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Palm Pre Final Models In-depth Impressions from Canada

There was recently a event held in Toronto, where Palm via Sequentia Environics announced Bell as their exclusive provider of the Pre in Canada and gave demo's and some hands-on time of the Pre to a selected few people. Alexa Clark, one of the lucky few which was invited to the event, had some good 20-30 minutes of playing with the Pre and agreed to share her hands-on impression with us. Looks like Tony's Pre-Review was not all that biased after all. Most of what she commented on is already known, but there were a few interesting tidbits. One of which was rather Pre will come in different colors?

Here's her impression of the Palm Pre in the Q&A format:

Could you walk us through the experience/preview?

It was a pretty informal preview with 2 palm folks – Matt Crowley, Palm Pre Product Manager, and Marc Tremblay, Country Manager for Canada. Matt did the demo/preview holding a Palm Pre while 4 of us crowded around him. He ran us through a number of the new features, the new WebOS and the gesturial interface. They showed us the TouchStone and demoed the video & audio capabilities. The showed us the Synergy feature which keeps your contacts up to date by syncing with the social media cloud. We talked about the built-in apps and custom app development ( Then he handed the phone to me and hauled out another one for the other guys to play with while we asked questions.

How did the speaker sound for movies, music and calls?

The speaker sound was good for both movies & music. Ironically for a phone preview, we never demoed placed a phone call. One cool feature that was referenced was that if you put the phone down on the Touchstone while on a call, it will automatically switch to speakerphone mode. Pretty cool, though I'm pretty sure I'd want the ability to configure this default behaviour.

Was video playback smooth or choppy?

Very smooth. I'm not sure if it was streamed or not. 

How did the screen do with finger prints?

The screen was very shiny. (and I'm not using Firefly slang here). So shiny that because of where I was seated in relation to the window, there were things I didn't get to see. (luckily I got to play later). The phone comes with a sleeve that is designed to let you buff the screen... so I think they are trying to pre-empt the fingerprint issue.

How many apps was running simultaneously?

There were 5 running simultaneously at one point. The nice part was that the "cards" let you reduce the real estate each one uses, reorder them and swap between them, but rather than being a snapshot, they are still live and updating on screen. This is one of the things I really liked about the interface.

Did you get to play with the Pre and/or TouchStone?

Yes. I got to play with it a couple of times. First when I was asking about how strong the magnetic connection was between the TouchStone and the Pre since I noticed Matt was holding the TouchStone down with a finger every time he removed the Pre. The TouchStone is supposed to be affixed (I assume by suction or equivalent) to your table, but without that I repeatedly lifted the TouchStone when attempting to remove the Pre. The table we were on wasn't a smooth desk but rougher wood, so perhaps it would work more seamlessly on a desk, or perhaps with a wrist twist. 

It has a nice heft without being heavy, so it doesn't feel cheap or like a toy. The backing you replace to work with the TouchStone is matte, which I liked more than the shiny backing it comes with. But both feel nice in the hand. The sliding is smooth, and doesn't catch or feel like it's likely to fail leaving the phone permanently open or closed. (one of my tests for any phone with moving pieces). 

I took a couple of photos which with the 3M camera turned out fairly well. Certainly basic-blog quality and the LED flash is a nice and useful touch. Taking the photos required a little re-think, since you don't push the little silver button in the middle, you actually touch the screen. (The silver button is single function - moving apps to card mode only, luckily it doesn't get in the way or conflict with the right-to-left gestures.) 

I'm not sure about the mirror above the camera lens that pops up when you slide up the keyboard. I envision a lot more self-conscious cell photos...not that that's a bad thing! It might also be useful for flagging a cab at night or removing the spinach before a big meeting. But it does trigger jokes about where the toothpick and screwdriver are. As an amateur photographer I'd like to test it photographing someone in front of a reflective surface with the flash... just because I'm like that.

How you like the keyboard?

It was okay. The buttons where easy to distinguish from each other and typing was smooth if a bit cramped compared to what I'm used to. (though I have small-average fingers, never sure how the larger fingered folks work these micro-keyboards). The curved slide makes the edges of the keyboard slightly less accessible because there is a little ledge at the bottom corners of each side. I didn't get enough type-time to gauge whether that would cause a little sore bit where my thumbs rested on it... but that would require a couple of email/blog intensive days to tell, so it's fine for casual usage.

Does the device feel plasticy?


How was the processing speed of the device, any freezes?

No freezes during the 20-30 minutes we were in and playing with it.

How was the battery life?

I know we asked, but I think it was one of the questions that was deferred.

Was the touchscreen responsive?

Yes. I was actually pretty impressed. I've been playing with touch screen technology on and off since the Apple Newton and have never really been happy with them. But I didn't have a single mis-click or missed click with this one.

Anything you would like to add that might interest the Pre-enthusiasts?

There was one question from another attendee about whether the Pre will come in pink. Marc Tremblay, the Country Manager for Canada, replied quoting Ford "You can have it any color you like, as long as it's black." The discussion we had around the app development opportunities was really interesting. It looks like the WebOS has a fairly straight-forward dev environment using Javascript, HTML and CSS. Though of course app development is all well and good, if people aren't using the platform you don't have an audience. I still think it may be a great opportunity.


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Reader Comments (6)

Love it.....

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrantz

"Though of course app development is all well and good, if people aren't using the platform you don't have an audience."

If you build it, they will come.

That is my attitude towards webOS right now. Amazing potential in the OS. I love the Pre form factor. Throw in a MicroSD slot and it would be perfect, but it will due. Palm has the opportunity to cash in on another relatively easy dev platform, so hopefully enough initial devices will sell to spark some dev interest this year.

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrett Q.

This was really helpful and objective. Thanks for your account of your short time with the phone. There's a bit of new information in what you found. Good stuff.

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDevron

Q: Does the device feel plasticy?

A: No.

Thanks for asking Philip! I was curious about this specifically.

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

a deal breaker for me would be poor or subpar audio quality when listening to music through the 3.5mm headphone jack, the iphone still has the competition(g1, storm, instinct etc) beat in that regard....was ever tested?

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLo?ick

I did try out music and video sound on a pair of Sennheiser earphones. The quality was great. Forgot to mention that in my earlier post!

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTony Peric

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