The com­pan­ion phone

Phone too big for your pocket or bag? Ap­par­ently you need an­other, smaller phone to go with it

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Be­fore the smart­phone came the PDA. A small, smart­phone-sized de­vice with very lim­ited con­nec­tiv­ity, a PDA – or per­sonal dig­i­tal as­sis­tant – held your notes, your ap­point­ments, and some atro­cious hand­writ­ing recog­ni­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties that made them at best in­ter­est­ing and at worse ob­tuse when it came to ac­tu­ally in­putting in­for­ma­tion. The most prom­i­nent of these was the Palm Pi­lot; now, Palm is back. But it’s not pro­duc­ing PDAs, it’s pro­duc­ing phones. Sort of.

First, we should be clear: it’s not re­ally Palm. It’s a San Fran­cisco startup, who’ve li­censed the Palm name from cur­rent owner TCL. And the prod­uct, the Palm Phone, isn’t re­ally a phone in its own right. Cur­rently planned to be sold only as an add-on for ex­ist­ing phone plans, the credit card-sized Palm Phone (priced in the US at $350) is a sec­ond hand­set – it shares the same num­ber as your ex­ist­ing phone, and it’s de­signed to be some­thing you take with you when your ex­ist­ing phone is too big to carry.

That sounds barmy, and it is, although there are some prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits. You could take the tiny one-but­ton phone out run­ning or on a work­out. You could tuck it into a clutch bag or your pocket to avoid car­ry­ing that £1,200 iPhone with you on an evening out.

While it runs An­droid, and has ac­cess to the full suite of An­droid apps – al­beit on a tiny screen – you could in­stall an ab­so­lutely min­i­mal num­ber of things on it; if you don’t want to be both­ered by email or Twit­ter, if all you want is a phone, you can leave the big boy at home. Switch on the phone’s Life Mode, which dis­ables all ra­dios while the screen is switched off, and you’ll be able to make it last much longer than its listed eight-hour life­span and ab­so­lutely en­sure you won’t be both­ered. We don’t know when, or if, the Palm Phone will hit UK shelves, or if its ini­tially lim­ited US re­lease – tied to Ver­i­zon sub­scrip­tions – will be the only way to get hold of it. For some, we’d imag­ine the Palm Phone would make a per­fect ev­ery­day mo­bile. For some, that sec­ond phone idea is some­thing that’ll change their lives. For oth­ers, it’ll be a bea­con of mod­ern waste and ex­cess.

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