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  1. Beefy's Avatar
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       #1  
    My Palm Pre review:

    After one week of ownership of the Palm Pre, I think I'm fairly well inured to the phone's quirks, but I also think that it's worthy of a review for any potential Pre buyers moving forward.

    TL;DR Version:

    The Good
    The Palm Pre has an amazing webOS, better even (in my opinion) than the iPhone OS. It's intuitive, easy to use, and beautiful in action. The ability to switch between apps on the fly while performing other operations just like you would on a desktop or laptop is nothing short of incredible. Web surfing is wonderful, easy to do, and loads pages extremely fast on Sprint's EVDO. While the app collection is in its infancy, it is growing rapidly, and there are already some great homebrew apps available. Oh, and if you're not the most technically savvy Linux nerd, installing homebrew is simple via a little app called Preware. Once the app store gets out of Beta ( ) and developers can see the cash prospects, Palm's catalog is going to start exploding with new apps, both free and paid.

    The Bad
    The hardware problems you've read about? They're real. I've (twice) had my phone turn off when closing the slider now, and not very hard, either. When reviewing a black background on my screen, I have noticed a collection of at least 5-10 dead pixels near the USB port. Also, **** the USB port. The little side flap is flimsy and feels like after a year or so would break right off. Battery life is absolutely atrocious with the stock battery. After a 5 minute phonecall and maybe 10 minutes of web browsing - nothing else, no apps open - I am already at 88% as of 9:27am. Shipping a smartphone with just an 1150 mAH battery is unacceptable, and I find it insulting that you have to disable certain features (or severely curtail your use) just to get a full day out of your phone, or that you have to buy a $60 extended-life battery. Yesterday I used the NFL app alongside about 50 texts and maybe a 5 minute phonecall, disconnecting the phone at 100% by 11:45 AM. By 5:00pm I was at ZERO percent.

    YMMV with battery life and how many apps you're using, of course. But still, Palm really dropped the ball on the initial release with their hardware. I understand they were pretty pressed to release the product before their situation became financially untenable, but the volume of consumers reporting problems with their phones is simply too high to ignore. Palm needs to retool their production with a better battery and vetted hardware, and quickly.

    Full Version:

    Software: The Pre is simply a pleasure to use. Menus are easy to navigate and well placed on the phone's screen. The gesture area is a beautiful thing. Being able to swipe your finger to return to a different app or webpage - without the need of a cumbersome "back" button - is simply awesome. While there is some slowness opening some applications or pulling up messaging/voicedialing, there's nothing gamebreaking here, and most reports I've heard say the upcoming software deployment (1.2) will resolve these issues. The rippling of the screen to let you know when you've pressed a key or clicked a link is very much appreciated too. Dismissing applications with a flick of the finger or swiping to a new one in the gesture area is one of the coolest things I've ever seen on a phone. The whole "card" system has been digested and gone over time and time again, so I'll skip most of that discussion and just say it's a great way of visually managing your open programs. Palm just hit a home run with the software.

    Homebrew is simply a breeze. A simple installation of webOS Doctor and download of the Preware app (found on the Precentral.net site) will allow you to see screenshots and read descriptions of homebrew apps. While there are as of this writing only 243 available, you can easily see the potential. Tethering programs, new calendar apps, music managers (no being tied to iTunes) and a slew of others will whet one's appetite while the wait for the official app catalog goes on. Additionally, the amount of theme customization that you can do to completely change the look of your icons and launcher screens is very, very cool. Mario theme? It's there. Zelda nerd? That's there too. Personally I'm one to keep things simple, but you can hack the **** out of your phone to your heart's content with relatively little chance of bricking it. The virtual keyboard works in both landscape and portrait mode, though it's fairly buggy at the moment and does not have any prediction. I'm going to stick with the physical keyboard until at such time as the virtual keyboard has been improved.

    Notifications are beautiful. A small speech bubble appears for SMS, a letter icon for email, a tape icon for voicemail, and a "bounced" phone icon for missed calls. These small and non-intrusive icons can be dismissed simply by sliding your finger to the right without having to pull up the application itself. On the subject of SMS, MMS and IM, it's amazing how easily the Pre pulls all the conversations you're having with a contact together. I know this is fairly standard for most phones at this point, but threaded SMS, MMS and IM is absolutely awesome - particularly so if you're coming from a dumbphone with this feature absent.

