Review: Palm Pre Part 1 Overview

Palm Pre smartphone
Environics CommunicationsPalm Discovery would like to extend a BIG THANKS to Sarah McConnell and Amy Clark of Environics Communications for providing the product for this review. It’s unfortunate that I only got a week (as opposed to a couple weeks) to review this but regardless, I am very thankful for this opportunity. I understand that the Palm Pre is in such HIGH demand so it’s only fair that others have the opportunity as well.

Palm Pre smartphoneAlso please note that the Palm Pre I am reviewing today is a Bell Mobility (Canadian CDMA carrier) branded Palm Pre so some of the apps or settings may be exclusive to this particular unit due to the carrier’s branding. As far as I know, the Palm Pre is only currently available at selected CDMA carriers like Sprint and Bell in North America. Apparently there are rumors of a GSM version coming out soon. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. 😉

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PalmWith so many different brands of cell phones, smartphones and devices out there nowadays, it can be a daunting task to distinguish between what each offers in terms of features. Do you want a nice touch screen like the iPhone, or one with the keyboard like a Blackberry? How about BOTH? Yes! It’s possible to have both a nice touch screen AND a keyboard. It’s available from the Palm Pre which has a beautiful looking touch screen and a slide out keyboard. Now, you can have the best of both worlds.

Palm Pre smartphoneThe Palm Pre is the next generation smartphone from Palm. Being next generation, the entire device including the underlying operating system has been revamped. The underlying operating system is Palm WebOS, the next generation operating system which sports a lot of the PIM strengths of its predecessor, Garnet but is very robust and fully capable of multitasking! Yay! One of the strengths of the OS is its ability to handle multiple apps at the same time and supports a variety of “gestures” or touch movements. Tap on the screen and it will zoom in. Tap it again and it will zoom out. Flick the finger upwards on a “card” or an app in its minimized form and it will close it. It’s a lot of fun. Coming from a stylus touch screen of the Palm OS and Windows Mobile, it was definitely quite a different experience! And one I must say was quite fascinating! Aside from the operating system, there are other changes in the new Palm device.

Palm Treo ProPalm CentroTreo 500Treo 680Treo 700
It’s obvious from the first looks of it, that the form and design factor has changed. Gone were the typical Treo form factor with the square screen area and keyboard underneath. The screen now covers up the entire face of the device. It’s now in a rectangular shape with curved rounded edges and fully black all around. The only parts of the device that isn’t black is the metallic shiny button located near the center bottom and the thin shiny earpiece near the top center. The back of the unit is lined with the typical silicon soft, rubbery coating, in black of course. There’s the speaker to the top right, the camera lens to the top left but wait! Just above the lens is the flash for the camera! Wow! I’m impressed! A camera phone that has built-in flash! Even the iPhone (which is obviously what the Pre is trying to compete against) doesn’t have built-in flash. Kudos, Palm! Continuing on, at the top of the device is the 3.5mm jack, ringer switch (typical for the older Treos) and a power button that curves over to the edge. The bottom of the Pre has a battery/back cover release latch.

Palm Pre smartphonePush up on edge of the bottom of the device to reveal a hidden slide out keyboard! The QWERTY keys are made of hard plastic that are raised up on the underlying base. Although they aren’t exactly the same keys as those found on the Centro or Treo Pro, they seem similar as they offer the same stiff feeling when pressing on them as opposed to the buttons found on earlier Treo models like the 750, 800w, etc. Although the layout of the keyboard is very similar, there are some changes in the newer layout. Most of the changes are with respect to the symbols associated with the keys. For example, the % is now associated with the “i”, : with the “k”, ; with “m”. The , key is now beside the “m” button and has _ as the symbol. Also, the bottom row keys are now Shift, @ with 0, space, . and a Symbol key. The options (blue) key is now orange. The keyboard now reflects better and easier access to symbols and special characters. Pressing the Sym key will bring up a list of symbols including those like the ?. This makes typing up the word Pr? that much easier. 😉

Palm Pre smartphoneIf you look at the Pre with the keyboard extended from the side, you’ll notice a unique design of the device. The extended Pre is curved and not straight, as expected. I guess this helps for better visibility or is it just for design? I’m not sure. Also, looking at the device from the back, you’ll notice a huge reflective mirror at the back of the screen. It’s no doubt that a lot of work went into the design of this next generation smartphone.

My initial impression of it is it’s BLACK. It looks sleek and smooth and black. For me anyway, if I didn’t know that there’s a slide out keyboard, I probably would not have “easily” figured it out. That’s one thing I noticed most of all about the Palm Pre. It is black and designed so that nothing including buttons, features, slots, etc is supposed to distract and take away that whole “BLACK” device. By that I mean that if someone were to play around with the device without any knowledge of it, he may not “discover” much. To figure out where certain things are, you either need someone to tell you, or you’d need to read the manual. This is one of those things where you’d be somewhat confused or lost if you don’t read the manual and simply tried to figure out how to use it. Even the power button isn’t easily noticeable, until you look straight at it and see the Power symbol. The side data connector port is also hidden. You’d have to flip up the cover to access the data port. The volume buttons also have no distinguishing symbols to indicate so. I guess the whole design concept of the Pre is to make it a black, sleek device and everything like buttons should not distract from the overall black design. This is my guess, of course, but it seems like that’s what Palm is trying to do.

