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Offbeat: Meet the new Palm: Hint, this isn't your old PalmPilot

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Palm is back – well, sort of.

We're not talking about a comeback of the PDA maker, back when that meant personal digital assistant. This Palm has Steph Curry on its team and is making a play for the as-yet undefined market – the one for a mini clone phone. So think big guy, small phone.

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The new Palm, a small San Francisco startup that has licensed the name, is selling, a palm-sized $349 Android device that is exclusive to Verizon Wireless and requires a separate Verizon data plan and smartphone (an iPhone or Android). But it's not as straightforward as just another smartphone – it's not oversized like the top sellers, and it's not really even a smartphone.

The company’s backers, which includes the Golden States Warrior’s Curry, are decidedly trying to avoid marketing this latest Palm as a throwback to the long bygone era of Pilots and Treos – shoot, Curry would have been all of 8 years old when the Pilot was introduced by U.S. Robotics in 1996.

Instead, Palm is looking to define a new “ultra-mobile” market segment, which positions its tiny but cute titanium or gold, rounded-edge handset somewhere between an Apple Watch or some other connected wearable, and one of the many mega-sized smartphones now in vogue.

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“This is not a nostalgia play, this is a reinvention of the brand,” insists new Palm co-founder Dennis Miloseski, whose resume includes stints at Google, Samsung and GE. But he also adds that, “we thought it was important to do justice to the Palm name.”

Whatever it is, I suspect it is going to be a tough sell. For starters, the new Palm is difficult to pigeonhole. It’s not meant as a replacement for your regular phone, yet it sure does a lot of things your phone already does. You can make and receive calls, text, listen to Spotify, take pictures – there’s a 12-megapixel rear-camera and flash, and an 8MP front camera – and, for that matter, run the complete complement of Android apps.

It’s water- and dust-resistant, too, and can be unlocked with your face. Double-pressing a side button initiates voice search through the Google Assistant.

And yes, you can watch video on the tiny 3.3-inch HD display. (Remember when screens of that size were more or less the norm?)

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To give you an overall sense of proportion, you can lay three Palms sideways across an iPhone XS Max. (Yes, we checked.)

Palm is pitching the device at a youthful user with an active lifestyle – that’s where Curry comes in – as something you can stash in your pocket or wear on your arm or around your neck, maybe when working out. Verizon showcased a line of accessories from the likes of designer Kate Spade.

Palm also claims that the device will deliver all-day battery life, at least through a so-called Life Mode, which is like putting it in a deep sleep – calls, texts and notifications won’t intrude, as long as the screen is off. There is no wireless charging.

Keep in mind, that while you don’t have to carry your “real” smartphone with you to use this new Palm – because that would be defeating the purpose – you will have to pay $10 a month to Verizon on top of what you’re already paying for your data plan. So that makes this an expensive proposition, at $120 a year plus the $349 for the

But you don't have to forward your phone or give out a new number to use the Palm as your smartphone's mini-me. Through what’s called Number Share, calls and texts are synced with your Verizon smartphone; so when that phone rings, so does the Palm.

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If you have an Android phone, you'll have access to any apps you buy on that device on the Palm and will see all the texts.

If you have an iPhone, one drawback is that you won't see any iMessages on the Palm, only regular SMS text messages -- Apple is restrictive with its iOS-only messaging service.

The new Palm does have a few things in common with the Palms of yesteryear. While it doesn’t share the same Graffiti shorthand language recognition system you’ll remember if you used a Palm PDA, you can draw a letter in a gesture box to jump to onscreen menus that begin with that letter.

I can imagine Palm selling this small gadget as, maybe, a device you’d give your kids. But that’s not really a viable option, at least on this first iteration, since the phone number tied to the Palm device is the number tied to your own phone.

Along those lines, perhaps the biggest thing the new Palm has going for it is the fact that it is puny. We may now be in a “mega-phone” era, but I hear from plenty of people who still like smaller handsets, a dying breed it seems. But again, the problem here is that committing to Palm, also means owning a conventional Verizon smartphone, even if you’re meant to leave that other phone behind when you’re using the Palm.

Email: [email protected]; Follow USA TODAY Personal Tech Columnist @edbaig on Twitter

Why Mexico isn’t stopping the migrant caravan.

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