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Summary:

The buzz around the much-awaited Palm Pre has started. The make-or-break device that will define the destiny of the iconic handheld maker will hit the market later this week. Here is my super-quick hand-on review.

The buzz around the much-awaited Palm Pre has started. The make-or-break device that will define the destiny of the iconic handheld maker will hit the market later this week. For Sprint, the beleaguered mobile carrier, it is a highly anticipated device that will hopefully bring out big-spending smartphone buyers. I have been less than sanguine about Palm’s chances, mostly because it is a company running on fumes and is competing in an extremely crowded marketplace, where Apple’s iPhone, Blackberry and Google’s Android have all the attention.

This past Friday, by sheer accident, someone showed me the new Palm Pre. I tweeted about it. As I said, it is a pretty good-looking device, but it feels a little plasticky and is lower in build quality than a BlackBerry. It is squat, has a nice screen, and is easy to grip. It is round in the right places. However, the slide-out keyboard seems flimsy and cluttered. Let’s just say that after the Blackberry Curve 8900 keyboard, it didn’t quite cut the mustard.

Some Pre Facts

  • Palm Pre will launch on June 6 on Sprint
  • It will cost $199.99 after a $100 rebate
  • Best Buy, RadioShack and certain Wal-Mart stores will sell the Pre, along with Sprint’s online store
  • You will need to buy the Everything Data plan for $69-$99.

There are a lot of features — multi-tasking applications, for instance, that I didn’t get to play around with much. However, thanks to a rock-solid Sprint EVDO network, browsing on the device was really fast. Palm seems to have done a great job of developing a WebKit-based browser. Its implementation seems to be on par with the WebKit-based browsers from Apple and Google. It easily trumps Nokia’s WebKit-based browser.

I liked how Palm has turned WebKit into the user interface for the phone. The phone is good at integrating apps with a unified address book and syncing.

Now, let’s talk about the Palm WebOS, its new operating system. From what you can read on the web, it seems to be one heck-of-an operating system, that is oozing with smarts that include live searching (of the entire phone and the Web), Unified address book (Facebook, Outlook and any other address books), Unified calendaring and dozens of other such features. [From GigaOM Archives]

I wish I had more time to play around with it, but these are very early impressions. Despite all that, I am not ready to rush to the nearest Sprint store and buy the device. Current Sprint subscribers clamoring for a good smartphone will likely be the early adopters of this phone.

In the world of smartphones, there are currently five players — Apple, RIM, Microsoft, Google and Nokia — Palm can bring up the rear. One thing Palm will have going for it: its developer community. Community, a good browser, a decent web-centric (WebOS) operating system, along with the current hype around Pre, should help Palm sell itself to someone more desperate to get into the smartphone business – like Dell.

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  1. WebOS is definitely the most interesting thing about the Pre.

    Sitting in the Google IO keynote the first day, listening to Vic Gundotra extol the virtues of HTML 5 and everything being done in the browser, I was left wondering why Google is pushing Java technology instead of web technology for their smart phone (Android).

    I like the Android phone we got, but frankly the software keyboard sucks and I see Google handing them out 4,000 of them as a sign of desperation to get developers on board. Maybe it’ll work, but so far there doesn’t seem to be any sort of viable developer ecosystem around the platform.

  2. This reminds me of the ad that IBM did a couple of yrs ago http://yfrog.us/3onbwz , Sprint wants some of Palms old Mojo and Palm has fans but they are from another life (quoting Star Trek). Tough road ahead for both of them and no deep pockets to support their ambitions.

    1. Luis Smarter brother Luis Monday, June 1, 2009

      huh quoating STAR TREK??? from another life? I’m not a huge STA TREK fanatic but the phrase I rememeber is “It’s life Jim but not as we know it” there was even a funny song that used that line in it STAR TREKKING ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

      I wil get the Pre if i can get it and if not the Touch Pro 2.I am never one that has to jump on the IN STYLE cliche of APPLE so I wil get what work for me!!!

