Tech Review - Palm Pre
So 6 months on from opening the shiny but compact box that my new Palm Pre smartphone came in, how are things going for the first generation palm pilot/phone hybrid? Well, Palm have already brought out a Palm Pre Plus!?
After 6 months of use, I have had many problems with the "smart" phone, mainly occurring after a system upgrade. This said, you enter into this agreement to almost be a guinea pig if it's a first generation electronic gadget.
I feel I must justify the reasoning behind buying a Palm over any other smart variety that seems to be a magnet to geeks and mods everywhere.
I’m by no means a trend-setter (unless by accident), and I don’t go following trends to be cool. I have read reviews and taken many hours over deciding what phone to upgrade to. My previous phone was a Sony Erricson K750i, perfect in every way as a regular phone – so much so I kept it for a year longer than I needed to when I chose not to upgrade earlier. I wanted my next phone to do 2 main jobs, 1) to be a phone to call and text people on – and – 2) Become a replacement for my Palm Pilot, a Tungsten E2 handheld.
The E2 was great, lots of games, internet access and most importantly – Sudoku and Calendar. Calendar having to sync with my Yahoo mail account (emails too).
So when I found out the Palm Pre did all these things, it seemed like a good deal, and a good contract with O2 to be able to keep my account and phone number.
Knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy ride I was ready for waiting for things to work, upgrades and lots of homebrews (and yes this did happen).
Out of the box it looks very shiny with a slide up top part to reaveal the qwerty keyboard underneath (the Palm Pixi is similar, but doesn’t have the slide it’s more like a Blackberry). It was easy to setup emails and after adding a few details into the phone it was up running and ready to connect to my home wifi in minutes.
Once I’d had it a few weeks (I’d bought the Hard case cover and the scratch-proof screen protectors) I dropped the phone, while it was showing it’s keyboard onto a concrete pavement – answer to that question, not very durable – even with the hard cover it chipped at the side of the top part of the phone so when you close it the internals are exposed. Needless to say I’ve reverted back to the little cloth case I got with the phone as the hard case, intact after the fall as it was felt a little pointless to protect a now already chipped phone. So, on the durability factor it only gets a 2/10.
After a few weeks of really exploring the workings of the phone at first I had to buy a 3rd party app called Chapura for Palm OS, which enabled me to sync my Outlook account over my home wifi to the Pre. This enabled me to then sync my yahoo calendar to the Pre via Outlook – very long winded and only updatable when at home on my laptop – not very good. 6 months on this is finally sorted after one point Palm deleting ALL my events in my yahoo calendar (thank the stars I’d had the past experience to back up!) With an item like this, that something you must learn to do!
Now it syncs without fail (only when the yahoo server is down) and is neat and with yahoo calendar’s beta version I have two different calendars I can sync with the Palm Pre and colour co-ordinate to different items – mine are for example my regular calendar and a special “Gym” one that goes in a different colour. The calendar programme that comes with the Pre is fantastic and quite easy to set up once you have the correct details, you can also view lots of calendars form different sources such as Yahoo, Outlook and Googlecal. Perfect for my calendar (and old palm pilot users’ needs). Only minus at the moment is it decides that if you want an all-day event reminder that it’s going to set an alarm at midnight on that day and wake you up – no option to change that at the moment, hoping it will be in the next update.
There are lots of homebrews out there for the Palm Pre – Preware, Preload and Filecoaster are the ones I have on my Pre. The most useful is the Preware an I’ve got lots of great games off there (some free, some pay-for) and most importantly some geeks somewhere posted the patches to make the phone more accessible, more useful. There was a patch I’m waiting for in this current release however that doesn’t seemed to have been update (and sees to have disappeared) is the push mms data. What this means is if you choose to switch your data off (useful toggle available to download if you want to save your battery) and stops automatic updates and check to the net for things such as mail and calendar. In previous versions the push patch meant that you could send and receive mms messages without having to wait for the next time you switch on your data toggle (that’s caught me out a few times already).
We are currently on the 1.4.5 World Ready version (I’m on O2 UK) and it’s a vast improvement to 1.0.0.
However things are not quite right with some things still – Google maps takes a eyon to load with ample gprs signal and there are not many forums around that focus on UK based problems.
After reading many reviews about smart phones and the dreadful battery life – if you are sensible and use a data toggle, keep your gprs on “ask every time” and don’t have your email/calendar/contacts updating more than once every few hours (use manual sync now instead if you’re waiting for something important) and keep the over-bright display at it’s lowest setting; then you’ll be fine. Doing that with a modern phone use and a moderate/frequent text/internet browsing usage, my phone normally lasts 48 hours from gull to battery empty level and I normally get to a plug socket before it goes off completely. It is like a computer however in that if it does die you do loose clock time so it is worth downloading a free clock sync “app”. [I officially hate that word, app] The quality of the apps in the Palm store “app Catalog” are improving and it’s nice to see some of the homebrew apps making onto the official store.
There are lots of homebrew apps for use on your pc to get you out of trouble should you Palm die a complete death like “OS Doctor” and “Patch Recovery” for when you’ve upgraded without removing your patches first (won’t be doing that again!).
Overall from this quick review you can see the things that stood out to me with the Palm after 6 months of use, the problems that seem large at the time became minor after an upgrade and the only problems still left are rubbish, but overall minor.
I would love to try my hand at the Palm Pre Plus and see the difference, but I’m a happy customer with a previous Phone and Palm background.
Out of the box – 7/10
Durability – 2/10
Calendar and it’s Sync – was 2/10, now 9/10
Homebrew apps available – 8/10
Quality of apps in Palm’s App Catalog – 6/10
Overall use and quality 8/10