The Palm Pre 2 — the first device to ship with Palm's updated WebOS 2.0 — will be available to purchase SIM-free in the UK from Monday for £399, according to an announcement by Palm on Friday.
The device will have a 1GHz processor, a 5-megapixel glass touchscreen display, portrait sliding-Qwerty keyboard and a slimmer design than the first Palm Pre.
The upgraded operating system brings major changes. Among the headline features are HP Synergy, which automatically groups Facebook, Google, Microsoft Exchange, LinkedIn and Yahoo account information. Palm was bought by HP in a $1.2bn (£740m) deal that was announced in April and completed on 1 July.
WebOS 2.0 has a new multi-tasking arrangement called Stacks that groups related open apps, and an Exhibition mode that automatically launches specific apps while the phone is charging on its dock.
Other incremental additions include Flash 10.1 beta compatibility, tagging of favourite contacts for quick access, Bluetooth keyboard support and a redesigned Launcher.
"HP WebOS 2.0 is the biggest leap forward for WebOS since it launched 17 months ago," said Miles Norman, sales director for UK and Ireland in HP's European Palm business unit, in a statement. "It expands the features that make WebOS great for consumers, enterprises and developers, and introduces powerful new features that make it easier to get more things done with your WebOS device."
Nick Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst focusing on mobile at Gartner, suggests that the launch represents a "modest incremental improvement" over the original Pre, and that the device is not expected to make much of a splash in the mobile world.
"The Pre 2 has already been quietly launched on [mobile operator] SFR in France. Although the Pre is a nice device, the world is now full of nice devices, so we don't expect it will have any great impact on the global smartphone market," Jones told ZDNet UK on Friday. "We estimate that HP sold only around 280,000 devices worldwide in Q3, which is totally insignificant in a smartphone market of around 81 million devices [in Q3]," he added.
HP senior vice president Eric Cador said in October that WebOS was an "extremely fundamental" factor in the company's decision to purchase Palm. He also reaffirmed HP's commitment to producing new WebOS handsets in 2011, but with the smartphone market growing at such a rate, Jones says that the company might have a struggle on its hands.
"We don't see any prospect of HP becoming a major smartphone player in 2011 although we expect them to release more devices," said Jones. "A bigger opportunity for HP is probably in tablets based on WebOS, rather than smartphones."
The handset will be available from Monday on the Palm web page, said HP in its statement. Palm says it will ship the WebOS 2.0 update to existing handsets "in the coming months, with the exact date to be announced at a later date".
Spokespeople for Orange, O2, 3 and Vodafone confirmed to ZDNet UK that the respective operators would not be stocking the device. T-Mobile could not confirm whether or not it would be offering the handset.