When the Palm Pre finally makes its much-anticipated rollout on June 6, it will directly challenge high-profile smartphones from competitors ranging from Apple's iPhone to Research In Motion's BlackBerry line.
If an early review posted on The Boy Genius Report is any indication, Palm has delivered a solid entry to the smartphone market with some neat features, but a few flaws may prevent the Pre from being fully accepted as an iPhone killer.
However, the phone does offer some outstanding qualities, according to the review:
"The screen is where the Palm Pre shines. Selections take little to no effort and there's that oh-so-magical water ripple effect when actually touching the display. It's vibrant, rich and all around really clear."
The overall size of the device was also praised, even though the keyboard is apparently small to the point of making typing difficult, even for an experienced smartphone user. As for the phone's overall "feel," the report felt there was something to be desired:
"It really seems to be constructed with lower-grade materials compared to other flagship phones. One of the things that might be throwing us off is that it just feels so light."
And while the test phone came without some functionality loaded, the Pre's OS is "off to a great start." Battery life is "decent," capable of running for 2.5 hours on a 30 percent charge.
Jon Rubinstein, executive chairman at Palm, said during the seventh annual D: All Things Digital conference in California that Apple was an influence on the design of the Pre.
"I worked with [Apple co-founder] Steve [Jobs] for many years and learned a tremendous amount from him, the value of user experience and design taste," Rubinstein said, according to the conference's official site. "On the engineering side, I helped create the engineering culture at Apple, so obviously, the engineering culture at Palm bears some similarities to it."
During an onstage discussion during the conference, Rubinstein was careful to draw differences between the Pre and the Apple iPhone, referring to Apple's device as a feature phone as opposed to an integrated device. The Pre, he suggested, is a truly integrated device.
In April 2009, Palm finally released the specs for the Pre. In addition to the Palm WebOS operating system, the phone features a 3.1-inch touch-screen with a 320-by-480 resolution HVGA display, a physical QWERTY keyboard, built-in GPS, and a 3-megapixel camera with LED flash and extended depth of field.
For wireless connectivity, the 4.76-ounce Pre supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g with WPA, WPA2 and 802.1X authentication. It has 8GB of user storage and USB mass storage support, a microUSB connector with USB 2.0 high-speed, and can be wirelessly charged.
For music aficionados, the Pre's MP3 player will sync with Apple's iTunes software on the user's PC or Mac via a USB cable, and transfer any DRM-free music, photos and video onto the mobile device. That same USB connection will also allow the Pre to function as a hard drive, with users able to drag-and-drop content from desktop or laptop to phone.
When questioned at the D: All Things Digital conference on May 28, Roger McNamee, managing director of major Palm investor Elevation Partners, seemed somewhat unconcerned about the prospect of Apple attacking Palm for having an iTunes sync feature.
"We're recognizing their market dominance," McNamee said onstage, "and they can't tell people what to do with their music."