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Palm Pre Review

Review of the Sprint Palm Pre – Don’t Just Think Different But Think Very, Very Different

Palm-Pre-Review

Over the coming days, weeks, months and quite possibly years you will likely see a rather heated and passionate debate between those who absolutely love the new Palm Pre and those who, well, don’t love it quite as much – particularly devoted iPhone, BlackBerry and Android fans.

I have to admit that I’m a man of many passions and I deeply respect those who have their own.  Whether these passions overlap with mine or not is not relevant and I certainly will not disparage people who have chosen an iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or other device as their smartphone of choice – we’re all entitled to make mistakes…

Joking aside, as I have repeated many times before, every smartphone on the market today is the result of some carefully crafted compromises which delivers a particular solution that may or may not be quite right for you.  No single smartphone today can claim to be the absolute best at everything and so you will end up making your choice based on those criteria that best satisfy your needs.

I am stating all this because, like its competitors, the Palm Pre is not (yet) perfect but I have nonetheless today personally made the rather exciting commitment to switch to this latest smartphone from Palm.  This decision will in my opinion be as important, fun and special as the one I made when choosing the Treo 600 some five years ago – something which in hindsight proved to be one of the smartest moves I’ve made in my entire life…

If you’re reading this post I guess that I can safely assume that you’re seriously considering getting a Palm Pre of your own and will thus naturally be curious to know what criteria I have used to reach my decision and what you can expect to experience when you finally get one in your own hands.

For starters pretty much everything that I outlined in my original Top 10 Reasons to Love the Palm Pre Smartphone still holds true and forms the core of the attributes that have attracted me to the Pre:

  1. Multitouch Portrait Screen + Slide-Down Keyboard Treo Pro Top Marks
  2. Superb Design, Size & Form-Factor Treo Pro Top Marks
  3. Ultra Speed Treo Pro Top Marks
  4. Best-In-Class Multitasking Treo Pro Top Marks
  5. Built-In WiFi, GPS, 8GB Storage Treo Pro Top Marks
  6. Intuitive & Beautiful User Interface Treo Pro Top Marks
  7. Awesome Digital Life Integration Treo Pro Top Marks
  8. 3.0 Megapixel Camera with Built-In LED Flash + Back Speaker Treo Pro Top Marks
  9. 3.5mm Stereo Headphone Jack + Removable Battery Treo Pro Top Marks
  10. Ambient Light, Accelerometer & Proximity Sensors Treo Pro Top Marks

At the same time, for me at least, the Palm Pre has already proven to be so much more than just the sum of its features and specifications.  The most important thing is that at long last the Palm Pre is a device that can truly inject a strong dose of passion into your digital life – one that touches your emotions as well as your intellect and lets you enjoy the entire process.

For example, while I can certainly appreciate some particular features of my iPhone, my BlackBerry Bold and even my Windows Mobile Treo Pro (I own all three) the fact now is nonetheless that it’s the rather unique overall package of the Palm Pre that has won me over.

From a hardware perspective, the combination of the organic pebble-like form-factor which feels great in both your hand or pocket, the large, solid and extremely crisp rotating portrait capacitive touchscreen, full physical slide-out QWERTY keyboard with its rubbery keys, high quality 3.0 megapixel camera with built-in LED flash as well as the removable battery plus the now standard WiFi, GPS, 8GB of storage and ringer switch place the Palm Pre at the very top of smartphone designs.  If to all of this you add the truly innovative Touchstone wireless charger there’s no doubt that the Palm Pre is well ahead of even the iconic iPhone when it comes to hardware and design.

From a software perspective there are three distinct areas to look at.  First there is the new webOS and its so-called “Synergy” which so far very much looks like a real winner – with it Palm finally has a robust, great looking, fluid, fun operating system on which to build a solid future and the fact that developers already love its simplicity further adds to both its potential and appeal.  There are naturally things that can and must be improved – such as the lack of system sounds changes – but overall webOS delivers a more than worthy successor to the old beloved PalmOS.

