For me, Palm was the one that got away. I don’t exactly remember what made me buy my Palm V but for the life of pocket organizers, nothing ever supplanted it. After a year and a half long stint with the Palm V I tried moving to a bunch of Pocket PC based organizers. The iPaq was the most recognizable of them all, and it seemed like as functionality went up, usability decreased.

I went through a ridiculous number of PDAs but none ever came close to being as useful for me as my old Palm V. I could play music and movies on the newer ones, but I never used them as religiously as I did the old V. I’m not sure what it was, but Palm got the UI right for keeping my notes and calendar organized. As cumbersome as the handwriting recognition seems to me today, back then I was very fast with it - it just made sense.

To be honest, it wasn’t until the iPhone that I ever truly got over my Palm V. When I heard that Palm was brewing an iPhone competitor, it seemed fitting.

This is the Pre:

And while it won’t destroy the iPhone, it will land more than a few blows to the smartphone posterchild. In my opinion, it’s the first real alternative I’ve seen since the iPhone launched.

The Pre is unlike any device Palm has ever produced. Sure it delivers the same functionality as many Palm products, but it shares more in spirit and soul with the iPhone than any other Palm product or than the iPhone does with any other smartphone.


The Apple iPhone 3G (left) vs. The Palm Pre (right)

Palm created a brand new OS, which I’ve often said is the right way to approach a brand new device; one size fits all just doesn’t work outside of hats. It’s Linux based and is called webOS. It’s designed to be controlled via a touch screen using gestures and is ultra lightweight. Sound familiar? Did I mention that a former, kind of super important, Apple guy spearheaded the effort behind webOS and the first phone based on it?

Minimalism for the Masses

When the iPhone first hit, the fact that it only had four buttons was huge for a smartphone. The Pre echoes Apple’s design philosophy and features a similarly simple approach. When closed there are only 4 physical buttons on the device (5 if you count the volume up/down buttons separately).

At the top of the device you have a ringer switch and a sleep/wake button, just like on the iPhone.

The left side of the Pre has a volume up and down button.

On the face of the Pre, near the bottom, you have a home button.

On the right side is a micro-USB port for charging and syncing the device.

Everyone says the Pre is plasticky. Well, it is made out of plastic. The build quality isn’t great, compared to the iPhone that is. Compared to most other phones the Pre is quite good.

Part of the problem is that Palm (and most other companies) isn’t as good at making things feel indestructible as Apple. The other part is that the Pre has a slide-out keyboard; it’s difficult to make a lightweight product with moving parts feel solid. The Pre is decent in this respect, but the part that houses the screen and the part that houses the keyboard will wiggle a bit, independently, when the Pre is closed.

Even the individual buttons on the Pre don’t feel as good as those on the iPhone. The ringer and sleep switches both feel cheap.

The Pre also doesn’t seem like it would take a fall too well. Granted I’ve seen cracked iPhone screens, but the construction of the Pre doesn’t feel all that sturdy. A tough Blackberry, the Pre is not. For Palm, this is most likely a learning experience as well as a cost balancing act. Palm will get better at making these things, but the cost side is difficult to deal with.

Overall the Pre looks good but it just doesn’t feel as good as it looks unfortunately. Again, if your comparison point is the iPhone you’ll be disappointed. If it’s any other phone, you won’t be.

The Keyboard, it’s so, Real
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  • viciki123 - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    http://www.weddingdressonlineshop.co.uk/23-mermaid...">http://www.weddingdressonlineshop.co.uk/23-mermaid... Reply
  • jmyette - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - link

    I've been very disappointed by the Pre and had to switch back to my Treo 700p. I'd say of you like Palm OS and its effective PIM applications (calendar, contacts, tasks and memos), you probably won't like the Pre. Otherwise, I think the Pre may be a good choice. The best review of the Pre I found:

    http://palmprelansing.blogspot.com/2009/07/pre-rev...">http://palmprelansing.blogspot.com/2009...pre-revi...
    http://palmprelansing.blogspot.com/2009/07/pre-rev...">http://palmprelansing.blogspot.com/2009/07/pre-rev...

