Palm Pre Is Beautiful to See and Use, Says eWEEK Labs - Page 2

WebOS does the best job of any smartphone platform I've tested to date at helping users juggle personal information from multiple data sources. Called Palm Synergy, the operating system feature coalesces data into integrated views that span disparate sources while clearly delineating where the data came from. In tests I could configure multiple sources for e-mail, calendar and contacts, and I could merge personal and work data into manageable constructs.

For e-mail, the Pre supports Exchange ActiveSync, IMAP and POP3 protocols. I set up my device to receive e-mail from the Ziff Davis Enterprise Exchange servers and from Gmail via IMAP. The e-mail client presents a unified inbox, merging incoming mail from both accounts into a single interface while allowing users to comb through a single inbox if they want. Configured subfolders for each e-mail service are also available (although not merged into the unified view). Replies go out via their respective accounts, while new e-mails are sent via the default account.

Each e-mail account can be configured with its own synchronization interval, allowing users to save a little battery power by setting relatively dormant accounts to get checked less frequently.

Attachment handling worked as advertised on the Pre. I could easily download and view pictures and documents in tests (DOC, DOCX and PDF). One tap on an attachment downloads the file, and a second tap opens it, read-only, in the appropriate application. The Pre comes with separate applications to view Word documents, PDFs and pictures. Document editing on the Pre is not currently possible.

Unlike the iPhone, which lets me tap above a message to get back to the top of a long e-mail I've already scrolled through, the Pre offers no touch commands or keyboard commands to quickly move to the top or bottom of a message (or a Web page, for that matter).

The Pre collates calendar entries from Exchange, Google and Facebook-- allowing the user to see all scheduled activities together or to view individual layers on their own. Users can even isolate the individual layers they created within the Google Calendar to further specify the origin of a planned activity.

The Pre offers daily, weekly and monthly views of the calendar. I particularly liked the presentation of the daily view, which visually compresses free space to help present a better representation of the entire day's activities without the need to scroll up and down the screen.

Contacts are also pulled down from Exchange, Google or Facebook, although I found the integration a little messier than with either e-mail or the calendar.

When first setting up the device, the Pre requires that users create a Palm Profile. This account serves as a repository for a configured Pre's settings (such as configured Wi-Fi networks), applications and accounts (e-mail, calendar and contacts). This information is automatically replicated up to Palm's servers, allowing users to quickly restore a device if it was wiped for some reason. Also, users can log into their profile via the Web to remotely erase a device that has been lost or stolen.

The Pre's Web browser is also quite usable for a mobile device. Opening the browser pulls the user into the bookmarks, which are presented not as a list but a grid of six icons. Users can add their own bookmarks (which are not replicated to the Palm Profile), and they will be added to what could easily turn into a very long panel.

At the top of the browser is the address bar. Typing in the box reveals the option to search (via Google or Wikipedia) or to type out a complete address. Full pages are rendered, so they can look very small at first. But, as with the iPhone, users can zoom in or out with spread and pinch gestures.

Users can open multiple browser instances by clicking on the Web pulldown menu located at the top-left of the screen and then selecting New Card. These new browser instances will appear in Card View along with other open applications running in the background.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Pre is the way it removes the distinction between searching the device and searching the Web. From the home screen, I could start typing a search term, and WebOS immediately started combing through my local contact database. Once it became apparent that my search term could not be found in Contacts, the Pre switched to a separate view for a Web search and asked whether Google or Wikipedia was the preferred vector.

The Pre comes loaded with a host of other applications, as well: base applications such as the Messaging client (for SMS and Instant Messaging), Clock, Memos, and Tasks; media applications for music (a player and Amazon's MP3 store), videos and photos; Google apps such as YouTube and Google Maps; and Sprint services such as Sprint TV and Sprint Navigation. The App Catalog is also present to help find and install third-party applications for WebOS, but selection in the marketplace is sparse at this time.