Secondly we have the standard applications developed by Palm – probably the current weakest link.  Here the company has built a good set of v1.0 solutions but it’s nonetheless the area that still needs the most attention in the immediate future.  For example, while the browser is absolutely world-class and offers superb and ultra-fast rendering (many tests show a 4x speed improvement over competing browsers) other apps such as Calendar, Photos and eMail nonetheless clearly suffer from lack of speed optimization and/or usability in their first interation.

After many discussions with Palm about my poor speed/usability experiences with some of the standard applications I nonetheless came away reassured that not only is the company fully aware of the issues but also that 1) these can be fixed and 2) that, along with Sprint, it is committed to releasing quick and frequent updates to both individual apps as well as the entire webOS if and when required.  The great thing with the Pre is that these updates will all be available over-the-air, free of charge and pain-free at the press of just one button – you really can’t come up with a simpler or faster system for updating your smartphone.

Finally we have the area of third-party applications which, although still extremely limited in number (about two dozen are available at launch either preinstalled or via Palm’s App Catalog), already clearly help to demonstrate the new realm of possibilities that thanks to smart, skilled and innovative third-party developers both the webOS and Palm Pre are opening. 

I have to say that, even at this early stage, developers have already done an incredible job with rich, beautiful, fun and for the most part completely free apps of all sorts including: Google Maps, YouTube, Amazon MP3, Doc View (for MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint), PDF View, Pandora, Fandango, AccuWeather, Flixster, Express Stocks, NYTimes, WHERE, LinkedIn as well as two great Twitter apps called Spaz and Tweed.  I’m sure that there will be a LOT more coming very soon. 

Considering that the Palm Pre is the work of a company that many have repeatedly suggested is “on its last breath” you really have to wonder about their diagnosis skills because right now, writing this review at my desk while getting beeps on my Pre alerting me to incoming email and listening to streaming music via Pandora in the background, I can tell you quite categorically that there’s quite a bit more life and energy left in this company! 

After a long streak of losses, Palm has finally managed to hit a home run with the Pre and rejoined the major league at the top of the smartphone game – not a small achievement when you consider that many of its competitors are 20+ times its size.

Overall, the Palm Pre is without a doubt one of the finest examples of a next-generation smartphone – one that pushes the boundaries of your imagination and takes it to a Wireless 2.0 world filled with exciting new possibilities.  The Pre is a device that allows you not only to Think Different but to Think Very, Very Different... 

Preonauts are always uniquely different


Posted by Andrew on June 4, 2009 at 04:08 AM

Palm Pre

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» Palm Pre initial reviews : mostly positive from Mobility Mind
The Palm Pre is here. After a long, long time, Palm finally has a credible product out in the market that is entirely their own. No more hiding behind Windows Mobile and a 5-year old second hand operating system, the Palm Pre is set to make or break... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 8, 2009 12:17:30 AM



Comments

1
by TazUk | Jun 4, 2009 4:43:51 AM

Hi Andrew, great review :o) Can you elaborate on the the shortcomings of the built in apps?

2
by Gev Weil | Jun 4, 2009 4:57:43 AM

Hi,
Love your posts.
Do you know if it will be possible to synchronize the Pre with regular Office 2007 Outlook (without Exchange sever?), including all contacts, meetings and so on?

3
by Guillaume | Jun 4, 2009 5:03:31 AM

Hi,

I am just soooo wanting it that the wait is hard sooo hard for me living in a GSM world ....

At least, we will have in Europe a delivery with v1.1 applications ;)

4
by serge | Jun 4, 2009 5:56:48 AM

Yes your article is well balanced.
You should mention that the Palm Pré is Mac OS compatible - that might be futile for you - ( my 5 years war with the Palm establishment has acheived something).
I remain only perplexed about 2 informations that you previously delivered:

1) You can't synchronize directly with your computer but internet only...Wouaaaa! I cant plug and synchronize my files and data? This is very mysterious! It works with WIFI, or abuzively through your Cell phone company "only" ( Big Brother coming back ). What do you do when you can't be connected ? Can you be more precise please this too big to be ignored.

