Palm Pre Arrives – My First Thoughts

Embargo finally lifted this morning so I can talk about my experiences with the device. There are quite a few reviews out there this morning (including lots of commentary from folks that haven’t spent five minutes with a device) so I’ll start with some first thoughts and then add some more commentary as I get a chance to use the device more.

Hardware – It’s been talked about before but the design is quite nice and is comfortable to hold and use. There’s been some discussion about the keyboard but after using it for a bit, I actually like it. One key factor is the phone is balanced very well so that using the keyboard doesn’t make the phone feel top heavy. No problems for me typing and the feel is better than either the Centro or Treo Pro (even though the keys are slightly smaller than the Treo Pro’s). Screen is bright and beautiful and responds well to multi touch. Gestures are a little different so there’s a small learning curve if you’re coming from a new device. Not an issue after five minutes. One interesting thing, my iPhone headphones worked just fine. Was able to take calls with them, pause and play music as well as skip. Would never have thought that would have worked in a million years.

Synergy – Pleased to say, it works as advertised, which is either good or bad depending on your view. As most of my Facebook contacts are folks that I know, having the ability to integrate directly to my contacts and fill in information i was missing was a good thing. As usual, integrating Google contacts is a mess and I’m probably going to turn off that integration. That’s really more a Google issue than a Palm one. From a technical perspective, the process was smooth. I had no problem integrating Facebook, Google contacts and Exchange into one set of contacts and calendars along with a unified inbox for Excahnge and Gmail. Fixing stuff that was duplicated because of different naming conventions was a breeze. It was also a great way of cleaning out clutter in my contact list. This is still a killer app for me.

iTunes Sync – It works. Out of the box. No other software needed (and that’s the big difference between Pre and most other devices). Synced all my content over (except protected content) with no issues. Just looked a device called Pre. Not sure how they did it, but they did but it’s excellent. Also synced pictures as well, nice little bonus when you select include “high res” option in iTunes. Sadly, no picture folders are maintained, they all go into one folder called media sync.

Classic – First off, it’s a paid service. Trial version is good for a week. Mostly works. Forget about Slingbox, Game emulators and the like. They just don’t seem to work. With some trickery I was able to move some files to places not normally allowed to get some stuff working. On the other hand, old apps that go way back to my first Palm Pilot like Golf Solitaire work just fine. Pretty amazing. One annoying bug is the Hot Sync name utility won’t accept Michael Gartenberg as a name. It’s both too long and won’t accept spaces. That’s an issue as I can’t register some apps I’d like to work with that are expecting that name.

App Store – Small but good selection of content. Pandora, Flixter, a few Twitter clients, NY Times (which actually works unlike the iPhone version), AP, Accuweather. All performed well. Pandora works nicely as a background app as do the Twitter clients. Let’s face it, Apple has defined how and app store works and Palm’s going to need fill out the content in there quickly. As Ballmer says, developers, developers, developers and Apple has them.

Sprint services – Just had time to try the mobile TV app which worked nicely over 3g. Will try the Nav app later on

Charging Puck – Super cool. This is the way this stuff should work. Just plop it down and it works. Amazing.

Bottom Line – Palm’s clearly delivered on the vision they articulated last January and the Pre/WebOS combo are clearly going to be a mobile to force to be reckoned with. It’s the first platform that’s really differentiated itself from the iPhone and looks to be among the few devices that could serve as competition to that most iconic of phones. Should you buy? That’s a harder question. Palm’s clearly upped the mobile game with features that aren’t available elsewhere but the platform is still new (the system sometimes gets overloaded and slows down from time to time) and also lacks the depth and breadth of the iPhone app catalog, especially when it comes to games. Another factor is that Sprint’s’ the only game in town for this phone for the time being. Sprint’s offering’s from a price standpoint are more than competitive but carrier choice is a personal issue related to coverage as well as other factors like overseas services.

Even though it’s a v1 device and OS, Palm’s delivered quite a bit of functionality that most platforms lacked in their initial incarnation. It will be interesting to see what the competition has planned next. Next week is Apple’s developer conference. Last year, they used that as the opportunity to launch a new iPhone. Will they do it again this year? What mystery does HTC have planned at a June 24th event in NY and London?

At the moment, this is going to be a hot summer for smartphones and we’re just getting started.

So what Pre questions can I answer for you in the meantime?

10 responses to “Palm Pre Arrives – My First Thoughts

  1. 2 questions:

    1)Is it worth ditching the iPhone for?

    Kind of a pointless question for me in the UK as I guess we won’t be getting the Pre any time soon.

    I suppose you’d also want to see what the next iteration of the iPhone is like before providing a definitive answer.

    2) What is the charging puck? How does it work?


  2. There have been some comments on the quality of the build/materials being plastic and concerns about the durability. What are your thoughts on that?

    What do you see as the Pre competitors coming out in the next few months?

  3. Battery, Battery and more battery info? That is the iPhone 3g’s achilles heel. Everybody has a different way to deal with it. Mine was to turn off push exchange. Some people turn off 3g etc etc.

    How well does the exchange sync work ? Instantaneous push ?

    Are multiple exchange accounts allowed ?

    Do multiple background apps slow down the system?

    Do multiple background apps reduce the battery life ?

    • See my my previous post about 3g phones and battery life. the more you use them the less they last. This is 3g only, I haven’t seen a way to turn off. Battery life has been ok, about a day of use for me but no more and probably not a super heavy day.

      Exchange works as well as the other Exchange ActiveSync clients i’ve used. Seems pretty fast to me in terms of push. Also supports Gmail IMAP push it seems as well.

      Only one exchange account per customer.

      I’ve had half a dozen cards running, including Pandora. Above that and the system slows a bit. I’ve heard of folks running up to ten or so and being ok with performance.

      Yep, but depends on the app. Pandora sucks down a lot more juice than does an IM app. It’s tradeoff like most things. It’s nice to have background stuff working which makes for a richer experience but you pay a price for it. Perhaps we’ll see some larger cap batteries, that’s the best solution I’ve found. Of course, that tends to kill form factor.

  4. I wanted to know if keyboard functionality is necessary? Like for email, texting and the like does it have an online virtual keyboard? If so, is it cramped liek the iPhone? That was actually one thing that stopped me from getting the iPhone (that and the ATT $$$ DATA PLAN). Is there a gyrometer for the apps?

    I am a fan of palm since its monochrome days. I tried windows mobile (not such a big fan). I loved the organization (or at least the potential) that Palm allows.

  5. I have the new Pre, my second one. The first had an issue w/screen going black when ringing. Also, the 1st one had an issue w/turning itself on when I turn it off and place it on the charger. The 2nd one is doing the same thing. I turn the phone off and make sure it goes completely off and then I leave and go to bed. Next morning I come in and the phone is on. Why won’t it stay off when I turn it off and put it on charge. I like to turn my phone off at night and charge to extend battery life and also not to be bothered w/calls in the night. What do you think? Is this a feature or bug?

  6. Are you sure the mic works with the iPhone headphones? I have been all over the web and no one has got the mic to work. The in-ear apple iphone headphones are the best ones I have ever used… but I can’t talk on them!

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