Palm Pre Review

Let’s take a step back two years.  The cellular world was about to enter a transitional period, with the world anticipating the release of the iPhone and R&D departments at the major manufacturers working furiously to put out something that could hold its own.  The iPhone has gone on to unprecedented success, and while there have been some formidable competitors (HTC and Samsung come to mind) no one has truly captured the ease of use and wow factor like Apple did.  All the while Palm, a company that brought true innovation to the mobile space so many years ago, is on the brink of collapse.

Then came January 8, 2009, when Palm turned the industry on its ear.   Out of seemingly nowhere they announced the Pre, which brings not only an amazing design but a revolutionary new OS into play.  Their stock bottomed out at $1.42 just a month earlier, but in the time since it has increased nearly tenfold.  Where once the iPhone was the darling of techies and hipsters alike, the Pre has become the “it” device and a media darling.  Palm has embraced the shortcomings of Mobile OSX, most notably the closed nature.  webOS is based off of simple web coding, making developing easier than ever and enticing to not only hardcore developers but casual web designers as well.

Software is not the only calling card of the Pre though; Palm has paid a lot of attention to the design of the Pre as well.  In fact, inconspicuously placed in the packing material you’ll find “No detail is small.”  It features a now common large, touchscreen display.  Uncommon, however, is its multi-touch technology, and unprecedented is a multi-touch with a hardware keyboard (unofficial G1 hacking notwithstanding.)  The portrait keyboard holds true to Palm’s long philosophy of one-handed use, and the touch gestures have been brought below the screen to enhance this philosophy.  All in all Apple has never seen a competitor like this, and, though it took two years, the mighty iPhone may finally be dethroned.


The Palm Pre feels wonderful in the hand; there are no two ways about it.  Inspired by a polished river stone, the Pre is full of curves.  It fits comfortably and ergonomically in your palm, which is in sharp contrast to the iPhone’s wide, boxy design.  The Pre is much thicker, but doesn’t feel as thick as it is.

You can compare the Palm Pre with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The added thickness is of course the result of a sliding design, which reveals a full QWERTY keyboard.  Much has been said/rumored about the keyboard, which is very similar to the one found on the Treo Pro.  After much time with it we have to say it’s not bad at all, though not perfect.  Those with bigger hands will probably have issues, but our above average hands got used to it after a day or two of use.  The keys are shallower than the Centro and not as sticky.  The former makes sense, as the display has to slide down over it, but we would have liked to see a bit more tackiness to the plastic keys.  We will say, however, that the tackiness it has is different from the Centro, and after a few weeks it becomes less tacky which is a good thing.  They are more on the hard then gel side, but nothing like the hard plastic keys of a Blackberry.  All in all there could be a bit more spacing, and we’d have preferred if they would be shifted down just a smidge, but we have to say that we’re impressed with the balance Palm has stuck between form and function.

The 3.1” display is brilliant, featuring a 320x480 resolution with 16.7M colors.  Unlike the iPhone, where the display falls short of the bezel and in direct sunlight you can see the dead space, the panel blends seamlessly into the housing.  It’s so good, in fact, that as the display shrinks to show notifications (more on that later) you don’t really notice.  The gesture area below this only enhances this blurred border.  Not only is it amazing to look at, but it’s just as smooth to use.   Multitouch is used in much the same way as the iPhone, and gestures such as pinching are just as simple and intuitive.  Palm takes it one step further, however, by extending the capacitive area down below the display so you don’t have to cover the screen with many gestures.  Again, we’ll go into more on this later.

The hardware buttons are very scarce.  On the front you simply find a home button, on the left a volume rocker and in the top right corner a power button.  A thankful carryover from the Treo is a vibrate switch on the top, next to the 3.5mm headset jack.  The right side also houses a microUSB charging and data port, interestingly enough on the top half of the slide rather than the bottom.   The back has a single, large speaker and the 3.2 megapixel camera with an LED flash.