    Camera shots come out fairly well. I'm not blown away by it, but it's certainly good as a low-end digital camera. It also takes pictures incredibly quickly (I've taken as fast as 1/s holding my finger on the camera button), though there is no autofocus/zoom. Given the ability of the developer community, I would not be surprised once the camera API is available to see these features integrated into the phone. Video recording has already been demonstrated, though (like a lot of things on the Pre) not officially available yet.

    You will run into some bugs like alarms not going off until you restart your phone - be aware of this - but they are few and far between. webOS in its entirety is a very, very solid system.

    As a whole, I'm very, very satisfied with the webOS, even missing some critical features - text forwarding and video recording come to mind, but aren't huge. Coming updates will be sure to address them and add even more features which I'm eagerly anticipating - like LED notifications for texts and voicemails.

    Hardware: Here is where I'm not so happy. Continuing with the baseball analogies, if the software is a home run, the hardware is a grounder into a double play in the bottom of the seventh inning when down 2 runs.

    Starting with the actual physical nature of the phone, the feel of the device in one's hand is not so bad. It's definitely smaller than other phones with the keyboard closed, and looks very much like a smooth black rock. Much like a smooth black rock, this ****er is likely to slip out of your hand if you're not careful. The glossy finish - what the **** is with making every god damn piece of hardware "glossy" these days anyway? - is an absolute fingerprint magnet, so if that bothers you, I highly suggest investing in a case and screen protector. I bought a screen protector, and am glad I did, going with PhantomSkinz for $6.75, shipped Application was easy and smooth and the screen is very clear. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this, unless you like wiping fingerprint smears off your phone and dealing with little scratches constantly. But I digress. Getting a matte back with the touchstone charger (or with a new ELB) will resolve the "slip" issues for the most part, I've heard. The phone will fit into a shirt pocket or front jeans pocket easily and smoothly.

    When hearing initial reviews for the phone, I was pretty hesitant because of the reports that the keyboard was "too tiny". After having been able to use it for a while, I actually now far prefer it to its virtual cousins. Yes, the keys are small, but I have big goony fingers and they can be pressed relatively easily after some practice, even the top row. To the doubters, spend an hour typing a few messages in a Sprint store and you'll find that most reports of the keyboard being too difficult to use are greatly exaggerated. I type much more quickly than I do with a virtual keyboard. The edge on the bottom is fairly sharp, but unless you're pressing down on the edge of the phone TRYING to get it to gouge into something, you're not going to have any problems with day to day use. Unfortunately, the slider does have some problems opening and closing. Occasionally, your phone might completely shut down when you close the slider - even if you're not closing it particularly hard. While some people have reported no problems with this since launch day, many others have. Most seem to think that this is due to a poorly fitting battery connector, but whatever it is, it is a problem. Be prepared to restart your phone a few times.

    The phone display itself is beautiful, 16.7 million true color, sharp lines, crisp images, clean icons. While the display is smaller than other phones like the iPhone, you'll barely notice it with the vibrancy of the screen. I was very, very impressed with the way backgrounds, videos, pictures and attachments are displayed.

    Then I noticed a bunch of dead pixels on a black background. Check your phone, people. They might not have been there initially, but change your backgrounds to different sets of colors and look closely. It's not extremely egregious, but they ARE there, and it sucks. I will probably take the phone in to a Sprint store eventually to get it replaced for that.

    The volume rocker, silencer, power-on button and USB port are all flimsy and have a very cheap feel to them. I felt like I was going to rip the phone apart when I pulled the USB flap off for the first time, and I've struggled trying to connect the microusb in the dark without knowing exactly which end was supposed to be pushed into the phone. While getting a Touchstone alleviates the need to do charging via microUSB, Palm would have done themselves a damn sight better if they had shifted the port to the bottom of the phone and included an easier to access flap (or no flap at all). You should not have to buy a $50 accessory just to be able to charge your phone easily.

    Finally, the battery life. Oh Palm. :sigh:

    Let me be clear: the included stock battery is ATROCIOUS and will not last most heavy users through a single day. While I have heard that this is comparable to other smartphones (save Blackberries), I was floored by how bad the battery actually is. You can literally watch the battery icon drain when doing things like sending texts, listening to Pandora, or navigating web pages. The biggest kick in the nuts is that while you can certainly use the multitasking features of the phone, you definitely won't be able to use them for long if you want your phone to last the day. There are some people who have reported that their battery is fine and lasts them quite well, but the broad consensus is that the Pre battery is very, very poor for powering this phone. If you kept 5-6 open applications running and while listening to music, your phone would more than likely be dead in 3-4 hours.

