CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

Summary: Since I didn't have a chance to see the Palm Pre in person and there are no review units out yet, I couldn't really pick a favorite in my first Clash of the Touch Titans article. Last week I was able to see the Pre in person and get my hands on it a bit. I shot a video of the Pre in action showing some 3rd party apps and overall user experience. I will say that the experience and some of the functionality look quite amazing. However, I was able to also get my hands on and enter text using the Pre keyboard and found it to be a major disappointment that may be the Achilles heel of the device. I find the onscreen keyboard on the iPhone to be much better than the Pre keyboard. So far we have only seen keyboard input as being the only way to enter text so you always have to switch to portrait mode to do this and my first impressions were not good. In the photos I saw before I actually touched it I thought it would be more of a Treo 800w or at least Treo Pro keyboard, but it is much more similar to the Palm Centro keyboard with rubber sticky keys/bumps set on a flat panel. The keyboard felt pretty cramped and I am sure I could get used to it over time since I do have magic thumbs, but Palm was always known for excellent Treo keyboards and to not put one of these types on this new flagship product may be an issue for many people.

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Since I didn't have a chance to see the Palm Pre in person and there are no review units out yet, I couldn't really pick a favorite in my first Clash of the Touch Titans article. Last week I was able to see the Pre in person and get my hands on it a bit. I shot a video of the Pre in action showing some 3rd party apps and overall user experience. I will say that the experience and some of the functionality look quite amazing. However, I was able to also get my hands on and enter text using the Pre keyboard and found it to be a major disappointment that may be the Achilles heel of the device. I find the onscreen keyboard on the iPhone to be much better than the Pre keyboard. So far we have only seen keyboard input as being the only way to enter text so you always have to switch to portrait mode to do this and my first impressions were not good. In the photos I saw before I actually touched it I thought it would be more of a Treo 800w or at least Treo Pro keyboard, but it is much more similar to the Palm Centro keyboard with rubber sticky keys/bumps set on a flat panel. The keyboard felt pretty cramped and I am sure I could get used to it over time since I do have magic thumbs, but Palm was always known for excellent Treo keyboards and to not put one of these types on this new flagship product may be an issue for many people.

We have also not seen much in way of media capabilities (video playing in particular) and it seems the camera will also not be able to capture video. With the initial launch only on Sprint, it is most likely I will skip the Pre until it hits a GSM carrier. With the rumored iPhone hardware update coming in June and still no release date for the Pre, I think the awe of the Pre may be overwhelmed by the updated iPhone. I think Palm and Sprint should have announced a release date last week at CTIA to keep the buzz alive and build up anticipation and I don't quite understand why they continue to keep everyone in the dark. It isn't like they will hurt any of Palm's current sales.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Hardware, iPhone

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19 comments
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  • Are you kidding?

    The keyboard will increase the ease of use on this device. A full screen device that requires you click the screen to input text can be extremely annoying. Ask iPhone users.
    flyordie0
    • "Are you kidding?" +1

      I am thinking the same thing, I've used on screen keyboards, not only are
      they not accurate, there is lag as well. To say the Pre has a keyboard
      similar to the Centro is not true. The keyboard keys on the Pre are more
      spread out than the Centros.
      scorpeo
  • RE: CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

    I think all cramped keyboards require some experience before ease of use can be realized. However, in order to realize the Palm Pre as a real killer of a multimedia device the phone should be a slider in landscape mode rather than its current design. Palm (and many other smartphone manufacturers) appear to have left out detailed analysis regarding use cases and necessity for keyboard (as well as both screen and keyboard real estate).
    jcunwired
  • physical > virtual

    I have used the iPhone and the Centro. Currently I have sprint so the Centro is my phone. I can type 2 to 3 times as fast with the Centro's physical keyboard (with 99% accuracy) compared to the iPhone. I went head to head with a native iPhone user and not only did I type faster, his text was plagued with mistakes.
    Samsted94
    • Not for everyone

      Given how tiny tiny the keys are on many keypad smartphones, it's not a given that they're the best option for everyone. I type faster on my iPhone than on most physical keypads, and I certainly prefer it, though that's not to say I couldn't get used to physical keys. It's just a matter of personal preference. Ideally the Pre would include the option to type on the screen, especially in landscape mode, but we'll see what happens.
      paferg
    • Virtual > physical (phones)

      One physical keyboards wear out on smart phones. Some are good but the majority aren't. Usually the flat larger keys are better but the raised bump ones are always crap. Plus the painted on text on most of those wear off. I know I have had three smart phones do that. Iphone will always type just as good as day one, and will last longer with no moving parts. Plus if you have no video proof of typing against someone else it is meaningless drabble. If you want to go up against me I can type 70 words per minute (accurately) and would blow you away on any qwerty device.

      rexoverbey
      • Really?

        "I can type 70 words per minute (accurately)"

        Did you use the iPhone for this post? Re-read your post. Or is your English just that bad?
        bubbatex
        • Really that is the best you can do?

          Leaving out a "b" in drabble really makes my english bad! OMG the horror!!!!! I bet you are a rocket scientist with a screen name like that (Bubbatex).
          rexoverbey
      • huh?

