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Palm Pre Review

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


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


by Bill | Jun 13, 2009 11:03:50 AM

Tried the Pre at the Sprint Store. The touch screen wasn't very responsive. The UI seemed real nice, again the lack of consistent response on the touch screen made it hard to fall in love with it.

Then I tried the keyboard. Man is it small and poorly designed. Not only are the keys too small and too close together, I feel like the keyboard is laying in a bowl. How did anyone approve this design.

Too bad. iPhone 3G S, here I come.

by coolfx35 | Jun 14, 2009 10:28:59 AM

My name is Brian, and I just got my Pre on Saturday by a stroke of sheer luck... They "Found" 10 extra units in the back room when everywhere else was sold out.

I LOVE this phone, but I'm getting a little tired of hearing about how much better the iPhone is by Apple fans who haven't even touched the Pre.

Yes, the iPhone is nice and all that, but come on.. let us enjoy our phones in peace. There's no need to tell us that our phone sucks when we just laid 3-400 bucks down on the counter for it.

I hang out at http://www.PalmPreForum.org a site made for all Palm Pre owners.

by Romeo | Jun 15, 2009 10:32:57 AM

My overall experience is that I like the Pre. I HATE the fact tht you can't turn off the "show notifications" option without silencing the phone. Thata pi$$es me off. This fone cld also use a "settings" menu so that the user can taylor the fone to his/her comfort. I LOVE the fact that it works like an Ipod but without an expandable memory I'm scared to indulge in that. Well I'm sure all of these issues will be handled via updates in the future (aside frm expandable memory).

by Joe | Jun 15, 2009 5:10:55 PM

Have to agree with Roy about Sprint's poor marketing... or Palm's poor marketing... or perhaps just a general lack of interest in the Pre for some reason. I visited a dedicated Sprint store in a major shopping mall after work on Monday June 8 (two days after the launch) because I wanted to check out the Pre. They had two demo Pres set up about 2/3 back in the store, in a dark and unattractive display. None of the 5 or so other customers in the store seemed to be giving a second look to the Pres -- not surprising given the lousy presentation.

The UI of the phone is very visually attractive -- nice colors and fonts and such. The screen is crisp, though small, and the form factor of the device is pleasant in the hand. (I forgot to test its cheese slicing ability. ;) The keyboard is small, smaller than my Treo 650, but serviceable.

However, I found the user experience of the device to be slow, SLOW, S-L-O-W! Everything seemed to take several seconds to respond. I was appalled when I went into the Notes app and created a new two sentence note (I wanted to try the keyboard), when I exited the note itself it took about 5 seconds for my note to appear on the "corkboard". That would've been acceptable in 1982 but not today (especially compared to the super snappiness of my aging Treo 650!). What's really scary is that this was on a brand new device, no background apps, no populated databases, basically stock config -- how slow does it get when you've loaded it up with a bunch of data and apps? (Of course, one hopes that Palm will optimize the software down the road...)

I have no intention of switching to Sprint; hopefully once a GSM version of the device comes available, the "v1.0" kinks will have been worked out.

I still wanna know how Andrew is using this phone in Europe.

by Michael | Jun 19, 2009 10:33:45 PM

I'd love to upgrade to the Pre, but I will have to wait until the 'tethered as modem' becomes available. Maybe JuneFabric.com is working on it as we type...

by Mike | Jun 28, 2009 7:20:12 PM

In the past couple of years I've progressed from a Palm Treo 755p to an HTC Mogul to an HTC Touch Pro to a Palm Treo Pro. Like a lot of people, I was eagerly awaiting the Pre release. I got there way early and stood in line the first morning to get two Pres, one for myself and one for my fiancee. I also got 3 of the Touchstones to use at home, in the car, and at the office. After 3 weeks of use, I was very underwhelmed. So underwhelmed that I just returned my 3 week old Pre and went back to the Palm Treo Pro. The Pre has SO MUCH potential! In a year I think it will be a great device, but as it is, there are so many "little" inconveniences that it got more frustrating to use than enjoyable.

