Palm Pre: Six Months In

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pre_openIn mid-June of 2009, Palm sent me a Pre, its first webOS-powered smartphone, to try out as a “Real Reviewer.”  That program, I was told, was launched to get the Palm Pre into the hands of a few people Palm could count on to use it daily for an extended period (about six months, to be specific) and talk about it in blogs, on social networking sites, mailing lists, and so forth.

Real Reviewers was meant to be different from the typical press loaner program, where phones get sent out to blogs & journalists, who spend maybe a week with them, and then send them back.  Those impressions, while helpful, might not be entirely complete; in contrast, spending months with a device can be much more revealing (for better or worse).

So, now, as my time with a loaner Pre comes to an end, here are my honest impressions of the device, Sprint’s service, and the overall user experience.

In the Beginning

When I was anticipating getting the Palm Pre, I was filled with equal parts geek giddiness and abject terror.  While the geek giddiness part is obvious to anyone reading this site, the reason for my abject terror was that the Palm Pre was about to end a 13-year, love-hate relationship I had had with Palm OS devices.  Virtually every part of my daily mobile existence revolved around my Palm OS phone.  While I’d had other types of PDAs and smartphones over the years, I never found them as compelling, so I stuck with Palm OS.

As the Pre runs Palm’s new webOS operating system, everything would have to change.  Yes, it had the Classic emulator, which could run some Palm OS apps with varying degrees of competence, but HotSync was broken, which meant much of what I relied on day-to-day would need to be revised.

And frankly, it should’ve been.  The “sync to my PC” model of transferring data is antiquated, unreliable, and somewhat antithetical to the whole concept of an always-connected smartphone.  So, I jumped into the Palm Pre experience with both feet.

I ran the included converter app, which I used to transfer my Treo’s calendar and contacts to Google’s equivalents, and my tasks and memos went into the Pre’s on-board versions of those apps.  The concept of syncing my PIM data to the cloud has always appealed to me, and this first step was entirely painless.


With that done, I started to see the magic of Palm’s new webOS feature called Synergy, which basically acts like a huge data funnel, sucking your personal and social network calendar and contacts information into the Pre.  After giving it my Exchange, Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn (and Yahoo! was recently added) login info, it went out and synced all my contacts from all those sources into the Pre and, as if by magic, matched up duplicates to create combined entries.

For example, my wife’s Google Contacts entry, Facebook profile, and LinkedIn profile all contributed to her single entry in my Pre’s addressbook.  It recognized redundant info, such as where she entered the same address in two places, and presented me with just one address.

Calendars work similarly; events on any one of my private or social network calendars show up, color-coded, on my Pre’s calendar.  If someone makes a change to an event I’ve added to my calendar, my phone is updated automatically without me lifting a finger.

Synergy worked so well that I was simply stunned…it was the thing I showed off first to curious friends and coworkers, and it never failed to impress.  And it still does me to this day.  If webOS has a killer feature, Synergy is truly it.  And, frankly, the prospect of doing without it, should I ultimately decide to get a non-webOS phone after the Pre, is not one I relish.

The Learning Curve

I did have to make a few big mental shifts.  For example, with all these thousands of entries in my Pre’s addressbook, I had to stop using it like a Rolodex (looking people up alphabetically).

Let’s say I wanted to send someone a text message.  On a different device, I’d typically open up the messaging app, tap the To: field, scroll (or jump) to the person I wanted, and then tap their phone number.  On the Pre, it’s more straightforward:  I start typing the person’s name (fastest way is first letter of first name followed by 2-3 letters from the last name), and the Pre’s Universal Search function pulls up his contact info.  From that screen, I can tap the “SMS” button on the corresponding phone number, which launches a new text message.

In short, on communication tasks, I had to move from thinking about apps to thinking about people.  And honestly, that makes a fair bit of sense.


Another area in which I had to change how I interacted with the device involved multitasking.  Palm OS doesn’t multitask.  When you open up an app, the previous one closes automatically, preserving its state (most of the time).

When I got the Pre, I tended to use one app at a time, just like on my Treo.  However, over the following couple of months, I found myself in more and more situations where multitasking was incredibly handy.  One example involved streaming my kids’ favorite song into our car stereo (via Orb) while simultaneously tracking our route in Google Maps.

As I use the Pre more, I get more and more reliant on being able to have several apps running at once.  But the real benefit of webOS is how easy it is to switch apps.  Not only can you get a visual overview of all your apps with a single gesture, you get the equivalent of Windows’ Alt-Tab to rapidly cycle through what’s running.

Not All Wine and Roses

By this point, you may have started thinking this was an infomercial.  Let me put that fear to rest.  While I really do enjoy using the Pre, it is far from perfect.

