The buzz surrounding the Palm Pre has shaken the smartphone world. On the verge of bankruptcy, Palm poached Jon Rubinstein, the project manager of Apple's iPod, to head its research and development.
A year later, the result was the Palm Pre. Many have compared the Pre to the popular iPhone. Both have touch screens, robust operating systems, a wide range of applications, Internet, GPS, etc. -- but the Pre adds on a keyboard and a 3.2-megapixel camera in a smaller design package.
Its specialty is integration. Running on Palm's WebOS software, the Pre has a feature called "Synergy" that combines information from multiple sources, so calendar items, emails, text and photo messages, email messages and contacts are integrated into a single list. Calendars from your desktop, online email and Internet can be viewed together, and conversations with each contact are combined into a single chat-style window. Plus, more than one application can stay open at once, so there's no need to close emails for a call, end a call for an instant message, end instant messaging to play a song and so on.
It's not a perfect phone, though. There's no camcorder, flash support, on-screen keypad or slot for a memory card. Microsoft Office items can be read but not edited on the phone. And apps, although handy, don't go quite as far as those on the iPhone. The Palm Pre can keep you connected and organized. It can also keep you entertained. But the apps menu doesn't have a large enough buffet to serve every interest.
The Pre's completely black shell has two effects. The good effect is that it makes the screen pop even more than it already does, considering its color capacity and high resolution. The not so good effect is that it makes some keys hard to find, especially the keys on the edges of the phone.
It slides open to reveal a full keyboard. Designed at a slight angle, the Pre fits in the hand easier than the rigid iPhone, with a screen that is easier to see while typing. The smooth raised keypad is simple to use and easy to read -- though they're not very large -- and backlit for typing at night. More room between keys and a longer space bar would make typing easier since typing errors occasionally happen.
The right side has a slot to plug in the phone's charger or micro-USB chord, the left side has volume keys, and the top of the phone has a headset jack, a ringer switch to turn sounds off and on, and the power key. The Pre has a vibrant screen and an uncluttered keypad, but the keys -- sometimes hard to find on the phone's jet-black shell -- could be larger.
Its sleek design, smaller size and slight curve when it slides open make it easier to hold than the larger, stick-straight iPhone. But having a smaller screen, even with good resolution, still means a littler view of videos and other screens. Out of the box, the Pre comes with a battery, AC phone charger, stereo headset, micro-USB sync cable, carry pouch, recycling envelope, terms and conditions of services booklet and guides for getting started and features in English and Spanish.
The Pre comes with a 3.2-megapixel camera. It has an LED flash and takes crisp, vivid and colorful pictures that show detail well, especially on the phone's high-resolution screen. However, the flash is one of the few options, since there's no way to change the color tone, white balance, or adjust a picture for lighting conditions. A large mirror that pops up when the phone slides open helps take accurate self-portraits.
Photos can be arranged in thumbnail form or in separate photo albums. They can also be used as wallpaper, sent in messages, placed as ID photos or uploaded to social networking sites such as Facebook. Organizing photos is simple, although the first touch of the screen doesn't always hit the right thumbnail, but the second touch will usually end up being accurate.
Snapping pictures is a cinch -- or at least that's how quickly the camera captures images. It's hard to take a bad picture on the phone and images with a relatively stable hand come out focused and colorful. Taking a self-portrait is easy with the back mirror -- there's none of the typical straining to see faces in a tiny little reflective circle, or no mirror at all, as is the case with the iPhone. Self-portraits on Apple's popular handset are mostly a guessing game, but at least there are more image editing options and applications to clean up other pictures with brightness, cropping and sharpness adjustments, among others. But scant editing options are a disappointment -- however, not as much as the inability to record video.
The iPhone not only shoots video, but also sends it to Web sites and plays it back at over 10 hours of footage. The Pre takes good pictures, but the lack of video recording is a significant drawback.
The Pre has all the basics like a calculator and alarm, but the features don't stop there. Palm Synergy allows you to combine dates and reminders from all their different calendar programs into one calendar view, making it easier to keep track of the day's activities. Synergy also shows which program the calendar item came and each source can also be viewed separately. Contacts from different areas can also be viewed in one layer.
When a calendar item is approaching, or when an email or message is received, the Pre notifies you with a reminder at the bottom of the screen -- subtly alerting you if you're in the middle of another activity. You can also find contacts or apps just by typing. Any word typed on the home screen will start a search of anything on the phone. If the search is not a contact or application, the Pre will to online and search Google, Wikipedia, Twitter or Google Maps.
You can browse for apps in the catalogue. Multiple programs can run simultaneously and you can leaf through by swiping left or right on the screen. Some apps let you to save flights to the calendar and get notifications about the flight's status as it occurs with Flight View. Meanwhile, others let you find and buy movie tickets, learn about movies in theaters, review businesses for Mobile by Citysearch and find new places to eat. Games are also available for download.
The handset also has a navigator that gives directions on speakerphone to various locations and provides a color map, the distance from one location to another and the estimated time of arrival. The GPS system also helps you find new restaurants and check for gas stations and other local points of interest.
