Palm Pre Is a Standout in eWEEK Labs Tests

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Palm Pre Is a Standout in eWEEK Labs Tests

by Andrew Garcia

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Front 1

The Pre is small and sleek. The front panel, which features a beautiful 320-by-480 HVGA screen, is marred only by the Center button.

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Front 2

Slid open, the Pre presents a compact QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard may be difficult for those with larger thumbs, but I found the soft, gummy keys easy to work with.

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The top of the Pre features the power button, a ringer control lever and a 3.5mm headset jack.

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The right side has but a single feature: a covered Micro USB slot for sideloading to a PC or charging the battery.

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The left side of the device is home to the volume controls.

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The backplate (whether the stock one that comes with the Pre or the charging plate that comes with the Touchstone) has the speakerphone and camera, plus an insanely bright camera flash.

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Popping off the back cover reveals the Pre's biggest early flaw: the underpowered battery. In my tests, the Pre recorded as little as 3 hours of talk time on a single charge-one of the worst numbers I've seen to date for a smartphone.

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Quick Launch and Launcher

At left, the Quick Launch bar provides access to the applications used most. Other applications are presented in the Launcher (middle, right), which starts as three panels of available applications. The organization of the Quick Launch bar and Launcher are user-configurable.

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Card View

WebOS supports background applications. Users can toggle among applications by pressing the Center button on an in-focus application, which switches to a smaller presentation (right). Users can then scroll side to side via the touch-screen to move the focus to another running app. To close applications, simply flick the card toward the top of the touch-screen.

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The Pre's on-screen dialer (left) is easy to use, and users can access the contact database by just pushing the button on the lower right. Call logs show All or Missed calls (middle), and on-screen controls make it simple to view, accept or reject incoming calls (right).

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The Pre works with POP3, IMAP and Microsoft Exchange Server (via ActiveSync). With multiple e-mail accounts configured, users can choose from among several views, melding in-boxes from multiple accounts into a single unified view if desired.

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Attachment Trouble

I had trouble downloading attachments from my work Exchange account for some reason.

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Attachment Successes

I found that attachment viewing worked well on an IMAP server. Shown here is the viewer for PDFs (left) and DOCX documents (right). Document editing is not available without a third-party application (and there isn't currently one in the App Catalog).

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The Pre aggregates calendar data from multiple sources. In tests, I could simultaneously view entries from my Exchange account and my free Google Apps account.

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Contacts are also integrated from multiple sources on the Web, integrating data from different sources where applicable (middle). Users can also edit contacts on-device for synchronization with the remote source, adding details such as IM addresses (right).

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The Pre makes it easy to search from multiple sources, presenting a simple dialog to search from Google, Wikipedia or the local history. In fact, the Pre blurs the distinction between searching the device and the Web: If you start typing at the home screen, the Pre looks for a local contact that matches the search before switching to a Web search.

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For use with the built-in GPS chip, the Pre comes bundled with Google Maps (shown), complete with location detection and traffic indicators. Turn-by-turn directions are available via the included Sprint Navigation application (not shown).

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Wi-Fi Controls

Radio controls-for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Airplane Mode-are easily accessible by tapping the radio icons at upper-right on the touch-screen. Here, I easily joined an 802.11b/g network protected by WPA2.

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Attach to PC

Connecting the Pre pulls up the left dialog, asking the user to select the operational mode. At right, the Pre is configured as a USB drive only, which negates the device's ability to accept incoming calls or texts.

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The Pre supports A2DP stereo Bluetooth. My Motorola MotoROKR S9 stereo headset was easily discoverable and able to play stereo music-say, from the Pandora add-on application.

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No Juice

Pre users will quickly grow accustomed to seeing the Pre's warnings for depleted batteries. As a likely unintentional Easter egg for knowledgeable Palm customers, the only way I could make this warning go away was to remove the battery.

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Experienced Palm users are used to the need for full or partial resets. The Pre makes it easy to perform either, although my device struggled to recover from a full reset.

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Selection is currently limited in Palm's App Catalog beta, but the ever-present, ever-great Pandora application is now available. In tests, Pandora worked great on the move-except when moving from EVDO to 1XRTT data coverage, which tended to halt music playback.

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The Pre comes with a small wall charger, Micro USB cable, 3.5mm earbud headset and small carrying pouch.