Palm Pre Review

Palm has become the technology feel good story of 2009. Against all odds and prognosticators, their performance at CES 2009 made them the 1980 US Hockey team of technology. Going into the event, there weren’t many giving them even a punchers chance. How could an upstart from Philadelphia Sunnyvale take on Apollo Creed Apple. For most handheld junkies, they have a soft spot for Palm, since for many a Palm Treo was their first smartphone. Others considering their first smartphone will likely consider the Pre, given the media’s obsession with calling it the “iPhone killer”, despite the fact that no phone will actually kill the machine that is Apple. It does present prospective smartphone buyers with a choice and choice is a good thing. As you read this review of the Palm Pre, or any review for that matter, remember that reviews are often based upon previous phones and usage patterns. A great phone for one person, might not be the best option for another. Before the Palm Pre, my primary phones were the iPhone 3G and BlackBerry Bold, so naturally my review is based upon my previous experiences. With a desk drawer filled with smartphones, I’m certainly not your average consumer. I’ve outlined my thoughts on the Palm Pre based upon experience and aim to present it in a format that will help you the reader become more informed, so that it might help you make a purchase decision one way or the other. I’d encourage you to read our Customer Review section, as it’s has already become a valuable centralized resource for those looking to get feedback from customers.

For those looking to skim the review (and avoid my typos), you’ll notice brightly color call-outs to key parts of the review. Let’s get started.

The Palm Pre is diminutive when compared to other smartphones. Curves line the entire phone, with the look and feel mirroring “a polished river stone”. You’d be hard pressed to find a smartphone that has a better feel to it, unless you are a fan of matte finish phones. The curves, compactness and slick finish makes it a great phone to hold in your hand or front jeans pocket. The Palm Pre is a comfort phone.

Palm Pre

The Pre is made of plastic throughout, including the screen. By itself, the Pre hardware looks and feels impressive. When compared to the materials used on RIM’s BlackBerry Bold or the iPhone 3G, I found the overall fit and finish to be a few notches below those devices. The Pre certainly feels like an expensive smartphone, but I felt there was certainly room for improvement in this area.

The Palm Pre features a 320×480 resolution screen, that is simply stunning. They include a nice selection of scenic Palm Pre wallpapers to help show off the display on the Pre. The screen on the Palm Pre also supports multi-touch, a feature that often distinguished the iPhone from the rest of the touchscreen smartphones available today. Many suspected that Apple’s patent on multi-touch could cause legal issues for Palm, but both companies appear to be taking the high road, since lawsuits would eventually trickle down to added costs for consumers somewhere down the line.

I’m not certain if it’s the lack of a glass screen or Palm’s webOS software, but I find the multi-touch display not as sensitive as the iPhone. Touching the screen creates a “virtual swell” image as if you were tapping your finger on a quiet pond. The image creates a visual confirmation that you’ve touched the screen, but there were certain instances where I would tap more than once to get the resulted action. In direct sunlight, the screen of the Pre was not as visible as I would have liked.

The Palm Pre includes an accelerometer. Flipping the Palm Pre horizontally will rotate the screen into a landscape format, if the program supports it. Flipping back will switch it back to a vertical orientation. In our tests, it works as advertised. Thankfully, Palm did not repeat the misteps of RIM’s BlackBerry Storm, a phone that suffered initially from software issues that resulted in poor accelerometer performance. Not so with the Pre. Rotate away and the screen will follow (if the application supports landscape view).

The keyboard on the Pre is one of the killer features that you will not find on an iPhone. This will cause it to be the subject of much debate. In the past, I’ve been critical of the keyboards on the Palm Centro and Palm Treo Pro. I enjoyed the feel of the “gummy” keyboard and it produced superior tactile feedback, critical for any fan of QWERTY keyboards. For the record, I’m a fan of QWERTY keyboards. My texting habits often do not include foul language, but I’ve certainly had my share of texts that include words that shouldn’t go quack. Apple’s virtual keyboard is the best of the best and most often the dictionary saves users from spelling mistakes. As noted, I’ve had my fair share of times whereby it offers up words that are not intended. Sure, you can choose not to use the selected word, but wouldn’t it be nice to simply type correctly? This is one of those times where you should foster your own opinion on what works best for you. For me, it’s a QWERTY keyboard and I’ll take control of my own spelling mistakes.