The battery can last up to five hours while in use and up to 12 days on standby, which isn't very long. While robust features keep you informed, make purchases, keep track of tasks and search for information, what's missing -- especially compared to the iPhone -- is the fun. The iPhone has everything from an app that helps you find apartments or print labels for your businesses to an app that allows you to pop on-screen bubble wrap. The Pre has a lot of catching up to do in the app department. You'll be able to find places that offer entertainment, but not much in mindless entertainment to pass the time.
Images on the 3.1-inch touch screen appear with high-quality 320-by-480 pixel resolution and with amazing 16.7 million color quality. Fonts are crisp and easy to read, pictures appear vivid and sharp, and the size, although two-fifths of an inch smaller than the iPhone's screen, is big enough to watch videos without squinting. Like the iPhone, you have a touch screen that, with a flick from left to right or right to left, can move through screens in a horizontal fashion. Unlike the iPhone, the Pre relies on its physical keypad and has no on-screen keypad to use.
Personal preference for keypad location will determine if this is a good or bad move for individual consumers, but the iPhone has the advantage of not making you go back and forth between tapping the screen and typing on the keypad. However, a physical keypad often takes less touch pressure and gets more accuracy than an on-screen keyboard.
There are a few drawbacks, such as how easily the screen gets covered in fingerprints. A small "pond ripple" effect shows where the screen is touched for accuracy but quickly becomes distracting. Overall, the display is easy to navigate thanks to the ability to flip through workspaces, a simple home screen of icons, clear and colorful images, and a touch menu for dialing to save room and layering on the keypad.
The Pre has all the resolution of the iPhone without taking up as much room. Should you want a larger screen, the iPhone may be their best bet. But if you want a more pocket-friendly display that's still easy to watch, read and navigate, the Pre is a good fit.
The Pre has built-in music player that plays, organizes and finds songs and streams music from Sirius Music and Music Choice. Tracks can be synced from a computer or downloaded from Amazon MP3 -- letting you search for music, listen to samples before buying and check the progress of downloads. Meanwhile, a massive 8-gigabytes of internal memory ensures even the largest music libraries can fit on the phone without a memory card.
You can listen to music using the included headset or Bluetooth headphones. Owners have complained that the phone doesn't have the best audio via Bluetooth on a car connection.
The Pre's audio is pumped through a loud speaker port on the back. The sound quality is outstanding, but placement of the speaker on the back may not be ideal -- side speakers would have offered better stereo sound. Regardless, calls sound crisp on both ends of the line, and the music player and Amazon song download service will keep you bobbing your head. The handset supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR, WAV and QCELP audio formats.
The Pre has text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging and email messaging. It connects to AOL, Windows Live and Yahoo clients for both IM and threaded text messaging. The phone uses a brand new WebOS platform developed to help you carry information from your phone, office computer and home computer on the phone. The handset "thinks ahead" by calling up all of this information either in separate views or all together with color coding to tell you which source the calendar, email, contact or other information came from.
Before sending a message, the Pre allows you to rifle through contact information from multiple on-line, computer- and phone-based sources listed in one concise listing. You can have multiple conversations at once, see buddy lists to check who is online in your contact listing, and see instant messages in your email inbox. No matter which messaging method you're using, the Pre keeps track of all the conversations at once with integrated text, IM and email. If a conversation starts in one messaging area, it can continue in another.
The Pre keeps track of multiple email accounts arranged neatly in one menu screen -- listing inboxes as work or personal. Users can see the number of new messages a single an account or "all inboxes" before tapping to read. Emails, including Gmail, are pushed the handset so you know when it hits your inbox rather than waiting for a refresh period. Attachments such as PDFs and documents from Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint can be viewed, but not edited.
The Pre has text and picture messaging, simple email setup and several viewing options to threaded instant messages. However, documents cannot be edited, which could slow down your business on the go.
The 3.1-inch display is ideal for watching videos, and the Pre has plenty of options for keeping eyes glued to the screen. Sprint TV offers 50 channels of news, entertainment, weather and sports shows as well as movies. Channel options include the Weather Channel, ABC Mobile, CNN Mobile and the Disney Channel. Nascar fans can install the Sprint Cup Mobile app and keep track of their favorite driver, watch videos, view statistics and schedules, get news and alerts, or view Fantasy Nascar and Sprint FanZone features.
A number of new apps are added to the catalogue every day. If you're looking for a decent list of the basics, you'll find plenty to use on the Pre. Sprint TV offers movies, shows and radio. The news and networking sites keep people connected as well as entertained.
There's more than one way to connect to the Web on the Pre. One way is through Sprint's high-speed 3G Ev-Do Rev A. network. Another is through a Wi-Fi connection. Sprint's broadband service has peak download speeds of up to 3.1-megabits per second and works at most places where Wi-Fi is not available.
