A strong first effort by Palm in full touchscreen smartphones. (June 14th, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: Palm
Price: $199 (two years)
- True, easy multitasking in a touchscreen phone.
- webOS an excellent first effort; intuitive and Internet-savvy.
- Hardware QWERTY keyboard many people want.
- Great multi-touch display.
- Native iTunes sync and Amazon MP3 purchasing.
- Palm Profile for online backups of important data; less need for a PC.
- Somewhat flimsy build quality; sharp edges.
- Keyboard too small, especially near the center.
- Small third-party app library on launch.
- More expensive than (slower) iPhone at press time.
- Delay when launching apps for the first time.
pricing, service, and wrapping up
The Pre retails for $199 with a two-year plan. As little as a week ago (as of this writing) we would have called this a competitive price, but with the iPhone now starting at only $99, Apple seems to have established a new smartphone price point. For half as much as what Sprint asks, buyers can get a similar screen, 3G, 8GB of storage, GPS and Wi-Fi. It's not an entirely clear-cut proposition, however. The Pre has faster components and, of course, can run multiple apps where Apple's software is, even with background notifications, limited to running one app at a time. For some this difference may be worth the price.
There is the question of third-party apps, however. Palm's decision to limit the webOS SDK to a small group of developers early on has left it with just 18 third-party (albeit useful) programs on the App Catalog in the few days since launch. Apple's iPhone App Store, by comparison, has 40,000. No doubt webOS will expand significantly over coming weeks and months, but if having a specific app is absolutely necessary before an upgrade, the Pre may simply not be an option. Thankfully, Palm is at least starting off with third-party support and apps available.
Network stability may well be a selling point for some. While Sprint isnít as big a carrier as AT&T or Verizon we didnít have any service issues and feel that Palm's phone could well be the better choice in certain regions. Many New Yorkers and San Franciscans can attest to AT&T's 3G network being all but unusable in these areas with an iPhone as the networks don't have the capacity to handle the very data-intensive devices. We think that Verizon adding the phone soon would be smart move for both Palm and Verizon. Verizon needs the Pre as a further weapon against AT&T beyond the BlackBerry Storm, and Palm needs several carriers offering the Pre to boost its flagging smartphone market. Reliable rumors have suggested this will happen as soon as January 2010, so those who like Verizon's network won't have too much longer to wait.
A succinct way to describe the Pre is as a software success and a (mild) hardware failure. The sharp edges, flimsy feel, and smudged keys in the middle of the keyboard can just be too much for some users. The software is very well done, however, and we canít wait to see what improvements Palm has coming down the pike. Better Exchange support and true 3D gaming are some of what we've heard are likely Would we buy a Pre to use as a main phone? Yes, we would. The Pre is a compelling alternative to both the iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm even with its flaws as the first webOS handset. The winning combination of a real QWERTY keyboard, excellent touch screen, Google integration, multitasking, and multimedia support is enough to win most over despite misgivings with the hardware it's attached to.