So how does the keyboard rate? A mixed bag, but overall very good. Palm introduced the “smile” layout that worked so well with the Treo and kept the “gummy” tactileness that I enjoyed so much on the Treo Pro and Centro. The spacing is wider and spelling errors were far and few between. The smallish Pre, with it’s slider format, forced the hands of the designers to create a keyboard within a small area. The tradeoff being a small compact phone, with a full albeit at times cramped keyboard. For example, try to capitalize the letter “S”, which requires using the shift key and “S”. On the other hand, the Pre brings Palm’s one-handed use in full effect. With one hand, you can easily slide open the keyboard and type a message.

Considering the Pre is smaller than both it’s predecessors, the Treo Pro and Centro, I’d say the keyboard is a success. I do think that Palm should consider future webOS devices should offer a larger keyboard, but would does Palm consider one-handed use a trait of their phones? My guess is that some hardcore typers would rejoice at a BlackBerry keyboard quality on a webOS device and likely bring a number of converts to webOS. RIM hasn’t delivered a next generation OS that offers a great QWERTY with an advanced touchscreen OS. The door is open for Palm to fill this void.

The sliding mechanism makes it effortless to access the keyboard. There is not creaking or noticeable issues I could not with the slider. With the slider open, you won’t notice unsightly parts. The Pre looks great open or closed. With the slider open, the device curves and this has several benefits. First off, it’s makes it more comfortable to talk on the Pre, since it has a more familiar phone feel to it. When using apps on the Pre, the slight curve of the screen, conveniently tilts the screen towards the end user.

The edges of the Pre are sharp, not cut yourself sharp, but there is a noticeable hard edge. Getting back to the keyboard, I didn’t find any dealbreakers when it came to the edges interfering with my typing. If anything I used the edges on the left to rest my thumb while typing.

The mirror backing is exposed when the Pre is fully-opened. It seems to be more of a style accent than a functional mirror. I suppose that you could use it if you were in a bind or checking your teeth for food during a blind date. For most, it’s nothing more than a style accent.

The mirror, black plastic casing and screen are reservoirs for finger prints. Thankfully, I’ve got a few microfiber cloths from iPhone purchases that will come in handy with the Pre. Palm should have included a microfiber cloth. Those polished stone comparisons are spot on, when you consider the amount of times you’ll need to break out a microfiber cloth.

The build quality, sliding mechanism, high quality screen, keyboard and design easily offset our issue with quality of materials not matching other premium smartphones.

webOS is Palm’s next generation operating system that has been built from the ground up. Hardware aside, the success of Palm and their devices is rests on the underpinnings of the Pre, which is webOS. The Pre represents the first in what will likely be a long line of devices that are powered by the webOS.

Palm’s webOS is by far the most innovative mobile operating system to debut since Apple’s iPhone OS in 2007.

Multi-tasking and Activity Cards
Palm’s webOS allows you to run multiple programs at once and the “Activity Cards” feature is a breath of air from using the iPhone’s OS. Like many, I’ve got lots going on and my phone reflects my everyday life. When I leave my desktop computer, which is often littered with multiple windows open, I feel right at home with webOS on the Pre. I’m able to have mutiple “cards” for websites, contacts, calendar, tasks and Twitter.

Using my finger to switch between cards showcases the elegance of the operating system and the sheer power of multi-tasking. Plain and simple, multi-tasking on the Palm Pre is addictive and a boon to productivity junkies. Of course, the more cards you open, the more processing power will be used, thus having detrimental effects on performance and battery life. Thankfully, a company allows me to decide how I’d like to use my phone. For my money, “Cards” (multi-tasking) could very well be the best overall feature.

