By March 16, 2011

Palm Pre 2 Review

Pre2 cards leftLets face it, the original Palm Pre was a huge fail. WebOS was and still is a great OS but paired with awful hardware, a bad camera and poor marketing  the Pre sold about as well as a pile of dog poop for £1000. Okay, I may be exaggerating a little but the original Pre just wasn’t a success.

So, has HP’s take over of Palm, webOS 2.0 and slightly new hardware done anything to make the Pre 2 more attractive? Should you get the Pre 2 even though the Pre 3 is just around the corner or will the sequel go the way of the original?

Read on to find out!

 

What’s in the Box?

  • Palm Pre 2
  • USB Wall Charger
  • UK + European Adaptors
  • USB to Micro USB Cable
  • Getting Started Guide
  • Gestures Guide
  • Earphones

 

The ten second review:

  • Device: Palm Pre 2
  • Price: £285 + VAT
  • Summary: A small device with a portrait sliding QWERTY keyboard with a great OS but with sub-stanadard hardware.
  • Best of: webOS, Browser, Keyboard, On-board storage.
  • Worst of: Hardware quality, No MicroSD support.
  • Buy it now from Clove.

 

Specification:

  • Operating System: webOS Version 2.0
  • Processor: 1GHz
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • ROM: 512 MB
  • Internal Storage: 16GB
  • Display/Screen: Touchscreen 3.1" Capacitive multitouch 320 x 480 pixels
  • GSM/GPRS: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • 3G/HSPA: 900 / 2100
  • Bluetooth: Version 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate, A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • WiFi: IEEE 802/11 b/g
  • Ports: MicroUSB 2.0, Audio 3.5mm Jack
  • Device Controls: Keyboard, 4 row slide-out QWERTY, Optical Trackpad
  • GPS: A-GPS
  • Camera: 5 Megapixels, LED Flash
  • G-Sensor
  • Proximity Sensor
  • Light Sensor
  • Audio: MP3, AAC, AAC , eAAC , AMR, QCELP, WAV
  • Video: MPEG-4, H.263, H.264
  • Battery: 1500mAh, Li-Ion Removable
  • Dimensions: 59.6mm (W) x 100.7mm (H) x 16.9mm (D)
  • Weight: 145g

 

General:

On the top of the Palm Pre 2 a 3.5mm headphone jack, ringer mute switch, and the power button.

Only the volume rocker is on the left hand side of the Pre 2. On the right is just the MicroUSB slot, the back of the Pre 2 houses the camera, flash and the nice big loudspeaker, the front has the 3.1″ touchscreen, ear speaker, the microphone and the gesture area and when you slide open the keyboard, you get the keyboard.

 

Highlights:

  • webOS 2.0
  • Browser
  • 16 GB On board storage

Lowlights:

  • Creaky plastic
  • No microSD support
  • Cheap feeling
  • Lack of Apps

 

Review:

The Palm Pre 2 is the first refresh of the original Palm Pre since Palm was taken over by HP.   Initially, I was unsure whether or not I would like it as I had heard great stories from other reviewers about webOS but I had also heard horror stories about the Pre’s poor hardware and keyboard.

First impressions of the Pre 2 were mixed. I do agree that the hardware of the Pre 2 is lacking in the quality department but it wasn’t as bad as I’d first feared. But my first go with webOS far exceeded my expectations. Very simple, clean and overall a brilliant OS. I’ll go into more detail about the OS later in this review.

The Palm Pre 2, just like the original Pre, fits comfortably into the palm of your hand (if you’ll pardon the pun). The Pre 2 is one of the smaller handsets on the market with just a 3.1″ screen. In the palm, the Pre 2 feels solid but when you start to squeeze the handset, the plastic seems to creak and squeak with pain. The buttons round the outside feel decent but nothing stands out about their quality or lack thereof.

Palm pre 22

Opening the keyboard is a nice sensation. I always did like a good sliding mechanism whenever I owned some candy bar sliders and the Pre 2 doesn’t disappoint. But less of that nonsense and more about the keyboard and the conclusion is that I actually like this one! I am told by many people on twitter that I am crazy for liking the Pre 2 keyboard. They seem to hate it with a passion with complaints about sharp edges, cramped keys and a rubbery texture on the keys but somehow, to me, this all works. It is not as good as the Blackberry Bold keyboard as it is easier to press down on the keys on the Blackberry keyboard while the keys are very squishy on the Pre 2, but in my opinion the keyboard on the Pre 2 comes in close second place behind the Blackberry keyboard. But if you are on the fence about whether you think it will be good, go try it out in a shop and see which one is best for you.

