My first few days with my new Palm Pre and why I’m glad I didn’t get an iPhone
I have been investigating whether to switch from Sprint for the iPhone. I have been anticipating the launch of the Palm Pre since Christmas. Being on the Sprint network, I was going to get an Instinct for my husband and a Centro for myself. But after a Sprint service (non-hardware) related fiasco, I returned the phones. My exasperated exclamation to the sales rep was, “Well, I’m just going to go get an iPhone!” Then, I was leaked a key piece of information – the Pre was coming!
Well 6 long months later, my wait was finally over. I managed to grab one of the last Pre in Austin with the help of Shawn in the Arbor Walks store. (I only mention him because he really went above and beyond to help with more Sprint-related fiasco-ness still leftover from the holiday.)
If the combo of Pre’s touch screen and full keyboard isn’t the deal breaker, the Synergy technology (more later,) webOS (which will lets you have multiple apps open,) and touchstone charging are all intriguing. (Note: once I got the phone, the flimsy cover to the charger and general awkwardness and frequency of charging has made me think touchstone is more necessity than just attractive.) With flash on the camera, and rumors of video and support for SD memory on the horizon, Pre has a lot of features to combat the iPhone.
I know a few geeks, so I have been asking everyone I know with an iPhone what they love about it and what they hate. Some of the “hate” answers:
- too many steps to make a phone call (it *is* a phone, right?)
- the keyboard when typing email (note: may be fixed with 3.0 update in July)
- when I synced to my Exchange it overwrote all my personal contacts (Yikes!)
- expensive AT&T plans
- makes unshielded speakers buzz (True of all AT&T 3G phones – inc blackberries)
Number one “love” answer? You know it. Apps. But I get ahead of myself…
Love at First Sight
First thing I noticed is the screen. It is bright and beautiful. There is a nice ripple effect when you touch the screen. My screen has a small black pixel stuck in the middle, but otherwise is impeccable. The reaction is inherently very iPhone like, adhering to the pinch/pull conventions you would expect. And I think the reaction time may even be a little faster.
The keyboard is delicious. I love the action and texting is very comfortable. I have not been able to find a back arrow key (as in, go back without deleting that character.) It has to be something simple I am missing. But other than that… I love that I can use this keyboard as my quick dial. So I can still call my favorite contacts with a slide and click of a single key.
The phone is small and comfortable in the hand and the perfect size, in both closed and open, and while talking. It’s size and feel are smaller and sleeker than the iPhone.
Unfortunately, the earbuds that ship in the kit are sadly inadequate. Mine were not functional and introduced noise immediately and I was forced to exchange them. Considering the quality of Apple buds, I don’t see why this cannot be improved in future kits.
Syncing, Synergy, and Searching
Adding my contacts to the phone was a little too easy. Before I knew it, I had my Pre syncing all of Google contacts, calendar, and mail. I was also able to add my Exchange mail more simply than in any other interface I’ve ever seen. It literally took me mere minutes to import my entire life – personal and professional – into this tiny miracle device.
Next I added Facebook to my contacts. One of the cool features of Synergy means that these contacts are all matched up and you can even use their Facebook (or Google acct) pic as their pic in your phonebook. It also imports Facebook calendar, so I can get birthdays too, and I never had to input anything other than my account and password.
Now with all these folks in my phone, it is much too cumbersome to scroll through the list. This is where search comes in! I kept looking for a search bar, but by simply typing (or starting to type) anything, it filters the list and I can scroll that, or keep typing to filter further. So, by typing “h,” I get every contact whose first or last name starts with “h.” If you start a Universal Search from the home screen, it lists everything on the phone – apps, contacts, content, etc. So you can start to type a contact’s name from the main screen and click to call. That’s cool. But it is still a bit cumbersome to scroll through the entire list of contacts. I wish there was folder and/or category organization system.
It syncs my Google and Exchange calendars. I’ve been trying to do that forever and there is no way to do it other than manually exporting Outlook events and manually importing them into Google, which results in time zone errors. This is the first true interlocking Google/Exchange calendar system I have ever seen that still lets me maintain each as a separate entity andautoupdate. It rocks!
The calendar view is also beautiful. It scrunches up free time so you can view more of your calendar at a time. It simply and utterly rocks in every way!
Of course, it also grabbed Gmail and Exchange mail. Note, I only inputted my account info once and it has synced all of the areas. It also uses fullIMAP, etc for push/pull syncing.
At first I was a little frustrated by its management of my Gmail, which I prefer to Archive, not delete. This tip to archive instead of delete Gmail quickly showed me how to set the “delete” button in the inbox to actually go to my All Mail folder for all Gmail, effectively making the delete button the archive button.
Media Sync and iTunes
iTunes recognizes it as a device. This is a highly welcome feature! Dragging and dropping works in USB mode, but Media Sync will sync with all sort of media, not just music.
- The music player on the Pre, however, is missing many features I would like to see: ability to create/update playlists on the fly
- see the progress through the track
- user ratings
This player oddly reminds me of the first iPod player in its simplicity and I can only hope that it will improve it in a future update or app.
Apps and Additional features
Shopping apps has been completely free so far. I’m sure that won’t last long.
The SDK for the Pre has not been officially release, so there’s not much to choose from yet. While I can’t check my MRI scan, but the most useful apps are working beautifully on the Pre including: Pandora, Fandango, Wiki, and more than 1 Twitter app. I’m a big Google user, and was pleased to find both Gmail and Google Reader apps.
My top 2 wishes from the app elves:
- an official MLB baseball app
- Tetris game
Not every app I downloaded worked perfectly. The free book reader crashed my Pre hard, twice. I have not tried downloading it again since I applied the 1.0.2 firmware update, so I will have to try again and report back.
I also found another key feature, the Clock, is not included until you apply the 1.0.2 update. It doesn’t have many themes yet, but it lets you set an alarm; one-time, recurring, by weekday or weekend. I’m still looking for a countdown and/or timer.
The fact that additional features are coming from both the app store and software updates is great news. In rumor, video recording could be added by a third party developer, but I wouldn’t count on 3rd parties for everything. Especially since outside developers have not had a lot of experience developing on this brand new platform, we’ll have to rely on the Palm team for much of the forthcoming functionality enhancements.
More to come…
There is even more to this phone than one article can hold. Sprint’s Telenav technology with turn by turn directions will make standalone GPS units obsolete. While the Google Maps interface gives you options. My next installation will focus on a through review of these two features and how they face up to each other in performance, accuracy, and interface.
Thanks for reading!