This is one of the more interesting features of webOS. Palm has jettisoned the idea of being physically connected to your computer in order to synchronize your calendars and contacts.

There is no Palm desktop software to accompany the Pre. You are forced to used what’s termed “cloud computing”.

Definition: Cloud computing is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet.[1][2] Users need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure in the “cloud” that supports them. Source: Wikipedia

The Palm Pre supports Google’s Gmail, Facebook or Outlook Exchange. For this review, I used both Google’s Gmail and Facebook.

In theory, synergy is a great idea, bringing contacting information from various sources into one listing. Let’s say I have an old email address for my friend Michael in Gmail, but he’s updated his email address in Facebook. Palm’s synergy will update Michael’s email address automatically. All of my Facebook contacts synced within a minute or so and now I’ve also got photos of all my friends. If Michael calls, the profile photo he has in Facebook shows up on the Pre.

If we’re looking at this as a glass half full scenario, this is great for folks who never took the time to create and regularly update their contacts on their desktop. I personally use Address Book, which syncs nicely with the iPhone. At last count, I had roughly 120 contacts and I could probably stand to prune that list a bit more. If you were a Palm user, chances are that you probably are using Palm Desktop to manage your contacts and calendars.Palm has a migration assistant to allow users to transfer their information to a supported service.

As a Mac user, it was easy enough to get my Address Book contacts in Google’s Gmail contacts. Address Book > Preferences > Synchronize with Google. I had already done a migration to Gmail and for use with Google Sync for BlackBerry. Gmail has an extremely annoying feature of adding every person that I email to my contacts. It then proceeded to fill Address Book with addresses and names of people that I didn’t know. It forced me to turn off synchronization.

Address Book Sync with Google

On the Pre, I have no selection to sync just My Contacts. Google brings them all. Now, I can manually go in and remove a contact, but this takes away from the overall usefulness of Synergy.

I never thought of Facebook as a contact manager. In some aspects, it makes sense. Facebook being the largest social network and a place where people might think to keep updated information, most notably their email address. Profile pictures are also a big plus, as your friends do the work for you. The definition of friends on Facebook is very broad. I might be friends with someone from California who I went to high school with, but do I need his contact information in my Pre? Probably not. It shouldn’t take long for someone in our forums to complain that their better half stumbled upon a contact card from an old girlfriend that the cloud synced with your Pre, photo and all. I did find the ability to link contact information very helpful. Rather than having the ability refine and properly maintain my contacts, Pre’s synergy becomes the “all you can eat” buffet of contacts management.

Synergy linked contacts

Synergy brings information together into one contact and denotes this within Contacts by a multiple card icon and removes the confusion of duplicate contacts which often happens on other mobile platforms.

Palm’s certainly onto to something here with Synergy, but it would behoove Gmail and Facebook to improve their services. The problem is that Palm makes the Pre and end users are forced to deal with third party companies like Gmail and Facebook. I’m sure there is a reason why Google adds to your contacts with reckless abandon and maybe this is the start of Facebook getting serious about allowing users to manage their contacts within their social network.

There is hope for users looking to sync to their desktop and it comes in the form of third-party desktop applications like Mark/Space’s “The Missing Sync for Palm Pre”. The company will soon release both a Mac and PC version that will bring back the good old hotsync days.

Calendars also synced effortlessly with Google. I typically do not use Gmail to manage my calendar, but was surprised to see it had already had pulled in appointments I had created on the Pre. webOS supports layered calendars, so you can manage your work, personal and other calendars. The Pre will allow you to show them all or filter your calendars.

Calendars on Palm Pre

One of the impressive features was the accordian view. Let’s say you have an appointment at 9:00 am and another at 7:00 pm. Rather than force to you scroll, the Pre displays your first appointment and then “squeezes” your free time, allowing you to see your later appointment in the same view.

