When you think of a smart phone you automatically think of the iPhone, the Blackberry Storm/Bold and ever impressive HTC offerings. In fact even the Nokia E71 and G1 often come to mind before any Palm product, which considering how big a role Palm has played in the smartphone sector is a little worrying. But hopefully things are about to change with their new release just revealed at the CES – the Palm Pre.
The Palm Pre is aiming to break into the top of the market, and hopefully dislodge the iPhone, it is a radical step forward from the previous Treo phone as it embraces multi-touch, wireless charging and a sleek sliding design. The Operating System has been revamped as well so that it now not only integrates better with sources (such as computers, e-mail or Facebook) but includes ‘gesture’ control which Palm claims will dramatically increase ease of use.
But let us have a quick look back at why Palm has slipped behind in the smartphone race, and why such a thorough redesign has been needed. The answer come in the fact that the Treo (the Pre’s predecessor) did not even come close to the iPhone and co and as a result was left behind. The QWERTY keyboard was horrifically poor, the Windows Mobile 6.1 o/s was untouched and thus fiddly and awkward, and not even the touch screen could counter the poor battery life and looks.
So really Palm had a lot of ground to catch up on, and it looks like they have done it very well. The new o/s imaginatively called Palm webOS manages to incorporate the touch screen wonderfully, resulting in a phone that looks sleek and uncluttered. This is done through this new concept labelled as ‘gestures’ in which the bottom part of the screen is reserved for flicking through screens (like a ‘pack of cards’) and easily closing them. This smooth and easy movement will make it a lot better ergonomically, and should hopefully result in a phone that is nice to use unlike its painful big brother.
The device itself is also top notch: it boasts a new OMAP CPU from Texas instruments (according to Palm the fastest ever) which will provide the firepower for the fancy and hopefully smooth touch screen operations. The touch screen itself is a 3.1” 320×480 curved screen which has just enough resolution to match the sleek look: this improvement on the Treo is something else that will dramatically improve the usability of the o/s and make web browsing easier.
For web browsing there is UMTS HDSPA support and 802.11bg WLAN as well as Bluetooth and GPS for increased connectivity. On the more practical side there is a 3 megapixel camera with LED flash, a total of 8GB of internal flash storage as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack, which means you can get some decent headphones and are not limited to the manufactures offerings.
One of the more interesting features is the wireless charging, which means you can just place your phone on the charger ‘pad’ and it will be charged just as fast as if it were plugged in. This is the first time that this easy and clutter-free technology has been put into mainstream phones, and I’m sure that it will be a hit. The battery is also detachable, which is good news for those of you worried about how good it will be, or whether (like the Treo) it will be a nightmare to replace.
Another of the starring features is ‘Synergy’ which shamelessly combines ‘syncing’ and ‘energy’ into an easy to use contact mechanism. The basic idea is that the phone will automatically pool all of your contacts from Hotmail, Google, Facebook, MySpace etc to allow you to instantly access all of your friends and colleagues easily and seamlessly.
This is shaping up to be a great smartphone. There are still a few missing pieces: we have yet to see the music player or any video streaming, two things that the iPhone excels at. But web-browsing looks swift and easy to use (with the stolen ‘pinch zoom’ idea and accelerometer for widescreen browsing) and it does look like it will be a serious rival.
Unfortunately there is no news on release dates or prices, but expect to see it before the summer and priced close to the market leaders (at about £350). The Palm Pre smartphone has real promise, let’s just hope that it can deliver on it.
Source – Engadget