The long-awaited Palm Pre lives up to its pre-launch hype with a responsive touchscreen and an engaging interface, but a few hardware design flaws keep it from being the perfect smartphone - can it compete with the Apple iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry smartphones? Actually, we think it can: read on to find out why...

Updated, January 7, 2010:

The smallest of all the smartphones we tested, the Palm Pre has desirability in spades, along with a truly wonderful interface.

First unveiled in January 2009, Palm managed to sustain excitement over the launch of the Pre throughout the year.

Despite some question marks over build quality from US customers who snapped it up in June, it still managed to be the phone the rest of us hoped would give the iPhone the runaround when it finally launched in the UK and select European countries in October.

Palm Pre review

The Palm Pre is pretty much everything its makers said it would be - and this compact smartphone promised a lot.

Different from the iPhone and assuredly a phone first and gadget later, it's both a touchscreen and slider phone.

Rather than fiddling with an onscreen keypad, you enter text using raised (but admittedly small) qwerty keys. When not required, the keypad slides back out of sight.

The bottom section of the pebble-shaped phone subtly curves forwards, cupping the mouthpiece and making for a more natural position when making and taking phone calls. We found the Pre a joy to use for calls, and both volume and clarity are impressive.

Contacts are automatically and intelligently linked, making it easy to see someone's Facebook, phone, instant message (IM) and email details.

Conversations can be conducted as a combination of calls, IMs, texts and email without losing the details of each. Clever stuff, although other phones in this round-up can do much the same.

The other big appeal of the Pre is that it can do several things at once. You can browse the web, listen to music, write an email and scroll through your to-do list without closing any of the applications.

Most navigation on the Pre is done using a small silver ball just below the screen. The areas immediately either side of this are touch-sensitive and are used to go back and forth.

The lower part of the screen area allows you to scroll through a ‘wave' of apps and select one to open with finger gestures. Extra apps can be downloaded from the Palm Web Store, but the choice is sparse.

NEXT: Original review, from June 09

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

The long-awaited Palm Pre lives up to its pre-launch hype with a responsive touchscreen and an engaging interface, but a few hardware design flaws keep it from being the perfect smartphone - can it compete with the Apple iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry smartphones? Actually, we think it can: read on to find out why...

The Palm Pre smartphone, along with the company's much-anticipated webOS operating system, has had quite the buzz building up since its splashy launch in January. While the Pre isn't perfect, it definitely does not disappoint: we found the webOS interface clean, engaging, and intuitive. Our main issues were with the hardware itself.

The glossy-black Palm Pre has a uniquely curved slider body that's dominated by its 3.1in, 320-by-480-pixel capacitive touch display. The screen slides up and curves slightly toward you, a design intended to resist glare and make the phone feel comfortable in your hand and against your face. Especially in brightly lit environments, the slight angle made viewing the screen easier than on the average phone.

Measuring 99x58x18mm, the Pre is incredibly pocketable, more so than a device like Apple's iPhone 3G; it even fits unobtrusively into a woman's jeans pocket, a rare feat for a full-qwerty smartphone.

NEXT PAGE: battery life, and controlling the Palm Pre

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

The long-awaited Palm Pre lives up to its pre-launch hype with a responsive touchscreen and an engaging interface, but a few hardware design flaws keep it from being the perfect smartphone - can it compete with the Apple iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry smartphones? Actually, we think it can: read on to find out why...

Battery life, unfortunately, wasn't as good. In our battery life tests, the Palm Pre had a word score of "Fair", clocking in at only 5 hours and 17 minutes of average battery talk time. This puts the Palm Pre slightly lower than the iPhone, which had 5 hours and 38 minutes of talk time.

Aside from the keyboard, another disappointment is the Palm Pre's lack of removable memory: the unit comes fixed at 8GB of storage. Unlike the iPhone 3G, the Pre does not come in a 16GB model - at least not at this time.

Originally, Palm told us that users could tether the unit to a PC with a USB cable, and transfer files directly from the PC to the phone, which would be recognised as a mass storage device.

