Palm has finally released the eagerly anticipated webOS update 1.4 for its Palm Pre and Palm Pixi handsets. This is the first major update for Palm’s smartphone operating system in quite some time and brings a whole host of new goodies to the table.
The biggest addition is video recording. At last, you can use your webOS phone to record, edit and upload videos directly to YouTube, Facebook, or send them via email and MMS. And we can confirm that it works like a charm. The video quality is crisp and frame rate is as smooth as you can expect from a three megapixel camera. Of course, it won’t be long before the camera’s recording prowess is put to the test against its iPhone 3GS counterpart.
In fact, the video editing works exactly like Apple’s mobile phone, offering users the ability to drag a horizontal slider to resize/crop a recorded clip. Editing a clip creates a new file so the original is not affected. Uploading clips to YouTube and Facebook is just a matter of tapping a couple of buttons and you can enter a title and description for your clip before you send it off.
Unfortunately there are no advanced settings such as manually setting the video quality or any zooming function whatsoever. But what’s there should make most Pre owners very happy.
Video recording is fun but webOS 1.4 has also made a multitude of enhancements to existing applications such as the calendar, email, messaging and phone applications. Perhaps the most notable improvement is the call log, which now displays your call history in a much more organised fashion. So now instead of only displaying the name or number of a caller, it also displays a contact icon next to it, which can be tapped to view the entire call history of that caller along with call durations and types of calls.
There is also the ability to send an SMS or save the numbers to contacts. Plus, if it’s already a contact, it displays all the numbers linked to that name, which makes returning a call a whole lot easier.
The calendar application has received a number of enhancements, including the facility to customise your calendar notification sounds and a ‘Sync Now’ option in the menu to manually synchronise all your calendar accounts. Similarly, the email application lets you customise email notification sounds and has received numerous improvements, including an option to sort emails by date, sender and subject.
A system-wide functionality has also been added so that whenever you tap and hold on a phone number, it brings up a context menu containing the options ‘Call’, ‘Text’ and ‘Add to Contacts’. Likewise, tapping and holding on an email address brings up a context menu with the options ‘Send Email’ and ‘Add to Contacts’.
One other neat little feature that may not be immediately apparent is the addition of LED notifications, which causes the light in the phone’s ‘gesture area’ to intermittently ‘blink’ to alert you whenever a new email, messaging or other notification arrives, even when the phone is ‘asleep’.
The update also comes with support for Flash Player 10.1. Although the plug-in itself is not yet available, it is expected to be released soon in beta form in the app catalog.
Last but certainly not the least, webOS 1.4 improves the system’s overall performance, including faster loading of applications, quicker response to gestures, improved battery life and the speedier downloading of applications and files.
All in all, this is a welcome update from Palm and it may have come at a crucial time, too, with recent noise about Palm’s ongoing struggle to compete in sales with the iPhone and an abundance of Android phones. There are already rumours that Palm may be working on a new webOS device, classified as the mysterious ‘C40’ for the time being, and it may just be what Palm needs to regain some mindshare for its webOS platform. Naturally, we’ll be sure to let you know when we have more details.
For now, webOS looks to remain competitive with its rivals. Palm is set to launch the premium app catalog in Europe later this month, which could give the platform the boost it badly needs. In fact, Europe (or at least UK, Germany and Spain) has already received 3D games in their respective app catalogs, which Americans have been enjoying since the CES 2010.
EA has graciously provided three of its games, Need for Speed Undercover, Sims 3 and Monopoly for download, right now from the app catalog, for free. It might be a good idea to grab them while they stay that way.