Banking on an iconic brand, the Palm Pilot is back — but more useless than ever

After falling from towering heights, the once-powerful Palm brand is back with a confusing new ‘ultra-mobile’ phone.


October 17, 2018

The Palm Pilot brand is on the rebound with a new “ultra-mobile” Palm phone — one of several new gadgets trying to use a nostalgic brand to sell a new tech product. 

If this is ‘innovation,’ we’ll eat our palms

The most striking thing about the new Palm is how it manages to undermine its own selling points with “features” that are just slightly worse versions of things that already exist.

Palm plans to replace phones with other (slightly smaller) smartphones and eliminate digital distractions by offering all the same apps, just slower. Plus, at $349, it’s more expensive than more powerful real phones, despite its smaller-than-average battery and storage.

Palm’s site highlights its contradictions: “Palm is for those moments when you are more engaged in real life than your device, but you still may want to Snapchat your bestie, Instagram your dinner or text your friends to join.”

Using an old brand to sell new products

When Palm spun off for $53.3B in 2000, it was worth more than its parent company — and GM and McDonalds. But, unable to compete with the iPhone, Palm sold to HP in 2010 for just $1.2B. Now, 2 former Samsung designers are licensing the brand’s iconic name to relaunch Palm. 

Other companies have resuscitated iconic brands: Polaroid revamped its iconic instant camera to make a surprising comeback, and Nintendo successfully revived its classic console to sell new products. 

But instead of creating a new product that evokes an old one (like Polaroid) or using an old product to sell a new one (like Nintendo), Palm made a new product with old features.

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