Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Palm Pre Trvth

Palm Pre PlusHere's an update on the Palm Pre, now that I've been using it for a little over 2 months.

Over Easter weekend, I used it on a trip to southern Illinois. Throughout the trip I used it for GPS, streaming music from the Internet, streaming that same music from the Pre to the bluetooth speakers in my car, and as a phone (all at once). With the Pre plugged into the adapter in my car, it's power draw was close to break even; the battery actually went down a little (from 100% to 80%) during a 2.5-hour drive. Additionally, it got a little warm while charging and running all of these radios & apps at the same time. Once I arrived at my destination, I was able to use WiFi connectivity for faster Internet.

Having always-on Internet in my pocket changes the way I use the Internet. When a point of trivia arises, instead of thinking "I could google that", I just go ahead and google it. I carry my Pre loose in my pocket, though I did apply a full-body Zagg (indestructible, thin, nano-tech) skin.

  • Always-on Internet, with easy access to Google, Wikipedia, Youtube, etc.
  • True multi-tasking, with notification area for updates from running apps
  • Automatic, background syncing of contacts, etc. with Internet services; no backups required. If you lose your device, a replacement device will have all of your apps/contacts/etc. automatically, within a few minutes of activation.
  • GPS with Google Maps built in, 802-11b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1
  • Accelerometer for game control using tilt, shake, etc.
  • Attractive 3.1" 480x320 display w/3D graphics and 16M colors
  • Touch-active screen with multi-touch (pinch/spread to zoom, etc.)
  • Proximity sensor disables touch screen when you hold the phone to your ear
  • Video playback
  • Desktop-style web browser
  • Appears as a removable USB drive if you connect it to your PC, allowing file transfer via drag-and-drop
  • Ability to use the cellular Internet connection + WiFi to create a mobile WiFi-anywhere hotspot supporting up to 5 other devices (Verizon charges for this, and I haven't actually tried it). Laptop owners who don't mind the cost should love this.
  • Linux under the hood, with easy access to a root prompt for tinkering; WebOS is a joy to use
  • Well-developed community of users whose work provides features and enhancements otherwise pricey or not available
  • Palm App Store & community app store on the device; all software added wirelessly. It's possible to own a Pre and never use its USB cable.
  • 3M-pixel camera with flash and video capture
  • Regular software updates from Palm (from v1.3.5 to v1.3.5.1, and then to v1.4, since mid-January)
  • Best cellular connectivity I've had (I no longer need to leave the basement at home when a call comes in)
  • 16GB storage
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Hardware mute, LED notifications, hard volume buttons, all work even when device is sleeping
  • All-day battery life when you're not torturing the device; I torture mine daily, but I also charge it nightly, and can charge it at work if necessary.
  • Optional Touchstone charging system (wireless magnetic inductive coupling); I have one at home, and another at work.

  • Biggest problem - the keyboard sometimes bounces and/or drops keypresses, making proofreading a necessity
  • Lack of a 5-way navigator (up/down/right/left/OK), making editing out those typos more awkward
  • Touchstone charging devices are sometimes flaky, charging to only about 90% before losing connectivity; I have 2 of these, and one is flawless, the other flaky
  • Aggressive power-saving; when the device auto-sleeps, the GPS stops updating and needs to re-sync on wake. The background "cron" service also sleeps, though this is moot unless you're tinkering.
  • GPS draws a lot of power; continuous use of GPS (not plugged in, auto-sleep disabled) yields ~2.5 hours battery life
  • Streaming music from the Internet and re-streaming it via Bluetooth uses a lot of power; continuous use for music like this (not plugged in) yields ~4 to 5 hours battery life
  • No expandable memory, though I use a tiny fraction of the 16GB capacity; if I added movie-length videos this might matter.

    [Edit -- writing this review was a good exercise; I now feel even better about owning/using my Palm Pre. If the keyboard were more reliable, this device would be nearly perfect.]

    Unknown said...

    Very cool. Look out iPhone & Droid?

    Don Appleman said...

    As slick as the Palm Pre is, I don't see it being much of a threat to the iPhone. That device is supported by too many Apple fan-boys for the Pre to catch up. As for the Droid, the Pre might provide some decent competition.

    The biggest problem seems to be the inability of Palm to wage the kind of marketing campaign that was used to launch its competitors. Even superior hardware and/or software can't help if no one knows about it.

    Don Appleman said...

    Well, I'm an even happier Palm Pre user now. The biggest problem I've had with my Pre since I got it is the intermittent keyboard, which would both drop and bounce keys.

    I assumed it was the hardware, but I got a software update to the OS overnight (v1.4.1.1) that appears to fix the keyboard! Ah, the joys of a strictly bugfix software update.