In between the amazing E3 2009 and today's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Palm and Sprint held an important product launch that's vital to the future of both companies. The Palm Pre launched over the weekend, exclusive on the Sprint network. Boasting an innovative operating system called WebOS, a sleek hardware design, and modern multimedia capabilities, the Pre has garnered positive reviews and brisk sales. I'm actually in the market for a new phone and the Pre is on my short list, along with the BlackBerry Curve 8900. There are several things I love about the Pre and a few things I don't. Let's go down the list.
Three Reasons I Want the Palm Pre
1) The OS is Modern and Slick: The most impressive aspect of the Palm Pre is WebOS. Some people are stuck on the hardware, but the software is much more interesting to me. It's slick, it can multitask, and it was built with Internet integration from the ground up. In some ways, it outshines the iPhone OS. At this point in time, it's already more user-friendly than Google Android (though it lacks Android's open-source potential) and much more intuitive than Symbian S60. Provided Palm has enough cash to operate for the next few years (or a company like...I dunno, Dell buys it up), WebOS should be one of the best mobile operating systems for years to come. It's damn good now and should only get better.
Beneath the OS is an excellent web browser. Like the T-Mobile G1, iPhone, and Nokia N97, the Pre's browser is based on WebKit. Browsers based on WebKit are, by far, the best mobile browsers out there.
2) The Hardware is Sexy: The physical design of the Pre is attractive. The size feels "just right" when held in your hand or dropped in your pocket. When closed, the edges are smooth (more on this later). The screen is also gorgeous. Looks are an entirely subjective thing, but most people feel that the Pre is a good-looking piece of consumer electronics.
3) Sprint's Network Works (For Me): The quality of any network depends on where you live, work, and travel. For me, Sprint has been excellent. A good friend of mine at Gamasutra recently left Sprint to join the iPhone crowd. While he loves his phone, he absolutely hates the AT&T's spotty coverage in San Francisco. Verizon has, by most accounts, the best network in America, but I hate the way it pulls features and imposes its crap UI on some perfectly good phones. (And the guy in the Verizon commercials should be shot.) T-Mobile's 3G network is way behind the competitions. While all four major carriers in America suffer from various degrees of sucktitude, Sprint works well in the areas I frequent and offers me juicy discounts for being a longtime customer.
Now let's move on to the things I don't like about the Pre.
Three Reasons I Don't Want the Palm Pre
1) Contact Importing is Overzealous and Limited at the Same Time: Similar to Google's Android OS, WebOS pulls your contacts from existing accounts on the "cloud". At the moment, it can pull from Gmail, Facebook, and Exchange accounts. There are a few problems with this. Like a lot of people, I have an unwieldy amount of contacts in my Gmail accounts, simply because the service auto-saved everyone I've ever emailed. On the Facebook side, I'm sure a lot of you have contacts like that random guy from high school that you have no intention of calling, but added him to your friends list out of courtesy. Syncing with Gmail and Facebook is an all-or-nothing operation. In my case, it would be less work to manually input my "real" contacts info into Exchange and syncing that data, instead of weeding everything out after syncing with Gmail and Facebook. Either way, it's more work than it ought to be.
Lastly, I wish contact info could be pulled from more sources. Call me crazy, but I have a lot of my phone contacts stored in my Skype account. If the Pre pulled directly from Skype, it would be exponentially more convenient for me. I realize that most of you aren't as Skype crazy as I am, so I understand why this feature wasn't included.
2) Shoddy and Potentially Dangerous Construction: While I love the Pre's industrial design, I'm a bit alarmed at some of the early reports on its build quality. A lot of reviewers have noted that the slider mechanism feels a bit flimsy. The Pre also has an unusually sharp edge, which prompted someone to make a video of the Pre slicing cheese. Looking at the phone is one thing, but touching it is another matter. Although I've only had a few minutes on the hardware, it definitely feels like a step down from the build quality of the iPhone, high-end BlackBerry handsets, and high-end Nokia phones.
The keyboard is also a disappointment. Even in my brief time with the Pre, I could tell the keyboard wasn't as comfortable as the ones on the BlackBerry Curve 8900 or the T-Mobile G1. Palm was big on having the Pre work with one hand, which meant having a portrait-oriented slider...which meant limited space for the keyboard. Naturally, I'm sure I'd get used to the keyboard and become proficient with it, but it would have been nice to have a quality keyboard like the 8900 or the generous, landscape width of the G1.
3) Limited Software Potential: Let me preface this by saying that the software situation will surely change in the future, but at this time, Palm does not offer hardware access in its SDK to most developers. An extremely limited number of developers can use the Pre's horsepower, but most programmers will essentially be coding web apps. Surely the Pre's catalog will grow in the upcoming year, but right now it's way behind Apple, Google, Nokia, and RIM in the apps department. Apple, Nokia, and RIM enjoy huge global installed bases with its phones, making their respective platforms attractive to developers. Loads of developers are attracted to the open-source nature of Google Android, which will also have numerous handsets by the end of the year. Again, the Pre's catalog is sure to grow, but will it grow as fast as its competitors' catalogs? Probably not.
So that's my rant on the Palm Pre. Any of you guys pick it up over the weekend? If so, what do you think so far? Any of you on the fence about it, like me? Share your thoughts on what you like and don't like about the phone.