The slide mechanism is hefty, but not too much so.  While it feels great, we’re seeing some isolated reports of loose slides.  One of the only gripes we have is that, when slid open, the now exposed edges of the Pre are a bit sharp.  Not enough so that we wouldn’t use it, but we wouldn’t mind Palm grinding it down just a touch.

Palm has done an amazing job with the design of the Pre.  It is arguably the most comfortable device we’ve ever held, much moreso than the iPhone.  We wouldn’t mind seeing it slim down a bit and loose a small amount of weight, but we’re stretching to find things right now.  As we’ve come to expect from high end devices it fingerprints like crazy, and the plastic screen and housing is a bit harder to wipe clean than the iPhone’s glass panel, but again we’re stretching here.  We’re having a hard time thinking of a phone we’d rather carry than the Pre, and there certainly isn’t one that has a full QWERTY.




Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 12, 2009

9.9!!!! thats too high,the palm pre is a good phone but not that good to be the highest rated one!

6. legionsreturn unregistered

Well what do you expect when phonearena accepts cash for good reviews?

8. secondcor517

Posts: 94; Member since: Oct 06, 2008

i was thinking the same thing legion.... how much did they make from this review.

10. mr. anderson

Posts: 92; Member since: Apr 16, 2009

first off, how stupid are you two? secondly, everyone knows sprint doesnt have the money to pay for anything much less reviews! im a vzw user, but have used my friends pre extensively. i assume you guys have not, because the score is well deserved. this is a game changer, plain and simple.

11. legionsreturn unregistered

So how much did you charge for that score? Im just curious, it must have cost all of 20 bucks!

2. legionsreturn unregistered

Oh come on! Reallly? Are you really that mallible in the face of corporate sponsorship? We already knew objectivity is a joke to you people but youve really outdone yourselves this time. Guess all you have to do to get a good review on phonearena is pay for it.

3. metalpoet unregistered

as a representatitve of verizon i must admit that sprint and palm did a really good job with the release of the pre and i truly hope it shuts up the iphone users!

4. Kiltlifter

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

I agree... iPhone users are the worst.. has anyone seen the South Park episode where Kyle's dad gets a "hybrid" and then moves to San Francisco and there is a "smug" storm? Everyone I know thinks they are superior and so incredibly hi-tech just because they own it, even though none of them use it for anything more than they would an ipod touch. Let's just hope that Pre users don't fall into the same line of "Smug"... otherwise George Clooney's speech from the Oscars could make a supercell that would wipe out all of what is left of sprint's network... (if you don't get this comment just watch the episode).

28. ser3nitynow

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

HAHAHA so true... By the way that episode is hysterical.

30. legionsreturn unregistered

Southpark is indeed enjoyable.

44. jpdaballa

Posts: 3; Member since: Nov 13, 2009

lmao that episode played tonight....

5. LGVX1993

Posts: 260; Member since: Jan 27, 2009

Not trying to be an ass but if you average up the scores you get an 8.9. There probably is some different way of calculating the total score though.

13. McMillian

Posts: 29; Member since: Apr 07, 2009

Phone Arena is ignorant and they don't make any since. they obviously choose favorites when it comes to phones and their OS. Don't get me wrong I think the Pre looks like a great phone but I think Phone Arena completely over hyped the Pre in this review.

14. LGVX1993

Posts: 260; Member since: Jan 27, 2009

After about a while theyll be wanting to change some of this stuff. Any phone that ive had I loved for about a month or two and i got tired of it. One more thing, wouldnt the Pre be a little complicated for the Average Joe?

15. legionsreturn unregistered

I got a good laugh out of the average joe reccomendation, this was review obviously a foregone conclusion paid for by the corporate interests that birthed this phone.

