My early impressions of the Palm Pre

Jun 7, 2009  |  Michael Wurzer

After a sort of late night out with some of my co-workers Friday night, I got up at about 6 a.m. on Saturday (when it was 45 degrees outside) to stand in line for the first time in my life for pretty much anything.  I’m one of those people who will drive 15 minutes more to avoid standing in line at a restaurant for 10 minutes.  Irrational, I know, but that’s how much I dislike waiting in lines.  Anyway, I’ve been a Blackberry Pearl user for about a year and I’ve been very excited to get a real keyboard again, and so I thought I’d brave the cold and the line to get my hands on the new Palm Pre.

I wrote out some pros and cons in an email this morning to Greg Kilwein and thought it would make a decent blog post, too, for those curious about my early impressions with the Pre.

It’s not perfect but it’s pretty great.

The cons:

  • Speed — There are some annoying delays in launching applications.  The delays really only occur in launching apps, though, and general operation is snappy once they’re loaded.  (I have had the NY Times app become non-responsive a few times, but I’m guessing that’s the app’s fault.)
  • Battery life — A day of heavy use may not be possible without a charge.
  • Auto-complete/correction — Palm hasn’t gotten very far yet with auto-complete/correction.  Small things like double-spacing to create a period don’t work (though using the period is easy enough) and it doesn’t correct some basics (like “I’ll”) I’ve gotten used to on my BB.
  • Apps — Though I disagree with most of the criticism over the puny app store (it is a new device, after all, and Apple didn’t even have an app store at all for over a year), I do wish there was an app for Google Reader, which I used all the time on my BB.  I was, however, pleased to find a Twitter app (Twead) and a NYTimes app, and there are a few others (movie times and tickets, Internet radio, etc.) I haven’t tried yet.
  • Calendar — Surprisingly, given that this is a Palm device, I’ve found the UI for the calendar frustrating.  Either I’m not doing it right, or they’ve left some basic navigation out like flipping through months.  You can flip through days but I haven’t figured out a way to flip through the months, which is something I do quite a bit.

The pros:

  • Size/Keyboard — I’d say the size of the device is perfect.  It’s neither too big or too small, but just right.  The keyboard is cramped, for sure, but it seems to be a decent compromise between a big keyboard like the Blackberry Bold has and something small like my Pearl that can’t handle a full keyboard.  Also, as David Pogue says, “it’s better than typing on glass.”
  • Screen — Amazingly beautiful; looking at the wallpapers/images they provide is just stunning, they’re so vibrant and colorful.
  • Fit/Finish — I give it an A but not an A+.  I think the device feels very nice in my hand and is quite beautifully designed (and, as mentioned above, is the perfect size).  My one complaint is that the slider isn’t as tight as it could be, and so there’s some sideways movement between the top and bottom even when the device is closed.
  • OS/UI — They’ve done a really great job here, and it mostly makes up for the speed issues.  Keeping many applications open is really handy and makes up for the short lags when loading an application (and, no, having many apps open doesn’t seem to change the speed, either with more or fewer apps running).  Organizing and accessing the applications through the “cards” also is easy and fun.  And the UI is simply gorgeous.
  • Email Client — The email client is one of the best parts of the device, because it combines into one UI both my FBS and gmail accounts.  You can view them together or separate.  Awesome.  Also, it supports full HTML email and so Jira and Confluence emails look good again, which they didn’t with my Pearl.
  • Google sync — Calendars and contacts, effortlessly. I mentioned this on Twitter, but I was really surprised when I found all my contacts and phone numbers loaded.  I vaguely recall syncing my BB to Google but it was still a surprise that everything just showed up on the Pre.
  • Contacts — Probably because of the Google sync, the contacts just worked.  Start typing the name you want and the email, phone and other contact info shows up right away.  Very speedy.  (As mentioned above, the speed issues almost always have to do with app loading.  Overall, the speed of operation is snappy.)
  • Browser — Very nice and powerful.  Supports a ton of javascript.  Google Reader even works for the most part, which means there is less need for an app, but it definitely would be better to have an app.
  • Features — The device and software do so much, it’s really amazing.  In addition to basics like email, SMS, web browser, etc., it sports:
    • GPS with real driving directions over the speakerphone (it’s really like buying two devices, a phone and a GPS);
    • Sprint TV — though I doubt I’ll use this much, it’s wicked cool to be able to watch live TV on your phone;
    • Music — I also won’t use this, but it’s effectively an iPod and even syncs with iTunes;
    • Camera — haven’t used it enough yet to know the quality but the UI is quite nice;
    • Wifi — Haven’t used this yet either but I think it’s cool that it has wifi, though the Sprint service is fast enough that I haven’t cared yet; and
    • Bluetooth — necessary for hands-free in the car.

