Palm Pre review: A pebble in your hand

GSMArena team, 19 December 2009.
Pages: 12345678»

Tags: Palm, Touch UI, WebOS

Introduction

It's not like we didn't tell you. And hey, it's not like we're on time either. But we guess better late than sorry goes both ways. Once a popular (mostly stateside) PDA and smartphone maker, Palm were going full blast from safe to sorry. So, did they try to put the brakes? Negative. They hit the U turn.

Many must've doubted Palm ever getting out of the twilight of their dwindling smartphone line. But we're not gonna give you all that crap about second chances. It won't be fair to the Palm Pre. It couldn't have been bleaker for the company but the Palm Pre is not the kind to walk around a with "Will work for food" sign on its neck. No sir. It's looking to elbow its way through a crowd of apples, androids and PocketPCs.

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Palm Pre official photos

Are we talking the mother of all comebacks here? We honestly don't know. But it looks like a debut of the same magnitude as the iPhone OS, Android and Maemo. The Palm Pre seems to have all the things that made the iPhone so special: multi-touch display, an Application Store, fluid and creative UI and a good web browser. But Palm didn't stop there - the webOS is all about multitasking - to an extent that gives quite a point to those who wouldn't call the iPhone a proper smartphone.

The webOS and all the touchscreen gadgetry will sure keep us busy enough. It's the interface and the handling that will earn the Palm Pre its deserved share of admirers. But before we power up this multitasking monster and start navigating its new and unique system, let's look at the package itself.

Key features:

  • 3.1" 16M-color TFT display of 320 x 480 pixel resolution and excellent sunlight legibility
  • 3 megapixel fixed focus camera, LED flash
  • Quad-band GSM support
  • Tri-band UMTS support with HSDPA
  • ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz, PowerVR SGX graphics chip
  • 256 MB RAM
  • Sliding-out full QWERTY keyboard
  • Palm webOS is an innovative multi-touch user interface, heavy on multitasking
  • Touch-enabled Gesture Area
  • Built-in GPS receiver
  • Wi-Fi
  • 8 GB of onboard storage
  • Accelerometer, proximity sensor
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Bluetooth with A2DP support
  • Application Store for direct apps download and installation
  • Office document viewer

Main disadvantages:

  • No video calls over the 3G network
  • No memory card slot
  • Glossy plastics look cheap, love fingerprints
  • Camera has no auto focus… nor any settings at all, disappointing image quality
  • No video recording unless hacked
  • Web browser lacks Flash support, but it's on its way
  • No DivX/XviD video playback support
  • No Bluetooth file transfers
  • App Catalog available in a limited number of countries
  • Small and fiddly QWERTY keyboard keys
  • No onscreen keyboard, portrait typing only
  • No smart dialing

The specs ring the iPhone bell and you may think the Pre is just another copycat - you'll be wrong. The Palm Pre is pushing a brand new OS and doesn't keep a stiff upper lip like some other smartphones - that goes to you Symbian and WinMo.


Palm Pre in our hands

But so much for the resemblance to iPhone. It's a completely different form factor, there are some novel navigation solutions and there's a QWERTY keyboard and multi-tasking. The Palm Pre is a fresh and exciting addition to the world of smartphones.

The webOS may have learned a lot from the iPhone OS, but it certainly is trying to do things its own way. The Pre is obviously limited much like the first iPhone and earliest Android handsets.

It's not the list of do's and don'ts that makes this phone though. It's not the capacitive, multi-touch-enabled touchscreen, it's not the QWERTY keyboard. The Pre hopes to be a symbol of a company's rebirth and promises an exciting time for touchscreen. And it's got a darn good reason to be hopeful: the webOS.

We'll get there but let's take this one step at a time. The Palm Pre gets unboxed, handled and described right after the jump.

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