I have blogged on numerous occasions about cellphones and historically, I have been an unabashed Blackberry user. So it was with a sense of shock when I realized that my new employer would not support Blackberry phones. I had two options:
The choice was obvious and I went with a Palm OS-based device and chose the Palm Pre Plus on AT&T. There are many articles discussing the basics of the Palm OS and Palm Pre and in this piece, I just wanted to share my thoughts on my likes and dislikes of the phone. I have been using the device for about three months now and so have had ample hands-on time. Note that these observations apply only to the Pre Plus; I have not used the Pre 2, Pixi or Pre 3.
What I like about it:
Touch screen – Palm has taken design cues from Apple and has done a good job in creating an OS that relies on touch gestures. It is very easy to use the OS to open programs and switch between different open ones. This was a particularly refreshing change from the Blackberry which relied on a trackball. (Newer Blackberries like the Torch have a touchscreen, but I do not believe that the implementation is as efficient as found on the Pre Plus.) Gestures such as double tapping and pinching for zooming work well. The RIM OS really shows it age in contrast.
Multi-tasking – Palm OS does a particularly good job with multi-tasking and uses its card interface to allow for rapid and efficient switching between running applications. It is very easy to quickly access your calendar or email while on a call. This is highly valuable particularly in scenarios where you have a conference call and must switch between the calendar and phone for access code information. RIM had multi-tasking too, but the process of accessing and closing applications was painful requiring a long press of the Blackberry button and substantial trackball scrolling. Simply put, Palm’s approach is far more efficient and user friendly.
Web Browser – Let me start by saying that my last Blackberry was the Bold 9000 and so I never tried RIM’s newest browser. The one I used was terrible. It was highly inefficient and was made worse by corporate policies which often refused to load sites claiming that they were too large. It was extremely frustrating and the web experience was questionable at best. The Pre’s browser could not be more different. It is a fully functioning mobile browser that mimics the experience of a desktop, and I have yet to find a site that the Pre has a major problem with. A massive improvement over the crud that RIM used to pass as a browser.
What I dislike:
Battery life – The battery life is just plain awful on this device. I barely get through a day without the phone dying and this is with the most aggressive power saving settings. I used to think that my Bold 9000 was bad and this phone makes it look amazing. It is really frustrating. There are options for extended batteries but, they are big and bulky which defeats the purpose. The one good thing is that Palm does have a nice wireless charging station called the Touchstone. I just wish that I did not need it so much!
Speed – The OS just feels slow to me. Certain commands like swiping across the screen to go back work inconsistently – sometimes the response will be instant and other times nothing will happen. After extensive testing, I have found that the problem is not due to my actions. Similarly, the phone sometimes refuses to switch applications and just sits there. It will eventually perform the commanded action, but the process is slow. I find this very annoying and surmise that it is a reflection of an underpowered device. The BB OS for all its annoyances was definitely faster and more consistent.
Keyboard – To be honest, this is probably my greatest dislike. I have been spoiled by RIM’s great physical keyboards. Initially, I was thrilled to have a Palm with a keyboard, but now I am not so sure. The keyboard is cramped with terrible feel and it is very difficult to get the correct letters. To further compound the situation, the Pre does not offer spell check and has limited auto correction. The result is a ton of typos which is very bothersome. Oddly, Palm OS does not offer an on-screen keyboard so there is no alternative input option. (The RIM was easer to edit text with too since it had the trackball!)
The Palm Pre Plus is an okay phone, but leaves something to be desired. I believe that Palm OS shines as a next generation platform, but falls flat on execution due to the hardware. The OS potential is here, but the current implementation is weak. I believe that the hardware situation will be addressed in the upcoming Palm Pre 3, but only time will tell.
I am left feeling unfulfilled by the Pre. Is it a good phone? Sure. Is it an outstanding phone? No, not in my opinion. In contrast, my Blackberry lacked many of the advanced touch features of the Pre, but still worked for me because it was so good at email. The Palm falls in the middle ground where email is fine, web browsing is great and everything else is okay.
As I look at the advancements in the Android and iOS world, I am left with a hankering for something else. It is not clear what other phones will be supported by my employer, but I am seriously considering swapping my Palm’s SIM into a new Android phone like the Atrix 4G. That phone seems like it would deliver a better overall experience although it lacks a physical keyboard.
What do you think? Should I ditch the Pre Plus?