I think that’s about it.  Overall, I’m really glad I stood in line for the Pre and I’m excited to be back in the land of Palm.


10 Responses to “My early impressions of the Palm Pre”

  1. All the main stream reviews seem to love the device. I think it would be hard for me to give up my iPhone but it does look compelling. I’m looking forward to what Apple is going to be announcing tomorrow. I have the 1st Gen iPhone (skipped the 3G), so I really hope it’s something equally compelling.

    Like some reviewers I think the target for this device would be RIM users/Treo die hards who just can’t live without a physical keyboard. Obviously RIM has the most to lose.

    The best thing about this is competition that Palm has brought to the game. I would love to see this battle between Apple and Palm go on and on, we all win!

  2. Yes, I completely agree, competition is fantastic. If Palm can get the Pre available on Verizon before Apple, then I could easily see the Pre gaining some big-time market share on Apple. Who knows if they planned this out or not, but Verizon really seems to be sitting in the cat-bird seat right now in that they could easily decide the winner between Palm and Apple for the smartest of phones space (though RIM will remain the MS of business phones for some time).

  3. I really don’t get the big deal about Verizon vs. AT&T vs. Sprint vs. whatever. I’ve had service from all of them and they all suck. On one network I had great coverage at work, but not at home. Another network was great when I traveled but sucked in my home region, etc. Having the Pre on Verizon wouldn’t make me switch, it would be the device itself.

  4. I agree but many people won’t or can’t switch networks, because, like real estate, the network is local and some are better than others. With Verizon having the largest market share of all carriers (I think), they seem to have a strong hand to play between Palm and Apple.

  5. Geoff Weinhold says:

    Greg, you’re right about the networks all having their deficiencies. They all do suck as companies, it’s just a matter of which one sucks less for you.

    While many people aren’t happy that they have to give up their $30 plans (or whatever ridiculously low “dumb”-phone plan) for Sprint to get the Pre, it is still much lower than the AT&T forced plans on the iPhone.

    Michael, do you connect to your FBS mail via Exchange? If so, how is that so far?

  6. Nope, we don’t use Exchange.

  7. Mike Sparr says:

    The Pre will be on other carriers as soon as January 1. Expect some very cool New Years’ parties and announcements this Fall (inside sources). I haven’t switched but just played around with the device – very tempted to buy one even as a demo device for shows; very cool.

    Your review is spot on. I was fortunate enough to play with the Pre before it released and experienced the same things. The @ and “.” buttons to the left/right of the spacebar do make up for the lack of auto-completion, but I agree some of the BB features are nice and missed. You will learn more gestures and cool features as you use it more (like swiping your finger from the ball up reveals menus, holding it on screen “drags” the dock so you can switch, swiping from the ball left switches “cards”, etc.).

    Have fun!

    P.S. – the night before the launch we did a test with iPhone on AT&T, BB on Verizon and Pre on Sprint and pulled up and to test networks and load times; the Pre beat the pants off all phones, hands down. We joked that Sprint’s network is so fast because noone’s on it, ha ha – it was great.

    P.S.S. – the majority of the engineers are ex-Apple and built the browser (same guys that built iphone browser). There are a few quirks and it still doesn’t support Flash. The non-Flash support isn’t as graceful as iPhone’s and a few page CSS issues I’ve seen that iPhone doesn’t have but overall, it’s remarkable.

  8. Jason Moser says:

    The google reader mobile page seems to work well on my Pre – must be the “iphone” version of the mobile site.

    I’m very happy with the phone so far although I’ve got a laundry list of things Palm will hopefully fix soon! Is a FlexMLS app on the horizon?

  9. Matt Cohen says:

    The complete root image of the Pre’s webOS has already been leaked – the ROM is already cracked and the hacking has begun – mostly fun stuff is imagined so far, but jerks working on malicious exploits probably won’t be far behind.

  10. Geoff Weinhold says:

    It would be nice to re-enable tethering on the phone since Sprint apparently is the one responsible for the missing tethering.

    I’m enjoying the phone so far with the exception of not having Exchange EAS support on the work front.