Unfortunately, due to carrier limitations (in the US at least), this feature is not available on the Palm Pre.

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Controlling the Palm Pre

Controlling the Palm Pre relies on a handful of primary gestures on its capacitive touchscreen and in its gesture area, which sits below the display on the phone's black surface. The device supports the increasingly familiar gestures for scrolling, paging, going back (a backward swipe), and pinch and zoom. The gesture area replaces Palm's previous dedicated navigation buttons and controls.

On its face the Palm Pre has only one button, a rounded Center button that acts as a home button. We were happy to see that the top of the unit retains Palm's slider switch for turning off the phone's volume, and it also has a shortcut to jump to airplane mode (something that travelers will appreciate).

The standard 3.5mm headphone jack is located next to the switch as well. The Palm Pre's volume rocker is on the right spine and the mini-USB charging port is on the left side. The back of the phone houses the 3Mp camera lens, a large self-portrait mirror, and the smartphone's removable battery.

NEXT PAGE: the webOS

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

The long-awaited Palm Pre lives up to its pre-launch hype with a responsive touchscreen and an engaging interface, but a few hardware design flaws keep it from being the perfect smartphone - can it compete with the Apple iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry smartphones? Actually, we think it can: read on to find out why...

Palm Pre: webOS

With the Palm Pre, Palm also debuts its long-delayed new phone operating system, webOS. We found webOS one of the silkiest and best-designed smartphone platforms to come along in a while - it's right up there with Apple's iPhone OS and Google's Android.

But webOS does have a few quirks. For the most part, though webOS is zippy to navigate through, apps sometimes loaded slowly and the organisation and placement of certain features was a bit confusing or counterintuitive at times.



Palm Pre reviewThe home-screen interface has customisable application widgets running at the bottom. Touch a widget, and the app instantly pops up. Unfortunately, you can display only four shortcuts of your choosing (plus the Launcher shortcut, which you can't switch out) at a time.

Like Google Android, Palm's webOS can handle full multitasking - something that Apple iPhone 2.0 can't do. The Palm Pre manages multitasking with a deck-of-cards visualisation: you can view each of your open applications at once, shuffle them any way you choose, and then discard the ones you want to close. You do all of that with gestures that mimic handling a physical deck of cards.

Apps remain live even when minimised into the card view, so changes can continue to happen in real time, even if you've moved on to another activity. Overall, we found this arrangement a playful and intuitive experience for managing multiple apps.

webOS also has a great notifications feature, a small alert that pops up at the bottom of the screen when you have an incoming call, text message, or email, but that alert comes up without interrupting the app you have open (similar to Google Android).

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Although the notifications are nifty, we found their placement - below the Quick Launch Bar - a bit annoying: we kept accidentally hitting the Notifications when we wanted the Launch Bar (or vice versa). We prefer Google Android's layout, in which the notifications run across the top of the screen. Notifications also pop up on the Palm Pre's stand-by screen.

Fans of Palm OS will be happy to know that the Palm Pre retains the copy-and-paste function. You simply hold down Shift on the keyboard and then drag on the touchscreen to select the desired block of text. Afterward you open the application menu in the upper-left corner of the screen and select copy, cut, or paste.

NEXT PAGE: social-networking synergy

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict
  1. Palm Pre: the verdict

The long-awaited Palm Pre lives up to its pre-launch hype with a responsive touchscreen and an engaging interface, but a few hardware design flaws keep it from being the perfect smartphone - can it compete with the Apple iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry smartphones? Actually, we think it can: read on to find out why...

Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy

One of the most important components of webOS is its ability to synchronise, and synthesise, information from various sources into one seamless, integrated view. Palm calls this concept "Synergy", and it is incorporated into the contacts, email, and messaging applications. For example, you can sync the Palm Pre to your Google, Facebook, and Microsoft Exchange accounts; it will grab your contacts from those accounts, and all of them will appear in the Pre's Contacts app.

