Review: Palm Pre Smartphone Mostly Pleases - InformationWeek

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6/25/2009
05:48 PM
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Review: Palm Pre Smartphone Mostly Pleases

Palm needs the Pre to be a smash. There is a lot to like about the handset, but the iPhone, RIM's Blackberry line, and a coming crop of Android devices pose serious obstacles.

About that keyboard. Some are going to like it, some are going to hate it. It's not the best QWERTY keyboard I've used, and it isn't the worst. The buttons are tiny and covered in a rubbery substance. My fingers didn't slip around on the keyboard when typing, though I did manage to fat-finger multiple keys at once. The keys don't offer a lot of travel and feedback, but I found there was enough to let me know that I had pushed each button.

There is no microSD slot for extra storage, but the Pre has 8GB built into the device. It can be used with most regular 3.5mm stereo headphones, and the microUSB port is used to both charge the phone and transfer data (such as pictures and music) to a PC.

For the vain users in the crowd, the Pre has a mirror built into the back of the sliding mechanism and is usable when the Pre is open. Alternately, all the MacGyvers out there can use it to signal rescue aircraft.

What bugs me is that this device is an important issue for Palm: Why would it go cheap on the materials and build quality? It doesn't make sense. Pricing concerns aside, I've seen devices at similar (and even lower) price points beat the pants off of the Pre with respect to build quality. I can only shake my head in dismay.

As a phone, the Pre gets the job done. Phone calls sound loud and clear. In fact, the Pre sounds better than most other Sprint phones I've tested. Very little noise, static or other cellular nonsense.

Battery life is somewhat lacking. The average is two days, depending on how some of the network-intensive applications such as email and instant messaging are configured. Even with some massaging of these apps, the best I was able to get was 2.5 days of battery life. Palm says this is "normal" for a device such as the Pre.

webOS

Palm sold millions of devices running the old Palm OS, which was -- at the time of its release -- easy to use, finger-friendly, and good at organizing personal information. Its webOS is far superior.

webOS completely rids itself of the shackles employed by Palm in previous mobile operating systems and starts from the ground up. In order to use the Pre, the first thing each user has to do is create a Palm profile. The profile is defined by an email account and other online identities via instant messaging clients, social networking sites, and so on. Once that's taken care of, the Pre assembles all the components under the hood.

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