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From a Former iPhone Lover... (FREQUENT UPDATES)
on August 1, 2009
Once upon a time, I was a major iPhone fan. Like many others, I had grown tired of ho-hum smartphones and wanted something new and fresh. Initially, I loved my iPhone. There was simply nothing like it, with its beautiful touchscreen interface and great packaging. Best of all, I'd been assimilated into a fun "iPhone culture." Yeah, I guess in a way I'd even look down my nose at others who did not own one. ;p
But as time went by, my happy relationship began to sour. Don't get me wrong... as a MEDIA device, it was beyond compare. It STILL IS. But as a PRODUCTIVITY device, it STUNK: the virtual keyboard drove me bananas, the calendar was hardly usable for my purposes, and the constant dropped calls in south Florida were infuriating. As the months dragged on, I began to resent my phone and despise AT&T. There was a glimmer of hope when the Apple's App Store made its debut, but instead of productivity apps I needed, it was flooded with junk with no easy way to sift through all the noise to find the quality apps. Though I must admit I was DEFINITELY addicted to a game or two! ;)
I wanted a phone that could serve me well as both a PRODUCTIVITY and PERSONAL device. So when the Palm Pre came out, I took a deep breath and signed on with Sprint to get one on launch day (June 6th).
Put simply? ..............
When writing this review I made the assumption that you, the reader, already knows the Palm Pre's features. What I did was just jot down my real-world experiences with the Pre to illustrate how freaking AMAZING it is...
IT AIN'T PERFECT, THOUGH! I'll definitely address those issues (caution, I'm pretty blunt).
------------------------- FIRST, THE THINGS I LOVE -------------------------
When I read about multi-tasking on the Palm Pre, it looked cool. When I played with the mult-tasking feature in the Sprint store, I thought it was really cool. But when I LIVED with multi-tasking, I realized I would never own another phone that doesn't do this. It doesn't always work perfectly... sometimes there are issues with lag but once you learn which apps are resource hogs you get the hang of how to operate with it.
Here's some real-world examples of how I use multitasking...
I consistently have email, texting, Twitter, phone, and Epocrates (medical app) open at all times while I'm working. No need to search for buttons or menus. Just flick and I'm there.
A while back my boss drove me down to New Orleans. I SIMULTANEOUSLY............
- Ran turn-by-turn navigation with spoken street names (thru car speakers)
- Ran Pandora (also thru car speakers)
- Sent MMS messages to my folks
- Tracked my wife's flight to Puerto Rico in real-time, using FlightView
- Viewed a PowerPoint presentation
- Sent that powerpoint presentation via email to a colleague
"Ordering Pizza and a Movie"
Just the other day my wife called me from the road to ask where she could get a movie rental and pick up a pizza in her area. I SIMULTANEOUSLY..........
- Ran my Google maps which found the nearest Blockbuster and pizza place to her,
- Ran Flixster and read Rotten Tomato reviews of different movies
- Texted my wife back and forth with my recommendations.
"Email + Messaging"
I can have both my email and texting apps open, and copy/paste from one into the other
"No Wifi headaches"
Here's a big one! I can enable/disable Wi-Fi without leaving the web page I'm on or the email I'm trying to download. Just touch the top of the screen for the menu and I'm done!
2) REAL KEYBOARD:
When Steve Jobs told me I'd get used to my virtual keyboard on my iPhone, I believed him... but after a year and a half of ownership, I came to this realization: nothing beats a real keyboard. I'm 6'3" and 200lbs, and while the Pre's keyboard is small, after a couple weeks I got very quick and accurate on it... MUCH faster than I ever did in all the time on my iPhone. It's worth mentioning that the a virtual keyboard has already been created for it, adding the convenience of BOTH. iPhone will always be stuck with just a virtual keyboard. There's also a homebrew app called "AutoCorrect Edit" that allows you to customize your autocorrect dictionary and make typing shortcuts. Killer.
You can sync multiple calendars to the Pre, and view them all simultaneously if you want... Google, Facebook, Exchange, etc.... they're all there. In addition to my personal calendar and my wife's calendar, I keep track the schedules of no less than EIGHT physicians in my fellowship program... all on my phone! Best part is I can view them all together, manage them, and update them from my device and send them to all the fellows and faculty in my program OVER THE AIR.
