After BlackBerry usurped Palm as the handset manufacturer of choice for business users, the company has a lot is riding on the Pre. But if initial impressions of the handset are anything to go by, Palm won’t be going to the big phone exchange in the sky anytime soon.
Build quality is excellent. The Pre feels reassuringly robust in your hand and it’s weighty enough to give the phone a feel of real permanence. Design is a strong point, too, with glossy black casing, slim pebble shape and rounded edges meaning that it’s more than a match for the iPhone in the looks stakes.
Measuring just 100.5 x 59.5 x 16.9 mm the Palm is small and surprisingly compact for a smartphone. Buttons are kept to a minimum on the exterior, with just a touchpad under the 3.1-inch screen, and an on/off switch and volume control detracting from the Pre’s super smooth exterior.
The slider form factor also adds to the gloriously minimal feel, by ensuring that that the full QWERTY keyboard is concealed from view when not in use.
As with all the new breed of smartphones, the built-in features of the Palm Pre are only half the story thanks to the option to download apps. Currently, users can choose from 100 of these, among them a host of fun games and diversions like Connect 4 and a news feed from The Associated Press. But there’s plenty of more practical fare on offer, too, including Mobank, which handily lets you check your bank balance and recent transactions.
Elsewhere, Palm has installed a 3.2 megapixel camera, which is fine for fine snaps and video. The mobile internet experience the Pre offers is also impressive with 3G support and a function that predicts your search terms combining for smooth, efficient and wholly intuitive web browsing.
Perhaps one of the most attention-grabbing features of the Pre is the option to charge the battery wirelessly. This is simply a case of removing the back cover and replacing with it a rubber version. The battery is then replenished thanks to a small electromagnetic field that generates via inductive coils inside the Touchstone pad.
While the range of apps available for the phone isn’t at iPhone levels (35,000 and counting), as indicated above there’s plenty to keep you satisfied until such time as more developers join the Pre party.
More important right now is the operating system. And in this respect the Pre actually outdoes the [iPhone 3G S](/mobiles/deals/. We found the custom-built webOS made simultaneous use of applications as seamless as can be.
webOS also employs Palm’s Synergy technology to similarly good effect for messaging. This harness cloud computing to pull in contacts, emails and photos from all your email addresses, Facebook and IM accounts in one place. Thus, communiqués from a range of different channels are placed into a single thread.
Ease of Use
Phone fans who read US reviews of the Pre will have noted their claims that the QWERTY keyboard is too small. Granted, it’s nowhere near the size of the generously proportioned equivalents seen on the Nokia N97 or any number of HTC devices. However, we experienced no such problems and found it easy to input large amounts of text rapidly and efficiently.
The multitouch touchscreen interface was equally user friendly and another area where the Pre outdoes the iPhone 3G S by dint of being more responsive and more accurate. And we were especially taken with the ripple effect that greets you to let you know that your command has been recognised.
Meanwhile the hassle of fat-handed button miss-presses is kept to a minimum by accessing a section on the surround of the screen. Here you can head back through menus with a swish of your hand from right to left.
Email document viewer
Bluetooth, 3G & W-Fi support
8GB of internal user storage
Removable, rechargeable battery
3.1-inch capacitive touchscreen
3.2 megapixel camera with LED flash
Five hours talk time
Overall mark: 9/10