        I'll agree to disagree. Like others have said it's all about personal preference. The "raised bump" buttons are my bread and butter on smart phones. I have banged the hell out of my Centro and the keyboard still looks brand new. Letters NEVER fade due to the fact that the printing is under the rubbery gel. I could give a giant crap about your clerical skills on your iPhone, I just care about my phone and how all of my screen real estate will be dedicated to displaying useful information instead of half of it being hogged by an onscreen keyboard. Again - personal preference.

        I also don't have ANY gripes with Sprint. I pay $53 after taxes on my plan for unlimited data and texts, and 300 minutes w/ scaling (I never break 200, I talk mostly at night). I never had a problem with customer service, I can't remember the last time I had a dropped call. I've also been told that Sprint's data network is faster than AT&T's.

        But back to the original issue, for me, it would be the Achilles heel if it did NOT have a physical keyboard.
        Samsted94
      • Two real advantages for virtual

        I don't know that painted text on keys rubbing off. The WM device I had for 3 years never had that problem. (Why they put white text on silver keys has always baffled me, however.)

        But I am faster typing on my iPhone's keyboard, getting about 30-35 wpm with two thumbs.

        But the real advantages virtual keyboards have are: (1) They change to fit the context. For example, the @ symbol is on the main keyboard if I'm typing an email address. (2) They are either portrait and landscape, depending on how you're already holding the phone. If I'm browsing the web in landscape mode and need to type something, I'd have to rotate the phone around first if I'm using a Pre.
        rynning
  • RE: CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

    I agree I do not like most smartphone keyboards. For one even if initially they feel good they wear out. Even the coloring/paint of the text on most wears out. Touch screens there are no movable parts so it types as good as the day you get it.

    Other reasons I don't like the pre.
    1. Not available in Wal-mart, or Apple Stores. It will be just in Best Buy and Sprint stores. Which iphone is already in Best Buy , Wal-Mart, Apple, and AT&T stores.

    2. Programs and games only programmed in HTML, CSS, and Java. So don't expect 3-D games or fast applications unlike the Objective-C environment of the iPhone.

    3. Third generation of iPhone will be released around the exact time of pre launch.

    4. Pre is on Sprint. Enough said.

    5. Smaller screen

    6. Will be lacking in apps, itunes, hacking community, be behind 2+ years in sales, and accessories (even ipod accessories work with iphone.

    7. Untested OS might be buggy much like Black Berry touch screen OS.

    8. Will not have million of Apple freaks who buy any Apple product.

    9. Ipod touch apps/gamers will be able to play MP games with Iphone via Adhoc wifi.

    10. Iphone 2.0 specs are already looking to smoke Pre. Faster CPU, dual core GPU PowerVR, OLED higher res screen, 5 Megapixel camera, Video editing, FM tuner/send & receive, etc. Who would pick Pre over Iphone 2.0?
    rexoverbey
    • RE: CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

      1. iPhone took some time to reach other outlets
      2. for now
      3. nothing in specs kills pre, irrelevant
      4. iPhone is on AT&T, more than enough said! :)
      5. not by much, and higher res on Pre
      6. very true, and why I would delay release - have some great apps available in parallel (P.S. ipod accessories aren't that great)
      7. I doubt it given Palm's reliance on the Pre to bring them back to the forefront
      8. Thank my lucky stars! :)
      9. not relevant to me
      10. all rumors, nothing announced
      jcunwired
      • RE:

        1. An iphone killer needs to be in all outlets day one or it won't be an iphone killer.

        2. For now? Palm is not going to get 35,000+ apps anytime soon and it's appstore is not going to compete with appstore/itunes. G1 and BB appstores should prove this and they have been out for awhile now.

        3. Iphone 2.0 specs blow away Pre specs. One the Pre specs are not even really better than iphone 3g. When iphone 2.0 comes out it will have a faster CPU than Pre, better GPU PowerVR multi-core vs an older version of PowerVR, more ram, OLED screen with higher resolution screen, FM tuner/transmitter, more storage, higher res screen, etc. What will Pre have over iphone 2.0? Nothing.

        4. AT&T is a bigger network, GSM worldwide with Sim cards (not possible on Pre), better customer service, more userbase, better reviews on consumer reports, etc. Sprint sucks and doesn't have the userbase to push Pre either.

        5. Both screens are HVGA (320x480), screen size is a lot different 3.1" vs 3.5", and the Oled in iphone 2.0 is supposed to be twice the resolution and have better colors/blacks.
        http://www.precentral.net/sites/precentral.net/files/articleimages/Jason%

        6. They won't have apps in parallel if apps are developed in Javascript/HTML/CSS iphone uses are real programming language. (PS ipod accessories don't suck go look at any car stereo with ipod controls, home stereos with ipod controls, alarm clocks with ipod controls..iHome is not crap, etc.), plus the million other iPhone accessories.

        7. Like Blackberry was known for buggy operating systems either. Plus Palm being almost bankrupt and it had a buggy phone called the centro on hmmm SPRINT. I would say there is a good chance at that. Plus they are rushing to get ahead of iphone 2.

