The Palm Pre. Palm’s quick-thinking solution in order to get into the new age of smartphones. Has it? It surely has, that you can say. While webOS 1.4 though has gotten faster and more responsive, it still leaves much to be desired. Review is after the break.
Price as Reviewed: $149.99 on 2-year contract with Sprint
Full Disclosure: This handset was provided by Palm Inc. for review
The Palm Pre is one of the more unique in terms of design then other smartphone designs: the shape which has inspirations from a banana, to the QWERTY keyboard, which is like a squished one. In your hand, the Pre feels amazing; it’s light, nearly round, and has rubberized backing to make sure it doesn’t slip out of your hands. It’s made with comfort in mind, except when things go slightly south in the quality of this design.
The build quality is iffy. Sorry Palm. The edges of the keyboard are sharp (very sharp), which is completely unacceptable; the plastic surrounding the entire frame is cheap-feeling and has a very thin black paint coating that can easily be scratched off if you’re not careful.
webOS as a Whole
My thoughts on webOS as a reviewer are this: it’s a wonderful operating system. It was built with the user and web in mind, and it has all the nooks and crannies needed for it to compete with its arch-rivals. In the new webOS 1.4 update, apps had better speed and more responsiveness, but still isn’t perfect. Seemingly, it’s the hardware that’s killing Palm and webOS, not webOS as a platform. There is no onscreen keyboard on the Pre; a major blow and drawback. And while you could argue that a 3.1-inch HVGA screen is a little small for an on-screen QWERTY (which is true), it still could have been done.
But moving on to the good side of the Pre webOS is the card-based multitasking system. In order to open another app, you can place your finger near the gesture strip located beneath the screen; move your finger towards the top and a “fluid” version of the five main apps on your phone appears, including the launcher which has access to the rest of the apps in a 3×3 iPhone-like layout. Your other option is to press the single face button, which brings you back to your homescreen to open another card. On the tests that were run on the Pre, I was able to run 20+ apps simultaneously, but with lots of lag, which makes this feat not that necessary.
My final opinion for webOS is that if the App Catalog can get the apps it deserves, and that touchscreen keyboard makes an appearance (among other issues here and there) things would be going into the right direction.
What Palm desperately needs now is great hardware. And I mean Fast hardware. Up to snuff hardware.
Look! It has Video Recording! (And a camera)
One feature in the webOS platform that has been missing was video-recording. Palm delivered in the 1.4.0 update, and it works better than you might expect. There’s also basic video editing and video uploading to YouTube, which is a major plus on top of the already surprisingly good video recording. The 3 megapixel camera with LED flash also delivers stills, but of slightly grainy quality.
A 3.1-inch multitouch screen (awesome)
On the Pre you will be presented with a full HVGA 3.1-inch 320×480 multitouch screen. The multiouch is very responsive, and is basically a knock out of the park. As for colors, at times you might feel that the display feels a bit pale, but overall is pleasant looking. In this case for the Pre, the screen is the most forgiving feature after webOS itself.
Performance (not so good)
It’s slow. The Pre displays checkerboard patterns in the web browser when you want to scroll down a page. Is this good? No. Apps are slower than you might be comfortable with. In fact, even the phone app lags at times, which is not very trustworthy if you need to make a quick call.
In fact just to make sure things couldn’t possibly get any worse, I pitted the Pre against a G1 and a Sprint Hero. You guessed it: the Hero and the Pre came out on top. In opening apps, making calls, and downloading them, the Hero though has a slight edge. While the Sprint EV-DO network is superior to many, that doesn’t come in handy when your Pre lags scrolling down the App Catalog.
Before the new webOS update made its debut, the Pre was the poster child for poor battery life. Make a few short phone calls, browse the Internet, play with some apps and suddenly your batter meter was at 70%. Flash forward to webOS 1.4 and the battery has improved, but not by that much. Expect a Palm Pre to last you about half a day on heavy usage, and if you squeeze it, maybe it can get through an entire day.
Let’s just say there’s not much to say about this little QWERTY slide-up keyboard. It feels slightly cushioned yet clicky, but is extremely cramped, so instead of touching the keys you rub your thumbs and make something very terrible called typographical errors.
What you get in the box is pretty common. A USB cable, charger, headset, instructions and the crown jewel: the Palm Pre. But here’s a little something that’s not bundled with the Pre, and is in fact one of the best and coolest accessories you could own.
The Palm TouchStone dock is an inductive charger. You swap out the stock battery door for a wireless charging supportive one (which is included in the TouchStone kit), place it on the dock, and voila! Wireless charging = awesome. As for the stock headphones, they’re pretty good at voice and YouTube playback.
To say the Pre is a bad smartphone would be unacceptable. To say Palm did their best is not plausible; they could have done better. It’s a really great phone, but it’s still not on par with other handsets, or where it even should be: as the new face of Palm as a whole. While the build quality is not blow-you-away, you can live with it. But the constant lagging you cannot. Would I recommend the Pre? Of course I would; it’s the best smartphone on Sprint! But would I recommend it to a user that expects his or her smartphone to rock in terms of speed? No, I couldn’t, because it’s not fast, and even at times can become unresponsive. Here’s proving the point that most Palm fans know by now: the Palm Pre is a major comeback, but if it’s not upgraded sooner or later, there won’t be much to celebrate about.
- It’s a good start for Palm.
- Let’s face it, it looks nice.
- webOS 1.4 is full of class.
- The feeling in your hand (comfortable).
- Build quality is questionable.
- Paint can scratch off easily.
- Sharp edges to the keyboard.
- It lags. A lot.