23. martycota

Posts: 28; Member since: Jun 15, 2009

Wow, seriously, are you all iphone users bashing the review?! The phone has recieved generally positive reviews from all major reviewers and just because PhoneArena's is super high doesn't mean they were bought off?! Should I say that they were bought off by Apple for giving the Touch Pro a lower score then many sites just because they say that after the diamond it felt old?! And seriously, for average joe, this is probably the best smart phone out there. It offers an easy to use interface and is a smart phone unlike most smart phones that are blackberry or window which offer very little in user friendly handling.!!! Average Joe doesn't always have to be about having the dumbest phone out there, they obviously rated it based on how easy it is to use for a smart phone that offers just about everything, or will offer soon enough!!! Read the reviews before asking Steve Jobs what kind of demeaning comments you can post on the competition's reviews. Yes the iPhone might be a great phone, but it is in no way a smart phone and if you read the review you can see how the phone deserves quite a high rating on its own merits...

25. LGVX1993

Posts: 260; Member since: Jan 27, 2009

i dont know about everyone else but im not an iphone user and never have been and probably never will be. As you can probably tell by my name im with Verizon. I read the review from here and other websites and i know this is a good phone. I was just saying that the unweighted average of scores is 8.94 to be exact not 9.9. And also WebOS looks a little too complicated to me so i don't think it would be for the average joe. I also never said that average joe had to have the most basic phone around. I just wouldn't see one with a smart phone.

26. mr. anderson

Posts: 92; Member since: Apr 16, 2009

if webos is too complicated for you i dont know what to tell you man. have you taken an iq test lately?

27. LGVX1993

Posts: 260; Member since: Jan 27, 2009

no but im not stupid ciz i have 5 honors classes in school. The whole gesture bar is a little unnecessary to me.

38. sprntfanboi02

Posts: 41; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

i was going to take your post seriously but then you used since instead of sense....really? are you serious?

7. SellPhones82

Posts: 569; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

I sold my iPod Touch because it was not longer needed now that I have a Pre. For people that want games iPhone/Touch will always be king IMO. I want something that would replace the need to get on my laptop to do simple things and the Pre does that and then some. The web browser is almost perfect for a v1.0 as well as the media player. WebOS is just the review said it is missing some pretty key features at the moment but some Palm has already confirmed they will come in future OTA updates. I think my favorite thing it the way SMS and email notification come through. It is just so well done and I can't imagine not having it now. The hardware build is my biggest concern. I think I will be exchanging mine because the keyboard slider does not slide out like it does on my wifes Pre. Battery life is really the only other issue which is why I picked up the Palm car charger which come with an extra data cable so I can charge at home, work and in the car. I look forward to the SDK being released to the public as well as the software updates from Palm. Once it has Flash support, notification light, video recording and soft keyboard I will be set with my dream phone!

9. bigdog805

Posts: 20; Member since: Jun 06, 2009

I agree, this phone is awesome. I wish it already came with the ability to shot video but I guess it isnt that big of a deal since the updates will be OTA. I was really excited Sprint took on a phone that will actually live up to its hype and be competitive in the wireless industry. My main concern though is when Palm is gonna push out its WebOS to other providers. I'm glad its release to AT&T was just delayed. Hopefully for a while!

12. joolian

Posts: 19; Member since: Dec 25, 2008

Im an iPhone user, and I dont find myself criticising other phones. There are a lot of features on the pre I would love, multi-tasking looks amazing, and the screen looks a lot more impressive then the iPhones. After 3 generations, it's time for apple to update the look and feel of the iPhone software, the screen could use an update as well. If the Pre were offered at Rogers, and had more than 8 GBs, and after expansion of the app catalog, I could see myself buying it.

16. bigdog805

Posts: 20; Member since: Jun 06, 2009

Finally a level headed iPhone user! People like you are hard to come by. Almost all iPhone users treat their phones like its their child and get soo defensive if anyone says anything negative about the phone or trys to compare to another phone. But I do agree the iPhone should change the look on it but then again they haven't needed to update it because it sells. But now that they might actually be getting competition they may have to do something more then just update the software.

