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  1. gregp's Avatar
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       #1  
    This isn't so much a review as my own observations which I'm sharing for anyone else who may be interested. It's written from someone in Australia at a time when the device isn't officially available in Australia, purchased through a retailer who purchased international stock (shipped from HK).

    I've owned a Treo 750 for about three years and have generally been quite happy with it. When I was researching the Treo I read somewhere that it overcame a common problem with devices of its generation, in that it was first a phone, then a PDA. I use it primarily as a phone, then for texting, email and simple games, and web browsing and other features a distant third.

    The Treo's never been a rocket performance-wise, but the thing that really pushed me into thinking of upgrading was my increasing (though still minimal) use of web browsing. Internet Explorer was simply atrocious, with slow and poor page rendering, and Minimo took ages to load. Well after I started looking at alternatives I loaded Opera Mobile and its useability is so much better that had I loaded it earlier I probably wouldn't have bothered looking elsewhere; but by that time my interest in alternatives had been piqued!

    Having used an iPhone a couple of times, a physical keyboard was a must for me. As I said I do a degree of texting and email, and being able to feel where the keys are is important for me. I'm sure I could gain efficiency with a virtual keyboard, but there's no substitute for pressing a button. Even just entering the PIN on connection to the network, I can locate the first key and feel the rest of them without needing to look (handy when you're driving!). I also however wanted a bigger screen than the Treo so didn't want a Blackberry-style device. I tried a HTC Touch Pro 2 which was a great device, but the landscape keyboard was a pain in practice; if I wanted to make a call I'd have to rotate the phone, slide the keyboard out and then type the number; the Treo? Just type the number or name and dial. So simple. Also while the HTC's keys were well spaced, they were still too tight to use as a normal keyboard so still required thumb typing - but as the keys were further apart my fingers had to travel further than with the Treo to get to each button which slowed down typing. So the HTC was moved on and I went back to square one. My ideal, I thought, would be something with a full screen but a QWERTY keyboard that slid out below the screen in a vertical configuration. It was around then that I stumbled across the Palm Pre!

    Roll forward two months and the Pre 2 was released, I grabbed one from a web retailer who offered a full refund if returned within 7 days, and now have it here, ready to decide if I keep this or return. To cut a long story short, I sent it back but that was by no means a foregone conclusion.

    Physical Design and Use
    I was surprised the Pre feels that much smaller than the Treo. I'd drawn the comparitive sizes of the two devices on paper and they weren't much different - Pre a bit shorter but a bit wider than the Treo. The footprint is slightly smaller overall but it feels a lot smaller in the hand. I'd heard that the Treo keyboard was better than the Pre's so I was interested to check this. I agree the Treo's is better but I still prefer the Pre's to a virtual keyboard and could live with it. I can still type about as fast on the Pre's as I can on the Treo's, the Treo's is just easier to use. I think this is because the keys are at the top surface level of the device rather than being recessed down. Someone described using the Pre's keyboard as 'typing in a shoebox' and I think that's a good description. Also the Pre's keys are a bit rubberised whereas the Treo's are hard. Personally I prefer the harder keys on the Treo but I could easily live with the Pre in that regard.

    The balance on the device is different to the Treo too; the Pre is a bit top-heavy when the keyboard is slid out and when typing the screen end wants to drop downwards. This is no big problem, it's just a difference and quite easy to deal with because your fingers are normally behind the screen when holding the keyboard anyway. This would be the same cause of the problem some have mentioned that having a curved back means when the keyboard is open it doesn't sit level on a flat surface. That's true and I guess all other things equal it would be nice if it did (maybe a small flat on the back would help, would let us make good use of spirit level apps too ) but its form factor doesn't lend itself to typing on a table in my view. I can say I've hardly ever typed with my Treo on a table.

