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Post-Review Thoughts On Palm's Pre

It's been almost three weeks since my review of Palm's Pre smartphone ran, and so it's due--um, overdue--to return to Palm's PR department.

Since that story and its accompanying blog post, I've learned a few new things about this $200-ish smartphone.

One is that keeping its system software and add-on applications current requires little more than a tap of its Updates tool to check for, download and install any updates. So far, Palm has shipped two minor revisions to the Pre's operating system--one with various bug fixes and performance tweaks, a second with security patches.

The Pre's App Catalog of add-on programs remains nearly vacant, with only 29 applications listed on the review Pre today--but by a week ago, Pre users had still racked up one million software downloads. Palm has also announced that it will open its app-development program to the public by the end of the summer

Sprint, the only wireless carrier to offer the Pre in the U.S., has not revealed sales numbers, though it did brag that the Pre "had broken previous sales records (first day and first weekend) for a Sprint device." One outside analyst's research, however, suggests that the Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier sold more than 300,000 Pre phones in June.

Other carriers will have to wait to sell the Pre or a comparable device running its software. There's plenty of evidence that Palm is developing and testing a version that works on the GSM wireless technology used by AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile in the U.S., as well as in most other countries. Verizon Wireless, for its part, seems interested in selling the Pre once Sprint's exclusivity ends.

Finally, I've had the chance to try out two extra Pre features. The first, its $69.99 cordless Touchstone charger, seems a tad pointless. Yes, it's cool to be recharge the Pre (once you replace its back cover with a slightly heavier substitute included in the Touchstone's box) by leaving it on top of this pedestal. But is it that hard to plug in the Pre's USB cable? Won't you need to do that every few days anyway to copy a different set of songs to the phone?

The second feature--the "Full Erase" option waiting behind the Device Info app's "Reset Options" button--is a lot more practical, at least to reviewers who need to scrub their data off a device before returning it. After a tap to confirm an are-you-sure prompt, the Pre shut down, rebooted, and a minute or two later launched into the setup screens you'd see if you had just taken it out of the box, showing no evidence of my old data. That's a lot more convenient than the memory-wipe routines I've seen on other phones.

I happen to be a Sprint customer myself, so the Pre could be a logical upgrade. But I'd first like to know what features a 1.1 update to the Pre's operating system might bring (the ability to synchronize only some Facebook contacts would be a real help, for example). I'd also need to have a wider variety of add-on programs, which probably means waiting for Palm to open up software development for the device. What about you: What would you want to see happen with the Pre before you'd consider buying it?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 1, 2009; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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I would not consider buying a Sprint device. So, if I even consider giving up the iPhone, it would be after the Pre is on Verizon or AT&T. But, I expect the iPhone to continue outpacing the Pre as time passes.

Posted by: query0 | July 2, 2009 4:15 AM | Report abuse

I agree with query0. I would like the Pre to be on Verizon Wireless's network, which is the best network (according to Consumer Reports and other surveys). I have had too many problems with Sprint in the past. Yeah I use an iPhone, and yeah I would rather it were on Verizon Wireless as well.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | July 2, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

A great device does not make up for a crappy network, so until the Pre is avaialble from Verizon Wireless there is no way that I am going to consider this. I already deal with weak or non-existent service my company Blackberry Curve on T-Mobile and the only positive is that the WiFi feature allows me to actually use it in my home office. Otherwise, I need to walk outside to a spot about 100 yards from my garage in the middle of the street - hardly the place to conduct an hour-long conference call. What amazes me is that nearly everyone in my company that I mention this to experiences the same thing, so why we keep T-Mobile is simply a mystery.

Posted by: skipper7 | July 2, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I would not consider buying a Sprint device. So, if I even consider giving up the iPhone, it would be after the Pre is on Verizon or AT&T. But, I expect the iPhone to continue outpacing the Pre as time passes.
Posted by: query0 | July 2, 2009 4:15 AM |

I see the VZN/ATT fanboyz are out in force again.
Enjoy overpaying for your monthly services while having VZN neuter your phones' capabilities & AT&T dropping every1's calls.

Keep sticking with your old outdated Consumer Reports or biased personal wives' tales.
We're always connected & on a 4G network over here.

ps - u will still need a subsidy VZN snobs to get that Pre.

