Palm Pre

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INTRODUCTION

    The Palm Pre is Palm’s first device
to run WebOS, where most of their latest
devices were running Windows Mobile 6.x or the
extremely old Palm Garnet OS
. The WebOS
is based on Linux and includes a very iPhone-like,
elegant, attractive and animated user interface. We’ll go through the Palm Pre in detail from the perspective of a Windows Mobile user. Read on for more!

WHAT’S HOT

     Ten years ago, Palm was the leader in
personal digital assistants with their simple
single-task-oriented Palm operating system. Today, they’ve
got a new operating system for their devices and
it’s aimed mainly towards the iPhone crowd.

    While Windows Mobile has been
around for a decade or so, the Palm WebOS is the
third completely new smartphone operating system to
be released in the past 3 years. It’s very
comparable to the iPhone and Google Android
operating systems, and just as young. However, it’s
definitely got some distinct advantages.



The task management is one of the best features in
the Palm WebOS

 

WHAT’S IN
THE BOX

    The Palm Pre comes with; a Mini-USB sync cable, USB AC adapter, stereo
headphones, leather pouch case, and manuals.  There is no software
CD for your desktop computer, however the Pre will
sync music and videos with iTunes if you have that
installed.  Palm also
sent us the Touchstone charger, which includes a
special battery cover, USB charger, and the
touchstone magnetic charging stand.  There’s
also a nice car charger that you can get. 



Check out our unboxing video.

THE DEVICE

    Let’s go through specs. The Pre is running with a TI OMAP 3430 clocking at 600MHz. It has 256MB RAM and 8GB of storage ROM. The screen is 3.1" and is 320×480, making for a pixel density of 186PPI (the iPhone’s display is 165PPI, while the Touch Diamond2’s display is 292PPI). In terms of wireless radios, it has Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, WiFi (b & g), and EVDO Rev A running on CDMA. The rear camera is 3.2MP and has a flash. Powering everything is a 1150mAh battery. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70



Here’s our hardware tour video.

The screen is very glossy and
shiny when it’s clean.

 

Fingerprints are no stranger to
the Palm Pre’s screen. You’ll be lucky if you can
keep it clean for 20 minutes.

With full brightness on, the
screen is still fairly usable outdoors during the
day. There is no automatic brightness control.

 

The screen slides up in a slightly
curved motion similar to the Sony XPERIA X1. This
is the only way you can enter text on the device; there is no on screen keyboard.

 

The keyboard is Treo-small, but
the buttons are flatter and a bit more difficult to
feel. You’ll definitely have to use finger nails to
press them unless you have small fingers.

 

On the left side, there are volume
up/down buttons

At the bottom, you'll see a
small latch for removing the battery cover.

 

The right side has a plastic flap
that covers the USB port.

Here’s a close up of the USB port.
It uses the same connector as the Treo Pro.

 

The top end has the 3.5mm headset
jack, a vibrate/audio switch, and a power button.

The Touchstone magnetic charging
dock is one of the most innovative parts of the Palm
Pre’s hardware. All mobile phones should implement
this technology!

 

On the back is the 3.2MP
camera, LED flash, speaker grill and Palm logo. 
This is the Touchstone compatible battery cover,
which has a more soft-touch finish than the default. 
The default battery cover is very glossy like the
screen.

 

Behind the battery cover is the
1150mAh battery. You can also see the connections
for the magnetic battery charger.

 

Here you'll see from left to
right, the T-Mobile G1, HTC Touch HD,
Palm Pre, Palm Treo Pro, and Touch Diamond. 

 

Here you can see a comparison of
the thickness. From top to bottom you see the
Palm Pre, HTC Touch Diamond, Palm Treo Pro, HTC
Touch HD, and T-Mobile G1.

Click onto the next page as we cover the software of the Palm Pre.

INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

   Now lets take a look at some
of the software applications that are included on
the Palm Pre.

The Home screen is very plain, but attractive. There
are five icons at the bottom, and a background
wallpaper image that you can change from the Photos
application. The rounded corners go along with
Palm's "card" metaphor.