Also, there's calendar app integration... From my phone, I can add a flight directly to my calendar from Flightview. Or a movie I just purchased tickets for. Or dinner reservations I made using Open Table. All without opening my calendar. Easy. I can't wait until more apps offer this kind of functionality...
4) USB FLASH DRIVE ABILITY!
A couple weeks ago, I needed to email some documents and spreadsheets to my boss. My laptop had an erratic Wifi connection, so I was stuck. What did I do? I simply plugged my Pre into my computer via USB, dropped the files onto my phone, and emailed them to by boss using Sprint's network! Plain, freaking, AWESOME! This is not mentioned enough in the reviews I've read.
Another cool thing: who needs iTunes? With drag and drop, you can easily transfer music (with album art!) and videos back and forth on the Pre. Seriously. A monkey could do this.
5) AMAZON MP3 MUSIC STORE!
Love this place! Almost as much variety as iTunes, which is good enough for me. You can preview and download all the songs you want! I do wish you could see the duration of songs as well as the full title (for remixes and such), but overall I'm smitten with it. Not only that, they often feature entire albums for DIRT cheap. Best of all, UNLIKE iTunes, you can do whatever the heck you like with your music, and it doesn't have to be converted to a proprietary format! Beautiful.(P.S. I realize that music sold on iTunes is now DRM-free, but I still resent the fact that a good number of songs that I BOUGHT are stuck on iTunes unless I "upgrade." Hogwash.)
6) TOUCHSTONE WIRELESS CHARGER!
This is basically a hockey-puck device that you set your Pre onto and it charges it using a magnetic coil... no wires! This is particularly great at night right before I get into bed: rather than fumbling with wires and the Pre's (I'd like to smack the Palm engineers for that last one), all I do is just set my phone down on the charger. Easy. And I have a full charge in around 2 hours. The Touchstone does more than just charge my phone, though...
- If the Pre rings while on the charger and I press "TALK", it instantly goes to speakerphone.
- If I'm talking on the Pre and then set it down on the Touchstone, it instantly switches to speakerphone.
- If I want more privacy and take my phone OFF of the Touchstone during a conversation, it instantly switches speakerphone OFF. Nice.
Outdoor shots are amazing. Shutter has almost no lag. Although my iPhone used to take better pictures in low-light conditions, when there's NO light, the Pre has a flash... my iPhone did not.
*** UPDATE! 3/1/10... ***
With its 1.4 update, the Palm Pre now shoots VIDEO! You can also EDIT the video clip and send it via MMS/email, or even directly post it to Facebook or YouTube! This function works rather well, and video quality is not bad at all in good lighting conditions. Awesome! ... So video recording took Palm 8 months, and I didn't even have to buy a new phone. Compare that to Apple, who released video recording after TWO YEARS, and you had to buy a whole new phone?! Get outta here.
8) NETWORK AND PRICING... DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!!
My wife and I are saving a ton of money with Sprint. I know coverage varies from city to city, but for me, Sprint's been great. In my opinion, AT&T cannot support the deluge of iPhone customers. They pay a high premium to maintain iPhone exclusivity, and take another hit by heavily subsidizing the iPhone to entice new customers. Subsequently, improvements to infrastructure move at a slower pace than they should. Not only that, but iPhone customers have to pay a lot more per month than say, Palm Pre customers on Sprint! All Sprint plans for the Palm Pre include UNLIMITED data, UNLIMITED texts, and TURN-BY-TURN GPS NAVIGATION! With AT&T, you have to pay out the nose for those kinds of goodies. I price matched feature-for-feature with Verizon and I'm saving tons of money with Sprint. Do. Your. Research.
This is certainly one of the best aspects of webOS that I am saving for last. The Palm Pre has an OUTSTANDING homebrewing community. Best part is, you don't have to be a techie geek to be a part of it.