Things I loved:
1. Camera is AWESOME, pics are on par with an actual digital camera, and it even has a well designed and usable flash!
2. Internet seems faster, webpage and web navigation is easy and intuitive.
3. Web-updated contacts, calendar, etc....I was used to my Windows-based (and locally contained)information. At first I was offended that to easily use it's full potential, users are strongly encouraged to set up an igoogle/gmail account. That said, I loved the web-based information idea once I did it! To put my existing data on my Pre, I opened Outlook on my desktop PC and used the IMPORT/EXPORT function to create windows-based CSV files for my contact and calendar information. I then got went to my newly created gmail account and imported these two files right into the gmail contacts and calendar. Within 3 minutes they were synched to the phone. Any changes I made via the Pre were autosaved to my online g-mail account, or I could sit at my PC and make changes and they were autoloaded to the Pre. Cool! If the phone ever gets lost or stolen, your information is still there and will autoload right into your new phone. And as an added bonus there is a remote device reset function that you can use to erase all information on the Pre in the event it falls into unwanted hands. I'm still not sure I like all my information sitting out there on the web, but it's a sacrifice I can live with for the convenience it provides.
4. During calls, proximity sensor turns screen off when it's beside your head and back on when you pull it away. Cool.
5. Multitasks very well, keeping multiple windows open in an i-phone-esque desktop display. Easy to switch between apps or close unused ones.
6. For a Palm, relatively large screen. They hit the bullseye between the slab-sided "too big" i-phone and the Treo Pro which I now use, a smaller bare-minimum screen for applications like internet or GPS.

Things I DON'T like:
1. No voice command...didn't realize how much I relied on it til I didn't have it anymore. This phone makes hands-free driving impossible, and you have to take your eyes off the road quite a bit just to initiate a call, even if you're using the phone dial pad. Forget using your contact list, you'll have a wreck trying. I added my most-used contacts to my program icon screen, but even using them requires multiple button pushes and looking away from the road.
2. No soft keyboard. When I got the phone I knew this, and thought it wouldn't be a big deal...WRONG. I didn't realize how frustrating it would be to have to open the slide every time I wanted to enter information, look up a contact, or do anything that required text input (which turns out to be almost everything).
3. Bluetooth autoanswer is always on, if you can get it to consistently pair at all. I use a Jawbone Prime and had lots of problems. Also, if you want to screen or ignore a call you have to be quick and do it through your headset. There is no option on the phone to manually let you choose which calls to accept.
4. No arrow keys to navigate text you have entered. FRUSTRATING! If you make a mistake or want to add characters/words in the middle of text or even worse a typed paragraph, it's a painstakingly inaccurate jab at the screen followed by backspacing and retyping.
5. No way to forward a text message you've received.
6. Cut/Copy/Paste are listed on the "edit" menu, but they are totally unusable. There is no way to highlight/select text to edit!
7. Sometimes the ignore button is there, sometimes it's not. So you can use the volume button to silence the ringer and let your phone vibrate a few seconds, but more often than not the call is inadvertently answered as you go to look at the screen.
8. VERY LIMITED user preference settings, in everything from texting to fonts to sounds to desktop to...you get the picture. Where Windows Mobile users have seemingly endless customization options, you will be very disappointed when you see the lack of user options.
9. Sahara-barren software choices and updates. I waited three weeks, hoping for software updates to resolve some problems or a new selection of apps in the app catalog. In that time there was one game added to the catalog, and only one update.
10. Sprint car chargers will fit the phone slot but won't fit Touchstone micro-USB slot. If you want to use a mobile Touchstone, be prepared to get out your pocketknife and start whittling plastic off of the micro-USB end of the charge cord.
11. Antenna SUCKS. I live in a "marginal coverage" section of my metropolitan area, I accept that :-) Where my previous phones had at least 1 or 2 bars, the Pre frequently drops calls or forces me to walk upstairs to avoid cutting out.
12. Ridiculously long power-up time. Almost 3 minutes for me, I've heard of longer for others.

Again, the frustrating thing is this phone has SO MUCH potential to cut into i-phone sales! I've heard that AT&T and Verizon will begin carrying the Pre in 2010, but in it's current form it won't stand an in-store comparison chance against the veteran i-phone. Unless Palm engineers address some of these glaring concerns SOON I see the Pre being relegated to Sprint users like me who are happy campers and don't want to switch but want the closest thing to an i-phone they can find.

by pj | Jul 22, 2009 7:41:47 PM

Open letter to Palm Pre product manager:

I have been a palm user since its inception.

I think you did a huge mistake by not including
Palm Desktop and local sync. for Palm Pre.

As a hardcore fan I suggest changing your plan and commit to support
a desktop sync. mechanism for Pre (ideally with Palm Desktop).

Then announce the plan and quickly allocation resources
to get that done as soon as possible.

It will cost you losing the battle to rivals if you don’t act quickly.

- A disappointed fan!

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