2) Most of Web pages are horizontal ( 9/16 TV screen proportions) and the Palm Pre keybord forces you to an almost squarry verticality only. How do you feel about it when you surf or write an email...

Thank for your attention

5
by Andrew | Jun 4, 2009 10:49:49 AM

@Taz - thanks. I will naturally take an in-depth look at the Palm Pre over the coming days and elaborate with many more details about the hardware, webOS, Palm apps and third-party apps. At this stage I simply wanted to provide as many people as possible with an overview of my experience and my take on the Pre.

@Guillaume - definitely looking forward to seeing the release of a GSM Pre very soon as well!

@Gev - yes, it is possible to sync with Outlook and the Pre. One option from Palm allows you to transfer your data but just once. Another very robust solution from Chapura allows you to sync your main Outlook contact folder over WiFi with your Pre - called Pocket Mirror it works surprisingly well.

@Serge - yes, there is quite a bit of information missing from this condensed review but I will be adding to it via forthcoming posts. In terms of sync, as I point out above you _can_ sync from your PC and not just from the "cloud".

Cheers, A.

6
by Trollark | Jun 4, 2009 11:36:34 AM

I'm SHOCKED Andrew that you're going to switch. Such a valiant move :-) #1 problem battery life is reportedly bad - one day tops. You can wait for Andrew to finally get around to digging into the shortcomings or go read Pogue's no-punches-pulled analysis. SPOILER: HE LOVES IT! But doesn't give a free pass or sugar coat.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/technology/personaltech/04pogue.html?_r=1&ref=technology

7
by Andrew | Jun 4, 2009 12:35:22 PM

@Trollark - Battery life reports are in my opinion grossly overstated. In a week of heavy use I have not once considered the overall battery life to be an issue at all (even with GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth all enabled).

Additionally, it's worthwhile noting that the Pre has a removable battery. With an extra spare battery + portable battery charger + Touchstone + car charger I really can't imagine too many scenarios where you'd be out of juice.

From all the reviews I've seen to date the overall Pre experience seems to be very close to mine - a great smartphone with some minor issues to resolve but that's it.

Cheers, A.

8
by Ron | Jun 4, 2009 4:33:44 PM

Hey Andrew, thanks for the overview. I'm glad you had a positive experience using the Pre. I'm really on the fence regarding buying it on saturday. Could you quickly comment on some of these topics: the ringer volume (I heard reports that it's not very loud), speakerphone quality, and headset quality. It'd be great if you could compare it to your iPhone since I have one too. Also, I'm on the fence with Touchstone. Is it true that while docked, the Pre screen stays on without a mechanism for turning it off? I hate sleeping with any light source on, but need the Pre close by to use as an alarm clock. Thanks for indulging me, I wish I could return the favor!

9
by Joe | Jun 4, 2009 6:14:43 PM

Andrew, I seem to recall that you're based in Europe -- is that still correct? If so, how are you reconciling your decision to adopt the Pre with the fact that, errr, it doesn't work in Europe?

10
by Jeff | Jun 4, 2009 7:24:15 PM

Andrew, forgive my precision on grammar, but you should say "think differently". You need an adverb in this case. The word "different" is an adjective.

11
by Ron | Jun 4, 2009 9:53:27 PM

@Jeff: Funny. When I was in junior high we sent Apple letters about their "Think Different" slogan. Since Apple was involved with schools, we basically told them they should be more responsible role models to students.

12
by Robert | Jun 5, 2009 9:14:33 AM

I'd like to second Serge's remarks and would love it if you could give more details about synchronization.