    For example: at 7:45 this morning, I disconnected my phone from my charger at 100%. I made a five minute phonecall on my way into work, then browsed the web for 10 minutes. With no other activity, at 10:23 AM, I'm sitting at 87%. This is on a wireless connection, full EVDO bars otherwise, with screen auto-off after 15 seconds. Terrible. Take a lap, Palm.

    While I haven't bought one yet, most Pre users will probably need to consider buying an additional microUSB to keep with them at work or an ELB, probably the $70 2600 maH Seido. This fattens the **** out of the phone though and gives it the form factor of a USB mouse, which is not something I'd be particularly enthused about.

    In any case, battery life is the biggest hardware issue, really, the biggest single issue for this phone. Using a 1150 maH stock is just stupid. In the future, Palm would have been smart to include a minimum 1600-1700 maH battery, even if it causes a change in the form factor, simply so their users could actually USE the touted features of the phone without worrying about killing it.

    In sum:

    It's obvious that as a 1.0 product, the Pre has its flaws. You can definitely tell the hardware was not vetted before release and there are very real and tangible flaws. Forget the small slider keyboard and phone shutdowns when closing it, the battery life is going to be a complete dealbreaker for some people (and may end up being that way for me). I don't want to have to buy a $50 touchstone PLUS a new $60 battery just to be able to use the phone the way I want to.

    But it's also clear that this phone (operating system, more specifically) has very real potential. Forget Symbian, forget Windows Mobile :barf:. This OS is a thing of beauty. You will love the **** out of your notifications, being able to link everyone together quickly and easily, and the accessibility to homebrew applications. You will love being able to hack your phone and truly customize it to your use, particularly if you have any coding experience - full disclosure, I don't. Simply put, webOS is beautiful and will be around for years on many, many phones.

    Would I recommend the Pre?

    Yes - if you are willing to shell out another ~$120 for a new ELB, Touchstone charger/car charger, microUSB connector and screenguard. Just calculate an additional $120 on top of whatever you'd get the phone for after rebates and there's your real price of ownership for this SKU.

    No - if you only want the Pre stock and don't want to buy any other accessories.

    As I'm still within my 30-day demo period, I don't know if I will keep the Pre. I might. I feel a little suckered that I can't use a lot of the features of my phone because of the ****-poor battery life along with concerns about the flimsy hardware, and that makes me hesitant to shell out more cash for a phone which may not last me 2 years. The Hero is right around the corner, but it has its flaws too - slower chipset, only a 65k color display, poorer notification system, clumsy back and zoom buttons, etc. - but this is the second iteration of the Hero, and many of the hardware kinks I've heard have been ironed out.

    Let me just put it this way: if Palm released a Pre 2, with extended battery life, more solid buttons, an available app store and the software improvements described above, I'd buy the **** out of it around a $200 pricepoint. I'd probably buy two.

    Thanks for reading.
    Last edited by Beefy; 09/28/2009 at 12:04 PM.
  2. #2  
    Nice review ... a little emotional at times, but hey, people seem to love their phones 8^)

    re: battery life. It's certainly an issue, but I'm not so sure Palm "dropped the ball" as much as they just decided form was more important than function. As you noted, a bigger battery certainly detracts from the appeal. The biggest drains appear to be the screen and network use ... but I think this is the case for most mobile network devices like this. It's a compromise.
  3. Beefy's Avatar
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       #3  
    Quote Originally Posted by davis.rob View Post
    Nice review ... a little emotional at times, but hey, people seem to love their phones 8^)

    re: battery life. It's certainly an issue, but I'm not so sure Palm "dropped the ball" as much as they just decided form was more important than function. As you noted, a bigger battery certainly detracts from the appeal. The biggest drains appear to be the screen and network use ... but I think this is the case for most mobile network devices like this. It's a compromise.
    Are you serious?

    You're suggesting that Palm decided that form was more important than function and decided that they'd completely gimp battery life just so the Pre would look cool? I sincerely hope not. That would be the worst decision a phone vendor could make. In the long run, people aren't going to give a damn how the phone looks, but they ARE going to give a damn the first time the phone shuts off on the side of the road and they need to make a call, but can't because the battery died after sending 25 texts earlier in the day.

