If you have owned a Palm Pre for a reasonable amount of time, you’ve probably realised by now that its App Catalog has some way to go before it can be considered a worthy counterpart to the iPhone App Store or the Android Market. The situation is not being helped as Palm has yet to offer paid apps outside the US, which happens to represent the bulk of the decent apps that are available.
Thankfully, the Pre has seen the growth of a thriving homebrew development community and the creations of homebrew repositories, such as Preware, which allow you to download hundreds of apps that you are unlikely to find in the App Catalog for some time.
However, as there is a lot of content out there, here are my top10 homebrew recommendations on the Pre.
Please note: While homebrew is not illegal, it is not officially endorsed by Palm and therefore can pose a risk if you don’t know what you’re doing. So before you try anything, it is essential that you do your research.
Top 10 can not be held responsible for any damages caused to you or your phone by installing homebrew content.
If you are new to the homebrew scene, you can start by reading this tutorial or visit Precentral.net, the largest Palm Pre community on the web.
This is the first and probably the most important homebrew app you are likely to download on your Pre. Preware is a repository of the best and most recent homebrew creations available. It is essentially a second app catalog for your Pre that allows you to download from an ever-growing collection of apps, themes, patches and plug-ins long before they ever hit the official app catalog. Best of all, it's free!
Read this page for you all you need to know about Preware and how to install it.
2 Music Player (Remix)
While the native music player app in Pre is decent, it isn't perfect. The Music Player (Remix) is an enhanced version of the stock Music Player app that adds several basic but important features, such as automatically saving the position of your last played track and playlist when you exit the app, creating on-the-fly playlists and skipping to any part of a song using the progress slider. It also lets you view the player in landscape mode, see song lyrics at the tap of a button, search the current artist on Wikipedia and return to the main menu screen by swiping over the title on any screen - all of which make listening to music on your Pre a lot more pleasurable.
If you are an avid podcast listener like me, drPodder is the finest audio/video podcast app you can download for your Pre. You can not only search and add from a directory of some of the web’s best podcasts, if your favourite podcast is not there, you can add them manually just as easily. It also lets you download the episodes directly to your phone’s memory if you wish to listen to them later and even deletes them from the memory once you have finished listening to them. Make sure to tune into the PalmCast podcast for the latest news and discussion on the Pre.
4 On-screen Keyboard
While the Pre has a physical QWERTY keyboard, it requires you to slide out the keyboard every time you need to use it, which can get a bit annoying, especially as there is no way to type when you are in landscape mode. If you are one of those people who really needs a virtual keyboard in certain situations then you can download the ‘On-screen Keyboard’ patch from Preware, which lets you bring up a nifty on-screen keyboard when you double-tap on the Pre’s gesture area.
If you ever run out of music to listen to or just want to try something new, then look no further. SHOUTcast is one of the largest internet radio services and is now available in palm of your hand for live streaming from over 20,000 stations.
6 Topple Ball
Let’s face it; the Pre hasn’t exactly excelled in its game offerings, even though it is perfectly capable of doing so from a hardware standpoint. However, it does have a few decent apps that should keep you entertained during those long commutes on the train. Topple Ball is one such game that utilises the Pre’s accelerometers to let you guide a tiny silver ball into a hole while avoiding obstacles in its path. It not only demonstrates the incredible pinpoint accuracy of the Pre’s accelerometers, it also shows the kinds of games that are possible on the Pre once Palm has lifted restrictions in place preventing developers from using the device to its full potential.
Blocked is a simple puzzle game where you need to get a single red block off the board by rearranging a number of blue rectangular blocks obstructing the red block. The goal is to get the red block out through the exit in the shortest number of moves. There are three difficulty levels: novice, intermediate and expert. You can also create your own levels in the designer mode. The only downside is there is no way to share your levels or download what others have created. However, the game is surprisingly addictive, so definitely give it a go.
Scatter is another simple but challenging puzzle game where you have a number of scattered balls moving in random directions. Your goal is to determine and tap on an optimal area of the screen that will create a bubble and recover each moving ball that comes to contact with it. You can only progress to the next level once you have recovered the minimum number of balls. It is particularly challenging as each ball disappears after a set time and the levels get progressively more difficult as you have to predict and focus on the multiple balls moving at different speeds, which makes Scatter an excellent app to help improve your concentration.
9 Palm Reader
Palm Reader is hands down the best eBook reader available for the Pre. It currently supports Text, HTML, Mobipocket (PRC), Microsoft Reader (LIT), PalmDoc (PDB) and EPub formatted books and offers a number of features including library management, bookmarks, search capability, dictionary, screen orientation, full-screen mode, adjustable preferences and more. If you’re a fan of eBooks, this is one app you won't want to miss.
The Pre has a beautiful screen for wallpapers. So if you want a different, beautiful wallpaper to adorn that screen every day without having to manually download and save or transfer them to your phone, then Switcharoo is the app you need. It automatically downloads a bunch of wallpapers for you and sets them to your background at the time of your choosing.
So there you have it, my top 10 homebrew recommendations for the Pre. Please keep in mind that is by no means the definitive list. With over 1,200 pieces of homebrew available on Preware, you might just find what you’re looking for and there are many more in development every day.
One such homebrew app currently in development is called GeoStrings - a location-based reminder app that uses the Pre’s GPS capability to display reminders when you are close to a particular location. So if you keep forgetting to pick up toilet rolls when you’re at the local store, you can rest assured that will soon be a thing of the past.
I will leave you to enjoy this video demonstration of what to expect:
Correction: Since the publication of this article, Top 10 Mobile Phones has learnt that Geostrings will, in fact, be granted an official release through the App Catalog.