My biggest complaints so far do not include that it only has ~550 apps in the Palm App Catalog (heck, it’s still in beta), but are (a) the overall sluggishness of the user interface and (b) Palm’s apparent lack of concern for operational efficiency in webOS (something Palm OS truly excelled at).

To be completely honest, there are times when I want to slam my Pre to the floor (I haven’t yet…I’m always cognizant it’s a loaner).  It takes 2-5 seconds for a calendar page to load (or do whatever it’s doing) before I can scroll up or down or switch to the next page.  If I want to go 5 days into the future, that’s an untenable proposition…it takes literally 5 times 2-5 seconds = 10 seconds minimum.  Similarly, rendering even a simple text email often takes an inexplicable 3-5 seconds.  One upside of this is that I use my Pre to handle email far less than I used my Treo.

Perhaps even more frustrating are the random lags.  I’ll tap an on-screen button and nothing happens.  So I’ll tap it again.  Nothing.  Then, just as I’m about to tap it a third (or 4th or 5th) time, the screen reacts and it’s obvious that both initial taps were acted upon.  AARGH!

Disclaimer:  I have installed many, many homebrew apps and community patches onto my Pre, so there’s a chance that one or more of those are creating some of this lagginess. More on homebrew below.

Regarding operational efficiency, Palm has clearly departed from the “Zen of Palm” philosophy, which drove the UI design of Palm OS from its inception.  webOS is anything but.

One example is webOS’ reliance upon the “Back” swipe gesture, which is basically a short, right-to-left swipe below the screen to take the app back one screen/command/menu level.  As much as I do this, I’d really much rather have a physical button, as it’s faster and less work for me.

A related issue is, because webOS is so very finger-friendly, all of its on-screen control elements are a lot bigger than the equivalents on a stylus-based UI.  This usually results in far fewer commands and functions being given full-time availability.  Also, the font and spacing between elements is often much bigger, leading to more white space and less content on the screen.

Tasks webOS

Tasks Palm OS

Compare the new webOS Tasks app (on the left) with the old Palm OS To-Do app (on the right); on the latter, see how much more direct access to changing stuff you have without diving into menus and hitting little (i) buttons first?  Every element on the Palm OS version is tappable, and the tap takes you directly to being able to interact with that specific field.  On the webOS version, tapping anywhere on the entry (except the checkbox) takes you to the details page, where you then have to tap again to change the field you’re interested in.  In my opinion, when you’re designing a mobile OS that people in a hurry are going to use, every tap matters, and I’d like to have to make as few of them as possible.

Finally — and this is probably just a personal preference — I like physical buttons.  Being able to launch an app with a dedicated hardware button is fast and efficient.  While Palm tried to get some of the same effects with the “wave” launcher, it’s just not the same.  I have to slide my finger up, make sure I’m on the right icon, and then wait for the app to load.  Sure, it’s only a second or two difference, but it feels like eternity compared to what I’m used to.

Physically, the Pre is really a feat of engineering. Squeezing all that functionality into so small and svelte a package is impressive.  Two minor complaints about the hardware, though.  One complaint is no flash expansion slot.  I got used to being able to take my card out and insert into whatever I needed at the moment.  Instead, the Pre can go into flash drive mode, which, when connected to a PC with a USB cable, is fully accessible via the file browser.  It’s not a bad compromise.  The other complaint is the USB cover…it’s just so flimsy and annoying that I’m constantly tempted to rip it off entirely.

Homebrew to the Rescue

preware_2009-10-12_223408Thankfully, Palm has been exceedingly open about webOS, which is fitting since it uses a lot of open source components.  Because of that openness, the webOS developer/hacker community has been very active.  As of my writing this article, there are several hundred homebrew (the term for unofficial webOS software) applications, patches (changes to the operating system), and themes, which change the look and feel of wallpapers, soft buttons, icons, etc.

All the homebrew apps are free, since there’s no way to enforce payment through the installation systems available today.  However, many are “donationware,” which suggests that, if you use the app regularly, you should make a small donation to the developer.  Relying on the honor system isn’t perfect, but, for many devs, it’s a good alternative to the hassle of a formal e-commerce solution.

Many of the patches are targeted at adding or changing features of the user interface.  For example, one patch increases the number of icons the user can see at any one time in the app launcher from 9 (3 rows x 3 columns) to 20 (4 rows x 5 columns), meaning less scrolling (yay!).  Another patch adds the date next to the time in the center top of the screen (see screen cap above for example).  These are little things that really do add up to a measurable improvement in overall usability.

Other aspects of homebrew have tackled more significant issues, such as Palm’s decision to greatly limit the memory available to install 3rd-party apps in, or enabling a virtual (on-screen) keyboard to complement the physical slider.