Pre owners can browse the Web -- full-color versions of sites -- quickly and easily. One of the perks of the browser is that Web sites appear as they would on a computer screen, so sites aren't pared down or hard to read and navigate. To navigate Web pages, tap to select a field, touch the screen and keep pressing while moving a finger around the screen to move the page in any direction, and swipe across the screen to move to another page or app. Tapping to add bookmarks or type a Web address is simple.
Both the Pre and iPhone allow zooming in and out by spreading fingers across the screen from one point or pinching them together. Both phones also allow you to scroll up or down by sliding a finger up or down and can show a Web page in horizontal or vertical mode.
The biggest difference is that the Pre can be opened and closed during Web browsing to type on the keypad, whereas the iPhone keypad shows up on screen automatically, which is especially convenient when viewing an item in horizontal mode. Also, unlike the Pre, two pages can be shown in part at once, instead of swiping fully from one page to the next each time.
Multiple pages can be open at once, and sites can be bookmarked. But, unfortunately, viewing some videos and animation can be a challenge since there's no Flash support. The Pre connects to the Internet anywhere Sprint gets service. However, Flash support would be a welcome addition in future versions of the phone.
The Pre is equipped with 8-gigabytes of internal memory. Plenty of smartphones don't even reach the 1-gigabyte, so this is an impressive amount of storage. The handset's functions take up 1-gigabyte, so it actually comes with 7-gigabytes free for usage. This should be plenty of space for the largest of music collections. If you want to add memory, you're out of luck -- there's no memory slot. But more storage options are available with USB mass storage support and Palm's over-the-air backup.
The Pre comes with large storage room and flexible backup options. Put too much on it, though, and the phone, like any device with lots of apps, may become cumbersome to navigate. While an expandable memory slot would have been appreciated, you won't likely fill up all the storage.
The Pre connects wirelessly to Bluetooth accessories. You can communicate wirelessly using headsets and handsfree car kits, listen to music through stereo Bluetooth headphones -- not included -- transfer files, print documents, control audio and video, and support gaming tools like joysticks and mice. Palm also supports over-the-air backup, to store and remotely erase items and update the software.
For wired options, the Pre can use a micro-USB cable to connect with a computer and upload files and sync music. The Pre is also compatible with Palm's new Touchstone charging dock -- sold separately. The Touchstone charge the Pre wirelessly by magnetically snapping the handset in place. A special Touchstone back cover is also required for the Pre. Charging takes about as long as it would with a wall plug charger, making this unique, portable system extra handy, especially since the phone's battery doesn't have the longest life.
The Pre has many strengths. Among those is its sleek design and bold, large screen; 3.2-megapixel camera that takes impressive photos; integrated messaging system that allows a person to see emails from multiple inboxes, ability to layer items from more than one calendar; switch between messaging systems in the middle of conversation. Its impressive 7-gigabytes of free memory ensures users never run out of storage, able to sync with a computer and use Wi-Fi and 3G Internet to browse the Web.
Remarkably, the Pre has a more compact screen with all the resolution of the bulkier iPhone. Its apps and entertainment features are plentiful, with access to Amazon's MP3 store and Sprint services for online music, clips of videos and satellite radio.
But here's what's missing the camera can't record video, there's no Flash support for the Web, the inability to edit documents, and a small keypad and muffled speaker placement. The Pre also falls considerably short of the iPhone on apps. The Pre's app menu offers enough to keep you connected, entertained and organized and the menu screens are easy to understand. Plus, the choice of keeping items separate or together comes in handy. But when it comes to innovative extras, the Pre just doesn't go far enough to top the competition.
If you want to get the maximum amount of apps on your smartphone or carry around a larger screen with better battery power, the Pre isn't for you. But to stay connected, juggle multiple communications at once, and learn more about what's available around them and view pictures and video on a high-resolution screen, the Pre is a good pick. ♦
First and foremost, let me state, I like the Palm Pre! My review of the Palm Pre is probably too little too late in the wireless game only because I still use a Palm Pre on the Sprint network.
I briefly used a Samsung Transform Android but switched back to my Palm Pre so I've been using the Palm Pre for a total of about 6 months! I must say that what attracted me to the Pre was the size of the phone. It's not too big for holding in my hand and it doesn't look too hideous when I'm talking on it, holding it to my ear! I was presently surprised that this was the first phone that I owned since my Palm Treos that had a screen that was visible in bright sunlight.
I appreciate the slide out keyboard but if you don't have any nails on your thumbs you can forget trying to type on it's dinky keys with any fluency. I wish the Palm Pre had support for Adobe Flash and voice command but the Pre really never got off the ground before HP / Palm could develop these features.
Nevertheless, I switched to the Transform phone because of the Pre's deficiancies only to switch back to the Pre because the Transform was just too sluggish and sometimes unresponsive! Yes, the Pre is snappy in performance thanks to the excellent WebOS.
The Synergy is a nice feature that keeps all your data integrated in one window. For now I can do without the bells and whistles of voice command and voice search. Unversal is just as good but I just have to type what I want to find! Oh well! You can still find Palm Pres all over Ebay, in good to new condition for cheap! I've got two!Was this review helpful to you?
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