    I think the Pre has plenty of room to grow physically and this would allow a much bigger screen (which has been another criticism of this device). I wouldn't want this phone to turn into a monster but another 10-15mm of length, higher resolution and perhaps less of a border around the screen could make quite a difference. Personally I'm generally fine with the 320x480 screen (a lot better than 240x240) but I'd be quite happy with a slightly larger device, and if that meant a bigger screen then so much the better. Having said that, while the screen is bigger than the Treo's, it also relies on finger navigation unlike the Treo. Smallish screen + finger nav + fat fingers = hard for fine detail. I found with Freecell I'd often end up selecting the adjacent card. There also wasn't a screen alignment app I could find as is the case with WM.

    WebOS
    Great interface. I simply love the intuitive way of switching between apps. This is one thing I'm still missing about this phone. Having said that I've found the interface is less important to me than the ability to efficiently achieve the tasks I want to. The HTC's TouchFLO 3D interface was very nice but I found it annoying I couldn't customise the Home screen to include tasks as I had on the Treo. That is to say - for me, fancy animations and scrolling clocks don't mask the frustration of not being able to configure the device so I can use it the way I want (FWIW I found a heap more satisfaction with SPB Mobile shell's interface than TouchFlo). The only thing I'd add to WebOS would be a Today screen app which you could customise to include (any of) messages, emails, tasks, calendar appointments and so on.

    One oddity is that when you rotate the screen anticlockwise and change the volume, the volume keys work backwards to the direction the volume bars on the screen move. In portrait mode, the up key on the top left of the device takes the volume up, fair enough. But when you rotate to landscape mode anticlockwise, the up key ends up at the left side of the device so as you push the left volume key the volume bars on the screen move to the right (in the opposite direction). It'd be nice if these had been remapped to be swapped around in landscape when rotated anticlockwise.

    Connectivity and Storage
    I was always surprised the Pre doesn't have a microSD card slot. I read a comment by a Palm chap about the original Pre who said this was intentional because they didn't want to compromise the smooth lines of the device with a card slot; yet on the Pre 2 they've been happy to leave a (relatively) ugly USB port exposed in a (relatively) visible area on the side of the device so frankly I'm not buying that argument. If they can stick a bare USB port on the side of the device they can put a microSD card slot there too. Not that 16Gb is inadequate at this stage by any means; but provide the expandability so if someone wants to store 10 full length movies on their device they can. Also I like being able to stick files onto a removable media to give me another option to download them to another device / PC. Bluetooth and wifi are great but if they don't work the way you want it's so simple to transfer a storage card.

    On the topic of the USB port, why didn't they use a STANDARD mini USB port?? I've frankly never seen a mini USB port of the rounded style on this device which is a pain because now I'll have to lug this special cable around with me everywhere. When I take my digital cameras around I don't normally need to bother because they both employ standard mini USB ports and cables are everywhere. I couldn't rely on any Tom **** or Harry I happen to stay with having one of these cables connected to their card reader, camera or phone at home. No doubt this isn't the only device on the market with this style of port but they're sure the minority.The HTC was good in this regard. And I'm sure there's a reason the USB port is on the side rather than the bottom but it escapes me at the moment...

    Nice you can use the device as a USB drive, but why can't you receive calls and SMS' while using it as such?? Not very 'smart' for a 'smartphone'...

    Battery Life
    Much has been said about battery life, much bad and some good. I found a site that compared the two devices before me (Palm Treo 750 vs Palm Pre 2) and that stated the Treo's battery life was 4.5 hours talk time and 200h standby, compared to the Pre 2's 5.5 hours talk time and 350h standby. "OK", I thinks, "the Pre's battery life may be ordinary compared to contemporary devices, but if it's better than the Treo's and I'm happy with the Treo's battery life, surely it will be fine for what I need, based on how I use the device?" That assumption relies on the premise that the devices consume the same amount of power doing the tasks that I use it for (calls, texting, email, bit of games and browsing). Last night I went to bed, WiFi was off, no SIM card installed, a couple of apps open but the screen turned off. Same scenario as I do with the Treo every night. Battery was at 26% remaining when I went to bed, in the morning it had 2% remaining! What the...?! It burnt through 1/4 of a battery sitting there doing... nothing? I charged it using the USB port on my PC for 20 minutes in the morning and got it up to 13%. Got to work this morning and carried on, 40 minutes later it was still at 13%. Plugged it into the mains adapter, after an hour it was at 64%. Odd. I later discovered this was because the battery doesn't always charge from USB on PC, you have to manaully select 'just charge' when you plug it in, unlike WM.