With the advent of Preware, users can access all of these homebrew offerings directly from the device; browsing and downloading over-the-air (OTA), and not having to go to a computer to install something, is really a phenomenal improvement over the traditional sync approach.


When the Pre was revealed at CES in January, 2009, one of the things that gave the blogosphere vapors was the wireless, inductive Touchstone charger Palm also showed off.  Curious about it, I bought one.  It has a couple of nifty features.  While the Pre’s charging, if a call comes in, picking the Pre off the Touchstone automatically answers the call.  Putting it back on the charger while the call’s in progress switches it to speakerphone mode.  Nifty.

However, I had to relegate my Touchstone to my office.  I had originally wanted to use it on my nightstand, but that proved unworkable.  While charging on the Touchstone, the Pre keeps its screen on and displays a clock.  However, the screen, even on the dimmest setting, was too bright and I found it harder to sleep.  It would be really nice if Palm could give users the option of turning the screen completely off while the phone’s on the Touchstone.


sprint-logo-11A review of the Pre wouldn’t be complete without discussing the one carrier it’s currently tied to (although nearly everyone who isn’t a Sprint shareholder wants to see that exclusivity end very soon).  Sprint is a pretty good network for the Pre.  While coverage can be spotty in some places, Sprint’s 3G network is quite fast.  In fact, a multi-city comparison by Gizmodo just about a year ago showed Sprint topped all others in average download speed.  While 3G doesn’t compare well with Wi-Fi speeds, in good-coverage areas, I’ve found data speeds on the Pre to be good, if not great.  So, as long as you’re in an area with good coverage, the 3G data experience will be pretty excellent.

Looking into the Future

Overall, Palm has developed a really amazing operating system in webOS.  It seems to scale well to various screen sizes; it’s intuitive and easy to use; and it’s enjoyable to look at.  Is it perfect? No, but we’re just 6 months from the launch of the first webOS device, so the fact that it’s this stable with this much of a user/developer community already is encouraging, if not downright amazing.

Looking ahead, I think webOS will greatly benefit from some of the powerful, new mobile processors that are starting to come out (e.g., Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and the Cortex-A9).  But, given the Palm Pre runs its Cortex-A8 processor (which is no slouch by any means) at just 500MHz and doesn’t (currently) use any of that chip’s on-board graphics coprocessing, one can only believe there’s quite a bit more to extract from even today’s hardware than webOS has attempted so far.


When compared to the smartphone behemoths that represent the Pre’s competition (Apple, Microsoft, Google, RIM, and Nokia), it’s flat-out amazing that tiny little Palm can even compete, let alone produce a device and platform that is superlative in many ways.  And yet, despite a decade of predictions of Palm’s demise, they did just that.

In summary, there’s a whole lot to like in the Pre and webOS, as well as some detractions.

The Good

  • Enjoyable OS with powerful multitasking capabilities
  • Synergy, Synergy, Synergy!  (the killer feature, IMO)
  • Rapidly growing application catalog
  • Enthusiastic homebrew community
  • Physical keyboard that slides away when not needed
  • Frequent OTA updates from Palm, which seems committed to webOS
  • It’s small and fits in a pocket exceedingly well

The Bad

  • Hardware may not be entirely up to the challenge of running webOS smoothly
  • Some apps and preferences need improvement in usability and/or responsiveness
  • No flash memory expansion slot (I do miss that) and silly little USB cover
  • Smallest app catalog of all the major platforms (so far)

I’m grateful that Palm has let me use the Pre for six months.  But, like Algernon, now that I’ve lived with webOS, I just can’t go back to my Palm OS Centro.  So, I have a choice to make in the very near future.  Do I renew my Sprint contract and get a Pre of my own, or do I explore another platform, like Android, which spans all the major carriers?  The glorious part about this dilemma is that it’s a dilemma at all…never before have we, consumers, had so many compelling options.

Decisions, decisions.

42 thoughts on “Palm Pre: Six Months In”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Very fair assessment and a good read. While you might be frustrated with the speed of webOS, the overall experience still tops Android 2.0. With the hardware of the Pre, it should be speedier and Palm’s certainly aware of this. That’s going to make a big difference in the overall experience. What’s troubling to me has not been the lack of apps, but the quality of those apps. Is this a limitation of webOS or simply a matter of allowing developers more access in the SDK. Palm’s Facebook app should be a showcase app and it falls short on so many levels.

    Speed up the OS, deliver some “killer apps” and improve upon the build of the hardware. That’s what I’m hoping for from Palm in 2010 and will certainly help solve your dilemma.

  3. I was looking at this some, had to get off of the useless OS known as windows mobile. I choose the Droid over the pre, if you had to choose, which do you think you would choose?

