A big wearable? A small smartphone? A companion product? Or all three? Here’s how the 3.3-inch Palm Phone came to be...
Tiny. That’s the first word that’ll pop into your mind when you first hold the new Palm Phone, which is exclusively available to Vodafone UK for 6 months. With a diminutive 3.3-inch display and a body roughly the size of a credit card, it’s far and away the smallest smartphone around in 2018. It’s a miniature marvel to boot, boasting an adapted version of Android 8.1 with features designed to be used with one hand and full access to the Google Play store.
But who exactly is it for, and what benefits are there to having a dinky smartphone in your pocket? To find out, we’ve been speaking to Dennis Miloseski, co-founder of this new iteration of the classic Palm brand. Here’s how going small could mean big things for tech’s future…
Palm Phone: Tech Specs
Display: 3.3-inch, 720p
Rear Camera: 12-Megapixel with autofocus
Selfie Camera: 8-Megapixel with face unlock
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, Octa-Core, 3GB RAM
Operating system: Android (8.1 Oreo), full Play Store access
“We have a wealth of experience in the mobile space,” Dennis says. “For the past 20 years we’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, from Samsung to Google, looking at where the smartphone and wearable markets are going.”
And it’s in that intersection – between smartphones and wearables – that Dennis and co-founder Howard Nuk think there’s space for an entirely new type of product.
“Our phones have turned into these 6-inch super computers now,” he explains, “they go everywhere with us, and we unlock them on average 150 times a day. So when smartwatches first came out we were interested in whether these were the products that would let people leave their phones at home.”
In reality? Most people don’t, and the team at Palm think this is for a few key reasons:
“One is that if you leave your phone behind, you’re leaving your camera behind too. And if you’re heading out, chances are you’ll still bring your phone with you to take photos. The other thing was that without your phone, you’d leave the fully-fledged apps that you use most often – like Instagram, WhatsApp, or Spotify – behind too.”
The problem, according to Dennis, is that the alternative sees us missing out on some of life’s best moments:
“With our large phones we’ve become entranced with the digital world,” he says, “and it’s almost as if we’re starting to become more android than human. If you’re at a coffee shop, you’re staring at your phone. If you’re out with friends, you’re staring at your screen more than you’re engaging with real conversation. If you’re at a gig, you’re watching through your screen rather than enjoying the concert.
“And it’s this behaviour that served as the inspiration behind Palm.”
The result is a phone that’ll fit into any pocket and complete pretty much any task you’d need it to, but which is designed to get out of the way the rest of the time. Or, as Palm would put it, an answer to the following question:
“How can we be connected, without being consumed?”
The rise of the Ultra-Mobile
So, is the Palm a small smartphone, or a big wearable? If you ask it’s makers, it’s neither. Instead, they’ve set out to make a brand new, third category of mobile device that sits somewhere between the two.
“I would definitely call it a new connected device category,” Dennis says, “one that has the power of your smartphone and the ultra mobility of a wearable. We wanted to create a product that had the spirit of a wearable device, that could fit into the smallest pocket and allow you to be connected without feeling the need to stare at your screen all the time.”
This talk of inventing a new category of device takes us back to 2010, when Steve Jobs took to the stage to unveil Apple’s vision for a product that could live in the space between phone and laptop. The iPad was the answer, and although they now outsell the vast majority of traditional laptops, people at the time needed convincing that iPads were more than just ‘big phones.’
“That analogy is important for us,” Dennis says, “because this isn’t just a ‘small phone’, in the same way the iPad isn’t just a ‘big phone.’” The reason, he reveals, is that a simple change in size can make a world of difference to how you use a product:
“Smartphones are so big now that I can’t bring my flagship phone on a run anymore. And I have to set it down on a bench while I do a workout in the gym.”
But the dinky little Palm Phone? It’s designed to be with you wherever:
“It can be my weekend phone, for when I’m with my family. It can be my go-to phone for going out in the evening, where I can be in the moment but still take photos and call an Uber. It’s my ideal portable fitness device, and it’s almost like a new age iPod Nano. I wouldn’t use my Palm to fill out an Excel spreadsheet, or to do heavier work-based tasks, but I would use it for 90% of the things I do on the go.”
But the main difference between being a ‘small phone’ and a new type of device altogether? Behaviour…
Changing our behaviour
If you’ve got iOS 12 or Android Pie on your smartphone, you’ll no doubt have noticed a new focus on your screen activity, with features built in to both to help limit your usage. It’s a huge trend in 2018, but Palm thinks there’s a smarter way to go about it than by simply cutting off apps at the source.
“The biggest names in tech are investing in the ethics of how we use our devices on the go,” Dennis says. “But features that want you to limit your screen time or app usage act almost as a punishment, which is why I’d say a lot of those efforts haven’t caught on.”
“What we want to do instead is to be a stimulant for your behaviour, in a very different way. There’s probably one day of ‘detox’ that you go through when you put your big smartphone down and put a Palm in your pocket: removing the itch to always take your device out and unlock it. But when you do that, you really become more selective with when and how to check your phone.
“You become less concerned with all the apps that constantly demand your attention, which ultimately helps you become more focussed.”
That, as Dennis sees it, is what our future attitudes to tech will be centred on, as well as where Palm’s role in that future will lie:
“We see that being a big part of what will change in mobile usage over the next few years,” he says. “Over time, Palm’s job will be to become a smartphone replacement for the large majority of what we do, because it can fit into so many different spaces and lifestyle needs.”
And he’s not just talking physically.
Pocket your very own Palm! You can head over to vodafone.co.uk to order your Palm right now – from just £31 per month (with no upfront cost), including unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 4GB of data. Prefer Pay as you go? You can grab yours for just £350 when bought with a £10 Big Value Bundle.