This review is one of the hardest I had to write because I have a long history with Palm devices (started using them in 1997) and I had high hopes for their new webOS operating system and Palm Pre devices after they blew us all away at CES 2009. I actually stood in line and bought my own Sprint Palm Pre last summer and posted some thoughts on it at that time. There have been several software updates since last year and at CES 2010 Palm announced the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus launching on Verizon Wireless with the ability for the Pre Plus to act as a MiFi and share out wireless Internet. Palm sent me a device to try out for a couple of weeks and I am glad they did because they saved me a ton of money since I was considering a switch from my Verizon MiFi to the Pre Plus. Using the Pre Plus actually helped push me to shut down my MiFi service and pick up my own Sprint Overdrive for wireless data and keep using my Nexus One for a smartphone. Check out my image gallery and thoughts below on why I think Palm still has a long road ahead of them even with a slick UI in WebOS. UPDATE: It turns out my review unit may be defective so a new eval unit is on the way and I will post an updated article after some further testing. See my last paragraph for more.
UPDATE 2: It turns out the particular hardware I had was faulty and Verizon replaced it with another more robust device that did not experience the wobbly display or random shutdowns. I also tested out a Pixi Plus from Verizon. The new webOS 1.4 added needed features and functions to make the device so much better that I am seriously considering buying my own and if you are with Verizon or Sprint I think the Palm devices are ones you should definitely consider. Check out my new thoughts on the Verizon Palm offerings and webOS 1.4.
|Image Gallery:Check out product photos of the Palm Pre Plus.|
The power/screen toggle button on the upper right is a bit tough to press when you have the display up and the keyboard exposed, which is the way I found myself using it 90% of the time. I think something like the Pixi form factor may be more appealing since you need a physical keyboard to enter any text on the webOS platform so it is much more convenient to have one always available.
I also found my Sprint Palm Pre to be a bit cheap with a display that started to feel loose and wobbly after just a week. Unfortunately, I am seeing this same rather cheap feel in the Palm Pre Plus. I primarily bought Sony CLIE devices in the past due to their better construction than Palm branded devices and am not finding high quality in the Pre Plus either. I did spend some time with the Pixi Plus and think that is a more solid piece of hardware. To see what others thought of the Pre Plus I had several family members and friends try out the Palm Pre Plus and just about everyone of them said it felt cheap, lagged too much, and was too hard to hold in their hand with the display slid up.
The display looks cool being integrated into the front panel, but it is quite small at 3.1 inches and I honestly found browsing to be a bit frustrating after using a 3.7 inch display Nexus One and 3.5 inch Nokia N900. Fonts did not appear as crisp and clear as I wanted them to be and maybe I am spoiled by these other fantastic displays.
It is nice to have a physical ringer switch on the device and I appreciated this Palm touch. I did not find battery life to be that great and found myself charging it more often than other devices, even when I wasn't actually using the device much.
I found that many of the applications I want on my devices were present on the Palm Pre Plus and I didn't really find much of anything major missing even though there are not that many apps in the Palm App Catalog. There is still no Office editing software so I don't see much appeal to enterprise customers with the current webOS platform. I enjoyed using Slacker, Evernote, gDial Pro, New York Times, Foursquare, and Tweed. I also purchased the Brothers in Arms game to try out and think Palm may have one of the best smartphone gaming platforms available. However, the display size again comes back to make gaming less than optimal as two thumbs touching areas of the display get in the way of the gaming experience. Gaming is not personally a major need for me though so I won't make a purchase decision on the gaming capability.
I did find times when I was looking around for menus and settings to customize my application and did not find much of that in the Pre Plus. I understand this is something I am used to from other mobile operating systems and may be considered a strength in the mind of many users.
The OS seemed fast at switching apps, but launching them was sluggish and after tapping an icon it would often take several seconds for the application to open up and be used. webOS can't be compared to the speed and response of the iPhone or even what I am seeing on the Google Nexus One.
For some reason, the Pre Plus would often just turn off by itself while I had it sitting aside. I grabbed it (happened about once a day) and found it was turned off and then I had to turn it on and wait a few minutes for it to get started up and running again. It was not a low battery issue and I have no idea why it kept locking up like this.
I thought the MiFi feature would be a major selling point for me, but was disappointed in the experience. It was easy enough to enable and launch and easy to connect with my computer and other devices, but I did not consistently see speeds I was hoping for and would never pay $40 extra on top of the minimum $120 per month (basic phone and data service) for this feature. A couple of other sites (MobileCrunch and jkOnTheRun) tested out the mobile hotspot feature and reported rather slow speeds too. I did see speeds of up to 1.45 Mbps at times, but most of the time I was seeing speeds in the 500 to 700 kbps range. I saw the Pre regularly turn itself off while using it as a MiFi and was frustrated by the experience. Your battery also gets eaten like nobody's business when in wireless hotspot mode so it isn't really a very practical solution if you still need to use your phone as a phone. A dedicated device just for wireless data access seems to be a more reliable solution. I would rather see a more metered pricing scheme for phone use too since people are more inclined to use their phone as a modem on just an occasional basis while dedicated devices like the MiFi and Overdrive should see heavier usage.
I understand the 1.4 firmware is set to become available soon and that is supposed to finally add video capture capability (which should have been on the device at launch) and some other stability and performance improvements.
I was thinking that maybe the Palm webOS devices would be good replacements for the Palm Centro type user (high end feature phone and new smartphone user), but after having people try it out and see that they were not very happy with it I am not sure where Palm fits in at this time and wonder if it is just appealing to Palm fans who are loyal to the end.
If you want to check out detailed coverage of the webOS and Palm devices, including more opinions on the Pre Plus, then I highly recommend you visit PreCentral.net.