  4. You’ve done a great job on this article. I didn’t realize PreWare included an app/patch for increasing the number of apps to show on the screen – cool. I’ve read other Pre models released out of U.S. included a micro SD memory card slot. When Verizon finally carries the Pre, there’s a good change it will include a micro SD slot.

  5. I like your article very much. Like you, I have become used and dependent on my Palm OS phone, which is Palm Treo 680. I have decided to move to the Palm Pre, because it seemed to be the natural upward progression. Your article has made it clear to me that this was the right decision, in spite that webOS may require more taps than Palm OS to do some of the same things.

  6. You should definitely consider or at least try Android as it offers a lot of similar features to what you experienced on the Palm.

    If native Android doesn’t offer it, you can generally find an app that will provide that functionality for you on the market or even off the market.

  7. Nice post- A very fair assessment from a user with a similar background to mine- Palm user for years (since my US Robotics Pilot). Yes palm OS was getting antiquated, but it was so FAST and FUNCTIONAL. I hoped so much for WebOS to be our savior, and it has failed to deliver. The promise, architecture, innovation is all there- but it just doesn’t feel ready for prime time to compete. I truly feel that it is a superior OS to ANY smartphone out there, but PALM really needs to respond to the user feedback – and fast – to stay afloat. We see the same complaints again and again. I don’t want to see such an elegant new system be a temporary failed blip that gets canned just because they didn’t follow through.
    My problems with it? I for one, am not a user that wants my data in the “cloud”, so I use “Missing Sync” to do it the old fashioned way, with varying degrees of success. Palm made this thing so unfriendly when syncing that it even makes a reputable program- Missing Sync- look bad. I want the simple things (calendar, contacts, notes) done well, which was how Palm succeeded in the first place, and now I feel abandoned. Email and web is great, although very limited (I’ve never seen an email client with so few preferences).
    I don’t even bother using my palm calendar anymore- a HUGE step backwards. SLLLLOOOOOWWW. And it can’t handle basic functions like syncing repeated entries without messing them up, duplicating them, or shifting them over by one day.
    And I think you were too kind in masking the frustration that occurs when you tap or make a gesture and nothing happens! Esp. when you’re trying to input some data quickly and get on with your day. It’s sometimes like working with molasses in the wintertime- Glacial. My life moves fast, and I have to slow down so my new high-tech gadget can catch up. Very frustrating indeed. I hate to say it, but after trying my best to stay with Sprint and Palm (again, over 10 years), I am starting to look elsewhere to see the other options. None seem to be as good as the theoretical Pre, but they sure seem like a viable option to the Pre in practice. -sad loyalist

  8. “However, the screen, even on the dimmest setting, was too bright and I found it harder to sleep.”

    I have no problem using the Pre on my nightstand. Also if I was you I would wait alittle while and see if a Pre 2 comes out on other carriers.

  9. Thanks for the feedback. All good points, too. @prethoughts, I’m not sure any webOS devices anywhere currently have flash memory slots, but I could be wrong. I plan to “doctor” my Pre, removing all patches, and see if it behaves a bit better without the homebrew stuff. I don’t think it’ll make any difference, but it can’t hurt to try.

  10. Nice sincere article. I’ve had my Pre for 6 months as well. I agree with most of your comments (good and bad) regarding the Pre, however I feel that your installation of the Home Brew Apps is a considerable factor. I installed a few of them and it DID slow the device down so that convinced me to uninstall them. Now I’ll only install Apps from the catalog.

    I find my Pre temperamental at times sometimes it opens applications slow but for the majority of the time it responds quickly. I agree that the calendar is a disappointment. However, looking at the big picture I believe that users are not taking full advantage of the Pre’s multitasking capabilities. It made a huge difference on the way I run both of my businesses. Being “well-connected” to all your email and social networks turned me into a multi-tasking monster! (Of course it can make you insane with information overload!)
    The most significant reasons why I still love this phone, is Palm has been great with updates. In June 2009, CNET provided us with a prize fight challenge featuring the Pre vs the Iphone 3GS. Overall, I recall they nearly tied in the end resulting with a very tiny marginal favor towards the Iphone 3gs. Since then the Pre has matured and it’s well improved with more solid features such as Yahoo Sync and Messenger, text forwarding, email search feature, faster photo viewing in camera mode, and finally the APP store looks like it will surpass 1000 by the end of this year.

    Sprint coverage and service has been good, but the real test is will it be satisfactory in Lake Tahoe on the slopes? For their price of an all data plan, SO FAR, Sprint seems to be the best value.

  11. I agree with nearly everything you say, especially the part about the Touchstone as a bright nightlight. My solution to that is to lay the included-in-the-box suede pouch on top of the screen at night. It completely blocks out the light and lets me charge overnight easily.