        8. Without a fanbase like Apple has Pre won't be an iphone killer. Fanboys = sales

        9. Not relevant to you but I would say the 20+ million ipod touch users might say otherwise. 20,000,000 > You.

        10. Just like the Pre vaporware machine. We'll see this summer when Pre fans are crying.
        rexoverbey
        • be objective... i know it's tough, but try hard

          Iphone killer is a stupid concept. First, the iphone is a great platform and is here to stay, period! Second, there are PLENTY of compelling alternatives, one of which the Pre will certainly be.

          1. iphone was only available through 2 sources when it launched (apple and at&t). i'd venture to say best buy is a tad more pervasive than apple stores, so this shouldn't be an argument for the fanboys.

          2. WebOS is friendly with palmOS apps via "Classic", so this means there will be tens of thousands of apps available on inception. WebOS apps will not have the numbers that Apple has, but volume does not translate to quality. With thousands available, is this really even relevant? No, killer games will not be immediately available. This is what my DS that I rarely pick up is for (sad I should really stop neglecting my DS).

          3. I don't think speculation about unannounced specs is relevant at all. Of course, common sense says there will be a better camera, memory, screen, etc. available on the next gen iphone. Then again, waiting for a third iteration of firmware to get cut and paste was a tad counter to common sense as well, so we'll see. I'm guessing they improve the camera (hopefully including video), and the memory, and make it a tad thinner.

          4. AT&T has proved it's shortcomings over and over again. They are also significantly more expensive. The latest JD Power and Associates has Sprint schooling AT&T in both call quality and support metrics.

          5. Pre has a small screen, but seems to make the most of it rather effectively. Also, the same number of pixels in a smaller space could generate some pretty sharp images. I wouldn't bank on the resolution changing for the next gen iphone since they have so many apps set for their present resolution.

          6. The Pre will have apps, and they can even run in the background (see Pandora demo). Running in the background, what a novel concept! They also get turn-by-turn nav, again a novel concept that Apple waited for their third gen firmware to allow. Swap amazon for itunes and App Catalog for App Store, and you are basically left with personal preferences.

          7. Yes, it might be buggy like the iphone was/is or blackberry was/is or WinMo was/is, or etc... What's your point? I know you're not claiming the iphone is free of lags or bugs now and then.

          8. iphone has cult following, as does blackberry. there is no doubting this. i understand there are some palm junkies out there, but i just don't see them in numbers like apple and bb.

          9. Th iphone is better for gaming, period. Again, I prefer my DS or PC for gaming (including p2p functionality), but I can't say I'd be annoyed if my phone had these capabilities as well, I just don't really care that my phone doesn't.

          10. How is the Pre vaporware when there are real specs, real hardware, TV commercials, tons and tons of video demos, etc.? There is ZERO official word on next gen iphone hardware. The closest we have to official is verified order for 3&5 megapixel camera chips.

          The iphone is super cool, don't be so afraid to admit another phone is cool or that it has something the iphone does not. fanboys = whiny bitches ;)
          divertito
        • rex, you're a fanboy, period!

          As one of the millions of iPod Touch users out there that you refer to rexoverbey, let me just say that your blatant fanaticism is really way over the top. I love my iPod for what it does, but it will never preempt my BlackBerry with a hardware keyboard for anything other than the multimedia functions. And who knows, when the BlackBerry Niagra hits Sprint later this year with that beautiful screen, my iPod may just find less and less use time. And while I'm not planning on ditching my Berry, I wouldn't rule out carrying the Palm Pre either. That's the beauty of it, we all have these marvelous choices that should fit the needs and likes of everyone. If left up to whackos like yourself though, there would only be one device and one company controlling the market.
          Aragorn_z
        • iFanboi for sure!

          Thanks for making it so obvious. #2 is incorrect-the Palm emulator will allow the Pre to run the thousands of applications on the prior generation OS-sorry to burst your fantasy bubble.

          Note-I don't think the Palm Pre will be an "iphone killer."
          DonRupertBitByte
  • RE: CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

    Yeah the author of this article must be an idiot.
    Either that or a iPhone fanboy that is in denial that
    something else out there may be better than the
    iPhone!! Tactile keyboards are SO much more pleasant
    and faster to use. Why do you think they make those
    internet tablets with a slide out keyboard?! Physical
    keys allow the user to develop a location memory and
    muscle memory when typing, just like a normal keyboard
    does. I owned one of those old LG slide out messaging
    phones, and I could almost text without looking at the
    keys, just focusing on the screen.
    Ecoteric
  • RE: CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

    There are still discrepancies throughout your reply, but it will do no good bringing them up, other than to point out that its the fanboys who regularly use the 'iphone killer' mantra.
    jcunwired
  • RE: CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

    I find the Centro keyboard to be pretty easy. My iPod touch. Good sometimes, most of the time it is annoying. Especially the auto-correcting text. The ignore (X) is too small so I always have to go and replace the word. Physical keyboard is the best choice for me.
    jade408