First impressions on the Palm Pre
I just got my hands on Palm’s latest entry into the smartphone market, the Pre. I’ve been talking this one up for the last few months, and I’m happy to say that I don’t think that Palm has let me down. My expectations were pretty high, but really I was bracing myself for a disappointment. The bar is so high at this stage in the smartphone game, that anything less than brilliant design and flawless execution will fail to excite. Other than the competition from Apple, the worst thing that the Pre has going for it is that the pictures of it on the net really don’t do it justice. It really is an attractive phone. In print it looks too rounded and maybe a bit too plain. In person, it is visually quite striking. Palm got things right where it counts, but there are still a few rough edges, which I’ll get to shortly.
First, the good stuff :
The touch navigation is amazing. Opening and moving between running apps is easy and fluid. You can do everything except pinch zoom while holding the device in one hand. There is a common UI paradigm that the OS and the applications follow for closing and deleting things where you just flick the item off of the screen to perform the action. As a developer, I think that the platform is going to have a lot to offer the app designer in terms of usability options.
The keyboard is good. I’m not a keyboard aficionado, but the grippy keys feel better to me than the smooth chiclet-style Blackberry keys ever did.
Palm used a non-standard connector for the USB port. Come on, I have a ton of cables, but now I have to keep track of the proprietary one that came with the Pre just to charge it? (Update: I realized that this is just a micro-USB rather than mini-USB connector.) To add insult to injury here, the little plastic cover for the port is really hard to open. I thought that I was going to break it the first time that I tried to remove it.
The sliding action of the keyboard is a bit rough. It seems to be getting better as I use it, but it killed the otherwise very high quality feel of the phone. A little attention to detail here would have really added some polish to the product.
As impressed as I am with the actual Pre product and its presentation, I know that only time will tell if the market will be accepting of the new WebOS platform and the series of smartphones that Palm has planned.