Calendar accordian view on Palm Pre

I’m ready to embrace cloud computing, but the tools aren’t there to maximize the experience. Palm’s ahead of the curve and the unfortunate result is a crowded contacts list. The Calendar application does a good job for those with multiple calendars and the accordian view is a useful feature.

Regardless of what phone you use, notifications will play a big part in managing your daily life. Since the Pre is connected in so many ways (Messaging, Calendar, Email,etc.), there are times when you’ll receive notifications, sounds simple enough. On some phones, namely the iPhone, it pops up in the middle of your screen and disrupts your current activity. It demands you act on it or dismiss it. Dismiss it and it’s gone forever. If you were to dismiss an important text message, the onus is on you to remember it. Not so with webOS and the Palm Pre.

First off, the Pre doesn’t interrupt your activity. Notifications pop-up in the bottom of the dock and you have choices. You can act on the notification or you can swipe the notification, meaning that you do not need a reminder. If you do not act on it, the Pre will line up a small icon in the bottom right of the screen, so you can revisit and act upon that important message. To date, Android was the only platform that had offered improvements on notifications, but the bar has been raised and set by Palm. webOS allows third party applications to use notifications. Now you can stay updated of tweets using Tweed, plus notifications related to messaging, email, missed calls and more.

webOS offers simply the best, most elegant handling of notifications. The graceful handling of notifications from assorted connected applications really highlights how the Pre is able to help manage your life, without disrupting it.


Universal Search

From Card view, Universal Search allows you to search within contacts and applications on the Pre. Once it exhausts options on the device, it offers up a choice between Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia and Twitter.

Switching phones so often, I often find the need to access Bluetooth. On some phones, this process can be laborious. Type b, l and you can easily locate Bluetooth settings on the Pre. If I had wanted to search the web for BluRay, just keep typing and select from the search tools provided.

  • Google
  • Google Maps
  • Wikipedia
  • Twitter


Universal Search is an extremely useful tool and the Internet search is just another reminder how webOS is tightly integrated with the web.

Applications and Palm’s App Catalog
The Palm Pre comes with a nice assortment of included applications. For PIM (Personal Information Management), you’ve got Contacts, Calendar, Tasks (To Do Lists) and Memos.

The Contacts app offers a good array of contact details. The inclusion of Birthdays is particularly helpful. To avoid awkward moments of forgetting the names of friends children, webOS offers fields for spouse and children. Certainly a nice touch. Pre will only display the fields where you’ve filled in contact information. For example, if a particular contact info ends with their birthday information, it will not display the blank fields associated with ‘spouse’, ‘children’ and ‘nickname’. I thought it would have been nice to have contacts integration within the ‘spouse’ field, but it’s not available. It also supports adding IM information for other clients including AIM, Yahoo!, Google, MSN, Jabber and ICQ. Finally, Contacts allows you to attach a ringtone to a specific contact. I can easily distinguish when my parents are calling when I hear the ‘Old Phone” ringtone.


If you are not using Exchange, then you have to use either Google’s Calendar and/or Facebook. I normally use iCal, so might opt for Mark/Space’s Missing Sync for Palm Pre when it becomes available. Not being a bigtime Facebook user, I couldn’t seem to find where I was supposed to manage my calendar within Facebook. Calendars in webOS allow you to connect to Facebook, but in my case it didn’t pull down any information. Birthdays would be at a minimum, something I’d find useful.

Google calendars works great and I had no issue syncing with the Pre. You can create ‘labels’ allowing for multiple calendars. The Pre allows you to select which calendar appointments are displayed. Again, helpful if you’d like to focus on your work schedule or just view your a schedule for your kids activities. One of the small, yet why didn’t somebody think of this before, features is the “accordion” feature. If you have an appointment or meeting at 1:00 and then something at 9:00 pm, the Pre will squeeze the time in between, allowing for display of both events without having to scroll. Like most calendar apps, you have daily, weekly and a monthly view.

The memos application is simple app to create notes. Nothing more, nothing less. You can set different colors for your notes. It’s not meant to be a replacement for a word processor app, so I was ok with the size of the font, which while easy to read does limit the amount of content within a single memo. Another drawback to Google Sync is the inability to sync your memos.