    I think it was due to a combination of having to get the product out sooner rather than later and not fully testing the stock battery with heavy use enough.
  4. #4  
    I think you'll be less dissatisfied with the battery life next week. You won't be happy with it, just less dissatisfied. Almost everyone has felt this way about the battery the first week, and been pleasantly surprised just after that. If you're a light user, you should be able to go all day with no problem.
    Palm III-->Handspring Visor-->Sony Clie PEG-NR70-->no PDA -->Palm Treo 755p-->Palm Pre-->HP Veer
  5. Beefy's Avatar
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       #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by jbg7474 View Post
    I think you'll be less dissatisfied with the battery life next week. You won't be happy with it, just less dissatisfied. Almost everyone has felt this way about the battery the first week, and been pleasantly surprised just after that. If you're a light user, you should be able to go all day with no problem.
    What if I'm not a light user? What if I want to send 50-100 texts, make a few calls, and also use the web?

    I understand that in the modern smartphone era, it's impossible to expect a phone to go for 24+ hours without an ELB while using energy intensive applications. But the Pre battery is just awful. If I am given the ability to multitask, I want to be able to multitask, not just use one or two applications at the time for fear of battery death.
  6. wodin's Avatar
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    #6  
    Nice review, exactly my feelings after nearly a month with my Pre. I did notice that when I'm at work or at home (excellent signal) the battery life is much better than when I'm at my wife’s office (signal sucks). When I’m at work, I can go a full day with moderate use and still have 40%. Yesterday I spent a few hours at my wife’s office and drained the battery in just a couple of them.

    I think that would be addressable with a firmware upgrade, but I’m not sure.
  7. #7  
    Quote Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
    What if I'm not a light user? What if I want to send 50-100 texts, make a few calls, and also use the web?

    I understand that in the modern smartphone era, it's impossible to expect a phone to go for 24+ hours without an ELB while using energy intensive applications. But the Pre battery is just awful. If I am given the ability to multitask, I want to be able to multitask, not just use one or two applications at the time for fear of battery death.
    It's not having multiple cards open that will burn down your battery, it's what those cards are doing. I don't think text messaging is particularly battery intensive (but I don't do more than a few per day, so I'm not the expert on that). Talking on the phone is substantial--Pre is rated at 5 hours talk time, and that is under absolutely ideal conditions with nothing else at all happening. Playing music (that is already on your phone) is also pretty intensive. Playing music while using bluetooth headphones is much more so. Playing Pandora while using bluetooth headphones is probably worse than talking on the phone. GPS applications are huge battery killers. I wouldn't use Sprint Nav for more than a few minutes without being plugged in. Google maps with gps is the same way.

    Believe it or not, I think the browser is even worse than talking on the phone. The reason is because it is using a lot more data than you realize, plus you're keeping the screen on (and scrolling).

    So, if you keep email, messaging, calendar, Tweed, weather, etc all open, I don't think that will have much more impact on your battery life than having nothing open. But if you surf for an hour, or listen to Pandora on bluetooth headphones for an hour, your battery will go down much more quickly. It's what you're doing, not how many cards are open.

    There are a number of battery life tips around that will help. There are also a few threads about cpu scaling, which works for some people and not for others.

    At any rate, once you are aware of the activities that eat the battery most hungrily, you'll be less shocked by your battery life. The Pre is so good that some of these activities don't seem stressing even though they are.
    Palm III-->Handspring Visor-->Sony Clie PEG-NR70-->no PDA -->Palm Treo 755p-->Palm Pre-->HP Veer
  8. #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
    What if I'm not a light user? What if I want to send 50-100 texts, make a few calls, and also use the web?

    I understand that in the modern smartphone era, it's impossible to expect a phone to go for 24+ hours without an ELB while using energy intensive applications. But the Pre battery is just awful. If I am given the ability to multitask, I want to be able to multitask, not just use one or two applications at the time for fear of battery death.
    But I wish the battery was a little bigger too. Instead of getting a bigger battery, I got the TS and keep my Pre on it all day at work. Consequently, I don't have trouble with the battery life.
    Palm III-->Handspring Visor-->Sony Clie PEG-NR70-->no PDA -->Palm Treo 755p-->Palm Pre-->HP Veer
  9. #9  
    Quote Originally Posted by jbg7474 View Post
    I think you'll be less dissatisfied with the battery life next week. You won't be happy with it, just less dissatisfied. Almost everyone has felt this way about the battery the first week, and been pleasantly surprised just after that. If you're a light user, you should be able to go all day with no problem.
    This was mostly my experience.

    It goes from "Are you **** ing serious?" to "The battery life sucks."

    It will get better, friend.
  10. wodin's Avatar
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    #10  
    Quote Originally Posted by jbg7474 View Post
    GPS applications are huge battery killers. I wouldn't use Sprint Nav for more than a few minutes without being plugged in. Google maps with gps is the same way.
    I have played a full round of golf (4 to 5 hours) with GolfPinFinder and the "GPS on when screen is off" option set to on. I only saw a 40% battery drain.