    The included calendar is a huge step backwards for Palm. Heck, the “date picker” widget alone is virtually textbook example of bad design. However, the seamless auto-syncing with my Google Calendar makes it easy to overlook this. With my PalmOS devices (PalmPilot Pro to Treo 755p), I did nearly all of my Calendar interaction (data entry, etc) on the PDA itself, but now I find it easier to use the desktop or web clients. I wish there was something like DateBk6 for the Pre….

    My biggest complaint about my Pre is the short battery life. It is a rare day when I wouldn’t have-to recharge overnight and be able to do anything with it the next day. I have bought the OEM-size extended battery, and that helps a bit, but it’s still not enough for my liking. The over-sized extended batteries would appeal to me, except that I’m addicted to the Touchstone, and their replacement back-covers aren’t compatible. I have bought one of the external battery chargers and another extra to bring with me on trips.

    I am also annoyed with both Palm and Apple over the native iTunes syncing war.


  12. Aphid: Get “Agenda” for your Pre….it’s a streamlined interface for your calendar data and, coupled with the “Quick Event” app, makes for a fast, efficient calendaring experience. Not sure if those are on App Catalog or homebrew, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out. 🙂

  13. ONE ITEM YOU LEFT OUT, I Think? Did you know there is a Top Limit of 256Mb that the Real Palm Apps can only take up. I’ve already run into this so many times it’s a joke. I have to delete paid apps and all the data with them, to install other paid apps. Palm said they will address this sometime soon, but no date is being made available for this. The problem is so bad that I gave up developing for the Pre, and went back to the iPhone with all my apps. I have several that have paid for my retirement already on Apple’s site, now I’d just love to port all them over to the Palm Pre, but not until they fix this application limit. Most of this is reflected in the catalog as to so little available.

  14. Man, I feel like you guys are reading my mind!!! Like most of you I was a PalmOS loyalist from the beginning (actually prior to the beginning… I saw a demo of the USR Pilot 1000 before it was even released)… remember 2 weeks of battery life… Graffiti… I digress…

    I’m doing my best to hang with Palm, but as the author confessed, sometimes I just wanna throw my Pre out the window as I’m driving down the freeway!! IMHO, if Palm engineers find an effective solution to the speed vs. battery life challenge, resulting in a Pre 2 that’s both lightning fast and runs for at least a full day with moderate to heavy use, they’ll have a REAL WINNER!!

    Missing MicroSD slots and hardware buttons are not a big deal cause everything’s going cloud and software based respectively. And the number of apps is not a show stopper cause I’d rather have fewer, better apps than 99,000 crappy ones (don’t get me wrong though, most of the apps already in Palms App Catalog are of the crappy variety).

  15. i’ve had my pre for about 11 days now, and i’ve found the fastest way to pick a date in the calendar is to click the month icon and then select the date from there.

    i agree with the number of finger swipes it takes to get things done, but it hasn’t turned me off thusfar. i do like that if i want to enter an event more quickly, i can go to google calendar and enter it really fast via my keyboard, and then it’ll just sync up to the phone. (i used to use palm desktop to enter events with my centro and then sync. i’m much faster on a fullsize qwerty keyboard than any smartphone keyboard.

    my main beef is battery life. i have zero sprint signal in my office at work, so the phone is constantly searching for a signal. i don’t want to put it in airplane mode, because i know i’ll forget to turn it off again and wonder why i’m not getting notifications.)

    i’ve also gotten some errors when i try to open any more than 3 cards, so i’m not sure what’s going on there. still figuring everything out. 🙂

  16. Nice review! I got fed up with my Centro about the time the Pre was coming out and wanted something with better email, etc. capabilities and n, some other features. Since I am pretty trapped with Sprint’s Family Plan, I was looking at the Pre and Blackberry as main options.

    I did the Blackberry mostly because of the price, newness, and ‘hot and cold’ reviews at the time.

    Now, I am about over the Blackberry (dinky screen, mediocre PIM capabilities, poor video capabilities, only 1 daily alarm (!?!?!?!), etc.) and am about ready to chuck it. Since Sprint does not offer any Driod yet, the Pre has been looking good.

  17. @Craig Thanks, I downloaded that from Preware and it looks good. I still wish that the built-ins were better.

    @Scott: I’ve run into the same issue. The rumors are that the next version will fix it and that version has supposedly been seeded to developers for testing. I certainly hope so….

