One week with my Palm Pre-cious reveals the good and bad

Summary:Tomorrow morning will mark the end of my first week with the Palm Pre after waiting in line in Hawaii for a few hours to ensure I could pick one up. Like the T-Mobile G1 that I bought on launch day last Fall, the Palm Pre runs a new Linux-based OS and both mobile operating systems have been surprisingly quite functional and stable. There are several things I love about the Pre and a few I do not like so let's take a look at the device and Sprint service after my first week of usage where I will also offer up some thoughts on how and/or what could be improved with updates or future devices. You can check out my image gallery and video below for some visuals of the Palm Pre as well.

Tomorrow morning will mark the end of my first week with the Palm Pre after waiting in line in Hawaii for a few hours to ensure I could pick one up. Like the T-Mobile G1 that I bought on launch day last Fall, the Palm Pre runs a new Linux-based OS and both mobile operating systems have been surprisingly quite functional and stable. There are several things I love about the Pre and a few I do not like so let's take a look at the device and Sprint service after my first week of usage where I will also offer up some thoughts on how and/or what could be improved with updates or future devices. You can check out my image gallery and video below for some visuals of the Palm Pre as well.


Image Gallery:One week with the Palm pre WebOS device.
Image Gallery: Pre on Touchstone
Image Gallery: Palm Pre and keyboard

As I mentioned before I started using Palm devices back in 1997 and I still have feelings for the brand, which hopefully won't have me making irrational choices when it comes to deciding whether or not the Palm Pre stays in my collection. If the Pre was available now as a GSM device to use with T-Mobile or AT&T then I would have no hesitation at all about keeping it. If I was already a Sprint customer looking for a new smartphone I would pick up and buy the Pre as well. However, the choice is a bit more difficult when I already have service with a couple carriers and would have to become a new Sprint customer to get the Pre so let's take a look at the device and service after one week.

What is good about the Pre: I am generally a positive guy so let me start off this blog post with the things I like about the Pre.

  • The display is fantastic. It is small, but the colors are vivid, the fonts are excellent, and the integration with the front panel is slick.
  • The notifications are very good. The Pre has notifications very similar to the Google Android platform, but they are found on the bottom rather than the top.
  • The video player works well and provides a good viewing experience.
  • The Pre does a good job with multitasking. I was listening to streaming Pandora, checking email, conducting conversations via IM, surfing the web, and checking out photos with no hesitation in the OS and easy switching between cards.
  • The apps are on their way with 30 available in the Palm App Catalog as of now, including the new Evernote for Palm Pre client. I have several others loaded on my Pre and am happy with the selection that includes Pandora, two Twitter clients, and news clients.
  • The gesture navigation and screen methods are fun. It does have a bit of a learning curve, but I now enjoy the experience.
  • Sprint has some excellent clients and services included. I love Sprint Navigation from Telenav and am amazed the $10 monthly fee is included with your plan fees.
  • Email is very good, especially with the multiple account in a single inbox functionality. I hate having to switch accounts on the iPhone where you have to go all the way back out and then dive back into each of your accounts. On the Pre you can show the inbox of all of them or quickly switch to individual accounts.
  • Synergy is pretty slick and I like the integration with Facebook and contact photos and numbers.
  • The Pre feels great in your hand and is very pocketable.

What needs work?:

  • The Calendar application is weak and needs some major work.
  • The battery life is a bit limited and with heavy usage I can go a half day, just like my T-Mobile G1.
  • The device isn't as durable and robust as I had hoped. I think I have a defective unit as the display clicks and moves side-to-side quite a bit in both closed and opened positions.
  • Keyboard functionality: I would like to see better support for keyboard shortcuts and more integration with the OS. I did learn from Kevin Tofel that there is an easier way to cut, copy, and paste rather than highlighting and then having to tap in the upper left and go through the menu system. You can tap and hold on the gesture area and then press the C, V or X key at the same time.
  • There are no apps for editing or creating documents, but the viewers are quite good and you can access the file system and attach things to your email.

Andy Inhatko is quite the iPhone fan, but he did point out a couple of valid issues with the Palm Pre in his Chicago Sun-Times article, namely the inconsistent UI parts and pieces and the Pre keyboard.

The bottom row of five icons, four are user configurable with the fifth serving as the launcher, live statically on pages with a cool wave design when you slide up from the gesture area. I was expecting to see the ability to keep scrolling right or left to see more application shortcuts and don't quite understand why there is a wave design at all. The center pearl button also seems to have very little functionality other than to get you back to the main page, but gestures can get you there as well.

Some swipes are required above the gesture area on the display and some below. To be consistent I often swipe left and right in the gesture area to try to flick through the cards, which does not work. I have been getting some emails about the way you can change the gesture area to switch cards and I did try that for a couple of days. However, I then had trouble going Back and found this was a more important function for me in the gesture area.

I am quite adept at working with QWERTY thumb keyboards and knew I would eventually become proficient with the Pre model. For text entry, I am actually quite fast with it, but there really is very little else the keyboard is good for. You can assign speed dials to contacts, but that is it. On my T-Mobile G1 I can assign browser shortcuts, speed dial number, and browser shortcuts to any of the keys. I can also use the keyboard for common keyboard functions like cut, copy, and paste. The Palm Pre keyboard is quite a departure from the Treo keyboards Palm fans are used to where you could press and hold to enter the alternate character or double press quickly to capitalize, etc.

There is an orange function button that you use for the alternate characters (numbers and punctuation), but only the numbers are highlighted in orange while the other alternate characters are in white. I think they should have went with the orange for all alternate characters and then they could have used another color (like on previous Treo models) for the keys that have numbers on them for dialing.

Kevin also posted a list of 10 things he wants updated on his Pre and makes some very good observations that I mostly agree with.

Where do I go from here?: My Nokia N97 arrives today so I will have another new device to play with this weekend. I am going to give the Palm Pre another week before I decide if I am going to add Sprint and the Pre to my collection. If I do keep it, then it is definitely going to be swapped out for one without a defective front display. I want to also pop my AT&T SIM into my iPhone 3G to see which of these two touchscreen devices is a better fit for me. I also really like my T-Mobile G1 and think the G1 is better than the Pre in terms of functionality, but the Pre has a slicker UI more along the lines of the iPhone.

I live in an area where the Sprint signal is poor most of the time so even if I do want the device, the low signal and limited wireless service may prevent me from keeping the device.

Topics: Telcos, Hardware, Mobility

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

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.