    I think it's something else going on with Google Maps and Sprint Nav causing the battery drain.
  11. #11  
    Quote Originally Posted by wodin View Post
    I have played a full round of golf (4 to 5 hours) with GolfPinFinder and the "GPS on when screen is off" option set to on. I only saw a 40% battery drain.

    I think it's something else going on with Google Maps and Sprint Nav causing the battery drain.
    Pure speculation here, but it's likely that Sprint Nav is getting more frequent readings from GPS since it's designed to use while driving, whereas GolfPinFinder can probably make do with a lot less frequent readings (say once every 10 seconds as opposed to once every second).
    Palm III-->Handspring Visor-->Sony Clie PEG-NR70-->no PDA -->Palm Treo 755p-->Palm Pre-->HP Veer
  12. #12  
    OP - Get a new battery. The shutdown problems indicate you have a defective one, and you may improve battery life. Just ask your Sprint rep for a replacement, he will likely give it to you gratis.
    VisorPhone Clone
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  13. tlaibe's Avatar
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    #13  
    I do understand your point on the battery life and USB location. I am on my 2nd Pre and made sure I "trained" the battery properly for the first few days. My 1st Pre was a victum of the "oreo cookie" syndrom. My background is in computers and electronics. These small high capacity batteries need to be fully charged and then fully drained 3-4 times, without interuption of the cycle (means no plugging in at any time until you are at very low level: less 9%). My battery life was less than good on my first pre until I was done conditioning it through a few full cycles. I am on the road all day and on heavy talk days I do need to use my car charger. But on normal days it is just enough to get me home at 5 pm at 30%. So if you to not do the battery training, I know you will get times of super fast drainage readings. I hope this helps and I do agree the battery should have been the 1400 at least, but unfortunately we got what we have to work with. Palm rolled out with a safe and budgeted battery until more development could be done on what WebOS power consumption will END up to be.

    As for the USB location, I also looked at it as a strange location. It isn't even on the same half as the battery. Make sure you guys are using recommended usb chargers, those cheap ones may or may not work and they also are not charging at the correct ratings if they do. Example, must computer USB ports will charge, but not effeciantly so use a pluged in source when ever possible.
  14. #14  
    Quote Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
    Are you serious?

    You're suggesting that Palm decided that form was more important than function and decided that they'd completely gimp battery life just so the Pre would look cool? I sincerely hope not. That would be the worst decision a phone vendor could make. In the long run, people aren't going to give a damn how the phone looks
    I'm suggesting that it was a form/function compromise and not a strict time/cost decision. You yourself said that you didn't like the look with the extended battery. To get more battery life you have to fit a bigger battery somewhere (assuming the software/hardware isn't totally lame in some way). Personally, I can work around the battery life, but I like the size the way it is.
  15. Beefy's Avatar
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       #15  
    Quote Originally Posted by jbg7474 View Post
    *words*
    Thanks for the responses, all.

    jbg, I have followed all the battery life tips that have been suggested - I'm on WiFi where it is available (home and work), I have screen set to auto-off after 15 seconds, GPS set to request only, dismissed any apps that might be open that I'm not using, etc., and my battery life is still bad. I work and live in an area where I have five bars constantly. I rarely keep more than texting and battery monitor on when using the phone. Is it possible that there might be some background code running causing a huge load to be placed on the battery that none of us are aware of?

    The most egregious example was yesterday when I was running NFL mobile and sending texts from noon-5pm. Battery would be dropping around 10% per hour. From what other people have said, I'm starting to think that this may be the result or cause of a defective battery. I am probably going to take it in to get looked at today by a Sprint rep.

    Quote Originally Posted by davis.rob
    I'm suggesting that it was a form/function compromise and not a strict time/cost decision. You yourself said that you didn't like the look with the extended battery. To get more battery life you have to fit a bigger battery somewhere (assuming the software/hardware isn't totally lame in some way). Personally, I can work around the battery life, but I like the size the way it is.
    True, I don't really like the look with the extended battery. But there are options to pack more battery power into the phone with the same size battery (like the 15-1600maHs) or reduce chipset power consumption, for example. I am just irritated that the thing is so cool and easy to use and yet I'm so limited by my battery's storage capabilities. I would LIKE to get a Touchstone, but therin lies my point: I shouldn't HAVE to in order to make it through the day, and it seems like you do just to get the thing through a full day's use.

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