Could the Palm Pre finally be THE handheld for students?

Could the Palm Pre finally be THE handheld for students?

Summary: Being an avid BlackBerry guy, I've largely ignored the hype surrounding the Palm Pre. With it's launch today, though, I couldn't help but be intrigued.


As we talk about the "laptop wall" that so many university lecturers encounter and think of new and innovative ways for people to learn in an increasingly mobile world, I'm always on the lookout for devices that can take students beyond the laptop. Being an avid BlackBerry guy, I've largely ignored the hype surrounding the Palm Pre. With it's launch today, though, I couldn't help but be intrigued. Could this be the handheld that finally gives students everything they need when they are away from their computers?

My wife thinks that I'm just utterly obsessive about my BlackBerry, but in reality, I've adapted so much of the way I retrieve information, create content, and communicate with colleagues to the little device that it sees more usage on many days than my laptop. It's the first thing I reach for when I need to look something up, take a quick note, or send an email. Need directions or a phone number? Need to access a Google Doc? No worries, I have my BlackBerry. Sometimes I even make phone calls on it.

Others have made similar adaptations with their iPhones, but, to me, the iPhone just seems so, well, consumer. It also lacks a physical QWERTY keyboard. I have yet to see someone type as fast on either an iPhone or a Storm virtual keyboard as the average BlackBerry user can on his/her physical keypad.

So if we're talking about a phone that a student can use instead of carting around a laptop or netbook, an easy way to enter information is a must; the Pre, as most people know, has both a touch screen and a well-reviewed physical keyboard. While the average professor probably doesn't want a flurry of phone usage any more than they want a wall of laptops, one has to wonder if innovative instructors making use of tools like Poll Anywhere, Google Presentations, and Twitter might not be able to keep students more focused with a phone than they can with laptops where a large screen, touchpad, and full keyboard lend themselves to distractions.

Speaking of multitasking, the Pre seems to have made a real leap with its so-called "Activity Cards." It's easy to imagine a student quickly switching between a class Twitter feed, a notepad or email application for taking down quick notes, and a browser for looking up salient points.

The Pre may not be the be-all-to-end-all handheld for students. However, the features it brings to the table certainly point the way for really useful convergence devices that can get students out from behind their laptops.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, BlackBerry, Telcos

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Paml Pre THE handheld for students? No way!

    Absolutely NO WAY this can happen with the iPhone having the market
    share it does. Not sure either one SHOULD be declared "THE" anything.
    The pushing of one platform onto faculty inhibits creativity and generates
    Liz Dorland
  • It's good ..

    It's good to always have alternative

    Palm is the grandfather of hand helds. Let's hope they keep improving their products
  • Much sturdier

    Phones are going to need to be sturdier and cheaper to be adopted by more students, thus NOT YET for the Palm Pre.
    • It's not the cost of the phone so much as the cost of the plans.

      I was almost as excited as anyone at the release of the Pre until I talked to a Sprint rep about the voice/data plans Sprint is requiring to go with the Pre. As a current Sprint customer with a family plan for voice and unlimited data for my Centro, I would have to shell out a minimum of $50 US per month more than I am now to maintain my current level of service. It seems to me that with the Pre Sprint has taken a page from the AT&T/iPhone playbook and is charging outrageous rates for voice/data plans. The $200 initial outlay I think is justified for the hardware you're getting. The monthly recurring costs are a deal-breaker for me.

      - Snuffy -

      [i]Feeding the trolls since 1989.[/i]
      • Data Plan costs...

        The data plan cost is really the measure of how much you are willing ot pay for roaming, pocket Web access. With the iPhone, it is $30 per month through AT&T, although AT&T does limit large downloads to less than 10 Mb (such as podcasts, etc.) You have to do those during a sync or on your home WiFi.

        The scary thing is the thought of paying to get the whole family on it... not a problem for me yet, since my kids are small, and my wife is happy with Verizon.

        I love my iPhone, though. I can't wait for voice turn-by-turn direction capability. I am also annoyed at having to pay *anything* extra to send those little SMS messages ($5/month for 200), but that's what today's market seems to bear.
  • I am a big fan of Palm, SPrint has priced me out of this device

    At $70 /month for a tiny screen and keyboard, most student would be better off with an Asus Netbook. Most Universities are wired for 802.11, so you can save about $1600 over a two year period and actually see a full screen of data. I am sure the Paml Pre has decent battery life, but I am guessing the Asus 1000HE has it beat. Unfortunately I will never know, becuase I refuse to pay an extra $70/month to find out.

  • RE: Could the Palm Pre finally be THE handheld for students?

    Windows Mobile has been doing that for years, and it is very stable. I am going to keep going with what works, and best of all I have versions of Word, Excel & OneNote as well as a PowerPoint viewer already on the phone!