  3. Wonderful.. I will waiting this gadget

  4. cary Soriano Monday, June 1, 2009

    The phone will be available at retail stores on launch day, but NOT online at sprint.com. It will be available online for ordering “shortly after” according to Sprint. Also, there are a lot of other “previews” out there so if you’re curious read around and don’t let one preview stop you from playing with the phone yourself

  5. Justas Anaside Monday, June 1, 2009

    Uh…but if a geek like you isn’t interested in The Pre, then WHO is!?

    Palm needs to sell millions upon millions of these guys just to REACH profitability. Is it realistic to think Dell or anyone else is going to buy Palm for billions upon billions of dollars if Palm’s only REAL competing device is a failure because it sells only to geeks who do NOT think internal to Sprint?

    (Palm is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, there are about 200 million outstanding shares when one does not forget the (hidden) Preferred Shares, and the current stock price is about $12/share with contemporary acquisition premiums of about 40% – is there a company out there crazy enough to spend THAT kind of bucks!? Really? Short that company!)

    1. It was reported that Palm spent $170 on each device to make, then sold them to Sprint for let’s say… $350, how is that not a profit? Sprint buys the devices from Palm, not the consumer, the only ways Palm could be hurt are, if Sprint had to return a lot of defective devices, or if Palm agreed to take back unsold units.

      1. Palm has costs of doing business. Those costs are fairly large. Palm also has $400 million in debt that requires interest payments (and final payoff in a year or three). Estimates, perhaps even by Palm, is it’ll take until (mid?) 2010 under ideal conditions before profitability is achieved.

        So, yes, each Pre has 30% gross margins (or whatever number Palm mentioned in their last earning call). But that’s GROSS margin, not NET margin.

        The bottomline is Palm is going to be losing money quarter after quarter for a number of quarters. And if the Pre isn’t a complete smash hit, they’re not going to recover from it.

      2. Minor followup – at least one website out there has a post that says that Palm will begin advertising on Wednesday.

    2. Palm’s Facebook site has also said that there will be an add released on Wed night.

    3. Palm is in a sector that values companies by year-over-year EBITDA growth, not just absolute revenue.

      If they can restructure their debt by EOY while their device sales point upward, they will be valued disproportionately in their favor.

      Add to this the strategic value of their acquisition by Dell or Nokia (or Motorola) and the bidding war that could happen……they are far from moribund.

    4. Luis Smarter brother Justas Anaside Monday, June 1, 2009

      Yeah well millions of people do not lke APLE but that didn’t keep them from suceeding…..WELL actually they almost went bankrupt but their competitor came around in the end and GAVE them a life line IF not for Bill GATESAPPLE would have failed years ago as he gave them hundreds of millions to survive!!!

  6. so my older son (9th grade) has been waiting anxiously for this phone – it’s a belated bday gift (an upgrade to his old handset) BUT now he’s on the fence…he was ready to sit at the store at 4am to get one, but after reading tons of odd reviews this past week, he’s very skeptical and is actually into waiting for an android handset from sprint (when??) or maybe a new ‘other’ smartphone…he’s concerned that it’s going to be a gadgety piece of crap that will break in his pocket when he’s skating at the park – unlike the old blackberry of mine that he has now, which has taken dozens of falls like a champ…

    1. Dave

      Let him have a look at it first. You never know how kids are going to react. I think the problem is that iPhone and new Blackberries have spoiled us from a build-quality perspective. Apart from that Palm has a solid user experience. By the way, the new HTC Android Phone for T-Mobile (G-2) is pretty awesome too. You might want to have him try that as well.

      1. What the hell are you talking about? Do you consider cracking cases, screens, unchangable battery and many is this thing you call build quality? Your insane. This kid gets the upcoming iPhone and will be crying when it’s dead after the first fall on his board. He gets the BB and can’t surf the net or do media stuff that these kids are all about. He get’s android and gets onboard to a not yet fully developed platform.

