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!



just got fed up after the run around with sprint customer service and the local sprint store, I returned it. This morning with 100% battery, nothing running in the back round all settings to off, it took about 5 hours for the phone to go completley dead. I just got back from the store, had my old 755p turned back on. I will be waiting unitl the 19th and getting the new Iphone. So sorry after 12 years I am leaving sprint. They just dont have quality phones or customer service Enough is Enough…


With apps running in the background I’d venture to say the batteries life would be substantially reduced requiring significantly more recharges. Not to mention that memory management will be that much more difficult and cause more crashes.

Kevin C. Tofel

Completely agree on both points. Although it’s only been a single day, I actually haven’t had any crashes yet though. I’m hoping that’s a good sign. ;)


I went on my early morning run and got my new pre. I was very impressed, however about 6 pm I had to make another sprint run…. My phone stayed hot to the touch and the battery will not hold a charge for more than an hour or so. They replaced the battery and still no fix. I will be returning to the store today. I am starting to think I made a mistake.


Is the browser supported by Personal Online Banking?


The music player and Pandora simply rock on this device. I have a Jabra bluetooth stereo headset and listened for about 2.5 hours today. When a call came in the music paused. When I hung up it continued right where it left off. I’ve seen this on commercials for other phones but I’ve never had it actually work right for me.

I have noticed some differences when charging the phone. When plugged into either a Win7 or Vista machine it charges much slower than if it was plugged in using the wall adadpter. Are you guys seeing the same behavior?

I will HAVE to get a Touchstone soon though. That poor excuse they have for a charging cover is ridiculous. I agree with Kevin and have had a hard time getting it open since I don’t want to break the thin plastic cover. I have had better luck if I pry the door open while the keyboard is exposed.


According to Gizmodo it charges much more slowly on the Touchstone than when plugged into the wall. It would be interesting to know how the Touchstone compares to USB charging as well.

How’s the UI in terms of usability? I was watching some videos last night and it looks like it would be a real pleasure to use, especially the app/card switching.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Palm but I might consider switching networks to O2 when this comes to the UK later in the year.


In my opinion the UI is the best part. And I really disliked Palm and PalmOS both because I always hated their UI. I think my favorite thing to do is close apps ??? A small swipe up from the gesture area to go into card view then flick the card off of the screen. I have no idea why I find that fun, I just do.

The only 2 beefs I have with it are the charging door and the lack of apps. Otherwise I love it. My old PPC6700 is crying in the corner.


IF you have not figured it out yet – the keyboard does have a backlight.

The Touchstone does not accommodate another battery. Right now, think you are going to have to swap batteries in the Pre itself to charge multiple batteries. Have not seen an separate battery charger yet.

Love the little booger so far! Pandora and iTunes sync rocks, quite literally!

Peter Norman

Prior to launch there was talk of the Pre being capable of multiple exchange accounts. Have either of you been able to configure two or more exchange accounts on your Pre?

Thanks VERY much for the great ‘first look’ !!


have you either of you tried hooking it to your PC to test the mass storage & iTunes compatibility?

also, could you try hooking it to a Windows 7 machine to see if it gets recognized?


I hooked it up to my TC1100 running Win7 and had no problems. I was able to transfer about a gig of music and video with no issues.

When you connect you have 3 options, Just Charge, Media Sync???, and USB drive. I used the USB drive option.

When I first dragged the media onto the drive it started copying right to the root of the drive. So, lesson learned it doesn’t try to reconfigure the files/folders for you ;-) I was able to create a folder structure, just like it was a USB flash drive.

Richard Garrett

For what it’s worth, a Google search reveals one Pre for sale on craigslist in New York. Flipping is sure to be ramping up in next few hours!


OK. We know what you guys think, and that’s nice.

But, what’s Tyler think?

Tyler Tofel

I think it is an awesome phone. It could use a little more apps and a bigger keyboard. Not many kids are going to have a Pre and the keyboard is just the right size for kids(and my dad because he has small hands). Other then that it is close to being perfect.


Well I agree the camera shot looks pretty bad, it’s really not much better or worse than I’ve seen on other phones. Frankly, if I want to take serious pictures, I’ll bust out a real camera anyway.

Still your reviews and opinions pretty much reflect what I already suspected, and the one my boss picked up for our boss should be fun to play with on Monday while I set it up.

Dave Gray

Kevin, Totally unrelated, so please forgive me…but, what is the model of your external monitor? Looks to be a great productivity booster. Thank you!

Kevin C. Tofel

Dave, the monitor is a Samsung SyncMaster 245BW. I bought it from eCost for $300 plus shipping as a recertified unit last June. Love it!

Rick Huizinga

With both James & Kevin buying a Pre on the same day, I think a video geek session is called for!


An interesting gotcha for me:

Try not to rest your finger at the bottom of the screen in the gesture area. I do this all the time on my iphone to stabilize the phone when you hold and operate it with one hand. When you have a finger in the gesture area it tends to confuse any other touches. At first I thought the screen wasn’t responsive but it was my other finger confusing things by activating the gesture area.


The questions I’ve been dying to ask:

a) Did they have extra batteries for sale?
b) Does the Touchstone have a slot in back to charge an extra battery?
c) How do you charge the extra battery if the Touchstone won’t?


Not sure- I didn’t want one yet, no, and swap them out when the first is full, for now.


The heat is because of CDMA which is a “hot” standard !

affects all cdma phones

Mike Cane

Yours is the latest sample Pre camera pic I’ve seen. Yours also confirms that the camera is crap. Too bad. I hope this is a software issue and an update will fix it. Images should not be that blurry and have such bad edges, noise, and dead colors. The iPhone camera is so superior.


Funny. The iPhone has one of the worst cameraa I’ve ever used on a smartphone. Not saying the pre is any better but “so superior”? Please. One thing that is waaaay better on the pre is that there is no terrible lag like there is after you take a picture with iPhone.


What the heck are you talking about?… That picture is amazing. The Pre’s camera is fantastic. One thing the Pre’s camera does, after you’ve taken a picture, you can zoom in using multi-touch, the picture is still clear. It has great quality.

Kevin C. Tofel

Sorry Mike, but with all due respect, I think you’re doing it wrong in terms of the camera, not Sprint. ;) A quality view or print from a 3 megapixel camera is in the 4×6 or 5×7 range. If you pinch/zoom any larger than that, the pic is going to get crappier the larger you make it due to ppi. In terms of the camera quality, I think it’s just about right for a 3 megapixel camera. Folks that want a cameraphone that offers higher quality should be looking at a Nokia with Zeiss optics, or perhaps a new Samsung or SE phone IMO.

I’m not suggesting the Pre’s camera is the best out there, because it’s not. But what kind of image quality are you looking for in a $199 smartphone?


Any chance of you using it so much today that you can gives us fair description of the battery life? The reviews mention that it was one of the drawbacks, but I don’t know how much the reviewers were using it and in what capacity. Does multi-tasking eat the battery life?

Thanks in advance.


I’d buy one but I’m worried about the lack of software. I use lots of apps on my ipod touch but I hate the lack of keyboard

Iphone v3 vs various forthcoming Android phones vs Palm Pre- too many choices and no idea where to start.


WAY TO GO TYLER.!! Thats how to make a Dad Proud!!


Can the touchstone be used in the car. Is there a car power adapter for the touchstone?

Comments are closed.