You may have heard of people "hacking" their phones in order to get them to do what they want. But unlike Apple, where "jailbreaking" is necessary to "hack" their phones, webOS users merely "homebrew" to "patch" their phones. This isn't just semantics: unlike Apple's constant Gestapo policies, Palm has chosen to embrace the homebrew community and welcome their innovation. The result? I can change the way the Pre looks and behaves. I can make it look just like an iPhone or a Blackberry. I can have homebrew apps like custom AutoCorrect dictionaries for my typos. I can change the appearance of the launcher. I can easily switch my phone radios on and off... the list goes on and on. Currently there are hundreds of homebrew apps and patches, and over a thousand themes. It's really exciting stuff and really fun to be a part of it.
I never thought I'd enter this as an advantage for the Palm Pre, but it's become very clear that the Pre's hardware is very capable of intense 3D gaming. Thanks to Palm's Plug-in Development Kit, developers can now port apps from other platforms (like the iPhone) directly to the Pre in a matter of days. Don't believe me? As of this writing there are over 30 3D games for the Palm Pre. I own six of them (Need For Speed: Undercover, Assasin's Creed, Brothers in Arms, Let's Golf, Asphalt5, Glyder2) and ALL of them have impressed me. Presently, neither Android or Blackberry can offer games as rich in graphics as seen in the Palm Pre or iPhone. Now, with the SPRINT Pre, you'll have to pretty much close every other application you have running, because these games are memory hogs. But in the case of the Pre Plus on VERIZON, you can run 3D games and 50 other apps, if you so desire. It's crazy.
... Why should you care about all this? Because here we have a device that can now do intense 3D gaming...... AND all of the cool stuff I listed above. Pretty damn cool.
--------------------------- MY MAJOR COMPLAINTS ---------------------------
1) BATTERY LIFE.
Suuuuucks. No two ways about it. I'm lucky if I'm able to make the day during heavy use or extended periods in areas with bad reception. Luckily, the battery is REMOVABLE, and extended-life batteries are available. If your battery ever dies, you have the option of slapping in a spare... this is actually a WONDERFUL feature... I just wish the stock battery was better.
****** UPDATE (3/1/10) ******
Since the Pre was updated to 1.4, battery life has improved somewhat. I can now get through an entire day of moderate to heavy use on a single charge. Keeping things in perspective: my wife (nowhere near as heavy a user), used to get through the entire day on a single charge BEFORE the update.
Here's what I don't get: the Pre has the same processor speed as the iPhone 3GS, yet there are times I want to throw my Pre against the wall. Don't get me wrong... the Pre is usually quick and multitasking makes this less of an issue. But sometimes? The times it takes for my Pre to "think" and process my commands are unacceptable. Palm has made inroads on this: with the latest update, the calendar speed is much, much improved and I am now satisfied with it. And soon, Palm will give us an update which will directly access the Pre's Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which will mean much faster scrolling and graphics rendering in browsers and games. Still, I'm left wanting faster performance overall.
*** UPDATE! 3-10 ***
Palm's made significant progress in this area with their latest 1.4 update. Now all Palm has to do is enable that GPU, and we'll be very close to getting iPhone-like speeds. Lag is almost a "minor" complaint now, though it could still be faster.
*** UPDATE! 4-10 ***
A homebrew patch has been released that allows you to overclock the Pre's processor. What this means is you can run the phone faster than it was designed. Theoretically, there's a risk of wearing your processor out faster. Battery life also takes a hit while the device is in use. But, the added performance has been well worth it and my battery life has been the exact same while on standby. It was incredibly easy patch to do and I did it in five minutes. I recommend it to pretty much everyone! If you need help look me up on Twitter (@vara411).
3) 8 GB OF MEMORY, NON-EXPANDABLE.
This has been less of an issue than I anticipated, but with the new 3D games and video recording, I anticipate my memory requirements will go up. Despite all the apps and videos of my baby daughter, I still have 4GB free. Not too bad. Fortunately, the USB drag/drop function on the device makes clearing space so easy. It's worth noting that the Palm Pre Plus has DOUBLE the internal storage (16gb, non-expandable) and double the RAM. If memory is more of an issue for you, then the Pre Plus is definitely worth a look.
