Like the G1, the battery seems to be the Palm Pre's Achilles heel

Summary:I took a look at laying out what we knew about the Palm Pre in my first Clash of the Touch Titans article and found the Pre to be an exciting device. After getting a bit of hands-on time with the Pre at CTIA in April, I asked if the keyboard was the Achilles heel and it turns out the keyboard isn't that great, but something else is much worse and is the Achilles heel for the device. Much like the T-Mobile G1 (also running a new Linux-based OS) the Palm Pre has very limited battery capacity and I can't go a full day with either of these devices.

I took a look at laying out what we knew about the Palm Pre in my first Clash of the Touch Titans article and found the Pre to be an exciting device. After getting a bit of hands-on time with the Pre at CTIA in April, I asked if the keyboard was the Achilles heel and it turns out the keyboard isn't that great, but something else is much worse and is the Achilles heel for the device. Much like the T-Mobile G1 (also running a new Linux-based OS) the Palm Pre has very limited battery capacity and I can't go a full day with either of these devices.

Yesterday, I went about 5 hours with pretty light usage of the Pre that included something like 25 emails (Gmail and Exchange), 5 minutes of calls, several Tweets made using Tweed, no Bluetooth or WiFi, about 15 minutes of Google Talk, and no music or video playing. I normally use my device a LOT more than this as shown by my common 4 hour run time with my G1 and standard battery. Luckily, you can carry a spare for your Pre or charge via a fairly common microUSB cable.

I enjoy using the WebOS mobile operating system and find it very similar to Google Android. I can do much more with my G1 thanks to a more mature application store and think the Pre will get more soon (25 apps are in the Palm App Catalog right now). While the Pre does support multitasking, with Pandora rocking successfully in the background, you don't want to get more than about 5 apps open as things may tend to slow down and I actually saw a warning that made me close something before I could open any other "cards".

I am not sure if I have a defective Palm Pre or not, but there are a few hardware issues that bother me after just 3 days of ownership. The display wobbles left and right easily in both the closed and open positions, there are a couple stuck pixels on the display (only an issue with a dark background), and a couple edges are quite sharp (bottom of keyboard and top of display). The sharp edges may be used as a theft deterrent when you can slice up your attacker with the phone, but I wouldn't doubt if we hear of people getting Pre-per cuts soon as they slide the device across their hand.

As with most QWERTY thumb keyboards, I am highly adaptable and can quickly pick up my typing speed. That said, the only things you can really do with the keyboard are enter text, set the keys to speed dial contacts, and use a funky 3-button press technique to take screenshots. Unlike the awesome G1 keyboard you cannot assign any keyboard shortcuts to the Palm Pre to launch apps. I do like the ability to set so many speed dials up with the keyboard though so maybe I can get over this limitation.

The Palm Pre is fun to use and I think there is some real promise in the WebOS. I was quite pleased with Sprint's customer service on launch day, but am not seeing very good signal strength at home, at work, or during my daily commute and think I just cannot go with Sprint in my area. This is a bit of a shame as Sprint has some very competitive voice and data plans.

I am not writing off the Palm Pre yet and will bring you my "week with the Pre" review on Friday after some more time with the device.

Is anyone else seeing these hardware issues, including poor battery life, dead pixels, wobbly screen, and sharp edges?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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