Rounding out the PIM apps are tasks. The design of the tasks app is phenomenal and replicates a leather bound organizer. You can create multiple task groups (To-Do lists) and then outline your individual tasks. You can set priorities, due dates.


You can search Tasks and Memos, by simply typing within each application. Search in not available within the Calendar app.

Other Notable Apps
Doc View | PDF View: Those familiar with Docs To Go will recognize this application by DataViz. This application is only a viewer and DataViz will release a commercial (ie. paid) product in the near future. When you first launch the app, the message “The current folder is empty” is very confusing. The Doc View menu is not accessible, despite what appears to be a drop down arrow. There needs to be a way within webOS to distinguish between an accessible menu and one that is not.

I tested Doc View using the emailing an Office document using the newer .docx format and it opened without a problem. Expect the same from Excel and Powerpoint. webOS allows you to save the document and then it’s accessible directly from Doc View.

PDF View correctly rendered a 37 page PDF that was included. I expected zooming to be as fast as the web browser, but it was a bit sluggish. Also missing was landscape view. If you absolutely have to view a PDF, this will certainly work, but the rendering could be improved up and added support for landscape view.


It would have been great to have the ability to edit Office documents out of the gate, but this is likely sufficient for many folks. If Docs To Go is priced right, it will certainly be a nice upgrade for business users.


By far one of the most popular third party apps available on mobile devices and it comes standard on the Pre. With the built-in GPS, Google Maps will find your location and enable you to search for POI’s, get directions and more. The webOS version of GoogleMaps does not support street view, but we’d suspect that will come with future updates. If you are in an unfamiliar area, GoogleMaps is ideal when searching for a nearby restaurant, allowing you to read user reviews and get directions. There is no integration with Sprint Navigation, which would have been great, but perhaps a bit confusing.


Sprint Apps
Sprint TV | Nascar Apps

The Pre version of Sprint TV, the wireless carriers streaming TV app. You’ll have access to a good number of channels and pre-recorded shows. Streaming quality is so-so at best, especially when you compare it to watching videos from your DVD’s.


My brother is a big Nascar fan. Me, not so much. I’ll wait for the NFL app that I know has to be coming sometime this fall. With the Nascar app, you can select your favorite driver and receive news related to him. There are also video clips, but they share the same so-so quality we found with Sprint TV.


Sprint Navigation
While I’m not bowled over by SprintTV or the Nascar app, Sprint Navigation more than makes up for it. It’s powered by TeleNav and it’s more than on par with a portable GPS found on a Garmin or Tom Tom.

What better way to test out Sprint Navigation, then allowing it (or me) to take a lunch break. I started typing “p” and the app located businesses that started with “P”. I selected Panera Bread and it provided a few options. It correctly selected Panera Bread in Levittown, NY. Some of the locations had reviews, but I knew what I was in for at Panera. Sprint Navigation started driving directions in a matter of seconds. I made several attempts to set it off course and re-routing was fairly quick.

As you’ll note in the screenshots, it’s a beautiful looking app. You can choose between 2D and 3D displays. One feature that I found missing was the ability to switch to Landscape mode and this was disappointing. Directions was spot on. Speakerphone was audible, but could be louder and clearer.


Overall, this is one good looking navigation app that does the job well and it’s included in the cost of your Sprint plan.

Other Apps Of Note
The Pre comes with a Calculator and a Clock. The Clock offers alarms and two different themes. The themes are a matter of personal taste, but I prefer the digital theme.


App Catalog
Okay, let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. Apple’s App Store, which singlehandedly revolutionized the distribution of mobile software, has well over 50,000 Apps. When they say, there’s an app for that, chances are there are 50 or 100 apps for that. Now, everyone take a deep breath and think about what apps you need and or want on your phone. If you own an iPhone (which I do), what are the apps that you cannot live without? For me, it’s Twitter, Facebook and I enjoy the classic arcade games. I have an app to manage my VUDU, but it’s not critical for me. That’s not to say I only have 4-5 apps on my iPhone. I’ve lost count, but there are probably 30 or so, of which I use 2-3 daily. For me, those are critical to using any phone, the Pre included.

