Sure we’re obsessed with mobile apps, but is this what makes the iPhone so hugely popular? I would argue that the well-constructed operating system and intuitive user interface are just as important and this is why I see the Palm Pre Plus as an equal.
It is true that without a wide selection of third-party apps the average smartphone wouldn’t be much fun but what do you use most on an everyday basis?
As an iPhone owner, I use Messages, Mail, Safari, an RSS feed reader, the social networking triad of Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare and the iPod more than anything else and if a smartphone cannot compete in these key areas then I’m not inclined to consider it a rival to the reigning smartphone operating systems of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
It angers me that Palm has been so overlooked these past few years and that it was snapped up by HP for a mere US$1.2bn (in comparison, social networking bust Bebo was sold for US$850m to AOL in 2008) when its WebOS is such a competent mobile operating system.
It is easy to use; not a huge leap for those indoctrinated in the ways of iPhone or Android, but unique enough to have its own distinct advantages.
On the other hand, it is disappointing that Palm has taken so long to get going on the apps side of things. When the Palm Pre was released in Ireland last year the scarcity of apps available for download was such that I couldn’t but return to my iPhone for my fix of entertainment, productivity, comms and general pursuit of app-iness.
Roll on almost a year later and the Palm Pre Plus arrives with news that there are plenty of WebOS apps, making it a much more attractive smartphone choice, but a lot more could be added. I’m just waiting for third parties including Spotify, Twitter, Skype and Google Earth to bring out official apps for the WebOS and I think this little smartphone can stand proud.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Pre Plus is how compact it looks. With the physical QWERTY keypad tucked in, this 3.1-inch screen is surrounded by a small frame and looks like a shiny black bullet of a phone. It fits in your packet and hand quite well and feels reassuringly expensive with its matte black cover and shiny metal logo plus camera rim.
There are absolutely no buttons on the face of the Pre Plus, the roller ball nav below the screen is now gone and all navigation to and from the home screen is done through gesture-based touch on the aptly named ‘gesture area’ with blinking notification light.
The home screen is minimalistic and blank save for the launcher ribbon that holds five icons. This blank space will usually be filled with launched apps that slide across on ‘cards’ and can run simultaneously.
In order to access the full menu there is a menu icon on the launcher ribbon and this is where you’ll be retrieving your applications from. It is different from Android and iPhone in that you cannot have your favourite apps sitting on the home screen at all times but the distinct advantage is that you can keep open and flick through lots of them at once.
Once you get used to sliding your finger upwards from a fully open app to reveal all of your cards and tapping on it to make it full screen again, you’ll find it easy and intuitive.
Swiping to the left on the gesture area is essentially a ‘back button’ to go back a step or back through the submenus of an application while swiping upwards on a card will close down the application fully.
It sounds like a few new things to remember and after a while it’s a breeze.
And don’t forget the slide-out QWERTY keypad. I quickly learned that typing emails from a physical keyboard is so much faster and so less prone to error.
Once you’ve created a Palm Pre account and added your usual suspects, including Gmail and Facebook, these are integrated into one universal phonebook.
This looks really great when, say, you’ve emailed a contact and they send an SMS in return and you IM them back only to get a Facebook message – all of this is kept in one threaded sequence for that contact.
The look and feel of messaging, mail, the web – and Facebook come to that – is very slick and nicely designed. There are no clunky compromises on this smartphone.
The usual suspects
The Palm Pre Plus comes loaded with YouTube, Google Maps and Facebook, as well as the expected bits an bobs like the calculator, PDF viewer, memos, a document viewer and GPS.
These work well and are complimented by additional free apps, such as AccuWeather, Top Stocks Lite, unofficial Bing and Google search apps, Foursquare and some free Twitter apps (I recommend TweeFree).
Syncing and compatibility
When you hook up your Palm to your PC or Mac you can choose storage mode so any photos, music, documents, etc, that you want to load onto it can simply be dragged and dropped from your desktop without any complicated in-between software or locked-in conditions.
You can transfer any file type you like and they’ll only open if you have the right applications on the Palm Pre to read them.
Syncing is also easy – as I’ve mentioned this happens automatically with Facebook and Gmail but also works the same for LinkedIn and you can add and sync more than one Microsoft Exchange Server Outlook account, too.
For me, the Palm Pre Plus only falls down on battery life: with all the multitasking and push notifications I found that a single charge only gave me one busy day so no different to the current iPhone 3Gs on that score.
Listening to music – both through earphones and loudspeaker – worked very well for the little speaker located on the back of the phone and those talking to me reported that the sound was loud and clear.
The 3-megapixel camera with LED flash is surprisingly good. It worked very well in shade and direct sunshine and I was happy with both stills and video. Two thumbs up!
Storage-wise you don’t really have anything to worry about because the Pre Plus has 16GB on board.
The Palm Pre Plus comes with a soft case to protect the screen, the back cover is designed to work with the extra Touchstone charging dock if required and there are the usual earphones, USB cable and plug.
A solid choice for the smartphone shopper, the Palm Pre Plus has almost everything you could desire. Bar a super high-definition screen or quite high specced camera, this phone is as smart as they come.
From €40 per month on O2 Ireland price plans.
Courtesy of Gadgetrepublic.com