    This was another power level test I did, not highly scientific but gives a bit of an idea:
    1215pm: 100%
    5 photos, one with flash. Email get as arrive, changed to manual and 3 days. WiFi, VPN and Bluetooth off
    1230pm: 94%. Bit of use as USB drive so charged a bit to 96%
    1250: 5 minutes of angry birds lite 94%
    turned off between each operation
    1:15 after another photo - 93%
    1:45pm - another photo, notes, bit of switching between two - 91%
    2:15pm - after ~25 minutes of angry birds - 80%
    2:30pm - another 15 minutes of angry birds - 73%
    2:51pm - bit of GPS - 69%
    3:17pm - sitting idle but with several apps open - 68%
    3:17pm - changed email to get as they arrive
    3:30pm-3:55pm - angry birds - 57%
    4:00pm - back to email manually
    4:05pm - SMS
    4:55pm - set up Google contacts, synced 48%

    Next day, charged up on PC, on standby and a SMS for an hour, still 100%

    Frankly while I'd prefer a better batter life, if the phone can make it through the day I can manage with it and my subsequent testing shows it can for me with the way I use it. Which is that I don't use the internet / email very much, only when required.

    Applications
    I've had words several times with Palm about this ridiculous situation and it sounds like many others have. Apparently access to an app catalog is based on where the device is first activated, and the data plan connected to the SIM card which is used for that first activation. Being in Australia we have no paid apps available. Palm don't offer a paid app store in Australia. Why not make the app store a worldwide affair and let developers choose where they release their apps to? I can't see a singular reason for creating a significant disincentive for keen people to buy your product at a time when, let's face it, Palm don't need to make life any harder for themselves.

    Palm support believe it or not blamed the developers saying they're the ones who choose where they release the apps, but of course Palm don't even give them the option of releasing them to Asia-Pacific because they don't provide an APAC app store! Palm brass could argue "You've bought a device in a region we don't support so you can't expect to have the same experience as an official buyer"; my counter-argument is that while that's true for warranty, I don't believe that should extend to the user experience such as getting paid apps. Provide a global infrastructure and let the app developers decide. If I bought a car for use in a country without a local dealership I should still be able to purchase spares even if I have to buy them from overseas. Big -1 to Palm here.

    One big pain about no paid apps is that sometimes you want an app or a particular functionality and you don't really care whether you have to pay for it or not. While there are plenty of free ones, some quite specific ones aren't in the free list, and as I can't see the paid ones I don't know if they even exist; at least if I knew app xyz existed but I just couldn't download it at the moment (stupid as that is) I'd know there's a chance one day I'll be able to get it.

    I mentioned what a revelation Opera Mobile was, so I was disappointed to find it's not available on WebOS. That I could probably put up with if the built-in browser came with some sort of tabbed system, which it doesn't.

    Synchronisation
    I find it truly bizarre that the Pre does not come out of the box with any desktop sync software. I know several third party applications are available for this (at a cost) and that cloud syncing may be the way of the future, but as others have said, "let us get there in our own time". I may or may not trust Google or anyone else with my personal data but I trust myself and my own PC, so let me decide where I store that data. Also if I have 8Gb of app data, photos, music etc, I don't want to be syncing that every time over the air. My experience showed that this data doesn't get synchronised over the air anyway (stand to be corrected on that point) but that being the case it's not backed up at all which isn't acceptable to me.