On the surface, the idea of having all of your contacts pulled into one list seems like a good approach. In practice, however, we found it a bit overwhelming. Facebook friends, for instance, may not be people you regularly communicate with, so having them appear in Contacts is a bit unnerving. And unfortunately, you don't get a way to load specific contact lists from those accounts - it's either all of your contacts or none.

If you'd rather use a desktop app to store your contacts, calendar, and tasks, such as iCal and Address Book (Macs) or the desktop Outlook or Palm Desktop (PCs), you can download a third-party app that can sync your desktop software to a Google account. You can then sync your Google account to the Palm Pre. You can also sync Outlook directly with your Pre over Wi-Fi using the third-party app PocketMirror (currently available in the Palm Apps Catalogue).



Palm pre smartphoneThe Calendar app has colour coordination and multiple calendar support. The big news is that you can subscribe to public and specific calendars, like those on Google and Facebook. If you use the Palm Pre to add something to your Google calendar, for instance, that info will sync with the details on Google's Calendar website (although it takes a few hours to appear online).

Likewise, the Synergy email app makes checking and searching through multiple email accounts easy. Select a contact, and webOS will autopopulate an email message with that contact's info. Better still, if you have multiple email accounts set up, you can choose which address to send from while within the message.

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The Messaging application now combines both SMS and instant messaging under a single umbrella. The conversations are threaded (as they are on current Palm OS-based phones), and they can represent ongoing conversations with one contact, across multiple systems (for example, you can start the conversation via text, and continue in AOL Instant Messenger if your contact goes offline).

The Palm Pre's full HTML web browser renders pages beautifully. You can have as many browser windows open as you want (you're limited only by the available memory), and you can still save pages for offline viewing (say, while in flight) - a huge boon that Palm OS devices have always had, and that competing devices lack.

In addition to the messaging software, the Palm Pre comes loaded with a few other apps: YouTube, Google Maps, the Amazon MP3 store, a PDF viewer, a document viewer, a calculator, a task list, and a memo board (which looks like a corkboard).

NEXT PAGE: multimedia

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

The long-awaited Palm Pre lives up to its pre-launch hype with a responsive touchscreen and an engaging interface, but a few hardware design flaws keep it from being the perfect smartphone - can it compete with the Apple iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry smartphones? Actually, we think it can: read on to find out why...

Palm Pre: Multimedia

Synching your media with the Palm Pre is easy. You can load your music via Apple iTunes or do it manually with an easy drag-and-drop. The media player is pretty standard. You can view your music library by artist, album, songs, or genre, see album art, and create playlists. And, of course, you can run the music app in the background.

The Palm Pre supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, WAV, and AMR files. Music through the included earbuds sounded clear with no noise or static, but it lacked bass. Pre users will have access to Amazon's Mobile Music Store, also seen on the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1. The store makes downloading DRM-free tracks directly to the phone simple.

Video quality was also quite good on the Palm Pre's gorgeous display. The Pre has a dedicated video player that supports MPEG-4, H.263, and H.264. The YouTube app, which comes preloaded on the device, delivers video in high-quality H.264 format regardless of whether you're on Wi-Fi or on Sprint's EvDO network.

The camera is adequate, offering 3.0 megapixels and an LED flash, but no zoom (a feature that even some midrange phones carry). Despite its less-than-impressive specs, the Palm Pre's camera took satisfactory pictures. In our snaps, the LED flash did a good job; dimly lit indoor environments had sharp details and fairly accurate colour. Outdoor shots looked ever better, with excellent colour saturation and little image noise or distortion.

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Since the camera lacks a dedicated shutter button, you have to press an on-screen button. Not having a physical shutter can create instability in the camera, thus producing blurry pictures. The best way to prevent that is to shoot with the keyboard out - steadying the phone is easier that way. From the camera's screen, you can access the photo album.

Unfortunately, we experienced more sluggishness in the album than we did anywhere else in webOS. Flicking through pictures was slow, and sometimes the screen would freeze between pictures, showing half of one image and half of the next.