    Reply
  • s1ugh34d - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    I'm lost on why the Iphone is the definition of a phone. Last I checked my HTC WinMo phone has just about all the same features. Can't a palm be compared to The Touch Pro. I see the journalistic approach, using palm vs apple. But others mentioned android why is anandtech so in love with their Iphones...

    Also wouldn't cell phone fall under "mobile" on the tab bar.
    Reply
  • s1ugh34d - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    I missed the messaging part. Since Iphone users can't use it, they don't know what multiple messaging is. Palringo, a WinMo/blackberry app, runs every IM service you ever had.

    Love the magnetic charger, My toothbrush has that, and I always thought that it should be used for small devices.

    The palm does kick a little Iphone butt, but WinMo blows that phone away, they just need multi-touch on the touch pro2
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, June 27, 2009 - link

    A coworker of mine says the phone gets really hot when in use for extended periods of time. Not sure if it's from the backlight for the display or just the battery discharging. Either way, the result is a very hot phone and apparently a discolored screen. He's replaced his already once because of some yellowish discoloration at the bottom edge of the screen that spreads the more it's used. Reply
  • macs - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Guys take a look at the new HTC Hero with Android
    Reply
  • macs - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Sorry
    This is the link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKTDSfbcbBU&eur...">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKTDSfbc...r%2FHTC&...
    Reply
  • bored2tears - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Techies, come on! Really? Are we such navel-gazers that we don't get it? Sure, my original Palm, my Tilt and my HTC phone could do stuff that the iPhone and the Pre can't do (yet). But that's not the point.

    It's ease of use!!!! The satisfaction of the UI!

    I don't hit the start menu so I can scroll through file manager. I don't mess around with crappy windows mobile UI to find stuff. And when the new WM comes out, it will prove that ease of use is the point. That's the iphone feature that everyone wants to copy, and rightfully so. The companies get it while the techies play their little "mine is better than yours" one up spec game.

    You can turn on my music on the iPhone and surf the web or open another app, etc. AT THE SAME TIME. That's what people want and do. Only people without an iphone don't know that there is some level of multi tasking. I can play most games or use most apps on the iPhone without stopping the music. If I close my web browser to open another app, my web app doesn't go back to the home page. That page stays open. When I click on the web app again, I'm where I left off. Why do I need to have my web browser open while I'm in another program anyway? Now if I'm using something like Pandora, it's a problem. (And that level of multi-tasking would be welcomed Apple!) If I use the pre, I don't have this issue at all. Either way, these phones are initially made for joe public to understand not just for sammy supertech savvy to gush over. And yet, these phones can go up the scale from casual user to business user like myself.

    Anyone who's used the pre for an hour knows how absolutely cool it is. And that's a big factor. It's easy to use. Sure it's powerful and I still think these two smart phones (AND the G1) are great. But it's the UI stupid! That's what sells the phone. Don't hate them because they're beautiful. ;-) There is something under the hood.
    Reply
  • Ehsan - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    Hi Anand,
    I am sorry to ask but am bit curious did you use non formated sites for facebook & Slashdot because of too much discrepency of my Iphone 3GS and your numbers of it.
    Also I was wondering if you can do a app launching test on Iphone 3GS with a 3rd party app as most of the native apps run services in background (I found this by installing backgrounder app from Cydia after jailbreak on 3G and found that many native apps were running in background already). So its not launching from standstill if its half running.
    Thanks.
    Ehsan
    Reply
  • Hrel - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    Att's network is completely useless. Their plans are INCREDIBLY overpriced, and they nickle and dime the living crap out of you... I will NEVER get any cell phone from ATT.

    That being said, cell phones need to transition to voip over WiiMax, once a Nationwide (world wide) WiiMax network is set up.

    Data plans need to be INFITINE data, non of this 5GB per month bullshit!! Text IS data, as you said. Voice, well, is kind of data, and should be ALL data soon.

    I don't think sprints network is reliable enough to switch though.

    Battery life needs to hit 20hrs+.

    I want a smart phone from LG, that I OWN, not that BELONGS to a cell phone company. So I can buy the phone, and take it to whatever network I want, Verizon, Net 10, Boost, Sprint, whatever. LG makes great stuff.

    Can you PLEASE review the LG smart phones that ARE out, like the Env, and the other one that costs like 30 bucks more... I forget the name right now.
    Reply

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