Round Table: The Palm C40 144
Welcome to Round Table, which is in fact not a table at all. Round Table is a continuing series on PreCentral where we pose a question to the staff and they provide their thoughts and insights. The question could be something simple like “what’s your favorite webOS app?” or something a bit more complicated, like “where does Palm go from here?” Or maybe we’ll just end up chatting about our favorite movies, you never know. This time around we're dispensing thoughts on something that has puzzled and eluded us for months: the Palm C40.
We can only speculate about the Palm "C40." The number appears to be completely different than the "100" designated for the Pre and the 120 for the Pixi. If Sprint is true to form, a next generation Pre or Pixi might be a 100 or 200 series. So this is something different.
Let's start with the easy things. Palm has said that they will stick to offering real keyboards and I hope they do. The iPhone's virtual keyboard is just so clumsy. It also will need to be 4G or it will be Dead On Arrival. It will need a higher resolution camera with auto-focus and zoom, even if it is digital zoom. And Palm has to address the battery life issues in hardware. There is just so much you can do in software to save power. The Google Nexus is rated at twice the battery life of a Pre.
I would love to see a new webOS phone about the size of a Motorola Droid. I really like the Droid's landscape, slide-out keyboard. I know some like the small keyboard for one-handed texting but I really would like a wider keyboard for every-day use. When the Droid's keyboard is slid out, it is big enough but can still fit in a pocket when closed. Memory and resolution do have to be addressed in upcoming webOS devices. If you download a HD YouTube video to the Pre, it is really a stunning picture. But go up to the Droid's 854x480 and you can use it to comfortably watch a movie while traveling. Now memory becomes an issue. Instead of going to 16 GB, it would make so much more sense to use a microSD slot like the Droid. Resolution and memory are also key to making this a gaming machine.
Our expectations for our phones are changing rapidly. Your phone is your video player, TV, Facebook, email, texting, calendar, contacts, and gaming device. Oh, don't forget to make it a phone too. Even the iPad should have been a phone.
Ever since the C40 popped up in Sprint’s inventory system I’ve been sitting here scratching my head as to what this mystery device may be. Literally, that’s all I’ve done for the past four and a half months. What I actually want the C40 to be is an interesting question, and it’s difficult to figure out what it is that I want. I didn’t know I wanted the Palm Pre and webOS, or anything like it, until it came out. But I did want the Pre Plus - the better Pre - before we even had an inkling of its existence. But with the C40 model number I have to throw those desires out the window, because this device clearly doesn’t fit into the P1XX series that contains the Pre, Pixi, and their plus variants.
Trying to narrow down what I want the C40 to be is an exercise in bad options. I want it to be the better iPad, but for something that could be a raw productivity machine I don’t think webOS is ready to compete on that large (screen size) of a scale with the more developed iPad. And the last thing I want Palm to do is launch a product that will fall flat in the market. So I guess what I really want is the lovechild of a Motorola Droid and the Pre Plus. Keep the slider keyboard but make it portrait, make it faster, bigger, and thinner. But that makes no sense for something as different as the C40.
What I expect the C40 to be is an entirely different beast, but I really have no expectation as to what that means. With just a model number it’s impossible to figure out what it could be. If we operate on the assumption that it’s not just a random placeholder in Sprint’s systems, then we have to assume that this is a connected cellular device of some variety - otherwise it wouldn’t be in Sprint’s systems. There are a couple of things to take into consideration, such as it being a “smartphone” in Sprint’s system, and Palm’s dedication to the physical keyboard. My almost certainly off the mark prediction is that the C40 will be unlike any phone we’ve seen before. webOS is in its infancy right now, and the C40 is a device that will blow the doors wide open, which means we’re going to need something like webOS 2.0 to for this smartphone to arrive. I see this as a slab phone with a virtual keyboard, but a screen that depresses/clicks like the Storm 2. But not like the Storm 2, if that makes any sense. With, of course, ridiculous hardware specs to boot (Tegra 2, WiMax, etc).
That, or the Palm C40 just doesn’t exist.
I have no idea what the C40 is. No. Idea. It's maddening, honestly. What do I want it to be? A touchscreen-only webOS device, the boring slab, but with decent industrial design and a virtual keyboard that's at least the equal of Swype on Android or the iPhone's keyboard. I have no illusions that we'll get expandable memory via an SD card slot or WiMAX. Basically take the Nexus One, remove the trackball and virtual buttons and replace them with a gesture area, and I would be one happy blogger.
What I want the C40 to be is a slightly larger webOS smartphone, similar to the Pre in having a sliding keyboard (since a fixed physical keyboard plus a half-VGA or better screen would be very bulky), but being a hair bigger, to enable a larger capacity (removable) battery and a microSD slot for removable storage. It would also have a better, autofocus camera (the microSD would allow larger photo and video files), a native virtual keyboard (at least in landscape mode) and the full suite of Bluetooth profiles (of course).
What I expect the C40 to be is the Pre Plus, perhaps with a microSDHC slot wedged in somehow. I don’t expect Palm to so quickly dilute the value of its higher-end devices and its nascent 3rd party accessories market by changing the form factor so substantially, so soon after Verizon got the Pre Plus.
Personally, I want the Pixi form factor with the Pre specs. Nothing quite beats the QWERTY candy-bar styled phone for my daily use, the Sprint Pre keyboard leaves something to be desired after using several other hard keyboards over the years. So I wonder why Palm has offered this to form factor to another demographic with the Pixi; they obviously think it's a good selling point but that doesn't really help us power users who need (want) 4-6 cards running without slow downs. It's also sad to see the lack of 3D gaming for the Pixi; so not only do I want a nice CPU and GPU, I need the C40 to incorporate another design change: less wasted bezel (BlackBerry Tour Keyboard style) and more pixels. If you look at the Pixi, the keyboard could have been shifted down and made wider to get more screen in there (also if the device were a little bigger it wouldn't have hurt in design). I don't worry about the OS, because that is a work in progress that is constantly transitioning. When the C40 drops (if it's even real...) Palm might be at webOS 2.0, so it isn't a major concern of software but rather a concern of this being a flagship device.
Here is my total stab in the dark as to what I think it will be... this device is a placeholder in the Sprint system to generate buzz. It's obvious that things get screen capped and leaked all the time. I am not saying it's a total plant on purpose, I do think there is another device coming to Sprint this year from Palm. I think when it becomes more concrete to both Palm and Sprint, it'll be known as the C40. It's just my opinion that the C40 name came before the device itself. That point being made first... I expect to see the Pre 2 to be the C40. This device will have better hardware design all around (look to the Pre Plus for some mild insight) and possibly include a few upgrades like OMLED screen for better power consumption, more RAM, and a much better battery capacity (minimum of 1500 mAh but more would be better). I am not sure how much better we improve in terms of the processor, but I wouldn't count out a Snapdragon or Tegra 2 processor being a possibility for your flagship device.
I'd like the C40 to be a flagship-tier device sporting any combination of the following: a bigger screen, a bigger keyboard, and more storage. I doubt that we'll be seeing anything with a horizontal keyboard or removable memory coming out of Palm anytime soon (read: ever), so I'd imagine that it would be similar to the Pre with a slider keyboard, but bigger and less curvy.
As far as what I expect the C40 to actually be? That product number has been in Sprint inventory systems for nearly 6 months now, and I highly doubt that it's related to a yet to be announced handset or device. I do have a strong suspicion that we'll see a new Palm handset out on Sprint sometime this Summer, but it won't be related to this.
And there you have it. Our wishes, our hopes, and our lofty misguided expectations all rolled into one post. That's what we think of the mythical C40 - what about you?