The name Palm was virtually synonymous with PDAs not too many years ago. But when PDAs gave way to the more versatile smartphones, Palm was left behind by the likes of BlackBerry and the Apple iPhone. While they continued to make some pretty good devices, the legacy Palm OS didn’t get much attention so their entry level Centro phones quickly became outdated. Palm chose to use Windows Mobile as the operating system for their higher end, business oriented Treo smartphones but that eliminated the uniqueness that they had enjoyed by making both the software as well as the hardware and the Treo became just another WinMo phone.
The Palm Pre is an attractive package that is dominated by its 3.1-inch, diagonal measure, touch screen. Yes, that’s a bit smaller than that of the trend setting Apple iPhone 3GS but its 320x480 HVGA resolution provides a superior image. The screen features multitouch technology so you can pinch and pull images to zoom in or out. Applications, in the form of cards, can be easily scrolled or flicked out of the way to close them and email can be deleted simply by swiping it from left to right.Unlike many touch screens, a virtual keyboard isn’t an option so the phone slides open giving access to a physical keyboard. In general we’re in favor of such keyboards for typing but this one is something of a disappointment, particularly because it’s too cramped.
Our favorite aspect of the Palm Pre is the webOS and the way it allows for integrating applications with the web and in particular, a system called Synergy. This Palm exclusive allows for the sharing of information between such applications as MS Outlook, Facebook, Google and Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo! Mail and LinkedIn. Contact information in one application is shared so that all your data can be available in one consolidated place – though there is an option to keep it separate if you prefer. This makes searching for information quick and thorough independent of the application in which it may be stored. It also allows for switching a conversation from application to another seamlessly. For example, a conversation can be started using AIM and then changed to text messaging in a single, continuous display.The other top feature is the Pre’s ability to multitask. Open applications display as a Deck of Cards that you can scroll through to interact with the one you want and simply tap it. There’s no need to close one application to use another one as is required with the iPhone and many others. When you are ready to close an application, just flick the card and it’s gone. It’s not the only multitasking smartphone – BlackBerries do it nicely – but the user interface is makes it particularly practical.