17. zyxwv88

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 13, 2009

It's funny the rivalry between the Pre and the iPhone. The Pre people consider it to be superior to the iPhone, and the iPhone people think that it's not even close to as good (of course the iPhone people don't want a phone to be better or they lose their perceived superiority over everyone else). Well, I'm a Pre owner, and I used to have iPhone envy until I got my Pre. I still think the iPhone is a good phone, and without it, the Pre probably wouldn't have been as good as it is. That being said, I have always considered myself open minded. I want the best technology, and what the best is tends to change constantly. For those of you complaining that the Pre can't possibly be as good as the iPhone and it can't possibly rate a 9.9, you really need to get one in your hands and really see what it does (with an open mind), and I think you'll agree that it is really that good. Synergy is just pretty amazing. It's never been so easy to combine information from so many sources before. I was blown away by how easily it syncs with Facebook, Google, and Exchange (although it took a little work to get it figured out at first, although I hear they will be working on that one). All of those sources just combine into one place so nicely it's almost like a dream. The few things that there are to complain about can be fixed with updates, so although it does have a few rough edges, I still think this is the most amazing phone I've used. iPhone people might be unhappy that their phone now has a serious contender, but just as the Pre took a lot of great ideas from the iPhone, I'm sure that iPhone will take a lot of great ideas from the Pre, so the Version 4 of iPhone will likely be a much bigger and better update than ever before as they try to compete with Synergy and the multitasking that the Pre offers. iPhone is built on a good OS, and I think they can probably do a lot more with it than they have, but they have been content to sit on their butt and only offer trivial upgrades to the iPhone for the last few years. Pre has topped them (IMO), and now iPhone will have to fight hard to come back on top. Basically it's good for everyone concerned. Competition is a good thing. iPhone sitting on it's butt is exactly what Palm did back in it's heyday that almost put it out of business. Apple brought it on themselves to be one-upped because they didn't keep their edge.

33. cphorn15

Posts: 6; Member since: Apr 21, 2009

Well, a 9.9 suggests a nearly perfect phone (ideally anyway), so I'm hesitant to agree with their score (which doesn't jibe with their review) entirely. I think it deserves to be in the 9s but not so high. It's obvious from previous articles that Phone Arena just absolutely has fallen in love with the Pre so it's no surprise that they over-hyped themselves prior to the release and then while holding it in their hands. Remember when we all first over-studied that one exciting thing finding out every single thing we could about it and then when we got it, it was still so exciting? I think that is point and case here with Phone Arena. After a month or two, a new shiny toy that is going to revolutionize the world is going to come into view and they are going to drop their Pre like a hot rock. On top of that, their review sounded very similar to the Touch Pro 2s so I wonder why that is an entire point lower than the Pre... something to think about.

18. pathmarkpolice

Posts: 102; Member since: Feb 05, 2009

I agree that the review seems as if it's over-hyping the phone, but when I tried out the phone, and then read a whole bunch of reviews (engadgets, gizmodo's, and now phonearena's) I am taking the "cons" of the device into consideration and I personally can't think of anything that really irks me as being a deal-breaker. The mobile OS palm has created is one of, if not the best (takes a steaming dump on the iphone's). THe only thing that bothers me is the lack of a micro sd card slot, but I'm sure other palm devices with the webOS will end up being amazing :-)

19. baldilocks

Posts: 1547; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

Yea, the 9.9 seems like a VERY biased score. I am calling foul on this review.

41. nathandavid13

Posts: 6; Member since: Jul 22, 2009

i bet it was just a typing error. It's supposted to 8.9 and they are kinda close on the keyboard

20. ralph_denicia

Posts: 14; Member since: Apr 30, 2009

I like how it get's a 10 for multimedia and local connectivity; yet it doesn't support WMV format and it doesn't support object/file transfer over bluetooth... I tried to transfer a customer's contacts from his old sanyo over bluetooth and the Pre was unable to receive them! Come on, even a crappy sanyo phone has better bluetooth handling!
  • Display 3.1" 320 x 480 pixels
  • Camera 3 MP
  • Storage 8GB
  • Battery 1150 mAh(5.00h talk time)

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