The gray arrow button on the left opens the program
launcher. It overlays your background application or
graphics with a transparent gray shade, along with
more icons representing applications. The subtle
arrow at the bottom means it is horizontally
scrollable, and the two vertical lines in the lower
right mean that there are two pages to the right.
Those can be accessed with a horizontal swipe of the
finger.  You can't sort the icons into labeled
folders like you can on Windows Mobile and the
vertical scrolling combined with horizontal page
scrolling can be confusing.



Here is the Palm Pre Software Tour Video. Also note the method
for Copy/Pasting.

Swiping up from the gesture area while holding your
finger down on the screen reveals the 5-icon
quick-launch bar in a wavy animated selection
manner. Releasing your finger over the selected icon
will launch that program.

The phone dialer only dials numbers.  No
auto-searching contacts from here with the number
pad, however you can type names with the keyboard
and it will start searching.

If you go to the contacts area of the phone dialer,
then you can search for contacts by typing their
names.

Of course there's a call log. It nicely shows
contact photos, and if there's a number that is not
in your contacts list, there's a button next to that
number that lets you add it and create a new
contact.

Outgoing calls show a nice large photo of the person
you're calling.

Incoming calls do not take up the entire screen. 
It only shows the incoming call info on the bottom
half, leaving the top half to the application you're
currently using.  Very nice feature!

The "Universal Search" is a lot like the Windows
Vista/Seven Start Menu.  When typing terms,
first it searches applications and settings, then
contacts (if you're typing a name).  If it
can't find any matches in any of those areas, it
gives you buttons for searching Google online,
Google Maps, Wikipedia, and Twitter.  It does
not search emails, calendar appointment, tasks, or
document contents like Windows Mobile's search can
do.

PERSONAL INFORMATION MANGEMENT

Unlike some other "smartphones", the Palm Pre does
support tasks, but they're a bit limited. There is
no support for setting the status, occurrence
pattern, reminders, categories, or sorting tasks (I
think they're by creation date). There's also no way
to assign tasks, but no mobile platform has that
feature anyway.

And the tasks do sync with Exchange thankfully just
like Windows Mobile.

The Memo's application has a cool corkboard design.
It does not sync with Outlook though.

The
Calendar nicely supports multiple calendars from
Google, Exchange, and Facebook.  It also
collapses free time in the day view so that you have
more of an Agenda-like view where you can see more
of the appointments in one screen. It does not
support a normal Agenda view nor Year views.

Contacts are searchable with the keyboard and also
feature a flick-scrolling list. There's no way to
quickly jump to a specific letter in the alphabet
without using the keyboard, and there are no
list-length scrolling indicators that would let you
know how long the list is. 

The contacts also has a great linking feature. Since
you can sync with multiple sources from Exchange,
Google, Facebook, and AIM, when you have usernames
for the same person from all of those sources you
can link them and merge their info into one place.
The data does not actually get merged to each
account, but it does appear in one place.  If
your Gmail account, Exchange account, and Facebook
account all have different contact photos for a
specific person, you can also choose which one to
show by default.

The email program is quite feature-rich. It shows
contact photos in messages from them. It supports
Gmail, multiple Exchange accounts, POP3, and IMAP
push.  Unfortunately, deleting emails is very
unintuitive, there's no confirmation, there's no
undo, and deleted emails do not go into a Deleted
items folder.  So it's very easy to delete
messages accidentally and have no way of getting
them back.

New incoming email messages shrink the main
application area from the bottom. You can tap the
icon on the left to go to that email listing, or the
text on the right to open that specific message.

NAVIGATION

Sprint Navigation is included on the device. This is great for voice-guided navigation, except it requires an internet connection for downloading maps. The
software integrates nicely with the Contacts app and
allows you to bring up contact addresses as
destinations.  That's about the extent of its
integration though.  You can't invoke the
navigation program from the Contacts program or
Calendar location fields.

 

I love how the notifications appear at the bottom
while using the GPS Navigation program. You can even
access your music player at the same time as the
Navigation map!  This is an excellent feature
and very important while driving.

Also, Google Maps is included.

On the next page we’ll cover how multimedia works on the Palm Pre!

MULTIMEDIA & CAMERA

 

In Media Sync or Mass Storage USB modes, the Palm
Pre is completely unusable.

At least it will warn you!