  18. I have been yerning to get a Pre. Based on your info, I’ll wait a bit longer and stick with my Treo.



  19. Great article,
    I have had Palm OS devices since almost the first Palm Pilot. My Treo 650 broke because I dropped it, and the SD card won’t stay in. I have been looking at other smartphones but haven’t found any I like.
    An iPhone costs $1000 or more unlocked. And I have been told they nickle and dime you to death, nothing is free with an iPhone.
    Blackberry has nothing appealing. When they came out, they were clearly inferior to Treos and and soon were outselling them 10 to 1. Bad Palm marketing.
    Sony Ericsson? Nokia? None of the other smartphones available to me are even worth mentioning at this time.
    This article is the best review I’ve heard about WebOS. I have a lot of Palm OS apps that I’d like to keep using. This article is the first to mention anything about using old Palm OS apps on WebOS.

    Palm OS is a superior platform, and Palm’s Marketing dept let it die. My Palm will do everything that a desktop computer will do (I even have an infrared printing program), it is far superior to anything I can find out there now, and the technology is more than 10 years old. I am quite upset at Palms Marketing department. I blame them for letting Palm OS fail. When they put Windows on a Palm, it was one of the greatest blunders of all time. Like when Coca-Cola made ‘New Coke’. Remember that? Coke that tastes like Pepsi?

    I ended up ordering a new Treo off of Ebay. I will hang on a while more while I keep looking. But I doubt I will make the jump to WebOS. In my opinion, Palm Inc committed suicide, and is waiting to die.

  20. Becky, you’re exactly the type of person the Touchstone charger was designed for. Get one for your office and let your Pre “rest” on it while you’re at your desk…it’ll be charging, displaying any notifications that pop up, and not draining the battery despite a low signal strength. IMO, an office setting is ideal for the Touchstone.

  21. @Kevin,
    You quote: “I have been yerning to get a Pre. Based on your info, I’ll wait a bit longer and stick with my Treo.”

    The Pre and WebOS is much more advance than the Treo and PalmOS. This article is very good but just one opinion. A vast majority of former Centro users that upgraded to the Pre ARE VERY HAPPY. You can see a lot of honest feedback from users including complaints on Palms facebook page.

  22. I have been waiting for Verizon (the only local carrier with any decent coverage) to offer the Pre for eight months; I understand it comes in January. However, I’m now struggling to figure out whether the Droid or the Pre will be the right device for me. I need it for business use – and Synergy sounds terrific! I am interested in using it for music, for GPS, for texting and for e-mail. I can’t find any good comparisons between the two devices and didn’t get a good sense of them when I visited a Sprint store and a Verizon store in Boise recently. Any thoughts? Any good head-to-head reviews people have seen? (I’ve seen some, but they all suffer from the “anything Google is good” bias.)

  23. Montanan, my thoughts on your criteria:
    MUSIC: Pre is pretty good…sound quality is quite good through headphones…the built-in app is so-so, but there’s a much better free version that is even better than the iPod’s (IMO). Handles a wide variety of local and streaming formats.
    GPS: Pre is excellent…the built-in Sprint Navigation app is stellar, but Google Maps is also very accurate and updates nearly every second.
    Texting: Synergy makes this terrific, with threaded conversations that span IM and text messaging with the same person, so you can jump back & forth and not lose track of the conversation.
    Email: Again, Synergy rocks, with multiple accounts of multiple types in either a single unified Inbox or separate…it’s your choice.

  24. I think first quarter 2010 will be an important time for Palm. They need to can on other carriers networks, add apps and add more features to webOS.

  25. I agree w Miles; Palm really needs to get the Pre right the second time around. I hope they do because I really like the aesthetics of the Pre. It looks less brick-ish and smaller than the iPhone. I think the Pre was marketed horribly – I had been following the arrival of the Pre with a lot of anticipation (it was very much on my radar) but looking back, I don’t recall any compelling advertisements. I can barely recall any advertising at all. I’m going to wait for the Pre 2 . . . I hope Palm will make a serious effort at addressing all of the concerns

  26. For dealing with calendar events, I agree that the built in calendar is a bit unwieldy. What I do instead is utilize Google Calendar’s text feature. You can send a text message to a number that google gives you with a message such as “dinner tomorrow 7pm to 9pm”, and it will create the calendar event, then sync to your phone through google cal. MUCH easier then entering it manually.

  27. I ( cough ) work for Sprint.

    Great review, BTW. It’s nice to see a long term review.

    I have access to any phone that they provide service for.

    The Palm Pre may be the best phone available. On any Carrier. ( in the U.S.)

    I have used Windows Mobile for years, Blackberries, and even Droids ( yes, sprint has two droid phone, the Samsung Moment and HTC Hero ).

    The Palm Pre delivers where the others fail. The syncing is the best out there. No onscreen keyboard, no “favorites” contact list, and the occasional lag are my only complaints. The best part is that those are all software issues. The keypad is not so great, but you learn to live with it. We know Windows is not going to fix anything until Mobile 7 comes out and Blackberry is just kinda stale.

