The Palm Pre is now available on Amazon.com. Home shoppers can purchase the Pre smartphone for $199 with a two-year contract on the Sprint network, or without a service plan for $499.
Since the Pre's June 6 debut-which Sprint CEO Dan Hesse likened to a "coming-out party" for the carrier to show off how it had improved over the previous year-the Pre has been available in Sprint stores, Radio Shack, Best Buy and at some Wal-Mart locations. And like the other retailers, Amazon saves customers from the hassle of waiting for a rebate.
During its initial launch weekend, Sprint sold out of Pre handsets in most locations, and the Pre, in its distinctiveness and the customer enthusiasm toward it, has come closer than any other device to being a true iPhone competitor.
Still, at a July 24 tech conference, Hesse told a crowd it was still too early to call the Pre a success.
"You won't know if we have a real hit on our hands until it's been out three months, four months, five months ... " Hesse said. "We're just getting it rolled out in decent quantities for direct distribution."
The addition of Amazon.com as a retailer seems an indication that Sprint is ready to begin racking up orders. Analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, said indications are that response has been strong.
"[The numbers are] a lot smaller than the iPhone sales, but they're respectable enough numbers that Palm can hold its head up," Kay said. "There aren't a lot of companies that can give Apple a run for its money, so this is pretty good. And, remember, it's still really early. This is just another step along the way."
The Amazon.com site says Amazon.com's cell phone experts are available to answer questions, and it offers every type of Pre case cover a person could go looking for-including purple rubber, checkered and zebra-striped options-as well as Pre snap-on hard cases, manuals, accessories and chargers.
Editor's Note: A correction has been made to the rebate information.