The Pre syncs just fine with iTunes, but for how
long will Apple allow this?  Of course only
non-DRM content will sync, and forget about Contact,
Calendar syncing.

The music application has a nice interface for
changing songs. All you do is flick to the left or
right in the now-playing screen. The library views
are also searchable with the keyboard, just like
Windows Media Player on Windows Mobile.

The Palm Pre also has the Amazon Music store where
you can purchase and download MP3s.

The YouTube application is pretty good. You can
watch videos and send them to your friends as links
via email.

However, it does not support Street View or
Latitude.

 

The camera application is
extremely
basic and completely void of settings or features. 
You can't change the resolution, switch to video
record mode, adjust colors, etc. None of that. The
only setting you can change is whether the flash is
on or off.

 

The photo quality is just as bad
as most of the camera phones out there. Click the image above to see a full
resolution sample. However, the camera's
response time is extremely fast! You can press the
shutter button very quickly and repeatedly to take
multiple photos and there is very very little lag. I
am very impressed with the speed of this camera
application.

The "Sprint" icon brings you to this screen, which
is basically a web page with links to frequently
asked questions and some video tutorials.

Of course there's a calculator.

SETTINGS

The Palm Pre includes an automatic backup
application similar to Microsoft's MyPhone beta
except that it's preinstalled and more
well-integrated. It's unclear exactly what is backed
up here, but it's stored in your Palm Profile.

The Bluetooth Control panel doesn't have many
options. It does support stereo A2DP, AVRCP, PAN,
HFP/HSP, and PBAP bluetooth profiles. Not nearly as
many as most Windows Mobile devices, and the lack of
file transfer or PIM object transfer profiles is a
disappointment.

You can change the language to spanish without
installing a different ROM like you do on Windows
Mobile.

The "Updates" control panel is a central application
manager. You can see if any of your downloaded
programs have new versions available here. The
"Install Free" button will install all of the free
updates listed.

The Date & Time settings are pretty simple. Shutting
off the network time or network time zone options
will allow you to manually enter that information.

In the Device Information control panel, you can see
some of the details about your device's battery
level, memory available, Palm webOS version, serial
number, etc.

In the location services control panel, you can
toggle some of the GPS related options.

The WiFi control panel lets you select which
available WiFi network you want to connect to as
well as toggle the WiFi power on/off.

You can also enter custom IP address and connection
settings if you want. There are no options for
power/performance tweaking, security settings, or
other connection details that you can get on Windows
Mobile.

There's no automatic screen brightness sensor, but
you can change those settings here in the "Screen
and Lock" control panel. You can also turn on
Advanced gestures for the gesture panel as well as
change the wallpaper. There are secure unlock
options here as well as the option to show or hide
notifications while locked.

The Sounds and Ringtones control panel gives you a
few options. This is not nearly as comprehensive as
what you can do with Windows Mobile. You can change
the ringtone and that's about it. You can't change
the sounds for any of the system sounds, incoming
text messages, none of that. However, in the
contacts program, you can choose different ringtones
based on who's calling.

OTHER APPLICATIONS

A PDF viewer is included.  You can view and
search through the text of PDFs, but that's about
it. You can't sign, annotate or modify them.

You can save your PDF however, or send it to some
one via email using the "Share" command.

There's a document viewer for viewing Office files,
but you can't edit them.

The Sprint TV application gives you access to all of
Sprint's streaming video and radio content.

The NASCAR application gives you lots of information
on NASCAR events and driver stats.

The App Catalog lets you browse through programs
that are available for download on the Palm Pre. Right now the selection is limited.

palm pre calendar

If you have too many programs open, you get an error
that suggests you close some programs. This is a
huge departure from the old Palm OS and iPhone OS
which only allow one program open at a time, and the
Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and Symbian operating
systems which will slow down, close some programs by
itself, or become unstable when you have too many
programs open.

Click on to the next page, where we’ll offer a final recommendation on the Palm Pre!