The App Catalog started with just 18 apps, but that number is already increasing. At the time of this review, Palm’s Mojo SDK (Software Development Kit) was not available to anyone, expect a small group of developers who were allowed early access. webOS is a brand new platform and apps will come. Palm’s App Catalog won’t surpass or even come close to the 50,000 app plateau, but that’s fine. From the get-go, I was up and running with Tweed by Pivotal Labs and mobile Facebook. I didn’t skip a beat from using the iPhone. Not the same experience when I use the BlackBerry Bold, where I’d use TwitterBerry and you don’t get the “desktop computer” feel on BlackBerry apps.

App Catalog has an assortment of categories and you can also view recently added and most popular. The process of downloading, installing and using the app could not be easier. Within a two taps, you can download, install and start using an app.


It’s easy to have a sense of disappointment upon seeing a paltry selection of apps, but the framework in is place for the App Catalog. The store itself couldn’t be easier to use and the initial crop of apps are impressive and provide “desktop quality” on a handheld. Palm is of the “build it and they will come” mentality and I’m sure developers will get on board. It’s not an amazing start out of the gates, but I’m encouraged more so by the quality of apps, that the low number doesn’t bother me – if we are still under 300 apps in 6 months, then I’ll have an issue. A timely release of the SDK and perhaps a few new webOS devices in the pipeline and the App Catalog should have a completely different feel in a few months.

It syncs with iTunes. Not only does it sync with iTunes, the computer sees it as an iPod. When you connect the Pre to a computer, it offers three choices: Media Sync, USB and Just Charge. In my testing, Media Sync allowed me to easily sync music and movies within iTunes on my Mac. All the media syncing goodness that comes with an iPhone, is also packed into the Palm Pre. I converted a DVD of “A Bug’s Life” to an MPEG 4 file, dropped into iTunes and it synced with the Pre.

One caveat, it does not support DRM protected music purchased from the iTunes Store. For a fee, Apple allows you to convert your existing music to iTunes plus, allowing you to play your music on devices not made by Apple.

Amazon MP3
In lieu of iTunes Music Store, the Palm Pre allows you to purchase music through Amazon MP3. I’ve bought music from there before, so was no stranger to ordering music from them. My purchased music from Amazon is playable across all my iPods and of course it is compatable with the Pre. Amazon often has lower prices than iTunes. In fact, during my trial, they had the new Chickenfoot album for $3.99, a perfect test for the service. You need an Amazon account and you can also select “enable one-click” for purchases. The service only works over WiFi. A 13 song album took 12-15 minutes to download over a Verizon FIOS 20mps connection. The Amazon MP3 store looks and operates like the App Catalog. For an end user, this was refreshing. Some phones have third party apps that look completely different, as there was absolutely not communication between developers or standards for app design.


If you are familar with iPods, you’ll realize that music can only come down from iTunes for it to sync back. That follows with the Pre.

If you purchase music through Amazon MP3, it will not automatically sync back to iTunes. You need to mount the Palm Pre in USB mode and copy the MP3 files in the Amazon folder to iTunes. A minor inconvenience if that and music plays perfectly within iTunes.

You can easily convert your DVD’s to Palm Pre using our tutorial. We’ve used the free application Handbrake and offer our few recommended settings. There are other software applications and you can take part in forum discussions related to that topic. Converting DVD’s  is the only way to get the best quality videos on your Palm Pre. SprintTV does offer movie rentals, but I was impressed with the quality of the TV streams, that I’d be hesitant to rent a full movie. Video conversion takes around 35 minutes for a movie. The picture quality was above average on the Pre, but movies did look slightly better on the iPhone.

