Palm is selling a $350 credit-card sized smartphone as a standalone or companion phone. It’s supposed to liberate you, but it’s got some big problems.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Palm, the brand behind popular PDA-style phones in the early 2000s, has relaunched with a credit-card sized phone.
  • The phone was originally designed to act as a companion device to your regular cell, one that you can more easily use for nights out, workouts, or periods away from your full-fledged smartphone.
  • In June, Palm announced the phone would also be available as an unlocked standalone device available for preorder online starting Tuesday.
  • Because of Palm’s hefty price and limited integration with iPhones (texts will show up as green bubbles, not blue, for example), it seems more sensible for most people to just buy one of the many smartwatches out there that have similar uses as Palm’s phone.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

By now we’re all familiar with the criticisms about smartphones monopolizing our attention and replacing our real-world interactions.

Enter the new Palm phone: a smartphone the size of your credit card is out here trying to break up that reliance on tech.

First released in November for $350, the Palm phone is designed to be a travel-sized companion device to your larger, regular-sized main smartphone. The company has branded the phone as an “ultra-mobile” device that allows you to “stay present during life’s most important moments.”

But in April, Palm announced the phone would also be available as a standalone device in response to customer feedback. The standalone Palm phone is available for pre-order starting Tuesday.

Over the course of a few months, I regularly swapped out my traditional iPhone for the Palm phone when I would go out with friends, travel to the gym, or go to dinner on the weekends – situations where I wouldn’t necessarily want, or need, my smartphone and all its capabilities.

Here’s what it was like using Palm’s tiny smartphone:


The Palm phone syncs up in real time with your main phone, but it proves more difficult if you’re an iPhone user.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

For my review, I was given a Google Pixel 3 with a new phone number that I could use to pair up with the Palm phone. The two phones have the same number so that both can receive phone calls, messages and other alerts.

Although he Palm device was first only available to Verizon users, the company announced in June that smartphone can now be bought “unlocked” – meaning it can now also run on carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS.

The two devices sync up in real time, so responding to a message on one phone will also have it show up on the other. I found the syncing between the two phones to be a bit laggy, but that’s only when I had both phones in front of me (which is, of course, not the point).

This effortless sync between the phones is made simpler because the devices run on the same Android operating system and pull data from the same Google cloud. The Palm phone is also compatible with iPhones, but we didn’t test it with an iPhone so we can’t speak to how well it syncs in that scenario. (The company says your blue-bubbled iMessages will show up as green on the Palm phone).


The phone really is about the size of a credit card and is incredibly lightweight. The home screen setup is simple and aesthetically pleasing — any wording or more clutter on the screen would seem overwhelming.

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The phone is only 3.8-inches tall and 1.9 inches wide, with one-inch wide bezels on the top and bottom.

Despite it’s small size, the phone can run the same apps available for normal-sized phones. With a scant 3GB of RAM though, it’s relatively easy to overload the phone’s storage and affect the device’s performance.


The smaller device and smaller screen dramatically alters the appearance of the websites and apps that you’re familiar with, and it takes time to adjust.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Headlines on news articles would often take up the entire screen, and a lot of scrolling was involved to get through a webpage. Gmail was difficult to read, and sorting through my Google Calendar was almost impossible.


The keyboard is a real pain to use. The keys were close together and it took me a while to complete messages, even with the help of autocorrect.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

The setup of the keyboard looks a lot like the complete keyboards found on older PDAs from Palm and BlackBerry, but the ability to press physical keys on those versions meant you could be a bit more confident in what you were writing. Typing out messages on the new Palm’s cramped on-screen keyboard involved lots of spelling errors that I had to navigate through and fix.


Making phone calls on the tiny device feels awkward at first.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

Having a phone conversation on the slim, and tiny Palm phone feels a bit weird at first, especially compared to holding a larger smartphone in your hand and up to your ear. But once you get used to it, the Palm performs just fine as a phone.


Palm’s 12 megapixel camera is the same quality as the cameras on other popular smartphones. However, you have to trust the picture you’re taking looks good, because the picture’s quality and detail are hard to decipher on the small screen.

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While some newer phones have better cameras, popular smartphones with 12MP cameras include earlier iPhone versions, as well as the Samsung Galaxy 8.

Palm said in April that it had updated the camera to include improved HDR, color balance, and low light performance.


The phone can charge really fast. However, the battery life also runs out quickly.

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Paige Leskin/Business Insider

Palm says its battery life is about 8 hours, which isn’t amazing. In my experience, however, the Palm’s battery life drained in much less time, even if I spent large amounts of time off of the phone. The phone was fine for a night out, but I would not rely on it for longer periods of time.

One of Palm’s signature features is its “Life Mode,” a mix of Apple’s “do not disturb” and “low battery” features. Life Mode is indicated by a little palm tree in the menu bar and, when activated, won’t ping you with notifications and messages.

Palm claims the phone can last a full day when in Life Mode. In my experience, I got about 8 to 10 hours in Life Mode.

Palm said that its April software update improves the battery life, but I’ve yet to see just how much more time it gives you.


Palm has created various accessories so that the phone can be tailored to different lifestyles.

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Palm

In an interview with Business Insider in November, Palm’s founders said they didn’t see Palm having the same exact role in each customer’s life. The company’s accessories offer a vision that people can use their Palm phones to meet their personal interests and make their experiences unique.

There are sports armbands for working out, Kate Spade wristlets for going out and simple lanyard to loop around your neck for everyday use.


The phone did little to curb the amount of attention I paid to my phone.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Instead of shooting a quick text out on my normal iPhone, I found myself struggling to read what was on the screen and having to carefully type out messages. It became more of an inconvenience than anything to have the Palm phone on me, dangling off my wrist on its short lanyard.

For some, the Palm phone could be used for bike rides and gym workouts when regular-sized smartphones could get in the way. For others, Palm could act as a hub to hold someone’s extensive music collection that can’t all fit on their regular phone.

But these are things you technology has already made available to us, but for much cheaper. IPods have long been storing large quantities of music for listeners. More recently, the dozens of smartwatches out there have already adopted the idea that a smaller screen could act as an intermediary window into what’s going on, without having to take out your phone at all.


The Palm phone is now available to preorder as an unlocked standalone device for $350.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Palm’s $350 pricepoint isn’t far off from what Apple sells its latest Watches for. So if you have an Android device, you’re on the Verizon network, and you have the $350 to shell out for a second phone, the Palm phone is great. You’re sure to find it of use.

But if you’re looking to Palm to help ween yourself off of reliance on technology, it’s unlikely to be effective in that sense.

For a limited time, pre-ordering the Palm phone will get you a free leather phone case with neck and wrist lanyards – in line with a growing trend put forward in fashion shows from luxury brands of wearing your smartphone as an accessory.