-------------------------- MY MINOR COMPLAINTS ---------------------------
1) NO VISUAL VOICEMAIL... YET. C'mon Palm and Sprint. Update this!
2) NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THE HELL A PRE IS... YET. Thanks to less-than-stellar marketing decisions, the Pre has not caught on very well. Compare that to the Motorola Droid and iPhone marketing campaigns, which are much better run and have much larger budgets... and you see Palm may have a tough time getting the word out through all the noise. But hey if you are a trend-setter and want to be different, get a Pre or Pre Plus! :)
At the time of this writing (***updated 4/14/10***) the Palm Pre's App Catalog has almost 2,000 apps (plus hundreds of homebrew apps and over a thousand themes). This is certainly dwarfed by the thousands of iPhone and Android apps, but they're really starting to become a steady stream (no longer a trickle) of new apps. My complaint is that I'm still missing some very important apps, namely Docs2Go with full EDITING capabilities. It's supposed to come to webOS in early 2010, but my patience is wearing thin. I also wish we had Shazam, though I know we'll get it as soon as Palm releases its mic API's.
But if it's apps you want, you should know the Catalog still has a ways to go. It's grown substantially since starting with 30 apps, but I'm still quite peeved we don't have Docs2Go (right now you can only view but not edit Office files) or Shazam... but they're coming! Plus, we have a lot of big names now, like Direct TV remote DVR, Slacker Radio, Pandora, Flixster, etc... and we now have awesome 3D games like Need for Speed, Assassin's Creed, etc.
4) PALM'S FINANCIAL TROUBLES
I thought I'd include a little blurb on this because a lot of people have come up to me and said "Palm isn't doing well, therefore I shouldn't buy a Pre." This is crazy talk. First of all, my phone still works great regardless of Palm's financial reports. Second, webOS is an EXCELLENT product. Regardless of what happens to Palm (if they get bought, for instance), it will definitely persevere and continue to thrive. Third, there's awesome deals to be had right now: the Pre Plus is really cheap right now with FREE Mobile Hotspot on Verizon. Basically, you can tether up to five devices (laptop, iPad, iPod Touch) to your phone... FOR FREE! Finally....... and this is very important........ this is a PHONE we're talking about, people. Not a car or life insurance! Sheesh.
... I guess that sums things up! In short, I'd say the Palm Pre is a great blend of the iPhone and a Blackberry, with the added ability to multi-task. If you're between either of them, I'd highly recommend it. I love it.
********************* UPDATE 10-07-09 **********************
It's confirmed: Palm Pre is coming to Verizon in 2010.
********************* UPDATE 10-15-09 **********************
To save money, my wife joined me on Sprint. She initially went for the HTC Hero because she wanted a virtual keyboard. She didn't like it, and got a Palm Pre instead. In her words: "it's just so much easier to use." She also has grown quite fond of the Pre's keyboard.
********************* UPDATE 11-19-09 **********************
It's been almost 6 months since I got my Pre and, with caveats, I'm still in love with it. There have been a couple issues like the flimsy USB door falling off but I repaired it myself.
Also, since I've owned the Pre, Palm has sent SEVEN over-the-air updates. It's great to see they're continuously refining and improving it. Subsequent updates have added new features... to name a few:
- SMS Emoticons
- Text forwarding
- Copying text and images from the browser
- Speed improvements
- Yahoo! synergy and instant messaging
- E-mail search capability
- Ability to send contacts as .vcf files via SMS or email
********************* UPDATE 12-09 **********************
Palm updated to 1.3.5, which removed the silly app limit and significantly improved performance of the Pre. All the love lost is back again. ;)
********************* UPDATE 1-10 **********************
The Pre now has 3D gaming! I'm not talking silly games... I mean 1st person shooters, Need for Speed... just like the iPhone. Awesome.
The Pre gets video recording in February!
The Pre gets Flash 10.1 in February!
********************* UPDATE 3-10 **********************
With the 1.4 update, we now have video recording! We can also edit videos and post them to YouTube, Facebook, or send 'em via MMS or email! Other notable enhancements are *MUCH* faster performance in opening apps and better battery life. I love how Palm keeps improving this thing.