Early Impressions of the Palm Pre: Tag Team Style

pre-geek-in-trainingSo James and I are each back from our respective early morning run for Palm’s Pre (s PALM). While there’s no way we could come close to outdoing the several awesome reviews that hit on Thursday, we thought to share our collective early thoughts. Neither of us had any issues with the sales or activation process — props to Sprint (s S) for a fun and easy launch. Obviously, your mileage may vary based on your location.

Before I forget, I should thank my son Tyler for getting up so early and waiting in line with me. Hey, 11 years old isn’t too young to start the geek training, is it? :)

Now…on to the Palm Pre!

Box and presentation:

Kevin-  The design of the package is very Apple-like, for lack of a better term. It reminds me of some recent HTC packages as well. The box has an angled cut for a portion of the back, so it can be its own “display.” Very elegant!

James- There is a clear plastic card with the manual that says “inspired by and designed in California.” Could this have something to do with all those ex-Apple engineers?  :)


Physical device in general:

Kevin- You’ve all seen the Pre enough by now that I don’t have to describe it. While I understand why some folks have used the word “plasticky” to describe it, I don’t think that should be a negative. It is plastic, so that’s how it should feel. But it does feel solid; after all, it’s shorter than my iPhone, but thicker due to the slide-out QWERTY. Yet it weighs a little more. The weight feels “right” to me. Buttons are placed nicely and blend in well.

James- I find the Pre to feel rather solid in the hand, and folks will be surprised how small it is. It is slippery out of the box — I almost dropped it in the Sprint store. The matte back that comes with the Touchstone fixes that problem.

Here’s a shot of the iPhone 3G, Pre, Storm and G1:



Kevin- I love the screen. It’s bright and vibrant, although I haven’t used it outside as it’s a cloudy, rainy day here. The 480 x 320 res is great for this screen size. Everything looks super-clear.

James- Ditto. Putting it next to the iPhone 3G, the Pre screen is much smaller. It is so crisp that it doesn’t seem to be smaller, especially when browsing the web.


Kevin- I knew it was small and would take some getting used to, but I feel like I’m already getting used to it. The keys don’t stick out very far, but you easily feel their rubbery texture. The actual slide-out mechanism is pretty thin, but not flimsy. As far as I know so far, the keyboard is not backlit. I could be mistaken on that, but that’s my impression as of now. I can already type as fast as I can on my iPhone keyboard, so I anticipate that with further experience, I’ll exceed my iPhone typing speeds. The gesture area under the screen is very useful: left swipe to go back in whatever app you’re in.

James- I am not a thumb board person generally but I haven’t had any problems getting used to this keyboard. The keys are rubbery in feel, which makes them work well for me. They are not slippery at all.



Kevin- So far, so very good. :) Apps might not open instantly in some cases, but overall, I’m finding WebOS to be snappy. Multi-tasking with cards is (dare I say it?) fun. Email setup was painless, although I had to do the manual setup for my GigaOM/Google Apps account. Pretty standard fare there. I haven’t spent much time looking at the other apps just yet. The notifications are smartly done…very informative, but not intrusive.

James- It is faster in operation than I had been led to expect by some of the early reviews. I have opened six apps at the same time, and everything felt it was working as I would expect, not slow.

Third-party apps:

Kevin- We already knew the software cupboard would be pretty bare. Hopefully, Palm gets the Mojo SDK out to the general developer community soon, because I’m already missing my fave apps: Facebook, Mint, USA Today, TwitterFon and WordPress Mobile. There are some Twitter apps in the App Catalog, so I’ll grab them for now. BTW: I used the WordPress Mobile app on my iPhone this morning to post from the Pre line. I’m a huge NASCAR fan, so I can’t wait to try that one tomorrow during the Pocono race. Pandora is already rocking on the Pre.

James- I watched the Disney channel live through Sprint TV that is installed, and it was just like watching a little, tiny TV. That’s all I’ve had time to play with so far.

Sound quality:

Kevin- The speaker on the Pre is louder than I had expected. The included headphones are certainly usable, but I’ll probably use my Shure set in the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is at the top, center of the Pre. I don’t have a Bluetooth stereo headset for now, but I will use the Pre with the Plantronics Voyager PRO for voice calls.

James- Call quality is good, the speakerphone is loud. I love the way the phone is automatically switched to speakerphone mode when it’s sitting on the Touchstone charger.

Web browsing:

Kevin- This gets its own category for two reasons. First, I use the web on my phone all the time. Second, because it’s that good on the Pre. Our home page is rendering in under 10 seconds over EVDO. Of course, the signal strength will have much to do with getting the data to the browser, so your mileage may vary. Intelligent zooming and scrolling works well. The browser lags less than the one on my iPhone.

James- I am impressed with the browser experience and the speed on the Sprint 3G network. A few minutes ago, I connected to my home Wi-Fi network, and it now blows me away. It is definitely faster than the iPhone, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry Storm.


Kevin- I hated to get the last Touchstone at my store, but I’m already glad I got it. I haven’t even used it yet, but I’m happy because the little door that covers the Pre’s USB port is small and hard to open for me.

James- This thing is simply awesome! It is almost worth the price of admission to the Pre for me. It doesn’t come with a power adapter; you have to use the one that comes with the Pre itself, which surprises me a little. The gecko surface on the bottom of the Touchstone is nice and grippy, and the Pre pops on the charger with no effort — very nice technology.

Here’s the Touchstone and the two Palm Pre back covers; Touchstone cover on left:



Kevin- Too soon to tell yet, but I quickly snapped a pic of my desk in so-so lighting:


I emailed the pic to myself, and you can see the full-resolution image by clicking it above.


Kevin- I think I know why Palm didn’t let anyone hold the device until the launch. The backside gets fairly warm. In as little as 10 to 15 minutes of usage, I noticed heat on the back, just under the Palm logo. I’ll have to put the Touchstone compatible back on my Pre to see if that makes a difference, although I suspect it won’t. As a point of reference: My iPhone can get this hot, too, but not during everyday use. I noticed it with the iPhone when I play a game like Peggle. On the Pre, I notice it just by using the web or email. Also, as nice as it is to have a removable battery, I found it pretty difficult to remove the back cover.

James- When Kevin mentioned the heat issue to me, I was surprised. I had changed the back of my Pre to the Touchstone compatible one, and I haven’t noticed any heat, even now that he has me looking for it.

More to follow:

Obviously, we’ve had very little playtime with the Pre, and there’s so much more to look at. Overall, we’re pretty impressed so far, and there’s sure to be more thoughts to share. Pop any questions in the comments, and we’ll see about answering them in a written follow-up, or perhaps with a video Geek Session!