The Palm Pre also doesn't have video recording, a capability that the second-generation iPhone also lacks. But since the OS is open source, a video-recording app could be forthcoming.

NEXT PAGE: our first look at the Palm Pre, from January 2009.

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

The Palm Pre smartphone and the company's much-anticipated new operating system - called webOS - are among the most buzzed-about products around. From January 15, 2009.

Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions

The glossy-black Palm Pre has a unique curved slider body: When you slide the 3.1in screen up, it curves slightly towards you, a design point intended to resist glare and make the phone feel comfortable in-hand and against face.

It feels good in hand and the body feels sturdy enough as you type on it with the screen extended. The slight angle makes it easier to view the Palm Pre screen, but we couldn't test the anti-glare claim because our demo room was dimly lit.

The Palm Pre's slide-out vertical QWERTY keyboard has glossy, tactile keys that are easy enough to type with. The keyboard looks much like that on the Palm Centro; here, the keys are black, with reddish-hued lettering, and separate colors to designate the embedded keypad. The Palm has no touch keyboard, but a third party developer could come out with an app.

We do have some complaints about this early unit. The keys are slightly recessed, and the bezel lip on the sides and bottom can interfere with typing. Furthermore, the top row is a few millimeters too close to the top of the slider screen, so we had to angle our fingers in order to press those letters. Palm says that the Palm Pre form factor may be altered slightly before the release date, so we'll be curious to see if our design nits might be addressed by then.

The specs on the Palm Pre's camera are a bit disappointing. The 3Mp camera has an LED flash, but no zoom - a feature that even some mid-range phones carry. The Pre also doesn't have video recording, a feature the iPhone also lacks. But since the OS is open source, a video recording app could be forthcoming.

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Another big disappointment is the Palm Pre's lack of removable memory: The unit comes fixed at 8GB of storage. But Palm says you can tether the unit to a PC using a USB cable, and transfer files directly from your PC to the phone; it will be recognized as a mass storage device.

The Palm has a clean looking home screen with easy-to-identify icons, but we found that their labels didn't exactly pop out, especially when compared with the brightly hued, more distinctly designed icons of the Apple iPhone 3G and T-Mobile G1. Palm did say that the graphical assets were not final, so we could yet see some changes here.

NEXT PAGE: webOS impresses

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

The Palm Pre smartphone and the company's much-anticipated new operating system - called webOS - are among the most buzzed-about products around.

WebOS Impresses

The new webOS is one of the silkiest and best-designed smartphone platforms we've seen in a while. Clearly, this phone operating system will give iPhone and Google Android some competition when it comes to phone usability and overall appeal.

The Palm Pre's capacitive touchscreen requires just a handful of primary gestures, including scroll, page, and a half-swipe to go back. It supports the increasingly familiar gestures of slides and glides, and pinch and zoom accomplish the sorts of tasks we've come to expect in touch-based phones. You can navigate within apps and among them by using the touch-sensitive gesture area below the 3.1in capactive touchscreen.

This gesture area replaces Palm's previous dedicated navigation buttons and controls. The Palm Pre has only button on its face, a rounded Center button that acts as a home button. Happily, the top of the unit retains Palm's slider switch for turning off the phone's volume and it has a shortcut to jump to airplane mode (something travelers will appreciate).

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NEXT PAGE: multitasking made easy

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

The Palm Pre smartphone and the company's much-anticipated new operating system - called webOS - are among the most buzzed-about products around.

Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy

Like Google Android, Palm's webOS can handle full multitasking - something the iPhone can't do. Palm uses what it calls "a deck of cards model" for managing multitasking: you can view each of your open applications at once, shuffle them any way you choose, and then discard the ones you want to close. All of this is done with intuitive gestures that mimic handling a physical deck of cards. Apps remains live, even when minimised into the card view, so changes can continue to happen in real-time, even if you've moved on to another activity.

WebOS also has a nifty Notifications app, a small alert that pops up at the bottom of the screen when you have an incoming call, text message or email, but does so without interrupting whatever app you have open.

