The Palm Pre Plus, only available from Verizon for now, is an updated version of the Palm Pre launched last year. It offers twice the memory and a new Mobile Hotspot feature in a svelte, slightly redesigned package.
Like the original Pre, this smartphone runs the webOS, and has a 3.1-inch HVGA touchscreen and a small portrait-oriented keyboard. The Pre Plus also includes 3G, Wi-Fi, and a 3.0 megapixel camera with LED flash.
The Palm Pre Plus is available now for $150 with a two-year contract.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Palm Pre Plus is eye-catching in its simplicity. Unlike most of the cookie-cutter phones on the market today, it is curvy and sleek, with almost no visible controls.
The device feels wonderfully solid in the hand. At just under 5 ounces the Pre Plus is very light, but it doesn't feel flimsy or cheap. The edges and corners are perfectly rounded, so you won't feel any uncomfortable jabs or sharp pokes in your palm when holding the phone. The button that was in the gesture area on the original Palm Pre has been removed, making it even sleeker and easier to use.
It's a little thicker than some devices on the market right now, which is due mostly to the slider design that houses the keyboard behind the screen. It's still eminently pocketable though, so you shouldn't have any issues with unsightly bulges in your pockets.
With its sleek design, you have to look closely to find the ringer/vibrate switch and headphone jack on the top, the volume up/down keys on the left side, and the covered charging port on the right side. The back of the phone is completely plain aside from the Palm logo, the camera lens and flash on the top left, and the speaker on the top right.
The 3.1-inch display runs at a resolution of 480 x 320 and is absolutely gorgeous. Colors are rich and vibrant, text is sharp and easy to read, and I really enjoy everything from looking at photos to surfing the web -- no squinting required.
My only "complaint" is that the screen can be a bit too bright, especially in low light situations. Of course the good thing about that is that the display is perfectly readable in bright sunlight, which is a major plus. It's ridiculous that the displays on many modern devices wash out so badly on sunny days that you can't even place a call or take a photo without trying to shade the screen with your hand.
The phone's keyboard is hidden by the display; to access it, hold the bottom portion of the phone in your hand and use your thumb to push up at the bottom.. The sliding action is relatively tight, so steady pressure is required to get it started, but the phone quickly snaps into place. Once the display is extended to reveal the keyboard, it doesn't wiggle or move at all.
The keys fill all the available horizontal space and they are both backlit and clearly labeled for easy use. One improvement of the Pre Plus over the original Pre is the keyboard, as the keys on the new model have a slightly better feel when pressed.
The Pre Plus's keyboard is fairly good, but you have to adjust to it. . There isn't much space between the keys, and they are rounded and only slightly curved on the top surface. At first I found myself using my thumbnails, which was both slow and frustrating because I often hit the wrong keys.
When I made a concerted effort to relax and switched to the tips of my thumbs, it worked much better. I was able to type at a reasonable speed, and accuracy improved. Like many other phone keyboards, the one on the Pre Plus is adequate (though in the previous graf you said it was "pretty good" which is better than adequate... perhaps a new adjective for the first keyboard reference?), though I certainly won't be using it to pen the next great American novel anytime soon.
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.
The Palm Pre Plus is a nice update of the original Pre, but unless you're absolutely desperate for more memory or for the Mobile Hotspot feature, it isn't worth the upgrade cost or the switch from Sprint.
If you're a Verizon customer looking for something different, the Pre Plus is a great option. The webOS is so easy to use, it's ideal for soccer moms and other less-tech-savvy types, but it's also powerful enough for mobile professionals who don't need heavy duty smartphones like Blackberrys or Windows Mobile devices.
If your main focus is on email and calendar/contact functionality, and if your personal information is already out there on the Web in a Google account or on Microsoft Exchange, you can't go wrong with the Palm Pre Plus from Verizon.