Posted by: Rocc00 | July 2, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Undo & Cancel when editing
More intuitive Cut & Paste
Better Cut & Paste integration with Web Pages
Voice commands
Text to voice
Universal search needs to search all text on the phone
Full use of Bluetooth (ability to send and receive files)
Video Camera
On Screen keyboard (just because)

As for Sprint, I'm enjoying them again. They've come a LONG way when it comes to customer service and i rarely drop calls.

Posted by: CMercs | July 2, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Rob, I'm going to disagree about the Touchstone. I fully expected it to be useless, but quickly fell in love. (I picked one up to try out, half expecting to return it.)

First off it removes a bit of the tangled mass of USB cables I seem to be drowning in. But I love the little features -- setting the phone down while talking switches instantly to speakerphone, or picking it up when ringing will answer it just like a regular phone. Charging is quick and I don't have to fiddle with that flimsy port cover on the Pre.

At first I hated the way it left the screen always on, but now I've grown to like that fact (even though it means I can't have it in my bedroom at night). The always-on notifications make this a useful widget. At work I leave it opened to the day's calendar and it's more useful than Outlook's summary. I'm hoping they update the photo viewer to do slideshows, that would effectively also make this a digital picture frame.

Plus, the technology is just "cool" and it's kinda stylish looking. I wouldn't call the Touchstone essential, but I'm glad I tried it out and am definitely not returning it after all.

Posted by: misere | July 2, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm a long-time (~10 years) Palm(Visorphone, Treo 270, Treo 600, Treo 650, Centro) user, and have been on Sprint for about 3 years. Sprint's customer service is terrible, but I've had no problem with their network, and am pleased with the rates that I pay (roughly $39.99 for voice plus $15 for data).

I would like to get a Pre when my contract expires this fall. But I won't do it unless Sprint offers airtime pricing which is close to what I pay now for my Centro.

Posted by: jaepstein63 | July 2, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I had a Palm Zire to go with my trusty (and crusty) old Nokia phone (on AT&T), and I recently went iPhone, and I'm quite happy . . . I think the Pre looks GREAT, and I loved the Palm OS, but I couldn't drop AT&T because my whole family is on there . .. but I can't imagine how small your fingers have to be to make a Centro practical. If the Pre comes to AT&T, I'll seriously consider it in two years.

Posted by: mdean3 | July 2, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I should add that i have the Pre and LOVE it.

Posted by: CMercs | July 2, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

It's only me but the only thing I use a phone for is for making phone calls. I don't need to take pictures at a concert, I don't need to play games, I really can't come up with a reason to text anyone that isn't worth my calling and talking to directly. I can't, for the life of me, see why I might need any of the hundreds of applications that come with a cell phone.

For that matter, I like the commercial where the guys says essentially what I just did, and his friends keep trying to persuade him why he needs to "modernize."

Sometimes simple is just, for the most part, better. It's not everything, but it does what it does just fine.

Posted by: Dungarees | July 2, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I switched from Verizon to Sprint and couldn't be happier.

When you factor in roaming, Verizon and Sprint have nearly identical voice coverage. And unless you live in the boonies you won't notice any difference in data coverage either (for me, Sprint's data service is better than Verizon's).

And Sprint is much cheaper than Verizon. I honestly don't understand why people choose Verizon over Sprint. Suckers for clever marketing maybe? I don't see it....

Posted by: ghokee | July 2, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone seen the commercial for the Pre? The one with the big circle? I was enchanted.

Posted by: jaycee3 | July 2, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse


Fella, you need to either cut back on the caffeine or try some anger management courses. Personally attacking other posters over a political disagreement is bad enough, but doing it over a gd cell phone?

State your opinion with some civility if you want anyone to take you seriously. Otherwise, you just come off sounding like an immature nutcase.

Posted by: hisroc | July 2, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"It's only me but the only thing I use a phone for is for making phone calls. I don't need to take pictures at a concert, I don't need to play games, I really can't come up with a reason to text anyone that isn't worth my calling and talking to directly. I can't, for the life of me, see why I might need any of the hundreds of applications that come with a cell phone.
Posted by: Dungarees"

On a long commute, you have lots of time to kill. I would read, but eventually, you get "read out." I would listen to music, then podcast, then back to reading. I even took a DVD player on the bus and train to eat of time.