    Ringer Switch
    This is a biggie for me. When I got the Treo I loved this feature and have been disappointed so many other phones I looked at in the last few months don't have this. Being able to walk into a meeting and discreetly switch the phone onto silent without even looking at it is great. It's also good if you forget half way through a meeting if the phone is on silent or not; a quick feel of the top of the phone in the belt pouch can confirm either way. I can buy a $1500 HTC Touch Pro 2 and have to pull the phone out of its pouch and turn it on to turn the sound off.

    The switch on the Pre 2 doesn't appear to be quite as 'powerful' as the Treo's, in that with the Treo it's almost like a hardware interruption of the circuit to the speaker, i.e. *nothing* comes out of the speaker when the switch is thrown. On the Pre, the sounds from Angry Birds still come through loud and clear regardless of whether it's on silent or not. When I put the phone on silent, I want it to be on silent.

    QuickOffice
    Moving from Windows Mobile with Office Mobile, I was keen to retain office doc editing. I understood QuickOffice supported this but was disappointed to find it's a read-only app. While there's talk of an editing suite coming 'in the near future' it sounds as though this is going to be a paid application. Which means I'm likely to be out of the loop on that one.

    Camera
    The Camera was a lot better than expected, better than Treo. Flash helps. I thought not being autofocus would be a pain but it does a good job, certainly for a phone camera I'd be more than satisfied with it, but I wouldn't want it to be the only camera I owned.

    Other assorted don't likes

    I rely heavily on a decent Bible software. I use pocket e-sword at the moment but there doesn't appear to be any decent equivalent for WebOS, specifically something that has Strong's numbers. Few would worry about this but it's important for me.

    There doesn't appear to be a way to get word suggestions to pop up when typing a certain number of characters. This feature saves me a lot of time in WM. The closest I found was suggestions to spelling errors.

    There aren't any scrollbars, e.g. in app catalog to see how long list is.

    The out of the box alarm doesn't let you choose specific days for the alarm. I'm sure there's an app for that (but as I don't have paid apps I don't know... )

    This was odd but I found the screen to be rather 'jumpy' when it was charging. E.g. playing angry birds you'd pull the bird back and hold your finger still but it'd flick up and down and sometimes even release. It seems to be some sort of interference which is a bit surprising.
    Screen jumps around while charging e.g. angry birds

    Wrap-up
    There's lots to like about the Pre 2 but it's annoying that several glaring deficiencies which as far as I'm concerned should be out of the box functionality are either unfixable by the user (App Catalog) or require purchasing a third-party app (desktop sync, office doc editing). So it's boxed up and in transit to the supplier for a refund. Sad but true.

    Fortunately, a large proportion of my dissatisfaction relates to software issues which could be fixed fairly easily if the desire was there, through app availability or patches / updates. There's nothing about the device itself I couldn't live with in its present form if I could get the right applications.

    The good news is I'm almost certain I'll end up with a Palm device similar to this at some point in the future. The Treo won't go forever and the Pre's good enough for me to move to. But I'll be waiting until either the App Catalog is fixed or the phone is officially released in Australia so I have access to the full suite of apps. Hopefully by then WebOS will have been out there for long enough to get greater app support and some of my other app requirements will have been met. And with a bit of luck there might even be a Pre 2 Plus or better to add the finishing touches. So...

    What would I like to see in the Pre 3?

    * Physically larger device to accommodate larger and higher-res screen
    * Global App Catalog
    * Out of the box office document editing (QuickOffice)
    * Out of the box desktop sync
    * microSD card slot
    * Standard miniUSB port connector
    * Better battery life (+30% would do it for me)
    * A much wider suite of applications (said with the caveat that I don't know everything that's available yet)


    Hopefully this helps someone and sorry if I've missed anything!
    Last edited by gregp; 01/09/2011 at 05:03 PM.
  2. #2  
    interesting.. I agree with all your points at the end, except..

    on the charging cable: It's micro-usb... It's a fairly standard wire. My friends milestone (canadian droid), and other friends blackberry bold both use the same wire.
  3. gregp's Avatar
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       #3  
    I'll defer to your experience on that one nimer. It's just not one that I've recognised from all the devices I've used in the past but maybe it's the way of the future...?
  4. #4  
    Yep--microUSB will be the standard going forward:
    Gizmodo, the Gadget Guide

