The most eagerly-awaited phone of the year is finally here: Sprint is releasing the Palm Pre.
This device marks the debut of the webOS, which many are expecting to become a major force in the smartphone market. At this point it's too early to say how this is going to play out, but I can say that so far it's looking very good for Palm and Sprint.
DESIGN AND BUILD
The general look and feel of the Pre is outstanding. It sits very comfortably in my palms, and slips easily into my pocket. It's so smooth and rounded, I find myself flipping it over and over in my hand when I'm not using it.
Palm went for a minimalist design on the outside, with few buttons or ports showing. There's a power button on top, along with the headset port and a mute button, while the micro-USB slot on the right side is hidden behind a small door.
Pushing up on the screen exposes the QWERTY keyboard, and if the device's screen is off it will activate when you do this.
The 3.1-inch display is beautiful -- it does a fine job of displaying both text and movies. That said, I wish it was higher resolution. At HVGA (480x320 pixels) it's the minimum I consider acceptable on a smartphone.
This is a capacitive touchscreen, which means it senses your finger tapping on it, and won't work with a stylus or even your fingernail. The touch sensitivity seems about right so I have no problems selecting items on the screen -- which is important, considering this is how you do almost everything on this device.
So far, I am not warming up to the Palm Pre's sliding keyboard; it's just too small and cramped. I still prefer it to an on-screen one, but I would be much happier if this phone had been designed with a landscape-oriented keyboard, which would allow it to have larger keys with more distance between them.
Still, the fact that the keys are slightly sticky is a nice touch, as this helps prevent your fingertip from sliding off to bump a wrong key.
I like the Pre's minimalist design, but it's possible Palm took it a bit too far. Notably absent are any external LEDs, which other phones use to indicate status. If the screen is off, there's no way to tell if you have a message waiting, or if the device is charging. The only way to find out is turn on the screen.
I don't often bring up accessories when I do reviews, but the Pre's are so exceptional I have to make an exception. The cylindrical power "brick" with flip-up electrical prongs is one of the coolest I've ever seen.
A cloth slipcase to help you keep the phones screen scratch-free is also included. This is nice, but I wish Palm wasn't quite so enamored with orange.
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