    Cheers to the Pre. I am currently using a Touch Pro 2 and can’t wait to get another Pre, if that tells you anything.

  28. This is an excellent review.

    I think for people who have never used a Palm device, they will be amazed by the relative functonality of Pre compared to other smart phones. But as a loyal Palm user for the past 5 years (I currently have a Centro), after spending a good amount of time with my husband’s Pre, I straddle the line between excitement and disappointment. While I am blown away by many of the new features (the incredibly responsive camera, synergy, i-tunes syncing, gps, and apps like “where”), I lean toward disappointment and am holding off on buying a Pre for myself until Palm makes some important improvements.

    I agree strongly with Craig’s assessment and many comments here. Here is my summary of what needs to be improved (includes some ideas already presented):

    -I need Palm Desktop. Though I think Cloud is great to have as an option for anyone who wants to use it, I personally am not a fan. I don’t want to have to go online and log into google to enter in calendar entries quickly. I am also uncomfortable with my information being stored in a place other than my personal computer. I imagine that some others feel this way, too.

    -The screen needs to be able to be manually dimmed to a low setting.
    When used in the dark, the relative brightness of the screen makes it hard to look at.

    -As the reviewer pointed out, the number of taps required needs to be reduced. My previous Palm devices excelled at minimizing the number of taps required.

    -I miss the 5-way navigator. As the reviewer points out, pressing a button is much faster than swiping in many cases.

    -I need to be able to view more (or all) of my apps on the applications page without having to swipe to another page.

    -I miss the classic memos application. But I suppose if Documents to Go makes a highly functional and editable Word application, I can swith over. (Does this already exist? My version of Documents to Go only lets me view files.)

    -The color of photos needs to be more accurate.
    While the camera is amazingly quick and responsive, the color of the photos taken is off.

    I believe that the Pre will only get better and will be on the lookout for these improvements.

  29. I started out with a Palm Tungsten E2, really liked the way it organized everything, so I then went with a Palm Centro in order to add the phone to the great organization. The Centro is a love/hate relationship, I love what it can do for me, am very proficient with the small querty keypad, hate the lags, the auto reboot 2-3 times per day when I try and do too much. I really hate it when I am in the middle of typing an e-mail and my phone rings. I completely lose the e-mail and have to start all over again when I disconnect from the phone call. I looked at the Palm Pre last summer, but really did not want to go to Sprint although, I could save about $50 per month, but was not sure about the coverage as I have 4 phones on my plan. I also looked at the Mot Droid and did not like the key pad at all. I like the looks feel of the Eris better than the Droid, but now am really torn between the Eris and the Palm Pre. Everything I read gets more and more confusing. I use my Centro calender a lot and basically use it as my planner. I have a GMAIL account and understand the calendar will sync with Google. I want video, although in the one and a half years I have had the Centro, I have never used video. I really like the feel of the Cento buttons. Help me with a decision whether to stay with Palm or go Android. Thanks

  30. MartyD,
    I need to update my thoughts. The most recent webOS update — — has fixed many of my concerns and has really energized my interest in keeping the Pre long-term. IMO, you should definitely TRY the Palm Pre. If you’re a Centro owner, all your data will be imported over (and synced to Google, if you choose) very easily…takes but a couple of minutes, literally. If you’re not comfortable with it after a couple of weeks, Sprint has a 14-day (I think) cancellation policy where you could then go try an Android device. Honestly, though, I know way more people who’ve tried Android and stuck with webOS than the opposite.

  31. Craig, thanks for the reply. I am with Verizon and wonder if the Palm Pre Plus’s new design will be any better than the complaints I read about with the hardware? The Pre I tried out at Sprint seemed to work fine, but of course, it was not set up to my liking. I am also concerned about relying on Google totally for all my data in the cloud. What are your thoughts on this? I have read where if you lose your account with GMAIL, you lose everything.

    Thanks again.

  32. Martyd, I tried the Pre Plus at CES and it’s more solid than the Sprint one, if only because they fixed some minor design issues on the initial Pre AND they’ve eliminated a physical button (a potential wear/fail point). I’ve had a Sprint Pre for 7 months now and the only sign of wear and tear on it is a tiny hairline crack near the USB port that has no impact on functionality. Generally, as long as you’re not super-rough with it, I don’t see why durability should be an issue with these. Regarding Google and the cloud, I’m a big fan of Google’s web services…been a Gmail user since 2005 or so…and I have no qualms at all about relying on that for my email, calendar, etc. I don’t know why you’d lose your account with GMail (apart from abusing it, like spamming), but if that happens, yes, there could be an issue, but that would be a problem with relying on any service provider. The best thing would be to export your data and save it every so often, which you can do with Google calendar and contacts (but not Gmail, I don’t think).

