Tag Archives: webOS

Palm Pre vs iPhone, Round 2: Road Trip

As promised, I wanted to review my experience with the Pre’s Google Map and Sprint Navigation applications. For comparison, a more traditional GPS unit (the Garmin Nuvi 750) also made the trip.

The hands-down winner in this head-to-head was clearly the Garmin Nuvi, but then it’s not really a fair comparison. As I have stated before, I have always found that dedicated devices do a much more complete job than any multitasker. However, since the trip started without the Nuvi, having at least some navigation functions on my Pre was great! Read on to find out how it went…

Google Maps

Using Google Maps on the Pre requires a Sprint data connection. Generally, along interstates and in cities, this is not a problem. Particularly in cities, I find the Google Map app useful for navigating while NOT driving. For example, when you are searching for a restaurant and want to see how to get there from where you are.

Directions can be programmed either from your current location using the GPS signal, or you can input an address. If you tap an address in your Contacts, it will automatically pull up directions in Google Maps – handy.

Unfortunately, there is no scale on the Google maps display, so it can be difficult to determine the time to your destination while en route.

In terms of the routes themselves, I found Google to be overall very good at choosing a main route, avoiding unpaved roads, and displaying traffic info (in urban areas only.) It would not alter the route if I made a wrong turn or help me get back on track.

Sprint Navigation

Once en route to my destination, I found the Sprint Navigation app more useful. It gives a time to the destination that updates based on your current position. It also states turn-by-turn directions with the actual street names (rather than just “turn in 500 ft”) – a favorite feature of mine on the Garmin devices.

You can adjust the display of the Sprint Nav for either 3D or bird’s eye views and it includes scale.

The down side of Sprint Nav is that, despite being GPS-based, it requires a connection to the Sprint data network to program a trip. I found that once the trip was started, it continued to update my location and ETA even after I lost the Sprint data network. But if the trip was cancelled, I needed new connection to the Sprint data network to be established before I could relaunch the Nav app. This was highly annoying.

It appeared that the maps for the Nav app are not stored on the device itself, but rather downloaded on a per-trip basis. I can appreciate the desire to save memory, as there is no expansion slot. However once a trip has been started, it would be nice if it was stored in local memory until the GPS reaches its destination (or the trip is cancelled, or a new trip started) even if the app is closed. This would allow me to close the app when not needed to save battery life and return to the trip directions when I neared my destination.

I also found Sprint Nav sent me down a dirt road in the middle of a very urban area when there was perfectly good paved road right there. Not only highly annoying, but also potentially damaging to my car! Yikes!

Garmin Nuvi

Unfortunately, for much of my road trip, I was not able to connect to the Sprint data network and so was not able to launch either Sprint Navigation or Google Maps apps on the Pre. Luckily, my Garmin nuvi was able to load (albeit very, very slowly.)

I believe the slow loading nuvi maps may be caused my Garmin embedding a satellite search parameter in with the maps updates. Since I haven’t purchased a 2009 map update yet, I believe it will continue to take longer and longer to find the satellites until I purchase that update. At least I hope it’s just a software update because taking 4 min+ (and getting longer) to find signal is not going to be acceptable. Then again, the Pre wasn’t finding any signal at all, so maybe I was just on holiday out in the sticks… ha ha!

Once on signal, though, the Garmin performed admirably – avoiding obstacles and selecting a fairly good quality route, somewhere between Google Maps (best routes, IMO) and Sprint Nav (worst routes) Still sometimes, the Garmin would choose a smaller road (ie, get off the interstate, just to cut a corner, and then get back on – what up with that?) so I wouldn’t follow blindly.

I liked locating nearby services (gas, coffee, food, etc.) and adding them as “via” points on our trip. While I could use the CitySearch or other 3rd party app for this on the Pre, it wouldn’t add them to the nav directions automatically. If this functionality could be integrated in WebOS, that would be a great enhancement.

The Garmin would also go to sleep at night and remember our trip in the morning so it did not need re-programming. Note, this is the second time I’ve mentioned this feature. On a road trip, batteries of every size and type are always in need of charging, so any feature that helps me conserve power is going to get the thumbs up in my book.

Other Road Trip musings

At one point in the car, I was playing with the Facebook app. While it let me update my status, it did not read the comments on my status, or allow me to comment on those comments. Luckily, I was able to log into facebook.com on the browser and comment from there. Ironically, my comment, which was on the subject of the Pre itself, encouraged my friend to go out and purchase a Pre the very next day!

I wanted to play more with mobile uploads, particularly photos, as the camera on the Pre takes some nice quality images. But with little cell service on the island, I was at the mercy of open wi-fi connections in cafes and at family’s homes. When I was in a location with a signal, I inevitably didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted before it was time to go.

With spotty cell service, text messaging is the way to go. Even if I couldn’t maintain a signal long enough to check my voicemail, a short text (SMS) message was usually able to be delivered. The keyboard of my Pre makes texting a dream too! I’m a new convert of messaging! I even tried to send my father a MMS (movie/photo) message, but his iPhone’s AT&T network doesn’t support MMS messaging yet. Funny, his new S iPhone is supposed to support it… wha ha ha ha! Although, really, I shouldn’t laugh too much, I still can’t take any movies yet at all, even though I can watch them…. Where’s my movie app? Palm WebOS developers, I’m looking at you!

The last thing I will mention is the WebOS 1.1 update, which was released while I was on this road trip. I was able to download it over the network very quickly (it was a 90mb download) and apply it without a hitch. Although, I do not have a need for all the EAS enhancements, I will be looking forward to playing with my new NFL app. Thanks, developers!

That’s it for this installment. Watch for more reviews on that new NFL app and more as my Pre experience continues!

Pre vs. iPhone

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.)

Why Pre

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!