The Music app is not flashy, but gets the job done. There isn’t much that hasn’t been done when it comes to music player. You can access your music by Artists, Albumns, Songs, Genres and Playlists. Playlists of course being very useful given the iTunes syncing capabilities built-into the Pre.

The Pre’s Music app has it’s own version of “Cover Flow”, but it’s not very useful. The idea behind cover flow is to allow you to browse through your albums/songs using the visual imagery of the album covers and then select the song/album that sparks your interest. On the Pre, moving through covers also changes the playing song, limiting its usefulness.

We’ll get into notifications in the Usability portion of the review, but let’s touch quickly on how it affects music playback. Let’s say you put on some RATT, but want to tend to some email or browse the web. The Pre will place a small music icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Tap on it within any application and you’ll see a mini-player, allowing you to shuffle tracks forward, backward or pause the current song. Tap once more and the Music app card will pop up in the main window.


If Podcasts are your thing, clicking on a link to the a podcast within the browser will open the Music player and the podcast will be streamed.

Universal search does not work in Music, but that would be a nice feature, especially as we start to see larger capacity webOS devices. Updated “useful” coverflow with landscape mode would also be a nice improvement.

The Music app is capable, good-looking and iTunes support allows you to sync to all of your “non-DRM” music on the Palm Pre.


The Camera app, while easy to use, it’s difficult to get great results. It’s highly dependant upon the subject matter lighting and a still hand. One of the downsides to “iPhone photography” is that it requires you tap on the screen and the Pre is guilty of the same offense. A steady hand plays a key part in any good photography. Tap my tripod while I’m taking a photo and it’s going to have a detrimental affect.

The flash on the Pre did help in low light situations, especially compared to the iPhone 3G. I did not take an extensive amount of photos. While I’m certain you can achieve good quality photos on the Pre, my random shots produced so-so quality. I’ve included photos I’ve taken along with photos taken by forum member Swagger. I should note that Mark is a professional photographer, but it is a good example of the quality of photos that are possible with the camera on the Pre.


The camera app is very fast to take photos and the flash also helps with low-light areas. The quality however should be better for 3 megapixels.

The iPhone ruined the Internet for other mobile devices. Android’s browser was promising, but that hardware didn’t support multi-touch. If you wanted the best Internet experience on a mobile platform, the only game in town was the iPhone. On June 6th, that all changed. The web on the Pre is fast. Not only loading pages, but when zooming in on specific areas. Text rendered more quickly on the Pre. The glass screen on the iPhone makes it more sensitive, which is a good thing when trying to tap on links. The Pre sometimes requires you press harder than should be necessary.


With Apple selling over 40 million iPhone/iPod devices, a large number of websites have created iPhone friendly websites. These websites immediately become Pre optimized. iPhone owners have paved the road that Pre owners can drive down.

webOS does not currently support Flash, but it will in the future.


The YouTube app, while basic, offers everything you need from YouTube on your phone. You can view the most popular videos, most viewed or perform a search. Quality was much better than Sprint TV. In portrait mode, you view some spare information about the video and the rating. You can also choose to view more from this author or related videos. Pre allows you to share videos by either text message or email. Press either an it’ll paste the URL into the appropriate program in a new card. Press play and the Pre will automatically switch to landscape mode and begin playing the video.



One of the neat features of the Pre is the unified Messaging app. It brings together Text Messaging and IM within one conversation. If I exchange texts with a person earlier in the day, I can switch over to GTalk and pick up the same conversation over IM. Like previous Treo smartphones, the Palm Pre offers threaded SMS. This prevents you from having hundreds of messages clogging your up your inbox. Let’s say you chat/text with 4 friends on a regular basis, you’ll have four conversations on the Pre and not a mish mash of messages.

Messaging on Palm Pre

Palm took threaded SMS and added IM. They improved upon something they started and to this day is the most effective way to manage a discussion.