  33. Well, I went into Verizon this morning to look at the Pre Plus and I was the only one there. I asked to look at the Palm Pre and the salesperson looked at me as if I was crazy. I spotted it from the front door and had to show her where it was. The Google Maps was not working. I knew more about this phone than the Verizon salespeople. After playing with this phone, and remembering that I cannot upgrade until April, I really like the way my Centro feels, but if I could upgrade today, the price would be $149 less $100 mail in rebate, less $100 credit torwards the two any new. I am thinking about going to Sprint, save about $40 per month on a family plan which includes 4 phones on the network instead of the one I have now, plus 3 more not on the network with Verizon. Do I really want to do this or just stick with Verizon. Sprint says they roam on Verizon towers, so the coverage should be the same.

  34. Article in the paper today about Palm’s ability to keep up with technology and suggests Palm may not be able to make phones but only 2 more years. Should I still consider the Palm Pre Plus or switch to Android?

  35. Marty: Not a year has gone by since Palm first launched the Pilot back in 1996 that people haven’t predicted it’d go out of business or get bought out. So far, they’ve all been wrong. I’m pretty confident Palm and webOS will be around for a while, so I wouldn’t let that article dissuade you if you’re inclined to get a Pre Plus.

  36. Craig, I have had my new Palm Pre Plus now since April 2, and am ready to send it back and go back to my Palm Centro. I am getting a hand cramp and a burnt palm from trying to use the Pre. The contact birthdays do not sinc properly on the Pre. The Google maps only show my current location, not any location from my contacts. I have been on a call with Palm now 2 times and today they tell me, Google and Verizon will only allow my current location, nothing else. Why should I pay $9.99 per month for VZNavigate? The hand cramp is from the gesture area. The Palm Centro was so much more comfortable to use. I like the synergy with the calendar, but really not worth the other aggravations I am having. The burnt hand is from the heat of the 2 hour battery life. I have to use WIFI in my home as all applications requiring internet, I get the message, must have internet connection. Verizon has told me there is trouble with service where I live and will not be corrected any time soon. They want me to purchase an entender to boost the signal. At $150, this should be provided. Is it Verizon or the phone? Sure wish I could have a faster processor in the Centro.

  37. Marty, some thoughts:
    1) Contact birthdays do not sync to the calendar, that’s true. If you add them to the calendar as annual repeating events, you only have to do that once and you’re done.
    2) Google maps totally shows contacts’ locations. When you pull up a contact entry (profile) for which there is an address and you tap the address field, Google Maps will open up with that address marked on the map. At least that’s the way it works on my Pre. If Verizon has broken that in an effort to get you to pay them more money, I’d tell them to shove it.
    3) Sounds like the connection issues are Verizon’s fault. Are you sure you can’t use Sprint? They’re cheaper, too.
    4) It does fit in the hand differently than the Centro, but you’ll get used to it if you give it a full week or so. If not, then it’s not the right phone for you. Maybe a Blackberry would be better.

  38. Craig, I do have the Google contact birthday set, but it just will not sync to the Pre. Other issues I really liked more on the Centro; the 5 way navigation, the memos on the Centro can be password protected, not so on the Pre. The memos on the Centro take up less space using the alpha settings vs. the Pre large sticky notes. Dialing a number called frequently on the Centro is easier, just navigate to it with your thumb instead of having to slide out the keyboard on the Pre and typing in the search field. Palm has gotten away from what they have been known for over the years, the PDA. Maybe you can recommend a phone that will do everything like the Centro will do, only a faster processor and at least be able to handle an e-mail and a phone call without losing one or the other as the Centro cannot handle that now.

  39. I’m disappointed no one seems to have noted that the Pre’s battery life is pretty much on par with every other smartphone on the market. Disheartening to see such ignorance. Power comes with a price.

  40. I have found that the battery life is sub par with the other smartphones. I don’t get a half a day without having to charge.

  41. Well, I held out as long as I could with the Palm Pre Plus on Verizon. After 3 weeks of no 3G service, someone with Verizon Customer No Service finally agreed to send me another phone stating the phone might actually be defective. A couple of days later, the new phone arrived, and what do you know, I had 3G service, but now, not all the keyboard keys worked. The first phone’s keyboard was fine. After a week of this horrible experience, I sent both phones back and reactivated my Centro, which is actually faster at accessing what I need, but only one application at a time. Now the dilemma of whether to get the HTC Incredible or wait for the EVO on Sprint. Verizon has the best coverage, but Customer No Service is wearing on me.

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