The calendar has colour coordination and multiple calendar support. The big news is that you can subscribe to public and specific calendars, like those on Google and Facebook. If you use the Palm Pre to add something to your Google calendar, that info will be synced with that on Google's Calendar website.

Likewise, the Synergy email interface makes it easy to check and search through multiple email accounts. Select a contact, and webOS will autopopulate an email with that contact's info. Better still: if you have multiple email accounts set up, you can choose which address to send from while within the message.

The Messaging application now combines both SMS and instant messaging into a single umbrella. The conversations are threaded (as they are on current Palm OS-based phones), and can represent ongoing conversations with one contact, across multiple systems (ie, you start the conversation via text, and continue via AOL Instant Messenger).

Visit Mobile Advisor for the latest mobile phone news, reviews, tips & tricks, as well as PC Advisor's unique Apple iPhone 3G Spotlight

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The web browser renders pages beautifully. You can have as many browser windows open as you want (you're only limited by the available memory) and you can still save pages for offline viewing (for example, while in flight) - a huge boon that Palm-OS devices have always had, and competing devices lack.

Palm Pre users will have access to Amazon's Mobile Music Store, also seen on Google's Android-based G1. The store makes it easy to download DRM-free tracks directly to the phone.

During our demo, the Palm Pre's built-in accelerometer seemed quite responsive, but not overly sensitive. For example, the display doesn't flip until the phone is almost completely horizontal. One of the most frustrating things about the iPhone is that the display will rotate when you don't want it to, especially if you're holding it at a slight angle.

Another cool feature on the Palm Pre is its ambient light sensor. If you're in a cinema or dark environment, and you receive a message or call, the display will show up darker than normal.

The Palm Pre will receive updates over-the-air in the background; and all software installation will be done over the air. Palm has already said it expects to have an app store, which will bring it in line with Apple, Blackberry, and Google Android.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

INDEX:

  1. Updated review of the Palm Pre
  2. Palm Pre: a rival for the iPhone
  3. Controlling the Palm Pre
  4. Palm Pre: webOS
  5. Palm Pre: Social Networking Synergy
  6. Palm Pre: Multimedia
  7. Palm Pre Hardware: First Impressions
  8. WebOS Impresses
  9. Palm Pre: Multitasking Made Easy
  10. Palm Pre: the verdict

PCWorld.com

Palm Pre: Specs

  • Palm webOS
  • 3.1-inch touch screen with a vibrant 24-bit color 320x480 resolution HVGA display
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Microsoft Outlook email with Microsoft Direct Push Technology POP3/IMAP (Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, etc)
  • Integrated IM, SMS, MMS
  • built-in GPS
  • 3 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • ambient light, accelerometer, and proximity sensors
  • Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR, QCELP, WAV
  • Video Formats: MPEG-4, H.263, H.264
  • Image Formats: GIF, Animated GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, 801.1x authentication, Bluetooth® 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • 8GB of user storage (~7.4GB user available)
  • USB mass storage support
  • MicroUSB connector with USB 2.0
  • 3.5mm stereo jack
  • 59.5x100.5x16.95mm
  • 135g
  • Palm webOS
  • 3.1-inch touch screen with a vibrant 24-bit color 320x480 resolution HVGA display
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Microsoft Outlook email with Microsoft Direct Push Technology POP3/IMAP (Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, etc)
  • Integrated IM, SMS, MMS
  • built-in GPS
  • 3 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • ambient light, accelerometer, and proximity sensors
  • Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR, QCELP, WAV
  • Video Formats: MPEG-4, H.263, H.264
  • Image Formats: GIF, Animated GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, 801.1x authentication, Bluetooth® 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • 8GB of user storage (~7.4GB user available)
  • USB mass storage support
  • MicroUSB connector with USB 2.0
  • 3.5mm stereo jack
  • 59.5x100.5x16.95mm
  • 135g

OUR VERDICT

This is a superlative smartphone that, a few stuttering moments aside, has stolen our hearts every bit as much as the iPhone did when we first tried it. Not perfect, but a hell of a phone.

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