I have a Palm Treo and a Mac, and I feel like I'm in sync hell. The Palm Desktop just absolutely doesn't work. My attempts to use the MissingSync have also failed -- the Apple iCal and Palm calendar data models seem too different, so that (especially) recurring events with exceptions and time zones create real sync problems. My current best solution is GooSync, which seems to get the calendar right, but has horribly garbled my contacts and really has no task solution.

So the Palm Pre sounds great, BUT I want out of sync hell. I'm willing to buy a Palm again, but without a clear idea of the sync solution, I'll have to jump to an iPhone and sync with the Mac apps, or an Android phone and sync with Google.

Is there a solution for people like me? No Outlook/Entourage, please!

Thanks!

13
by billmil | Jun 5, 2009 12:42:36 PM

thanks for the review.

Sometime soon can you post a review geared toward "transition pains" for current treo/centro users.

for example: i've used palm desktop for years. It's going away, as is syncing...

Or...does anything work differently? Does the pre offer memos ? (I understand the Ipod lacked them)? Can we still easily search them?

additionally, I use a few apps (e.g plucker). how well do they work with the new emulator?

finally, what will better /different for those migrating from treo/centro to the pre?

14
by Richard | Jun 5, 2009 12:55:38 PM

I second billmil's comment (#13) - I've been using Palm apps and built-ins for 13 years. It's one computing tool which has actually worked correctly, that is, I've never lost my contact list even through broken devices and upgrades. (Compare that to non-Palm users, including Blackberry).

So, what will us loyal Palm people do with our contacts, our calendar, our memos?

15
by Mark | Jun 5, 2009 1:41:45 PM

I'll stick with the Treo Pro....... When has Palm EVER gotten anything right on the first (sometimes second and third) try? I will wait and see how the Pre plays out. I refuse to be an unpaid Palm beta tester for their phones any longer. :)

16
by Matt | Jun 5, 2009 10:46:06 PM

From what I understand Motion Apps has a program called Classic that allows "most" Palm OS programs to run within the Web OS. This sounds great until the developers can catch up with new versions that will run on the new OS. But my question is how do these programs communicate with my PC. For example
Ultrasoft Money/MS Money, DocsToGo/Excel/MS Word/PDF, and SplashID, etc. Am I not understanding the "cloud" correctly. I thought it just did a backup to a Palm database, somewhere in the netherworld, which users can't access online.

17
by palmsover | Jun 6, 2009 5:02:55 PM

Straight from Verizon
Blackberry Storm vs Palm Pre

Global Phone
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

Edit Email Attatchments
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

Record Video
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

Expandable Memory
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

Voice Dialing
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

Visual Voice Mail
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

Phone As A Modem (Teathering)
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

Hundreds of Third Party Apps in App Market
Storm - Yes
Pre - Only about 12 at launch

Americas Largest and Most Reliable Network
Storm - Yes
Pre - No

I was a loyal Palm owner of 5 different models and couldnt wait any longer for palm to get their heads out of their @&% so I bought the Storm the day it came out... The proof is in the pudding.. As far back as Blackberry is from Apple,, Palm is that much farther...

18
by happy | Jun 6, 2009 10:17:38 PM

I'm in heaven, the Kindle power cord fits the pre and vice versa. One less cord to fight with.

19
by R. Miller | Jun 7, 2009 1:43:20 PM

I was first in line for the Pre on Saturday, not because I was giddy about the phone. I was up anyway and it gave me four hours of quiet time to read Atlas Shrugged in a folding chair outside the Sprint store.

The Pre is a good phone, but like all other devices it will take the entire first day to configure it. It took me a while to figure out how to transfer my contacts from the Treo. It transferred all my songs from iTunes, but not on the first attempt; something hung it up. Make sure you open iTunes and select only the songs you really want to transfer.

It will take some getting used to.

