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Palm launches Pre smartphone, webOS

updated 03:10 pm EST, Thu January 8, 2009

Palm PRE at CES

Palm at CES launched the Pre (pronounced "pree"), its latest smartphone featuring a touchscreen and slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The device runs on the new webOS operating system which supports third-party app development and takes advantage of the touch interface. It also pushes the high-end of smartphones with a 3-megapixel camera, EVDO Rev. A, Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, GPS, 8GB of storage and a new TI processor that offers notebook-level performance. The 3.1-inch touchscreen offers a 480x320 resolution, while a separate gesture area below the screen is used for several controls in addition to a center button.

The QWERTY keyboard slides out of the bottom rather than the side, making the device slightly thicker in proportion but overall smaller than other smartphones and more comfortable to use in its normal upright mode. When the keyboard is extended, the handset takes on a slightly curved form. Ports include a 3.5mm headphone jack along with a MicroUSB connection that supports mass storage. A unique inductive charger, known as the Touchstone, lets the phone charge without having to plug into a computer or wall outlet.

webOS features a unique way to integrate menus and allows users to switch between communication methods without navigating back to the home screen. The platform is coded in CSS, HTML and JavaScript as an attraction to a wide range of developers. Palm aims to bridge the gap between simplified touch operating systems like OS X iPhone and multitasking platforms like Windows Mobile: users can launch apps from anywhere in the operating system and switch to or close apps with a visual task switcher that shows "cards" rather than simple app names. App notifications and the media player are equally OS-wide and can either pop up temporarily or stay pinned to the current screen.

A new concept known as Synergy unifies searches across multiple address books, while the keyboard can be used to start searches in place of visual browsing. IM is just as consolidated and puts multiple networks into a single client, while integration with Facebook adds a social networking component.

Palm intends to release the first version of the Pre through Sprint in the first half of the year, with pricing to be set later. No mention has yet been made of a GSM version that would support AT&T or most international carriers, though the company is expected to launch multiple webOS phones this year.

The Pre is considered entirely vital to Palm, which has had to endure mounting losses and was recently given a $100 million aid to prevent it from running out of money. The company sold roughly 600,000 phones in its most recent quarter and is commonly believed to be one of the primary victims of the iPhone as Treo owners switch to the more modern device.

Palm has maintained that it can restore its fortunes through its new platform and as part of its development efforts hired former Apple engineer and executive Jon Rubinstein, who is widely credited with reinvigorating Palm's hardware design.









By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. ff11

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2004

    +4

    Mixed bag

    "Real" keyboard is a positive, but durability will probably take a big hit because of the moving part. Removable battery and micro USB jacks are nice, and the camera should be good. Not clear if it is 3G. The real question is if it will be able to build the momentum it takes to get quality 3rd party apps designed for it.

    The iPhone is a very good smart phone, but what sets it apart is that it is supported by a vast array of free to inexpensive 3rd party apps, some of which are highly useful, and which make it VERY difficult to equal.

  1. spyinthesky1

    Joined:

    0

    Pre

    Too little far too late. Even the name is laboured.

  1. ff11

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2004

    +3

    re: Mixed bag

    Sorry, missed the EVDO in the article.

  1. Salty

    Professional Poster

    Joined: Jul 2005

    +2

    Looks like...

    Looks like the first gen HTC touch, though I have to admit, this phone really doesn't look bad compared to what it could have been. Looks much better than the current Treo or Centro. If they price it bellow the iPhone it might survive.

  1. Guest

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999

    +2

    Nice shape- but cost?

    I love the clamshell shape of it especially the way it curves once opened. BUT IS IT REALLY A LAUNCH if there's no price and no actual launch date. Not even a ballpark price or date???
    Sounds more like a desperation move.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Junior Member

    Joined: Apr 1999

    +2

    Sprint

    Shame about the network. Sprint might even be going belly-up before Palm gets a chance to redeem themselves at this rate...We'll have to wait and see if they can actually meet their deadlines and ship this thing for a reasonable price, and with a powerful SDK before we can judge its merits. Nice to see they're not dead quite yet though; Apple could use some decent competition to get their asses in gear with some useful iPhone OS updates (copy/paste, more powerful multitasking, push notifications, better handling of files/downloading/uploading/cross-app file and task access, deeper end-user access to the device). In the end, the better this WebOS device is, the better off unrepentant iPhone users will be. My money is still with Android as the next big growth OS on mobile devices though.

  1. Guest

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999

    +2

    Treo owner

    As the owner of a PalmOS Treo, which at the time I purchased it was state of the art but now looks and feels clunky and slow, I have to say this phone has some appeal. However, I agree that the iPhone's 3rd-party apps and it's fluid interface is more compelling. Just waiting for my contract to end, then it's goodbye to Sprint.

  1. Guest

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999

    -1

    Treo owner

    As the owner of a PalmOS Treo, which at the time I purchased it was state of the art but now looks and feels clunky and slow, I have to say this phone has some appeal. However, I agree that the iPhone's 3rd-party apps and it's fluid interface is more compelling. Just waiting for my contract to end, then it's goodbye to Sprint.

  1. Da Coyote

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2006

    +1

    Palm vs BBy vs Iphone

    I'd love an Iphone, but thanks to my company-provided Blackberry, I'd not use AT&T EVER and have to pay for it (more bars perhaps, but they don't do anything). So, I continue to have my cheap, reliable phone on Verizon and await Apple opening thing up for that network. I really wish Palm would have been a bit more proactive - I till have and love my 6 year old Palm Pilot, but Sprint? Feggetabowdit!!

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Nov 2006

    0

    desperate

    Anything that is desperate to come out its OS tends to be buggy. The biggest question is how responsive is the touchscreen. I tested drive those touchscreen phones from LG and others and they are not that responsive. The one LG (or Samsung?) that is responsive doesn't even sync with computer... what are they thinking?

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