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AT&T Gets GSM Version Of Palm Centro

Palm released a quadband GSM/EDGE version of its lowest-priced PDA phone, the Centro, through AT&T Wireless, joining a CDMA 1x EV-DO version that Sprint Nextel has been selling since October.

The Centro, available today through AT&T at $99 with select service plans, runs the full Palm OS and features touchscreen and hard QWERTY keyboard. It’s Palm’s lowest-priced PDA phone to date and is intended to broaden the company’s customer base and entice consumers to step up from feature phones. The company’s Treo PDA phones are priced from $199 to $299 on an everyday basis, excluding promotions.

At Sprint, Centro has been successful in setting out what it was supposed to do: attract people stepping up from traditional phones, attracting a broader base of users, and encouraging data usage, said product manager Phil McClendon.

Three-fourths of Centro buyers upgraded from a traditional phone, he said, and the device has attracted younger users with lower household incomes compared to purchasers of traditional Palm phones, he said. A total of 46 percent of Centro users have household incomes of less than $75,000 compared to 16 percent of purchasers of Palm’s 700p.The number of Centro purchasers under age 35 is 52 percent compared to 21 percent for 700p purchasers, and 38 percent of Centro buyers were women, up from 21 percent of 700p purchasers, Palm statistics show.

The Centro has also encouraged step-up buyers to spend more on data plans and higher priced messaging plans because the Centro is easier to use for these applications compared to traditional phones, McClendon said. The attachment rate of data plans and higher-priced messaging plans went to 95 percent from the purchasers’ previous 67 percent, he said.

With the launch of AT&T’s Centro, Palm is offering its first Centro that can be used internationally and its smallest GSM phone to date, McClendon said.

To appeal to an expanded demographic, the phones incorporate clients for AOL, Windows Live and Yahoo! instant messaging as well as push email from commercial email services and corporate Microsoft Exchange servers. Likewise, it also features clients to access MySpace, Flickr and Yahoo; playback of MP3 and protected-WMA music files; and microSD card slot. The AT&T version is also the first Palm device to access AT&T’s XM Radio Mobile subscription service, which costs $8.99/month to stream 25 XM music channels via cellular.

As a GSM phone, the Centro gets four hours of talktime or 300 hours of standby compared to the CDMA version’s 3.5 hours of talktime or 300 standby hours.