Palm Pre webOS 1.1 — What’s In and What’s Missing

palm-webos-11Palm pushed a highly anticipated webOS update for the Pre last night. It was past my bedtime when the update hit, but I happened to be up late chatting on the Bad Hair Day podcast with Dave Winer, Marshall Kirkpatrick and Steve Rubel.

Since I’m an efficient multi-tasker like the Pre, I installed the update during the podcast although I didn’t get to kick the tires until today. My impressions — Palm offers a solid bunch of improvements, but we’ve still got a ways to go. Here’s the official change log for your reading pleasure, but I’ve broken out some of the higher impact items.

  • The NFL Mobile app was added. OK, maybe that’s not a high impact to everyone and we knew it was coming, but I’m still happy to see it.
  • Calendar events have a default 15 minute reminder except for all-day events. Those get a one day reminder.
  • “Enhanced support for time zones in Clock.” I don’t see the difference just yet, but I suspect it has something to do with the time zone issues James reported earlier.
  • Editing a Google contact initiates a sync with Google immediately.
  • Exchange account setup supports an Exchanger server by IP address.
  • Replies to HTML email using Exchange retain the sender’s HTML format.
  • Exchange ActiveSync now supports PINs and passwords, inactivity timeout and remote wipe.
  • Emoticons are viewable and usable in messaging
  • Multiple missed call notifications on the dashboard only show the of the most recent missed call.
  • The browser has some enhancements: a forward gesture works like the forward button, going back to a zoomed page restores the page at the zoom level you left it with, tapping a link highlights it to indicate the tap. This last one is big to me — I double-tapped plenty of links because I didn’t see any action.
  • Oh, and “one more thing” — the Pre can sync with iTunes again.

PreCentral started up a useful thread for Pre owners to post what other enhancements they’ve seen. Some are pretty useful, so I’m not sure why Palm didn’t highlight them in the change log:

  • Animated drop down menus, which look and act a little more modern.
  • Memos can be emailed.
  • Pre’s default font is used for the browser unless the page overrides it. It definitely looks much nicer.
  • Folks are reporting a faster look and feel in general, so there may be some underlying OS enhancements to speed things up.

While all of this is a step forward, I thought I’d look back at my list of 10 items I’d like to see fixed. It’s by no means an all-encompassing list of what needs addressing, but I was curious to see what’s still on my punch list.

Notifications – It looks to me like the notifications have received some attention. Up to this release of webOS, old notifications continued to appear, even after taking action on the notified item. I’ve only done a little testing, but when I receive emails the notifications appear, just as they did before. Reading the mail item on another machine or device used to have no effect on the notification, making it meaningless at that point. Now, when I run through the same scenario, it looks like the notification is automatically dismissed. I’ll have to keep trying different scenarios but it appears that notifications are working a little better.

Quick movement to the top of a web page – I still see no way to move from the bottom to the top of a page without scrolling. Disappointing.

Where’s the scrollbar? At 20/400, my vision isn’t the best, but even with my glasses, I’m not seeing a scrollbar that tells me where I’m at on a webpage. To me, this is basic functionality that should have been there from day one.

Internal targets or bookmarks? No luck here. When I click on a commenter name on our site, for example, the Pre takes me to the post page of the comment, but not the comment. Again: basic functionality that already exists in other WebKit browsers.

Page rendering – This looks a little better. Before, I’d have pages that appeared “above” the display, so I had to scroll to see the content. I haven’t done extensive testing yet, but I haven’t seen this behavior since the update.

GPS – There’s still no indicator on the display to tell me if the GPS radio is on or off.

Autocomplete & correction dictionary – Aside from fixing contractions and such, I didn’t initially see much in the way of autocompletion or correction in the Pre. I still don’t notice a difference, but some PreCentral users indicate that they are. Maybe I’m just not hitting the right words?

Wasted space in selection areas – This isn’t a huge deal by any means, so I’m not surprised to see it unchanged. I still think that some of the UI wastes space.

Cut / Copy / Paste – This was actually working fine on day one, but wasn’t very clear to users. Consider this one fixed although I’d love to see the function extend to all text, not just text in editable fields.

Mail movement – There’s still a few spams a day getting through Gmail to my devices and it still takes longer to mark them as spam on the Pre than it does with other handsets. This is another non-dealbreaker, but still an annoyance to me.

So the majority of my 10 issues still remain. And those are just my issues. You readers added your own in the comments to my initial list. You can click this link to see them, but don’t do it on your Pre — you won’t get taken to the comments because the browser can’t get you any closer than the initial post page. ;) What are you hoping for in the next webOS update?

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