Now, I had a phone too. A phone and an MP3 player. Why have two? And if it can play video, great! And games, I can try that too. And if it helps me find something near by. Or can tell me if the weather is going to be good later today. Or stocks, etc... Heck, if someone wants to see pictures of my kids, I whip it out. I was meeting with an friend and we decided to check out a movie. I pulled out the IPhone, fired up Showtimes, saw times, and even showed him a trailer.

Basically, I found myself growing to accommodate whatever the device would do. Even my wife, wants an IPhone. Why? The pictures was initially the most compelling thing. But things the devices are not only cool, IMO, but useful.

If you can afford it, I recommended a good smartphone. The same thing people like you say about the smartphone, people like you said about the PC, then the Internet, yet year you are, posting. At the moment, you just lack imagination, but the usefulness of smartphones and related apps are no different than what you used to post your opinion.

Posted by: eternalemperor | July 2, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I just returned my pre after 3 weeks. I very much wanted it to replace my palm treo but will now probably wait until version 1.1 or 2.0. Here are the problems I saw, I dont expect everyone to agree.
-Limited apps (that will no doubt get fixed with time)
-the calendar. google calendar without syncing tasks is pretty limiting. Other apps have more customization of views which allow you to better control how you see your info.
-no backup. I have data on my phone that I need to sync with my desktop and, I need to know that it can be backed up someplace.
-interface is too sleek to use easily. Maybe this is an invalid argument but I liked having menus that would allow me to get to the options that I wanted to customize. I dont want the device to limit my ability to make it work for my needs even if it means that it is sleek and beautiful, after all some of us need a tool not a toy.
- touchscreen. Maybe i am alone on this but my fat fingers werent able to easily tap the area that I needed especially when working on the bottom part of the screen and there was an alert showing incoming messages.
-gestures (the movements between screens) I still wasnt able to figure out how to delete an email from the list, sometimes a quick gesture to the left would work but sometimes I would have to gesture to the right to delete. ---same goes for closing a card or canceling an action, sometimes it was closed by flicking backwards, sometimes by some other method like going to a menu and selecting cancel, but I never quite knew which was going to work and ended up having to try them all. Gestures seem pretty slick but they were not intuitive for me.
-video camera. Silly request maybe unless you are used to having it on your phone.
-voice recorder, phone call recorder. this was one of my favorite features of the treo, the ability to instantly start recording a memo or phone call with one touch.
-awkward interface. maybe i just became accustomed to being able to group applications into types or by frequency of use, but I never quite could find the app that I wanted from the launcher and it seemed I was needing to scroll each page in all directions to find the app I wanted to run.
-treo compatibility, dont let them fool you, the old apps you need to run from your palm os probably wont run on the emmulator (unless it improves from the version I had) If you need that, better wait a bit and see if it improves.

All that said, it is a very cool device. I hope that its next version improves on some of these things. I would love to be able to use the phone but am not currently able to sacrifice utility for those great looks.

Posted by: d__barnett | July 2, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I've had my Pre since the first hour it was released here in DC. I have been absolutely thrilled. I've carried some version of a Palm since the early 90s and a Palm smartphone since the early 2000s. The Pre is a gigantic leap forward for Palm. Understandably, some users can't get over the fact that there is no more desktop sync. To me, this is a remarkable achievement. I'm no longer tied to a single desktop to sync my phone. I can be sitting on any computer at work or home and update my calendar or contacts on Google and have them sync reliably with my Pre. Granted, there are still some bugs with the syncing "in the clouds," but for the most part, it works very well. The operating system is elegant and easy to use. I love being able to flip through apps and multi-task. It's come in handy multiple times as I'm flipping from email to contacts or checking my calendar while on the phone. I also love that when I plug the Pre into my computer, it is able to trick iTunes into thinking that the Pre is another iPod.

As far as improvements, I totally agree that the Facebook sync should allow you to selectively pick certain contacts. But even as it is now, it's cool that you can add a friend in Facebook and nearly instantly have their contact info uploaded to your phone. I had to migrate to gmail in order to use the Synergy function. It would be nice to be able to sync with Yahoo.

