It the early days of the modern smartphone era, it wasn’t just a fight between Android and iOS. There were more competitors that seemed to have a shot at winning the hearts and minds of consumers. One of them was a revitalized Palm under the leadership of former Apple exec Jon Rubinstein. Palm didn’t make it, but now the Palm brand could be poised for a nostalgic comeback on Verizon. It won’t be the same Palm you remember, though.
Palm became a household name during the age of PDAs, and its webOS platform launched to high praise in 2009. Not long after, dwindling cash reserves caused Palm to consider buyout offers. HP purchased the company for $1.2 billion in mid-2010 and announced new phones in early 2011. Then, HP got a new enterprise-oriented CEO by the name of Léo Apotheker. HP’s new CEO decided to end support for Palm products in the summer of 2011. This was one of several decisions that resulted in Apotheker’s ouster. The company considered trying to undo the Palm shutdown, but it was too late. Palm was dead.
Even without viable devices or a user base, there was some value in the Palm name. Smartphone maker TCL purchased the brand in 2015, but didn’t have any immediate plans to use it. It’s unlikely you know much about TCL, but you’ve probably seen its phones before. It makes devices under the Alcatel brand, and most recently it became the hardware partner for Blackberry’s Android devices (like the KEYone).
The KEYone is manufactured by TCL.
TCL said last year that it was planning to restart the Palm brand, but now there are some additional details. According to a report from Android Police, TCL has a Palm smartphone in the works that will launch on Verizon Wireless in the US during the second half of this year. This will be an Android phone like all of TCL’s other devices. When HP killed Palm, it separated the webOS software from the brand name. The webOS platform is currently owned by LG, which uses it on smart TVs.
The Palm brand was all about keyboards, and the Pre was reasonably successful as a slider keyboard phone. TCL does have experience making phones with keyboards, and there are some users who still want those. It’s unclear if Verizon would want to take a chance on such a device, but the market for “flat black slab” smartphones is pretty competitive right now. Doing something unusual might be TCL’s best shot at reviving the Palm brand.