So Palm’s Pre is nearly a week old. Early reviews and first impressions were generally favorable, but do they get better or worse with age? That’s the recurring question I’m seeing in my Twitter feed, on FriendFeed, and in my email. I still feel that the device is more like a 1.5 version than a 1.0 version. But the beauty is often only skin deep: There’s breadth and depth missing in the Pre. Nearly all of the gaps can be addressed by software or firmware updates, and I hope Palm iterates early and often. To help it (and some of you who are still on the fence about a purchase), here’s a list of what I’d like to see fixed right away. If any of these issues are user error on my part, please let me know and I’ll update the post. Also, the list is based on my own needs and usage. Everyone’s requirements are different, so my list may not be the same as yours. In fact, it might help everyone if you added your own in the comments.
1. Notifications – This feature is one of the strengths of the Pre. It’s also become the most annoying one to me personally. It needs work. Oh, the notifications work well when the phone wants to tell you something. You get an email, and Pre will tell you in an unobtrusive way. That’s great. It’s like an elephant, though: It never forgets them until you dismiss them. The notifications seem to be a fire-and-forget mechanism when they should be in sync and updating dynamically.
Here’s an example screencap I just took. It shows me what I’m listening to on Pandora, and it tells me I have five emails, the latest one being from Intuit about Quickbooks. There’s only one problem: On my computer, I’ve already read the five emails and taken action by deleting them, responding to them or taking another action. Pre’s notification area doesn’t reflect that. I have to manually swipe the notification away into oblivion when it should automatically refresh, update or dismiss. If I don’t do that, the unread email count on the Pre keeps rising — so does my stress level.
2. Quick movement to the top of a web page – There’s simply no way I can see to get to the top of a web page in the browser. This kills my productivity when I’m reading a long or tall page like Friendfeed. I manually have to scroll, scroll, scroll. Am I spoiled by the iPhone’s double-tap feature that offers a quick jump to the top? Maybe, but that’s because it’s a great user interface feature. Apple offers it in apps other than the browser, too.
3. Where’s the scrollbar? – Speaking of scrolling on a web page: Since I have to do it so often, where’s the scrollbar that tells me where I am on the page? To me, this is a very basic bit of functionality that’s required.
4. No internal targets or bookmarks? – Another web browser gap that’s wasting my time: When I click on bookmark link, the browser doesn’t take me to it. I don’t mean web bookmarks like a saved URL. I mean a specific bookmark on a web page. For example, I often browse to our home page and look at the comments in the sidebar. Each comment has its own unique URL composed of the post URL and a bookmark on the post page for the comment. In any other browser, a click of the commenter’s name takes me directly to their comment. Not on the Pre. It takes me to the top of the web page, and I have to scroll down to find the comment I want.
5. Page rendering – This is the last browser issue I’ll raise. It’s a sporadic one, but I see it on various sites; Google Reader is a notorious one. Sometimes when refreshing a page or navigating to another page on the same site, Pre renders it above the screen. You get a blank-looking space because you’re below the actual page. Scroll up and you’ll find what you were looking for. Very odd.
6. GPS – The radio is on by default if you activate Location Services during the initial setup. I have no issue with that, but I’ve since turned the GPS radio off to help save battery life. At least I think I did because I can’t find an indicator to tell me. I could go through the menus and check the Location Services, but why not add a GPS indicator to the main screen? I love how I can tap the top right of Pre to see or mod setting for the other radios, i.e., Wi-Fi, EVDO and Bluetooth. Why segregate GPS?
7. Dictionary is lacking – I don’t know how many words the auto-correction dictionary has, but it’s not even close to being enough. The very minimal basics are there: Things like contractions and common words work well enough. However, there’s just not enough in there to really call this a feature yet.
8. Wasted space in selection areas – I’m specifically talking about those pre-filled scrolling selection fields — things like dates, for example, where you select by spinning the selections up or down. Pre is fitting five selections in the spinning dial, but it could fit more. This is especially important because of the smaller screen that Pre has as compared with other, similar smartphones. It means more scrolling. It’s a minor gripe for sure, but I’d love to see it fixed, maybe even configurable as in “Show x choices” where I can pick what x is from 3 to 8 perhaps.
9. Cut / Copy / Paste – In fairness, I never missed the feature on my iPhone. I’m glad it’s on the Pre, but I don’t think I’ll use it much if history is any judge. Still, I tried it. It needs work. Palm needs just one more hardware key to make it better. As it stands now, you press the Shift key on the keyboard and you scroll on the screen to select text. Then you abandon the keyboard entirely for the remaining steps. Using the top-left menu system on Pre’s screen, you tap the Edit on the display and then tap Cut, Copy or Paste in the menu that drops down. One more hardware qualifier key would make this faster and easier with a two-button combo. Since we can’t add another key, I’m hoping we see a software solution. Or perhaps the center button can get “smarter” and be used with the C, V or X key to cut, copy and paste if text is highlighted. I’d love to see the cut, copy, paste function in non-text fields as well. If I want to copy a paragraph of text on a web page, I should be able to do it.
Updated: Props to Aaron who left a comment with a much better method to cut, copy and paste. He found it in the PreCentral forums. You simply hold the gesture area and press the C, V or X key at the same time. I still want to see the feature extended to non-editable text.
10. Mail movement – In general, I really like the mail application. But as regular readers know, I’ve been jammed up with spam lately. When I get spam on the Pre, it’s taking too much time to move mail into the spam folder. The spam folder is a subfolder of my Gmail folders. On my iPhone, the default Gmail folders are at the top of the folder list. On the Pre, they’re on the bottom which means I have to scroll through all of my mail folders each time I want to “mark” a message as spam. I realize that if Palm flip-flopped this, then I’d have the same issue when moving mail to my personal folders. Let’s make the display order configurable.
The success of Palm’s Pre won’t just be based on the launch weekend. The gun has just gone off, and the race has just begun. The real key to success will be to see how often Palm offers fixes and updates to the various bug and feature enhancement lists. And as I mentioned before, everyone’s list is different and could be even longer. These are the 10 that are impacting me the most right now. What’s bugging you on your Pre?