The browser is sharp but web pages first appear incredibly small and have to be pinched larger immediately. The keyboard is a bit cramped: not as good as a Treo but better than a Centro. Making a non-shifted key for the @, comma, and period was smart.

So far, here are my biggest peeves with the phone. Consider a lack of criticism of everything else a strong endorsement:

1. No 4-way navigation. When you enter text into a box (like this one), once the text is off the screen there is no way I could find to scroll back up. If you make a mistake typing, you have to tap with your finger in the general vicinity of the mistake, backspace, and retype. Of course, your fat finger is going to miss - a lot.

2. No Find. Yep, I can view an entire web page but if I want to find specific text on the page, the options menu doesn't have a Find feature.

3. Similar to 2. The page menu does have Copy, Cut, and Paste functions but NO WAY TO SELECT TEXT - at least not that I could find. I couldn't select text with my fingers or with a stylus. For that matter, a stylus doesn't work at all.

4. No icons on the desktop. You have to push a button to get to the program icons. Then they don't seem to have a logical order and you can't rearrange them. You can't set up tabs like Z launcher and have your favorites on one tab. As you scroll left and right, sometimes the off-screen icons are up, sometimes they're down - No discernible logic to the arrangement.

5. The trackball is a cool device, but it's mysterious. I sometimes inadvertently scroll back. Sometimes when I want to, I have to do it several times.

6. When I tried to pair the phone with my computers via Bluetooth, it didn't work. When I click Add Device, it only seeks audio devices. Pairing with my Bluetooth headset was easy.

7. It's slippery. It's no more slippery than my Treo was before I got the slip case, but I can't imagine how a good skin could be made for it with the sliding keyboard. I'll wager I drop the phone before the week is out.

8. The door of the mini USB is flimsy. Get the Touchstone charger. It's expensive, but worth saving the wear and tear.

9. If you think you might not like the Pre, wait. If you buy it, change your plan, and then decide to return the phone you will have to pay a $30 restocking fee and be stuck with your new plan (or face a $200 early termination fee). The plans jump from 450 minutes to 900 minutes of talk. It seems to me they are missing an important price point in between these with about 650 minutes. That would have been ideal for me, and that's probably the reason why it wasn't offered. Sprint is a bunch of greedy b@$tards!

10. Battery life goes fast with WiFi and Bluetooth on and lots of browsing. The car charger is SLOOOOOOOW to charge; 20 minutes of charging didn't get me 1%. Turn off WiFi and Blue when you're not using it!

I went to Best Buy looking for accessories later. I compared it side-by-side with an iPhone. The iPhone is an impressive device, but I'm' glad I have something that fits in my pocket without worrying about the screen shattering.

If my Treo were not nearly at the end of its service life, I probably would have stuck with it rather than buy the Pre site-unseen. In my opinion, the next gen of Pre will be much better. If the Pro didn't have Windows Mobile, I think I would have preferred that. The new Palm OS is pretty good but will need some third-party apps to improve it.

Nobody asked me about my Pre and I didn't use it to get attention or feel self-important. The best damned reason to buy a Pre is that it's not a Crackberry or an iMAPOMPOUSSNOB.

20
by Phreak | Jun 7, 2009 8:52:59 PM

Got to best buy, first in line, they sold all their pre's the night before... bastards. So I get to do the MIR.

There are definitely some quirks, however:
select text: hold shift, drag to hightlight
navigate within text: click to general area, then hold the orange button down while you drag back to exactly where you want to.

cant change system sounds: this has to change soon... last thing I need in a meeting is constant noises, and cant turn my phone off (or the ringer) either... theres also only one vibrate, so I cant have any distinction on what it is Im receiving and how important it might be... Im sure that will all change soon though, theres already been an OS update to add the clock/alarm, who knows when the next one will come out and what it will entail.

21
by R. Miller | Jun 8, 2009 4:28:43 PM

@Phreak:

Thanks very much for the tips on selecting and navigating. I'll give it a try.

