My early impressions of the Palm Pre

Jun 7, 2009 Michael Wurzer

After a sort of late night out with some of my co-workers Friday night, I got up at about 6 a.m. on Saturday (when it was 45 degrees outside) to stand in line for the first time in my life for pretty much anything.  I’m one of those people who will drive 15 minutes more to avoid standing in line at a restaurant for 10 minutes.  Irrational, I know, but that’s how much I dislike waiting in lines.  Anyway, I’ve been a Blackberry Pearl user for about a year and I’ve been very excited to get a real keyboard again, and so I thought I’d brave the cold and the line to get my hands on the new Palm Pre.

I wrote out some pros and cons in an email this morning to Greg Kilwein and thought it would make a decent blog post, too, for those curious about my early impressions with the Pre.

It’s not perfect but it’s pretty great.

The cons:

  • Speed — There are some annoying delays in launching applications.  The delays really only occur in launching apps, though, and general operation is snappy once they’re loaded.  (I have had the NY Times app become non-responsive a few times, but I’m guessing that’s the app’s fault.)
  • Battery life — A day of heavy use may not be possible without a charge.
  • Auto-complete/correction — Palm hasn’t gotten very far yet with auto-complete/correction.  Small things like double-spacing to create a period don’t work (though using the period is easy enough) and it doesn’t correct some basics (like “I’ll”) I’ve gotten used to on my BB.
  • Apps — Though I disagree with most of the criticism over the puny app store (it is a new device, after all, and Apple didn’t even have an app store at all for over a year), I do wish there was an app for Google Reader, which I used all the time on my BB.  I was, however, pleased to find a Twitter app (Twead) and a NYTimes app, and there are a few others (movie times and tickets, Internet radio, etc.) I haven’t tried yet.
  • Calendar — Surprisingly, given that this is a Palm device, I’ve found the UI for the calendar frustrating.  Either I’m not doing it right, or they’ve left some basic navigation out like flipping through months.  You can flip through days but I haven’t figured out a way to flip through the months, which is something I do quite a bit.

The pros:

  • Size/Keyboard — I’d say the size of the device is perfect.  It’s neither too big or too small, but just right.  The keyboard is cramped, for sure, but it seems to be a decent compromise between a big keyboard like the Blackberry Bold has and something small like my Pearl that can’t handle a full keyboard.  Also, as David Pogue says, “it’s better than typing on glass.”
  • Screen — Amazingly beautiful; looking at the wallpapers/images they provide is just stunning, they’re so vibrant and colorful.
  • Fit/Finish — I give it an A but not an A+.  I think the device feels very nice in my hand and is quite beautifully designed (and, as mentioned above, is the perfect size).  My one complaint is that the slider isn’t as tight as it could be, and so there’s some sideways movement between the top and bottom even when the device is closed.
  • OS/UI — They’ve done a really great job here, and it mostly makes up for the speed issues.  Keeping many applications open is really handy and makes up for the short lags when loading an application (and, no, having many apps open doesn’t seem to change the speed, either with more or fewer apps running).  Organizing and accessing the applications through the “cards” also is easy and fun.  And the UI is simply gorgeous.
  • Email Client — The email client is one of the best parts of the device, because it combines into one UI both my FBS and gmail accounts.  You can view them together or separate.  Awesome.  Also, it supports full HTML email and so Jira and Confluence emails look good again, which they didn’t with my Pearl.
  • Google sync — Calendars and contacts, effortlessly. I mentioned this on Twitter, but I was really surprised when I found all my contacts and phone numbers loaded.  I vaguely recall syncing my BB to Google but it was still a surprise that everything just showed up on the Pre.
  • Contacts — Probably because of the Google sync, the contacts just worked.  Start typing the name you want and the email, phone and other contact info shows up right away.  Very speedy.  (As mentioned above, the speed issues almost always have to do with app loading.  Overall, the speed of operation is snappy.)
  • Browser — Very nice and powerful.  Supports a ton of javascript.  Google Reader even works for the most part, which means there is less need for an app, but it definitely would be better to have an app.
  • Features — The device and software do so much, it’s really amazing.  In addition to basics like email, SMS, web browser, etc., it sports:
    • GPS with real driving directions over the speakerphone (it’s really like buying two devices, a phone and a GPS);
    • Sprint TV — though I doubt I’ll use this much, it’s wicked cool to be able to watch live TV on your phone;
    • Music — I also won’t use this, but it’s effectively an iPod and even syncs with iTunes;
    • Camera — haven’t used it enough yet to know the quality but the UI is quite nice;
    • Wifi — Haven’t used this yet either but I think it’s cool that it has wifi, though the Sprint service is fast enough that I haven’t cared yet; and
    • Bluetooth — necessary for hands-free in the car.

I think that’s about it.  Overall, I’m really glad I stood in line for the Pre and I’m excited to be back in the land of Palm.