The Palm Pre 2 is the replacement for the original webOS-powered smartphone. Like its predecessor, it has a 3.1-inch touchscreen display, a physical QWERTY keyboard, and personal hotspot capabilities.
This device is currently available from HP for $50 with a new two-year contract with Verizon Wireless. An unlocked version that can be used with GSM carriers is also available for $450.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Pre 2 is quite minimal in design, very small -- though slightly thicker than most phones. It has a pebble-like feel in the hand, smooth and rounded but very solid. It feels good to hold and will fit in just about any pocket.
The entire case of the phone is black, with a soft touch, very slightly textured finish. The back is all matte black, with the front of the phone being made of a smooth, slightly reflective material all around the screen enclosure.
The display is good, with vivid color, though at 3.1-inches it is much smaller than some of the 4.3-inch monsters typical of Android smartphones. The resolution is still the same as earlier models, HVGA (320x480). That's acceptable, though not ideal, especially on a relatively small display like this one.
I had a few issues where it seemed that the screen calibration was a bit "off" making it difficult to complete some actions, but that was rather rare.
The keyboard is normally located under the display; hold the phone in one hand and use your thumb to push up the display and the keyboard will appear. The keys are very small and rather hard, but they are as big as the physical design of the phone allows.
I can do a fairly good job entering text either accurately or quickly, but generally not both at the same time. Even though I have small hands, my fingers keep bumping into one another, and it's hard to tell sometimes which key I'm actually hitting. If I try to forget about how small the keyboard is and just go for it, I usually do pretty well, with only a few mistakes. The only way to avoid those misspellings ,though, is to go super-slow.
Other Buttons & Controls
Aside from its keyboard, the Palm Pre 2 doesn't have much in the way of physical buttons, which makes the device very sleek and sophisticated. The headphone jack is on the top edge, and that's where you'll find both the ringer switch and the power button. The charge/sync port is on the right hand side, and the volume buttons are on the left.
Part 2 of this review covers the performance of the Palm Pre 2, while Part 3 is the conclusion. And don't miss the Image Gallery.
This is Part 2 of a multi-page review. Part 1 of covers the design of the Palm Pre 2, while Part 3 is the conclusion. And don't miss the extensive Image Gallery.
HP's webOS 2.0 doesn't offer a great deal of change over the earlier versions, but it is definitely an upgrade in terms of speed and overall refinement. This operating system handles multi-tasking by displaying apps as "cards", and this is an area that has seen some improvements -- similar cards now stack together, streamlining navigation.
And the device-wide search is better and faster than ever. You hardly have to go to the app launcher, because it's quicker to just type in a couple of characters and watch the app you want pop up on the list.
The Palm Pre 2 performed well in all of my testing, especially when viewed as more of an entry-level device. Wi-Fi works well, but I didn't find blazing fast speed. The mobile hotspot utility works exactly as expected, which is great if you need to share your wireless data connection with other mobile devices.
Call quality is good -- not the best, but not the worst. In my voice testing callers could tell that I was on a phone, and said that I sounded like the call was about to drop, but that never happened. I could hear my callers very well, however, and have no complaints about the call quality.
You won't find dedicated apps for social networks like Facebook or Twitter pre-installed, though they are available in the App Catalog. There are several different apps available for Twitter, so choosing the right one will be based on your personal preferences.
The email and web experiences were very good, though I was disappointed to see that the Adobe Flash support in the web browser was rather hit or miss. The Moodstream site that I always test with wouldn't load at all, giving me an "unsupported browser" message, while the Waterlife site loaded just fine with graphics and music.
This is an area where the Pre 2 really shines, because everything just works. Once you input your Google account information and link with your Facebook account, for example, all of your personal information is merged and synced behind the scenes. It doesn't matter if a contact is from Google or Facebook, it's just a contact. The same is true of calendar events, with multiple calendars showing up in different colors on the screen, so you can easily keep track of family and work events at a glance.
A Tasks app, memo pad, calculator, and clock are all included. You also get a copy of Quickoffice and a PDF viewer, so that you can be productive from the start. Both Google Maps and VZW Navigator are included, and both work well, with smooth-scrolling maps and quick searches for local points of interest.
There is more useful software available in the webOS App market, but the selection isn't as wide as it is for competitors like Android or iOS.
YouTube and Amazon MP3 apps are bundled with the Pre 2. Music sounds fairly good coming from the external speaker, but it doesn't have a very rich tone. The volume level is fine even if you put the phone on a table; the external speaker is on the back of the device, but the back is slightly curved so that the surface doesn't muffle the sound.
A demo of Crosswords Lite is pre-installed, but that's all that is included when you purchase the phone. There are plenty of games available in the App Catalog, including my personal favorite, Angry Birds.
The camera takes good photos, and the 5 megapixel sensor is a welcome upgrade from the previous maximum of 3 megapixels on the Pre Plus. The LED flash does a good job of helping photos come out a bit better in low light situations.
I didn't have any problems with battery life -- the Pre 2 will go on seemingly forever before issuing a battery warning, much less shutting down due to insufficient power. I was able to go almost a week with light use before I had to recharge the device, or roughly three days with heavier use. Though I wouldn't leave the charger at home if I was going to be gone more than a weekend, you won't find yourself constantly tethered to it either.
Part 3 is the conclusion of this multi-part review of the Palm Pre 2. And don't miss the Image Gallery.
This is Part 3 of a multi-page review. Part 1 of covers the design of the Palm Pre 2, while Part 2 discusses the performance. And don't miss the Image Gallery.
If you're in love with the webOS platform and can't wait until this summer for the Palm Pre 3, or your older device has suffered an unfortunate accident, then the Palm Pre 2 is fairly attractive at the low $50 price point. It's small, light, and does a great job of keeping you on track by seamlessly organizing all of your information in the background. It doesn't have the gee-whiz factor of the latest and greatest devices, but it's a solid, usable smartphone.