Now that our heads are cool and that we have a little more perspective, it’s time to tell you what we think of the Palm Pre, after having spent a little time with it at the show floor, right after the Palm event (check out the live session).
Look and feel
This is a matter of personal preferences, but it’s fair to say that most people find the Palm Pre design to be nice and less “boxy” than competing smartphones like the iPhone and the G1. It is small when closed and fits nicely in the hand when closed or opened. The Palm Pre is built with quality materials and you can tell, it looks good. It feels good.
Regardless of how much hype there is out there about virtual keyboards, the simple fact is that they are slower than physical keyboards and that’s why a large population of gadget enthusiasts do want a physical keyboard. While the Palm Pre’s keyboard looks like the Treo Pro’s one, it is wider (by about 10%, eyeballing this). I have not used it long enough to draw a conclusion when compared with a QWERTY BlackBerry, but so far I prefer it to the G1 and to all the HTC sliders.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a sluggish phone (my BlackBerry Curve 8820 is sluggish), and at no time, the Palm Pre felt sluggish while we were playing with it. That’s good news, but there were no third party applications installed and I assume that the wireless connection was under control (base station or repeater nearby?), so I’m cautiously optimistic.
It is the only phone that is on-par with the iPhone’s web browsing, plain and simple. They took what works and improved upon it, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, just for the sake if “thinking different”
The overall user interface is well thought out and build with multi-tasking in mind. It is something that iPhone users came to miss. Each app (or “Card”) runs in the background and can be recalled quickly. Phones usage is multi-task by nature: you can get a call while writing an email, or get notified for anything at anytime, so shouldn’t phone be designed with multi-tasking as a fundamental building block? Yup.
Email, IM, Social networks
We use many services to be connected to our friends, family and colleagues: Email, Social Networks, IM and more. The Palm Pre is designed with this in mind and instead of switching from one app/services to another, the Pre assembles all this information around a “person”. You communicate with “someone” in a single thread across multiple services. the logic and the implementation seem great, but we need more time to confirm that it’s working in the real world. Oh, and it’s compatible with Microsoft Exchange, so it works in a corporate environment too.
Overall, the user-interface is logic and makes sense. Like the iPhone, it seems to do the right thing. Again, we would need to use it for days or weeks to see if that first impression stands the test of day-to-day use, but so far, it looks good. Very good.
Attention to details is what defines the Palm Pre, and things like the removable battery and the wireless charger are the testament to this. By going the extra mile, Palm not only proves that it cares about its users, but also that it is in total control this time. You don’t add that kind of stuff when you finish your product in a panicky week-end. Also, I wonder if the Palm Pre supports UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access ) a technology that allows you to save by using voice over IP in a totally transparent way: you just place calls as usual, if there’s a usable WIFI hotspot, you call if free.
Backwards Compatibility (lack of)
As a Palm 6xx and 7xx user, I had little third party applications, but I did notice that the Palm Pre won’t be backwards compatible with earlier Palm applications. It’s too bad, but frankly, I’m so glad that Palm OS is dead and replaced with something that works, that I am willing to wait a bit for new apps to show up. Update: Palm has announced in April 2009 that MotionApps would provide backwards compatibility
The Palm Pre is the most interesting phone since the iPhone and outshines Apple’s product in many areas. It will take advantage of Apple’s (religious) stubbornness of not using a physical keyboard, which -I believe- will damage Apple in the long run. The Palm Pre is equally, although differently, beautiful than the iPhone. It has a great user interface, a better camera and… copy/paste (just kidding, lol). However, it’s going to take a lot of time before it gets into consumer’s hands and before it makes it to international markets. Let’s hope for a 2009 GSM version. Official product page.
Pricing (unofficial): The latest rumors mention a price of $200 with a Sprint contract (2yr?). Unlocked versions are rumored to cost $550. Link
Europe: Good news as Ed Colligan (Palm’s CEO) has confirmed that Europe will have the Palm Pre in 1H 2009 as well. Link
Our buddies from Giiks took the time to upload a video that shows how the device runs. Enjoy!