        I’d say try the Pre and it’s highly praised WebOs operating system for yourself. FOR MORE than 30 seconds that these reviewers of BGR and this blog has done. Keyboards always take more than 30 seconds. Also all the major features on the pre can’t be used before the launch date, that’s why all these new reviews have nothing to cover and are not to hold in any value.

        To all these new tech blogs that can NOT possibly do a real review, because they can’t truly access the features opened at release: STOP LYING!!!!

    2. Mate, NO ONE has reviewed a production version of this phone yet, that are all pre production models. So how accurate do you think their reviews are?

  7. You couldn’t give me an iphone. I have a blackberry curve. Tried Storm. Horrible. The Pre is the phone. No more plasticy than my Blackberry. You are very wrong about the Pre.

  8. I have had hands on time with the Pre and I did NOT think it was cheaply mande. It is plastic, but so are alot of phones. It still felt very solid. It also just feels and looks great. This phone is a solid player in the smartphone field.

  9. I think you are missing the point of the Pre. Its a great option for all those people who dont want an iPhone or BB. Its the best of both worlds.

  10. Apple is the best device for browsing and the BBerry the best for email and corporate access. Where does the Android handsets fit in other than being nothing more than generic road kill. Android like Symbian offers nothing unique other than a vast variety of devices at numerous price points.

    Palm will take sales away from Android, Winmo and Nokia simply becuase it provides the functions these devices do in a more pleasing manner.

    The Pre aims at both the Iphone and BBerry but misses both targets as its web browsing/multimedia performance is slightly behind the Iphone and its email functionality is way behind the BBerry.

    BBerry lead in the corporate market is a great deal more entrenched than Iphone lead in the consumer market – it’s a lot easier to convince consumers than it is to convince businesses.

    1. “The Pre aims at both the Iphone and BBerry but misses both targets as its web browsing/multimedia performance is slightly behind the Iphone and its email functionality is way behind the BBerry.”

      You know this, how?!? Even the biased BGR article and this article have said the web browsing is on par with the iphone. No one (including you) has used the multimedia on the Pre so that remains to be seen. A lot of developers who had the chance to demo the Pre as well, have said the email functionality at least rivals the Blackberry. The ability to have 7 exchange acct’s and direct push are huge. Not to mention how Synergy fully integrates email on the Pre. As to your last comment,”it’s a lot easier to convince consumers than it is to convince businesses.” That does not hold water, especially since Rimm was able to convince businesses to go with the Blackberry as opposed to the then dated PalmOS platform. Businesses can easily be convinced, my company alone will be switching out 67 Blackberry’s in favor of the Pre. I know of many realtors who are using the Blackberry Curve with the new bluetooth Supra lock box which is designed by GE, they will be switching to the Pre as well, once GE or a third party developer creates an app for the Pre.

    2. Apple has a sustainable competitive advantage on the media side and RIM has a long-term competitive advantage on the corporate email side. Neither have a sustainable competitive advantage with the browser/search, because everyone will get the touch screen and browser right eventually. This makes the discussion of WM, Symbian, Android, and WebOS more important considering the massive market RIM and Apple currently ignore. Getting the browser/search right threatens RIM because secure/cheap/widely/ available web-based email becomes possible and Apple because of the price points at which other devices will compete. Furthermore, WebOS and Android help pave the way for devices running real Linux, probably leaving Apple as its only competitor.

      1. Well said,
        As far as BB is concerned , its a one trick pony i.e. email with a real keyboard.
        Om might disagree with this , but take that keyboard and email from BB , the device is almost useless. Web browsing is horrendous not to mention about third party apps.
        In the long run Linux based platforms with strong web under pinning stay alive.

        As a side note, few reviews said the accelerometer on the Pre is most responsive than iPhone.
        Which means the gaming apps will be ready once the WebOS SDK finalizes.

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