Initial thoughts on the Palm Pre
I have been looking forward to the availability of the Palm Pre for quite some time so the moment it was available I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on one – especially good timing as my Nokia N95 8GB is due for renewal at the same time. So, the lovely packaged box arrived and the black glossy Palm Pre emerged from the packaging, ready for a charge and the addition of a SIM card from O2. Even next to the glossy black casing of the Nokia N95 the Palm Pre stands out – leaving the HTC Hero looking a little subdued (I will be posting a comparison of the two devices later).
Getting the back off the device, to add the SIM, was a bit of a fiddle, you press down the middle catch then hope you have enough thumbnail to run up the seam either side, it took a bit of practice but I think I’ve got the hang of it now although I’m not sure how much the flimsy back plastic cover can take. That said, there is no room for a memory card so I guess the back doesn’t have to come off too often – the 8GB should prove plenty (although I did eventually fill up the 8GB on my Nokia). The charger is odd too, the adapter with the socket connection juts out quite a bit when plugged in which makes it easy to knock with a stray foot. The USB cable plugs between the adapter (making it jut out even further) and the Palm Pre. The charging point on the Palm Pre is behind a little plastic cover, as the phone needs charging regularly I don’t hold out much hope for this cover lasting too long. I do wonder if the back, and the power adaptor urge you more towards the optional Touchstone dock.
Usefully, the socket for the earphone jack is on the top of the device making it fit easier in the pocket.
The size of the phone (with the sliding keyboard closed) is around the same as the Nokia N95 8GB but a little slimmer. The rounded, pebble like, edges give it the feel of a much smaller device. A nice touch is the minimum of buttons on the device (when the slider is closed) with just a central track button, volume control on the left side, the top holds a handy “hold” button and a flush power button. This is great as I often end up accidentally pressing buttons on the Nokia when it is in my pocket. In terms of weight it feels around the same the Nokia (perhaps just a touch heavier). Being left handed the placement of the volume control buttons do mean I tend to press them by accident when holding the device in my right hand.
Sliding the unit open reveals the small, yet functional, keyboard. It does feel good to get my fingers on a keyboard and it works perfectly well for me, the rounded domed keys help guide me to the correct buttons to press. There is also a small gesture area just below the screen and above the keyboard where you can slide your finger to make all sort of command gestures (mostly Go Back in my case).
The touch screen is neat, though it doesn’t seem to register all the time and I often have to touch the same area several times for it to do what its told – but I do like the way applications appear in a scrollable horizontal column. Sliding your finger left on the screen takes you back and sliding the other moves you to the next app. Sliding your finger up removes the application and touching the application itself brings it to the foreground.
The screen is pleasant – it is the same dimensions as the Nokia but seems a little brighter and more vibrant. The 3MP camera is OK but I found I have to hold really still as the the images I took all came out slightly blurry but the gallery application is pleasant allowing me to scroll around my images quite quickly. I like the way you can flick programs away by sliding your finger up – the application flies off the screen and (hopefully) out of memory.
When reading about the phone on the Internet there is talk of a native Amazon MP3 Music Store application but I can’t find find it – I could swear I also read about this on the O2 site but there is no mention of it now. From the App Catalog I did get hold of Tweed (for Twitter) and even a basic LinkedIn Application which allows you to access your list of contacts. For messaging there is options for Google Talk and AIM but I don’t use those too much.
The Backup application is also worth a positive mention as it automatically backs up the data every day.
The native YouTube application is fun but my home wireless connection led to quite a bit of stuttering and pausing, I imagine with a decent wireless connection it can be quite handy but it would be great to stream television through something like the BBC iPlayer.
The phone came preloaded with Palm webOS 1.1.2 and it told me there was an update for the firmware so I updated the Palm webOS 1.1.3 although webOS 1.2 should be available sometime in November. You can learn more about what is included in webOS 1.2 at What’s new in webOS 1.2?
All said and done the phone is nice but it doesn’t excite me yet which is a shame (probably because I have been a bit spoilt with the HTC Hero). The Pre is functional yet lacks that real WOW factor, my theory is that is probably because the App Catalog is so bereft of diverse applications – perhaps the firmware upgrade to 1.2 will open a new world for the Pre? Mind you, the lack of applications does offer plenty of development opportunities. I do want to like the Palm Pre so I will stick with it for a while and download the Palm Mojo Software Development Kit.
I am going to be running the HTC Hero and the Palm Pre side by side for a while and will post a comparison later.