I'm not sure what you mean by "system sounds". I was able to change my ringtone rather easily and after syncing with iTunes I now have a song as my ring tone. There is only 1 vibration for a text and multiple vibrates for a call. Are you talking about distinctive ringtones/vibrate for different people?

I used the alarm clock once. It definitely needs some help. They've got only two options for the clock and they both look corny.

Still can't figure out the screen lock. Sometimes I turn it off and it locks. Other times it doesn't. Weird.

The included instruction manual is pretty austere. Is there an advanced manual somewhere?

Battery life sucks. I need to get a separate charger for work. It will go from 100% to 90% in the first few minutes of internet usage. For some reason the rate of drain slows down though. I can usually make it from 8am-8pm without a charge, but that's from mild usage. The car charger I got is worthless. 20 minutes on the charger and not even 1% gain in power.

My Treo had an advanced setting on the calculator with scientific functions and metric-standard conversion. I'm ticked they didn't include the scientific calculator as a standard ap.

I'm looking forward to some killer aps and hopefully a lot of free software upgrades to fix some of the "problems". My friends are pretty envious.

22
by stephanie | Jun 9, 2009 1:34:15 AM

wow, it sounds like you guys are having a lot of probs, the sprint store near me had a guy that showed us everything so here it is:
1. system sounds are for the screen motions, sms etc and there are no way to change them sadly (im looking so hard)
2. the phone ringer can get turned off using the vibrate and the system sounds can get turned off through the sounds and pref menu
3. change the menu around by pressing and holding the icon you want to move till double parenthesis appear around it then move it where you like and even to the next page, looks like this - ((app))
4. turn the phone off by pressing and holding the power button in the upper right corner of the screen, it will say "Palm" pause for about a minute then shut down.
5. conserve bat. life by closing apps when the phone isnt in use. REMEMBER, the usb charger charges the phone extreemly slow, so slow that it doest look like its charging, the house/travel charger and the car charger work the fastest, also knock down the backlight from 1 min to 30 seconds and make it dimmer because it takes strain off your eyes and makes the bat last longer.
6. i agree about the calc, i flicked and there was nothing there lol.

I hope you all enjoy as much as I have, I'm sure that Palm has something in the works for the issues we experience!

23
by yul meade butler | Jun 10, 2009 8:17:00 PM

ditto!

24
by yul meade butler | Jun 10, 2009 8:24:02 PM

Ditto!

25
by Roy | Jun 11, 2009 10:43:33 PM

It's about time someone put things into focus reference Palm and their marketing.

1. Palm lags sorely behind other smartphone manufacturers in a market that Palm created and Palm is not doing what is necessary to lead the industry again. They are losing market share!

2. The Pre is a nice device. Palm failed in their attempt to successfully market their newest innovation in smartphones, by selecting the worst network provider, with the smallest national market, and least dynamic sales. Sprint is doing a terrible job marketing the Pre. Their network only works well in major metropolitan areas or along major roadways - sometimes.

3. Palm support is a disaster. My 755p (yes, I am a Palm owner - this is my fifth Palm device) has been replaced by Alltel (an excellent company, which no longer carries new Palm OS devices), three times in the 8 months I have owned this phone model. The first three locked up on the Access Powered screen and would not reset at all. There is sufficient evidence from the Palm blogs, across all carriers, that the 755p has some serious hardware or software issue(s), that causes the phone to lock up, yet Palm will not admit it is a device problem. Yeah, for those of you who will whine that third party software can cause it...I NEVER had these problems with my 650, and all the other folks who have had this problem (look it up in the blogs) are not all using the same software. My 755p STILL resets whenever it feels like it, but it cost me the price of another third party software to prevent it from locking up!

4. Having said all this, I still like Palm products, but I am very seriously considering someone else for my next smartphone. Palm needs to get off it's corporate a-- and get back to being a LEADER in this industry, instead of a copy cat follower!

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