Review: Palm Pre Smartphone Mostly Pleases - InformationWeek

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05:48 PM

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.

The user interface of webOS is not quite as intuitive as several other touch-based systems currently on the market, but it can be learned rapidly. When navigating the menus, access to the phone, contacts, email, and calendar is almost always present via a semi-permanent set of software buttons that run along the bottom of the screen.

These go away once an application is opened. It's fun to flick through the menu pages and interact with the "cards", which Palm uses to contain each application. The cards can be minimized and stored in the background for fast access to other applications. There does not appear to be a limit to the number of cards that can be open at any given time.

The nerve center of webOS is Synergy, Palm's new contact and personal information management system. Synergy takes all the contact information from users' separate online identities and merges them into one list. For example, if Bob Smith is part of a user's Exchange-based contacts and Bob also happens to be a friend on Facebook, the separate data from these two accounts is pasted together, giving the end user access to all of Bob's contact information in one spot. Each contact can hold reams of data, which is automatically synced back and forth between whatever accounts they originated from so the information is always up to date.

To be quite frank, I love it. Every email system, social networking system, and smartphone needs to be able to work this well to manage end user contact data. Kudos to Palm.


With the exception of audio and video messages, the Palm Pre handles pretty much any messaging needs a user might have. The e=mail application is robust. Multiple accounts can be set up, each with separate inboxes, folders, and filters. Punching out e-mails is intuitive enough, and the Pre handles HTML emails -- complete with attachments -- with ease. The Pre comes loaded with a PDF viewer and Word/Excel viewer, so those expense reports and memos can be looked at, though not edited.

Text and picture messages are threaded into conversations based on each contact. This means every message received from a single sender is lumped into an on-going stream. Having both text and picture messages together is something that all smartphones should do.

Instant messaging accounts are paired in the same application as text messages. The Pre plays nicely with GChat, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and other popular IM clients.

All of the messaging services are connected to the end user's contacts data via Syngery.

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