Add Palm to the smartphone sweepstakes. The beleaguered pioneer of personal digital assistants has finally pushed out a smartphone it hopes will rival the popular Apple iPhone and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry devices, introducing the Palm Pre on Jan. 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Palm aims to gain on Apple and RIM with a new smartphone operating system dubbed WebOS, with the Pre as the first model out of the shop. The Palm Pre is scheduled to be available first in the United States exclusively from Sprint in the first half of 2009, and to be followed by a world-ready UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) version for other regions. Sprint’s pricing for the phone was not disclosed.
The 4.8-ounce Pre features both a 3.1-inch touch-screen and a full QWERTY keyboard that slides underneath the touch-screen when not in use. The device also features EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) Rev A, stereo Bluetooth, a three-megapixel camera with flash and Texas Instruments’ new OMAP processor.
“WebOS and Pre bring game-changing simplicity to an increasingly mobile world by dissolving the barriers that surround your information,” Palm CEO Ed Colligan said in a statement. “It’s technology that seems like it’s thinking ahead to bring you what you care about most-your people, your time and your information-in the easiest and most seamless way.”
The Pre links contacts in Outlook, Google and Facebook and presents users with one listing. Multiple calendars can be layered together in a single view and various messaging systems such as text messaging and instant messaging can be presented in a chat-style view.
Palm’s new smartphone also uses MicroUSB 2.0 and can be used as a USB mass storage device. A speakerphone, 3.5mm audio jack and a removable battery are also included.
“Palm products have always been about simplifying lives and delivering great user experiences,” Colligan said.
“As our lives revolve more and more around the Web, devices like Palm Pre that transform how we interact with the Web will lead the way,” said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. “We are focused on bringing our customers a superior experience that includes easy-to-use devices, simple pricing and value.”
The Pre will support a variety of Sprint services, including Sprint TV with live and on-demand programming and Sprint Navigation, which provides GPS-enabled audio and visual turn-by-turn driving directions, one-click traffic rerouting, and more than 10 million local listings. Sprint also offers more than a dozen streaming radio applications, including Sprint Radio with more than 150 channels.