Although the design is quite unique, it can be a bit confusing to operate it for someone who didn’t read the manual (Yes, I didn’t initially). I was a bit puzzled about where to plug in the charger cable to charge the Pre. But then, I read the included booklet and found out. At the right side (display facing me) of the Pre is the data connector port where you can plug in the data/charging cable. If you didn’t read the manual, you may not know it’s there. Of course, by simply looking at the lines along the device, you would figure out that there’s something there but to many people like me, you would have missed it.

Palm Touchstone charger for Palm Pre smartphoneThere’s also the Touchstone charger (sold separately) which makes charging so much easier without worrying about connecting the wires. The Touchstone looks like a decent sized rubber cork stopper but with its top chopped off at an angle. The angled top is now fully capable of supporting a device, like the Palm Pre at an angle. At the back of the unit there’s a data connecting port where the Palm Pre data/charging cable will connect to for charging. Connect the other end of the data cable to the wall socket adapter and plug into the wall and the Touchstone is ready for charging.

The Touchstone is a very interesting new concept. It is designed as part of a new “wireless” way of charging your Palm Pre smartphone. Simply place your Palm Pre on the Touchstone charging unit and it will start charging! No wires needed! Well, no wires connecting the Pre and the Touchstone is needed but you’d still need the data/charging cable to connect the Touchstone with the wall socket adapter and plug it in the wall. Of course, you’d first have to connect one end of the data/charging cable to the wall plug attachment and then also connect the other end to the Touchstone unit. Plug it into the wall. Place your Palm Pre on the Touchstone unit so that it is resting on the unit at an angle. You may need to move and adjust the Pre so that you will notice a slight sound and the Palm Pre will indicate it’s charging.

side view of Palm Pre smartphone boxPalm Pre smartphone box contents
As you can see, Palm has gone through quite a change from its former self, starting with the packaging, with an irregular pentagon shaped box with minimalist packaging with a green conscious effort to stick with paper and cardboard as opposed to plastics. The form and design of the Pre with its rectangular shape and curved extension also breaks new ground in design. There’s nothing else out there like it! It looks like Palm is starting back to innovating again with new designs and breaking new grounds. And that’s a good thing to see.

For those who want to skip over all the detailed review and just want a summary, you can jump to the review summary in Part 5

Specs and Details

Operating system: Palm webOS platform

Network specs: Dual-band CDMA2000, 3G EvDO Rev A
Display: 3.1-inch touch screen with a vibrant 24-bit color 320×480 resolution HVGA display

Keyboard: Physical QWERTY keyboard

Email: Microsoft Exchange email with Microsoft,
Direct Push Technology
POP3/IMAP (Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc)

Messaging: Integrated IM, SMS, and MMS

GPS: Built-in GPS

Digital camera: 3 megapixel camera with LED flash and extended depth of field
Sensors Ambient light, accelerometer, and proximity

Media formats supported

Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR, QCELP, WAV
Video Formats: MPEG-4, H.263, H.264
Image Formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP

Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, WEP, 802.1X authentication

Bluetooth wireless technology 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support

Memory: 8GB (~7GB user available)

USB mass storage support

Connector: MicroUSB connector with USB 2.0 Hi-Speed

Headphone jack: 3.5mm stereo

Palm Synergy: Includes aggregation for Facebook, Google, Google Talk, AIM Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Mail, and Microsoft Office Outlook.

Universal search: Searches user’s applications, contacts, dialing information, and web.

Activity cards: Third party and ROM applications accessible as movable, multi-view cards.

Palm Services: Includes over-the-air backup, restore, remote erase, and software updates.

Palm Touchstone (sold separately)

Charging Dock: Compatible


Width: 59.5mm (2.3 inches)
Height: 100.5mm (3.9 inches)
Thickness: 16.95mm (0.67 inches)
Weight 135 grams (4.76 ounces)

Click on the thumbnail images for a bigger picture

Slideshow of the Palm Pre smartphone

Product Video

Overview of the Palm Pre smartphone

Palm Pre overview video review at YouTube

This concludes part 1 of a 5 part review of the Palm Pre smartphone. Part 2 will cover the software with videos showing how it looks from the inside. Part 3 will cover the camera and compares images taken by the Nokia E71, Treo 750 and Palm Pre. Part 4 will cover my observations of features I liked and did not like about the Palm Pre. Part 5 will conclude the series with my final thoughts.

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Palm Pre smartphoneCheck out the Palm Pre here!

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