5 Gotchas That Could Hold Back Success of Palm’s Pre


palm-preThis is it, folks. After nearly six months of waiting for it to arrive, the Palm Pre  (s PALM) hits retail locations this Saturday, June 6th. Barb and I each have a first-generation Apple iPhone (s AAPL), but I’ve convinced her that we really “need” a new Palm Pre. Our intention is to purchase two handsets on Saturday morning and go with the $129.99 Everything Data Family deal, which gives us 1500 shared minutes on Sprint’s (s S) network.

That all sounds like a plan, but as I often do before making a technology purchase, I’m assessing some of the compromises that I’ll have to make. Many of you will, too, if you go down this road, so here are the five gotchas of the Pre that are currently on my mind.

1. 8 GB of non-expandable storage capacity. This really bugs me because I’ve held onto my 8 GB iPhone for nearly two years. I really hate to upgrade a device and not actually upgrade some of the key features. I really wish Palm had added a slot for microSD flash memory. As it stands now, my 9 GB digital music collection doesn’t fit on my 2-year-old phone. And it won’t fit on my brand-new one, either. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a Pre with greater storage capacity (either internal or via a memory card) rumored or introduced in the next 6-9 months.

2. Those keys are small. Others have just found this out recently, but I tickled those chicklets on the Pre back in April. The keyboard buttons are very reminiscent of Palm’s other recent devices like the Centro and 800w. I’d like to think that Palm or a third party will develop a software keyboard to give users an option. Why not offer the best of both worlds for text input?

3. Synergy is a blessing, but could be a curse. One of the most appealing and strong features of the Pre is the Synergy feature of WebOS. Finally, I won’t have to manage my contacts any longer — they’ll manage themselves, since Synergy will stay up to date via Gmail and Facebook. But the Facebook sync appears to be an all-or-nothing at the moment. Ideally, I’d like to have Synergy synchronized with particular groups I’ve configured in Facebook. Having looked through the Palm Pre user’s manual, I didn’t see such an option mentioned. I’ll likely not use the Facebook sync but for folks who do, they could end up with a ton of contacts, pics and phone numbers that they simply don’t want to carry around. That’s going to frustrate the folks that don’t realize how useful Universal Search is in this case. Plus, storage space is at a premium on this device to begin with, and I’d rather not tote data I don’t need to tote.

4. Developers, Developers, Developers – I said this when the first Google Android (s GOOG) handset arrived, too. Apple has set the bar with the iPhone and iTunes App Store. When folks think “smartphone” these days, they’re equating that with a device that has bunches of applications available for it. Palm has only released the Mojo SDK to a small number of partners so we’re not likely to see hundreds of apps available for some time yet. The faster we see applications for the Pre, the more chance of success Palm will have with it. I’m not a huge user of applications on my iPhone, nor is Barb, so this isn’t a killer for us.

5. Sprint – I have no issue switching over to Sprint. I’ve been using my Kindle 2 as a $359 Sprint 3G network detector for the past two months and I’m satisfied that my coverage will suffice. But not everyone is keen on switching to Sprint, which I’d call the No. 3 of the Big Four carriers here. The challenge will be for Sprint and Palm to sell enough Pre handsets to keep Palm moving forward. I’m starting to wonder if the six-month exclusive deal is more of a hindrance than a benefit here. If Palm had struck a shorter deal, they could have Palm Pres in the hands of customers on much larger networks.

These issues and others aside, I’m still sold on the device and the platform. Assuming I can get my hands on one this weekend, here’s what I expect:

  • A far faster web experience than on my current handset. From what I’ve seen the browser is extremely fast.
  • A few days of getting used to the hardware keyboard. It took me around three days to get comfortable with the iPhone keyboard, so that’s what I’m willing to give the Pre.
  • The joy of running apps in the background, although I’ll be watching for the hit on battery life. I’ve wanted to stay logged into Google Talk for work all day on my phone, but simply can’t with the device I own now.
  • A feeling that I got a really good value. For $129.99 a month, we’ll have two phones with plenty of talk time for us, several premium Sprint services (Sprint TV, NASCAR, GPS Navigation etc….) and unlimited data access for the web, email and more.



I must disagree with those who say the lack of a storage card slot doesn’t matter. One of the things I like about the Treo 700p is the SD slot. I can take an SD card, put it in my camera, put it in my PC’s card reader, use it in the Treo. This is very handy, and I am disappointed that Palm dropped it in this iteration.


Number 1 is a non-issue and I can only imagine you included it to make sure you had a list of five. Does the iPhone has a memory card slot? Nope.

It doesn’t need one. If anything Palm should have (could be) releasing a 16GB/32GB version of their phone(s). If people needed more memory – Apple would have included it. I’d imagine that people with 80GB of music/video probably have a standalone music player.

While it’s great that your phone can carry music, there are going to be compromises and it’s one of them.

SanDisk came out with MP3 players with memory card slots and while people loved the concept, it didn’t help them become an “iPod killer.”