    As usual, Palm was ahead of the game. {Jonathan}
  5. #5  
    you are not going to see out of the box desktop sync software -- that is contrary to the whole idea of webos -- it is all about the cloud these days baby..... I switched to a pre plus from a 755p and shared much of your feelings --until i had to use my 755p waiting on a replacement for the pre -- i find the old palm software to be clunky and hard to navigate -- webos is so intuitive that it almost does what i want it to before i touch the phone -- once you have move all of your stuff to a google account you will not give a crud abouut desktop sync -- get a gmail and google voice account if you don't allready have one and transfer your outlook stuff there. this will make the rest of your cell life easier as you will be able to have these things on any new smart phone instantly ----
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    Rob Chilcott

    Twitter @robchilcott
    pre2
    " I am only a stupid electrician after all"

    My house is a webOS house
    My pre 2, Touchpad 32g
    Wife Pixi, touchpad 32gb
    Daughter -- my old pre+
    of course my 16 year old son has and droid incredible but i think i remeber finding him on the porch
  6. #6  
    Good review.

    ET
  7. #7  
    This was a very comprehensive review and I thank you for your effort. Well done!

    Palm m130 > Verizon Trēo 650 > Verizon Trēo 755p > Verizon Palm Prē Plus > TouchPad > Verizon Palm Prē 2
    ~ The Future's Just Not What it Used To Be ~
  8. Fatfool's Avatar
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    #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by gregp View Post
    I'll defer to your experience on that one nimer. It's just not one that I've recognised from all the devices I've used in the past but maybe it's the way of the future...?
    What you should be complaining about the said cable that it is required when using the touchstone. Most generic cables won't work as the jack won't fit in(to the touchtone dock).
  9. #9  
    Very good review. When I first got my Pre (Minus) I compared it to my Treo 650 I'd been using for a few years before. I can honestly say it pales in comparison. The 650 (for me) was ROCK solid, built like a tank, software was perfect, it did everything I could ever want. The battery life between the 650 and the 680 had been reduced (significantly) but it was still manageable. etc. etc. However, I learned to love the Pre and its advantages over the 650/680.

    My usage habits changed to accommodate the Pre and I really haven't looked back since. The only reason I say this is because my desire for newer/better (but mostly newer) devices and gadgets is a lot greater than my actual necessity of said devices. :P.
  10. #10  
    I am REALLY bummed about the PIM features (or lack thereof) when comparing my Pre 2 to the Centro I had. I pretty much stopped using my calendar and notes and am definitely less organized because of it
  11. #11  
    let's see what feb 9 brings..

    Personally, (know it won't happen, but is possible to make) want the form factor of the dell venue pro, but with a palm keyboard, and the internals of a the ATRIX (dual core 1ghz + 1gb DDR2 ram.)
  12. #12  
    Quote Originally Posted by CentroGoblin View Post
    I am REALLY bummed about the PIM features (or lack thereof) when comparing my Pre 2 to the Centro I had. I pretty much stopped using my calendar and notes and am definitely less organized because of it
    It bummed me out for awhile but now that I have went all the way webos I don't look back. I am actually more organized now because I can access my notes and calendar wherever I am regardless of where my phone is.
  13. #13  
    Quote Originally Posted by gregp View Post
    This isn't so much a review as my own observations which I'm sharing for anyone else who may be interested. It's written from someone in Australia at a time when the device isn't officially available in Australia, purchased through a retailer who purchased international stock (shipped from HK).
    The one from Mobicity which is set up to run on Telstra?
    Australian Apple fan
    Wannabe webOS developer, Multimedia designer & UI designer

    I have some app ideas, but really need to get a better handle of how this jscript stuff works!
  14. gregp's Avatar
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       #14  
    Nope Smooth Mobiles. The Mobicity one wasn't on NextG at the time I was ready to purchase.

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