Usability | Phone
At the end of the day, the Pre is a phone. The Phone app features a touchscreen dialpad to manually enter numbers. There is a small address book icon that allows you access to your contacts without leaving the Phone app. You can also start entering numbers from the QWERTY keyboard and it actively searches your contacts. Regardless of whether it finds a contact, you simply press the return key to call.

The Pre also provides access and control of your call logs. If you need to delete a single number from your call log, you can. On the iPhone, it’s all or nothing.


The Pre allows you to add a call, offering support for 3-way calling. Nothing new to see here, but worth noting.

Unfortunately, all the web goodness that’s wrapped up into the Pre has a profound effect on battery life. I’ve always found it difficult to judge battery life, since it’s highly dependent upon individual usage. The Pre is rated at 5 hours talk time. Of course, there is so much more to the Pre than just making phone calls. I was able to get through most of day using Gmail on push, making a few calls, browsing the web and general usage as part of this review. I wouldn’t say the battery life is a dealbreaker, but I would certainly recommend you pickup a car charger and perhaps consider a backup battery when they become available. For comparison purposes, the battery life on the Pre was not as good as the iPhone or BlackBerry. I did find it to be an improvement over the G1.

Palm Pre battery

The trade-off here is less than fantastic battery life vs an extremely capable phone. Good news is that a removable battery and the purchase of a Pre charger can temper battery life concerns. Of course, this does require an additional investment, so add those numbers when considering the price/value equation.

Using a Palm Pre
Stunning visuals combined with intuitive nuances makes webOS the highlight of the Pre. Multi-tasking alone doesn’t help with usability, it’s Palm’s “cards” that really power productivity. While there is a limit to how many cards you can have open (I did run into memory issues after having too many cards open), the Pre is more than powerful enough to for a power user. Switching between apps using cards is enjoyable and it’s even more fun to “throw away” a card, effectively closing an application. If you go into Screen and Lock, you can set turn-on advanced gestures. This allows you to move between applications with a swipe of the gesture bar. If you are just getting started with the Pre, I’d encourage you check out the Help menu. They are packed with questions, but do include a short list that I often found useful while learning the intricacies of the Pre.

Advanced Gestures


  • Multi-tasking and the use of Cards
  • Stunning visuals and thoughtful designed icons offers eye candy galore
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Elegant handling of notifications
  • Push Gmail mirrors BlackBerry email, without the BlackBerry
  • App Catalog is easy to use, intial apps promising
  • Synergy makes it easy to sync contacts, calendars if you use Gmail , Facebook or Exchange
  • iTunes Syncing is so good it feels wrong
  • Universal Search
  • Turn by turn directions
  • Removable battery
  • WiFi


  • Limited apps available at launch
  • Materials slightly below quality found on other premium phones (iPhone 3G, BlackBerry Bold)
  • Synergy is reliant upon quality of third party service. Google causes cluttered contacts list. Facebook’s focus is not on contact management
  • Needs developers to fill in the gaps, no general public release of SDK so this can start happening
  • Camera produced mixed results, highly dependant upon lighting, source.
  • Inability to edit Office documents (note: this is coming, but at a fee).
  • Battery life
  • No Visual Voicemail

The Palm is the most fun you can have with a smartphone and at the same time it offers a new level of productivity tools. webOS sets an unbelievable foundation for future devices. The multi-tasking power of cards, thoughtful design of notifications and overall peppiness of the OS makes using the Palm Pre a pleasure. The build quality of the hardware is acceptable, but the materials are a cut below other premium smartphones in this price bracket. The overall package of included apps were sufficient, with the expectation that more are on the way. App Catalog’s success is not with it’s vast catalog of apps, but rather the ease of use in finding, downloading, installing and running new apps. webOS is incredibly refined considering it’s at 1.0, but expect bumps along the way. The service is exclusive through Sprint and the quality of service is subjective based upon your calling area. All in all, the Palm Pre succeeds in delivering a phone that I found to be the sweet spot between an iPhone and a BlackBerry. It’s a phone with a changing personality, based solely upon your needs. The Palm Pre is a smartphone that is the perfect mix of business and pleasure.