I also agree that a movie camera would be useful. I understand that Palm has already stated that one is in the works. Many of us old Palm warriors are used to using the Memos to file a wide variety of notes. The Memos on the Pre is sadly not as good as the old Memos apps in Palm OS. I'd like to be able to categorize my notes and see different views (i.e. lists) instead of only seeing these sticky notes. Occasionally, I have wished that there was an onscreen keyboard, but only when I'm web browsing in landscape orientation. Overall, though, I find the Pre's keyboard very easy to use with my large thumbs -- it's noticeably bigger than the keyboard on my Centro.

Again, I couldn't be happier with this phone. I have been waiting patiently for more apps, and I trust that they are coming. Remember that there is a very long history (much longer than the iPhone's) of programs made for the Palm OS. Build it, and they will come...

Posted by: heartdoc | July 2, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

I have 3 Pre's, all working perfectly. The Pre is all I have wanted in a smartphone and more. It's only going to get better with time. Gorgeous phone. Great web browsing. Love the Touchstone charger. Love synergy. Love multitasking. Love the camera. The apps available are very good. Get ready for many more good apps, unlike so many worthless Iphone apps. Previously had Blackberry Curve. Like Pre keyboard as much as Curve's. Tried Iphone and Storm---hated them. Typing on Iphone is-------------bad.

Posted by: bigprefan | July 2, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

I too like the idea of the Touchstone, though it is pricey.

Anything to get rid of a few more cords around my electronic devices is helpful. The great American bedtime routine has come to include plugging in all your electronic devices to recharge overnight. The Touchstone avoids the joys of tripping over cords, playing with plugs, and having to leave cords lying around all day to repeat the process the next night.

Posted by: skshrews | July 3, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

You can't hear. You can hear better with the cheap headphones that come with the phone.

Posted by: luv2surch | July 5, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

I liked your post-review article on the PRE. You bring up one very valid point:

WHY wireless charge when you will need to plug in the USB to load music every few days onto the device. THIS is a point I have been making about wireless versus USB-downloading eBook Readers. Many, many users have told me that they do NOT want wireless on their Astak devices as they also like the idea of having a back-up record on their desktop or notebook.

Astak is coming out with BOTH wireless devices and USB-drag and drop devices. Just as we design with both left and right handed people in mind... we believe at Astak that end users should have the choice they want. Since our eBook Readers sell at around $200 (for professional-grade E-Ink devices) we feel that we have a great line-up.

Posted by: EZReader1 | July 6, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

first off I have to say this is one of the best well balanced reviews I've read so far. Most have been one way or another.

I'm tired of hearing about how bad Sprint is and how great AT&T and Verizon are. Fact is that everyone I personally know that is on AT&T complains non-stop about call quality, poor coverage and dropped calls. The biggest being my sister who might as well not have a mobile phone. The only time that she seems to have coverage is in her house. We were recently in Chicago and even in the heart of Wigleyville, Boys Town, the Museum area and Navy Pier she had no service or one bar. This isn't the boonies it's in the heart of Chicago and the whole time I had between 2 and 5 bars.

As far as service problems with T-Mobile at home you may want to looking into the Airwave towers. Sprint has them and I think Verizon. I'm not sure about T-Mobile. They connect to your home network and work like a mini cell tower for up to 4 or 5 phones. I think the service is about $5 or $6 a month and would solve your problem.

As far as the Pre, I've had mine since June 11th and I've been very happy with it. Granted there are a few things that I would like seen changed and most have already been addressed but the advantages of the phone to others on the market far out way the negative. Also most can be solved either through OS updates or apps.

The file syncing is a bit of a pain at this point but I'm scratching my head when you say you need to back up files on your desktop. To do so all you would have to do is plug in the usb and then choose USB Drive. It is pretty simple, acts just like a flash drive or external hard drive. If we are talking about contacts and outlook, Pocket Mirror works well over WiFi or just download the google sync program. I didn't like the Pocket Mirror cause it tended to create duplicates of calendar events. It is much easier to sync with google and if you need a back up of e-mails set the mail options to not erase the e-mails from the server. Sure you will have to deal with them twice but it would be backed up on your incoming e-mails would be backed up on your desktop.

The Pre is perfect for me because it is in the middle of a toy phone that focuses on content and surfing but it still is business enough to cover appointments, messaging and etc... I would like to see more on the doc side and I think we will see improvements in the near future. I for one would really like to see an Open Office app.

Posted by: davoaxiom | July 7, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

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