BATTERY
    The 1150mAh battery life is
about the same as the T-Mobile G1 running Google
Android. 
Depending on how much you use the the Palm Pre, you can expect
to recharge the device at least once a day. You'll
definitely want to get the Touchstone magnetic
charger and leave it docked there for a significant
portion of the day.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
The Palm Pre's webOS is yet another newborn
operating system for smartphones. With that, it's
bound to have some limitations and problems that the
older OSes have worked out.  Many of the webOS
problems are similar to Google's Android and the
iPhone OS. Here is a list of deficiencies:

  • No on-screen keyboard, handwriting/character
    recognition, or any kind of input option other
    than the hardware keyboard
  • No voice dialing or voice recognition
  • Bluetooth stack doesn't support file transfer
  • No video recording capability.  No video
    emails or video MMS messaging
  • No predictive word/phrase completion
  • Back gesture sometimes doesn't register
  • No voice recording capability
  • Can't open or save PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint
    files from the Browser
  • Can't select multiple email/SMS messages for
    deletion
  • No confirmation for deleting emails
  • No categories in Exchange
  • SSL with a custom Exchange server
    certificate didn't work for me
  • Can't send or receive Exchange meeting
    requests
  • No file manager included
  • Can't use stylus for more accurate screen
    interaction
  • Can't search calendar, tasks, or documents
  • Replying to IMAP account emails puts the
    Reply tag on the sent message, not the message
    you replied to
  • Cut/Copy/Paste only available in text fields. 
    You cannot copy content from other places like
    web pages
  • Occasionally shuts off at random times
  • Keyboard cannot be used to navigate the
    device. You have to take your finger away from
    the keyboard and touch the screen

In terms of hardware design, some of
the problems are:

  • Sharp edges on the sides of the keyboard
  • Impossible to keep the screen clean
  • Charging the device on the Touchstone can make
    it very hot
  • Screen is prone to scratches

PURCHASING

    The Palm Pre costs $199 with a two-year service contract
on Sprint. It's $549 without a contract, and is
currently only available from Sprint retailers or Sprint online.

PROS


  • Small, comfortable form factor with slide-out keyboard


  • Excellent task manager interface


  • Synergy keeps multiple accounts manageable


  • Syncs with multiple Exchange accounts,
    Google sync, and Facebook


  • Over the air system updates


  • Over the air backups


  • Touchstone wireless battery charger works great


  • Capacitive screen is very sensitive and uses multitouch


  • Attractive interface


  • Very fast working camera


  • Better than Google's Android


  • A few nice functional advantages over
    Windows Mobile (some of which Windows Mobile
    used to have in older versions)


  • Accelerometer for rotating screen in the web
    browser and photos apps works well

CONS


  • A number of
    functional limitations compared to Windows Mobile
    and Symbian S60


  • Doesn't
    work with managed Exchange accounts


  • Tiny
    keyboard buttons are difficult to use


  • Exchange
    syncing has many limitations compared to Windows
    Mobile


  • Can't open
    WAV voicemails or video emails


  • Can't sync
    with Desktop Outlook   


  • No video
    recording 


  • No
    voice recording, voice recognition, or voice dialing


  • No Flash
    support in the browser


  • Multitouch
    screen is impossible to use with one hand


  • Can only
    use large inaccurate fingers on the touch screen

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The Palm Pre seems to be squarely aimed at
potential iPhone users who would rather use Sprint. 
The animated rounded-corners interface and
hacked-together iTunes support make that pretty
obvious.  Palm even added a number of things
that Apple has long been horrible at, including
stereo bluetooth, a hardware keyboard, copy/paste,
and multi-tasking. 

    Of
course, to a Windows Mobile user, all of that stuff
is child's play since we've had those capabilities
since the turn of the century. Yet, there are still
a few really nice features in the Palm Pre that I
wish were in Windows Mobile (or would come back to
Windows Mobile.)  IMAP Push, reply status
syncing, multiple calendars, multiple Exchange
accounts, and better Facebook integration would all
be nice to have, but the biggest thing that I like
about the Palm Pre is its task management interface.  

    Overall, it seems
Palm is keeping its Treo Pro around for the higher
end customers who need more functionality with
Windows Mobile. That's a good thing, but if you're
more into a flashy animated touch screen interface
or you're stuck with using iTunes, the Palm Pre is a
good contender.  For a version 1.0 mobile
operating system, the webOS is quite nice.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!