

In fact, the quality of the Palm phone’s screen is actually rather good. Our X-Rite ColorMunki calibrator found that it covered 82% of the sRGB colour gamut, while maximum brightness isn’t bad either, with a truly dazzling 518cd/m². A contrast ratio of 1,654:1 also helps ensure that text and images look pin-sharp, despite the slightly lower screen resolution.

As for actually using the screen, you’d be forgiven for thinking its diminutive size would be a hindrance. In fact, despite the Android OS slightly outgrowing smaller screens as phone display sizes have increased in recent years, usability is top notch. Rather than just relying on the usual set of navigation keys at the bottom of the screen, the phone also includes a single capacitive button underneath, which takes you back a step with one press and displays the homescreen with a double tap.

Buy Palm phone now

Navigating the phone is easy enough, but you might encounter a few problems when typing out a text message or writing a lengthy email. As you might expect, the keyboard is very small and I had issues typing out the word or phrase I wanted, often hitting the wrong keys. Of course, this isn’t too much of an issue, not least in the days of predictive messaging, but the typing experience isn’t as fluid as it is with today’s monster phones.

Palm phone review: Performance and battery life

The Palm phone uses one of Qualcomm’s low-end, slightly older Snapdragon 400-series chipsets rather than a premium 800-series processor, but it’s still quite a decent performer, with eight cores clocked at up to 1.4GHz and a capable Adreno 505 GPU. There’s 3GB of RAM onboard for multitasking, too, along with 32GB of expandable storage.

In the Geekbench 4 CPU benchmark, it achieved a single-core score of 684 and a multi-core score of 2849, while the GFXBench Manhattan gaming test saw it average 12fps onscreen. Don’t get too hung up on those numbers, though – despite the slow boot times, most Android applications ran without a hitch and I didn’t experience any noticeable stutter or lag while navigating menus or dropping in and out of apps.

This simply isn’t a gaming phone, though. PUBG: Mobile, which ran well for the most part, is basically unplayable, considering your thumb – which is used for player traversal and aiming – takes up the majority of the small screen space. If you can’t see your enemies, you likely won’t be rewarded with any chicken dinners.

The Palm phone’s battery life, meanwhile, is a major problem. Even despite the small screen, the phone’s 800mAh capacity battery simply isn’t enough to keep the Palm phone from switching off after only a few hours of use. In our continuous video playback test, the Palm phone lasted only 3hrs 37mins before needing to recharge.

This isn’t ideal, especially if you wanted to use the Palm as a holiday phone. I struggled to reach a day’s use on a single charge, no matter how hard I tried. Turning the screen brightness down to minimum and enabling Flight mode helped a little, but it wasn’t good enough.

Palm phone review: Software

The software experience here is slightly different to most other Android phones. The Palm phone runs a tweaked version of Android 8.1 out of the box – not the most recent version of Google’s ever-popular mobile operating system – but even given that you have the Home Screen to get used to.

Buy Palm phone now

This functions like Apple’s watchOS – slide your finger up and down the screen and you’ll scroll through a list of application icons, which are arranged honeycomb-style. Picture the hexagon arrangement from UK trivia game show Blockbusters, and you’ll get the right idea.

Otherwise, it looks and behaves like any other Android smartphone. With full Android app support, you shouldn’t encounter any issues installing applications, and the phone’s settings menu functions as you’d expect. You can also add widgets such as Google calendar and weather information to the right of the homescreen, and Google Assistant can be accessed if you swipe from the left edge of the display.

Palm phone review: Camera

On the back of the Palm phone, a small bulge houses a solitary 12-megapixel rear camera with a single LED flash sitting underneath. That’s a pretty basic set of specs, but the camera software does allow you to adjust the camera’s shutter speed, focus and ISO mode.

The interface is actually very well implemented and didn’t feel sluggish or laggy when switching between various settings. There are a handful of other shooting modes on offer, too, including panorama, light tracing, instant collage and a face-softening beauty mode.

The Palm phone is capable of taking some decent snaps, and the 8-megapixel selfie camera on the front captures decent images, too. The results are just as good as pictures taken with the excellent Moto G6 Plus, especially in outdoor shots, although the phone’s HDR mode was overly-aggressive at times, producing images that looked washed out.

Palm phone review: Verdict

The Palm phone’s headline feature is clearly its size but, most importantly, its diminutive stature doesn’t really restrict you to a pared-down experience. This pint-sized – nay, shot glass-sized phone – functions almost as you’d expect from any 2018 smartphone.

Still, its woeful battery life is unforgivable and the asking price is very hard to justify. It might be in a class of its own – and if you did want a phone of this size, there simply aren’t any alternatives – but as it stands, the Palm phone seems like a half-baked first effort.

Palm specifications
ProcessorOcta-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 435
RAM3GB
Screen size3.3in
Screen resolution1,280 x 720
Pixel density445 ppi
Screen typeIPS
Front camera8-megapixel
Rear camera12-megapixel
FlashSingle LED
Dust and water resistanceIP68
3.5mm headphone jackNo
Wireless chargingNo
USB connection typeUSB Type-C
Storage options32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD (256GB)
Wi-Fi802.11ac
Bluetooth4.2
NFCNo
Cellular data4G
Dual SIMNo
Dimensions (WDH)96.5 x 50.5 x 10 mm
Weight60g
Operating systemAndroid 8.1 (EMUI 9)
Battery size800mAh

Read more

Reviews