I am not a hardware reviewer, journalist, or employee of any related company. I'm just an unremarkable techie type guy. What follows, then, ought to be a reasonable sample of public response to Palm's new "Pre" Smartphone.
I picked up a Palm Pre smartphone at a Sprint store on Tuesday, five days ago. I've had a busy week, with many opportunities to try its many features. Having seen some video about the Palm Pre smartphone, I had some foreknowledge and expectations; expectations that influenced my decision to buy one for myself. My expectations have been met.
I have read some reviews, many of which compared the Palm Pre smartphone to Apple's iPhone smartphone. While I can understand why someone would compare two great devices, I don't think it is fair to judge a new smartphone based on whether or not it mimics certain functions of some other smartphone, especially when the new smartphone performs those features better. I will therefore try to limit references to any prior device.
There are many things that please me about the phone right away, some more significant than others:
- Small packaging: not only because I appreciate minimal waste of material, space, and its implication on the environment, but because it's nice to see when a device does not feel the need to compensate for shortcomings with a large package.
- Aesthetics: The Palm Pre smartphone looks good. I know that's subjective, but so is the market. Enjoying the way my new smartphone looks adds to my overall enjoyment; I suspect I'm not the only one who appreciates this.
- Keyboard: The slide out keyboard was a good idea. It's out of the way until I need it, then easy to retrieve. Some people have complained about the "small gel-y keys", and I was unsure at first, but just trust them. When I decided to just type with confidence my big thumbs had no problems striking the right keys. It works.
- Gestures: What a great idea. Sure, This isn't the first device to use gestures, but they do it so well! Dragging up to unlock or answer the smartphone is a very natural gesture to do with the thumb that holds the phone, that is, one handed. Other gestures, like "flicking" to make things go away are intuitive, at least to me.
- Contacts: After the staff at the Sprint store copied my contacts over from my Blackberry Pearl smartphone, I began to explore my Palm Pre smartphone and found where I could connect to my Gmail account, my facebook account, and my AIM chat account. With each connection, my contacts and friends were added to my smartphone's contact list, and Palm's "Synergy" did a pretty good job of linking my contacts from all four sources, at least where it could reasonably match them, apparently based on name, and possibly phone numbers and email address. While I don't know the details of the linking heuristic, I can say that I saw only one false positive in the few hundred contacts in my list, and the connections it missed were usually from the AIM chat connection where screen-names didn't give Synergy much to go on, and a few cases of formal names, such as the difference between "Chris" and "Christopher". Other contacts were easily connected manually. Overall, I think this feature was done well.
- Messaging: Perhaps I should have just said "Synergy". The way they tie messaging together is great. The application for it is also well done, easy to use and attractive.
- Notifications: Mentioned last not because I see it as least, but because it's so smooth and natural in its function and implementation that, like breathing, I'm not always fully conscious of its happening.
There are some other things that I expected the phone to do that it did not do. I'm going to call these "wants" and hope they become options in the 1.0.3 or 1.0.4 WebOS release.
- Center Button Wake: I find myself trying to wake my new Palm Pre smartphone by pressing the center button on the lower front of the smartphone. It just seems natural for the way I hold the phone. I believe this could be pretty easily implemented in the firmware, perhaps even as an option.
- Shift Delete: At the moment, I'm not aware of a way to delete the character after the cursor, pressing Shift and Delete seems intuitive to me. Perhaps this and other keyboard shortcuts could be added to a customizable list of shortcuts/replacement strings.
I have few thoughts that come close to being a "complaint":
- Breaking Call-waiting: When a second call comes in, I can easily enough accept it, and switch between calls, but I have not seen yet how I can end only one of the calls. Is this my oversight, or is the UI lacking a feature?
- Connector Cover: The little plastic plug that covers the USB connection for charging and syncing is such a pain to open I'm tempted to break it off. Of course, this is only a problem when I need to charge my phone, which brings me to my next complaint:
- Battery Life: It just lasts a day. To be fair, I've been using many of the features of the phone, including intermittent use of the WiFi radio, and Sprint Navigation (which drains it fast, don't leave home without your car charger). I know that WebOS is in an early release, and Palm is working hard to optimize their new device; and I expect that battery life will improve as Palm makes more efficient use of the hardware and power control code. Currently, though it is a concern.
There are many other features that I enjoy about my new Palm Pre smartphone, such as the web-browser, the camera, and many other features one might expect from a smartphone. Overall, I think it is a great device and I don't regret buying it, in fact, I'm glad.