Kevin C. Tofel

“Number 1 is a non-issue and I can only imagine you included it to make sure you had a list of five. Does the iPhone has a memory card slot? Nope.”

You’re right, the iPhone doesn’t have a memory card slot. But it *does* have a 16GB model and we’re likely to see a 32GB device next week. Palm has one model of the Pre: 8GB. For some folks, that’s not enough. For me, it will have to be.

John in Norway

All of your problems could be solved by moving to another country and buying a proper phone. :)

John in Norway

Afraid not, Kevin. Been bought by a couple of lesbians (I kid you not).


Hmmm… So you haven’t got your hands on it yet, that explains it.

1) Everyone knew the Pre did not have expandable memory, why is that a problem now?

2) I saw the Pre is person, the keyboard is not that much smaller than the Bold’s keyboard and it is larger than the Centros keyboard. In fact, Slashgear has a review unit, the side-by-side pictures clearly show the keyboard isn’t cramped as some are saying. http://mypre.com/palm-pre-review-2-2009031789/

3) You do not have to setup facebook, if you insist on facebook, you can always log into facebook from a desktop and clean it up

4) If a phones success was dependent on an app store, how did the 1st generation iphone make it through the 1st year? Why is the Blackberry doing so well. Give the Pre time, the development community will warm up to it. Actually, 60% of the developers who wrote app’s for the iphone have already signed up for Palms SDK

5) Sprints network is a bonus, I do not understand why people try to slam Sprint. Sure they had customer service issues, they have since cleaned it up. Verizons customer service is steadily going down hill.

@brettbum, Verizon is not getting the Pre in August, Sprint has the Pre at least through 2009.

Kevin C. Tofel

I’m thinking that you’ve missed the point of the post, which was “I’m assessing some of the compromises that I’ll have to make.” Nearly all of the reviews I read last night (after my post was published) pointed out the same things that I did. ;)


The Pre NDA has been lifted, so you can check out a number of reviews now. I suggest the Engadget one, as it’s definitely the best, or the second best one is PreCentral.net one (which despite being a Pre-focused site, is very objective.)


number 5 is my biggest concern. Doesn’t help that Verizon is picking up the PRE in August because Verizon is expensive as hell. :)


Not just expensive, but the phone will be crippled by Verizon as usual. Sprint has got some bad reputation, but in my experience, it’s no worse than Verizon and way better than AT&T in terms of call clarity and data speed/coverage.


Kevin, have you considered holding off a few weeks for perhaps a WinMo device like the Touch Pro 2? It would eliminate 1,2 and 5 off your list, while 4 wouldn’t matter, leaving just no. 3 to ponder over. Can you mention anything the TP2 “wouldn’t” be good for?

James Kendrick

I can’t speak for Kevin but for me there is no comparison between WinMo & WebOS. That is the big draw to the Pre, not comparing each little feature of the phone.

Kevin C. Tofel

I think James hit it spot on. Everyone has their own preference for a mobile OS and although I used Windows CE / Pocket PC / Windows Mobile for 7 years, switching to an iPhone was a breath of very fresh air. Palm’s WebOS is another step forward for me personally, so while I’d entertain WinMob (or S60 / BB / Android for that matter), I’d rather go with WebOS for now, simply for the experience factor.


Is the sound quality on the Pre any good? I haven’t read anything about that anywhere.

The iPhone is already lacking in the SQ department (with good earphones) so I can’t help but question if the Pre will be any better. My guess is that it will be adequate but not impressive. I still prefer dedicated DAPs for audio playback, though, so I guess no phone is ever up to snuff. :)


I do agree that given the current state of technology 8 GB is not nearly enough. I guess that since I’ve got way more music than the 16GB on my iPhone that I’ve gotten used to carry around another media player. I’d love a 64GB iPod Touch.

Do you buy Palm’s claim that they couldn’t fit a micro-SD slot on the device?


Of these, I would think 2 is the biggest issue. 3 is annoying but could be something they’ll change with a software update (not every company makes you wait 1 year for an update like Apple does) and universal search should make scrolling through contacts a thing of the past.

I’ll be honest that I don’t get #1, except in theory. In practice, 8 GBs is more than enough for my current favorite songs that I may want at any moment. For anything more, a 32GB Touch is not a large item to carry around. My iPhone has shown me the flaw of an all in one. Yes, I have a lot (but not all) my music and videos, but if I use my iPhone as an iPod for more than an hour (especially for video) the battery dies and it becomes useless as a phone.

Kevin C. Tofel

Completely understand your viewpoint on number one as it’s a personal preference. I’d simply rather not pick and choose which music I want to carry and then sync it over every time I want to change what’s local and what isn’t. Besides: after nearly 2 years with 8 GB, it would be nice to see more storage space or memory expansion which is pretty standard fare these days. The technology is obviously there and the cost isn’t prohibitive. I don’t carry a second digital audio player, so the extra capacity is appealing. Not a deal-breaker for me, but I’m a little bummed out. Others won’t care or see this as an issue.

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