The original Palm Pre has already been reviewed here on Brighthand, so I’ll just review some highlights as well as discuss the added features of the Pre Plus.
The webOS platform is both powerful and simple, unifying the various online portions of your life (Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.) into one glorious whole. It’s brilliant, but it’s an adjustment, especially in regard to the swipe navigation gestures. As an iPod Touch user, it took me a few days to get into the swing of things.
The results of my voice quality tests were average. I did not have trouble communicating with callers, but they weren’t impressed. Folks on other end said they could certainly tell I was on a cell phone. Part of the problem could be the less-than-stellar Verizon coverage at my house since it was rare to see more than three bars of network coverage.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work exactly as expected.
One of the Palm Pre Plus’s major new features is Mobile Hotspot, which allows you to create an on-the-go mobile network connecting up to five devices. It’s wonderfully handy and can be a real time-saver on the go, but it comes at a price.
When you first launch the Mobile Hotspot feature, you are offered the choice of creating either an open network or specifying your own passphrase (from 8 to 63 characters). Each time a device is connected or disconnected, the phone notifies you either by a short chime or a short buzz (in silent mode) so you’ll know what’s going on. You can also check the Mobile Hotspot app for the list of connected devices.
Unfortunately, the Mobile Hotspot feature an extra $40 a month on top of your $29.99 or greater data plan, with a monthly allowance of 5 GB. Go over that allowance and it’s an extra five cents per megabyte.
The webOS web browser, though not as wonderful as an Apple Safari experience, is still (stronger adjective?). I especially like the “index card” approach to bookmarks, which puts your most frequently accessed websites on one screen for single tap access. The Web browser loads even complicated websites with a lot of ads quickly, and I didn’t have trouble with readability or problems scrolling.
The email experience is simply great. I was able to get through my overflowing inbox quickly every time I checked my email. The LED light at the bottom of the display blinks when there are new messages, and a simple swipe is all it takes to delete unwanted email . It’s also very easy to mark “favorite” inboxes or folders, which is invaluable. I have about 30 folders for organization, but there are only four that I actually need to keep track of regularly.
While the Palm Pre Plus isn’t a heavy duty workhorse, it certainly gets the job done in the organization department. The calendar and contact applications are a joy to use, with little touches that help keep your life in order. For example, I love the contact reminders feature, which gives you the ability to type a quick little note that pops up as soon as you call or text.
Universal search is a great feature as well. Usually I just need to enter a few letters on the keyboard to help me find what I need.. I appreciate that I don’t have to go somewhere special to use it; I just have to start typing. It’s similar to the spotlight search on an iPod Touch, but I don’t have to swipe back from the home screen to get a search box on the Pre Plus.
The rest of the original Palm Pre’s apps are included too, like Memos, Tasks, the document viewer, and the PDF Viewer, along with both Google Maps and VZW Navigator..
The music player works great, as does the Amazon MP3 app that allows you to purchase new music on the go.
Unlike most Verizon phones, you won’t find VCast Music or Video on the Palm Pre Plus, though there is a YouTube app that works very well.
There aren’t any games included with the phone, though the on-device App Catalog provides hundreds of options. Purchasing is similar to Apple’s iPhone; you must enter your credit card information in your Palm Profile account, as opposed to charging app purchases to a monthly phone bill.
Palm recently released a webOS 1.4 upgrade for this device, bringing support for video recording. For more details, read my Palm webOS 1.4 Review.
This is one area where the Pre Plus disappointed me. According to Verizon, users can expect up to 350 hours of standby time with the Pre, but in my testing I found the phone completely dead after four days with minimal usage. And today I started with a full charge and was down to 47% on the battery by 1:30 pm — though granted I downloaded and installed the 43 MB webOS 1.4 update during that time.
I understand the Pre Plus has a lot going on in the background, like the automatic backup to my Palm profile, but this was still surprising. If the Pre Plus was my main device, I wouldn’t even consider leaving home without the charger, a USB battery pack, or some other mobile power solution.
The webOS 1.4 update promises to address the battery life issue, but it’s too soon to tell if there will be any improvement.