Like all good things, it has to end sometime. As I began using the Pre 2 more and more during the time I had it for review, I started to hate sliding out the keyboard for menial tasks like searching for a contact or doing a 1 word answer text or tweet. I know it sounds like a lame excuse to hate the sliding keyboard but in the day to day workflow, it really is annoying when you have to keep sliding it to do the simplest tasks. I feel it would be much better for the user experience if Palm/HP would add an on-screen keyboard like on the Blackberry Torch that would go away if the keyboard was opened.

Screen shot 2011 03 15 at 20 57 28

 

The camera is rather good. The pictures it produced are sharp, have good colours and the camera as far as I’m concerned, could replace the kind of point and shoot that might would carry around with you – it’s that good. I still think that the iPhone 4 is the best camera I have used on a phone but the camera on the Pre 2 is a good contender for this title.

CIMG0012 CIMG0013

 

The screen on the Pre 2 is surprisingly good, despite being only 3.1″. Text is sharp, pictures look vivid and colours are as good as you can get with a 320×480 resolution. It is extremely responsive thanks to the capacitive touchscreen technology within the screen.

Under the screen there is the gesture area, unique to the Pre phone that links into webOS.  Unlike the original Pre, there are no buttons or distinguishable features that imply that you are meant to swipe beneath the screen except for a flush horizontal line that shines light through and lights up after you do a gesture. And talking of gestures, they are very responsive and intuitive. Take the back gesture for example. You simply swipe to the left in the gesture area and it takes you to the previous menu/page in the OS. I really do like the gesture area with webOS. It differentiates the platform and offers a unique interface that I really enjoyed using.

Palm pre 2

 

Alright, lets jump into the webOS 2.0

Before we jump into the smartphone stuff, we must remember that the Pre 2 is a phone first and foremost. Call quality seems decent and the dialer is good. You can also import contacts from your Google contacts which is good for people like me who change phones quite a lot and having contacts in the cloud really helps with that.

Phone 2011 08 03 173600

 

While there really haven’t been too many changes in this new version of webOS there are some subtle implementation improvements such as newer and better looking graphics and icons.

One of the best features in webOS is the multitasking implementation using cards. It is a very slick and clever implementation which allows you to quickly switch between apps. From anywhere in the OS, you swipe up with your finger on the gesture area and you go straight back to the homescreen where all your open apps are in the card view. Simply tap to go into the app you want. I love this implementation. It is original and it is so simple  – it’s quite simply brilliant.

 

Unknown 2011 08 03 173542 Unknown 2011 08 03 173554

 

Another cool feature of webOS is Synergy. This is the name Palm uses to integrate contacts from all across the web. For example: If you have a contact from your address book that is also a contact on Facebook, then when you look at the contact it will give you all their information from both locations. So as well as email addresses and phone numbers a Facebook profile picture will also appear in the contact field.

Screen shot 2011 03 15 at 21 24 32

 

A new feature in webOS 2.0 is ‘Just Type’. Similar to the feature in Blackberry OS 6, you just start typing (funny that) on the homescreen and you get an option to search for the term you just wrote in your contacts, email, Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Twitter, the App Catalogue, Bookmarks… you get the idea. It searches through pretty much anything.

Unknown 2011 08 03 193251

 

Being one of the most important features on any smartphone, the browser has to perform well and on webOS and the Pre 2, it does not disappoint. It’s fast, it supports multi-touch pinch to zoom which is very smooth and it even supports flash! It is not as great as on all touch screen devices but it does work. By default you have to press a little button on the flash content to make it play but you can change it to play automatically when you open a page. However this will drain you battery more because it is using flash.

Browser 2011 10 03 210409

 

Email and text messaging is a good experience. Nothing mind-blowing, but nothing horrible.

Apps are one of the major selling points for most consumers and that is where webOS is seriously lacking. In Palm’s App Catalog (that’s how Palm spells it) I couldn’t find how many apps there are available for webOS but there just aren’t enough apps for the general consumer. WebOS may have Angry Birds but it doesn’t have an official Twitter client (try CarbonOS if you want a good webOS twitter client) or any productive or useful apps available for users. Compared to something like iOS with has over 350,000 apps, Palm really needs to get developers on the webOS train to support their platform and bring consumers to webOS.

Pre2 horizontalPre2 apps right

 

Media consumption again is a good experience. The Youtube app is pre-installed and once again, the UI is nothing mind-blowing but it definitely isn’t the worst Youtube app I have used. The original Pre couldn’t play MP4 files (for some unknown reason) but I can confirm that this one does play MP4 videos – just like it should have done in the first place.

Musicplayer 2011 10 03 224615 Youtube 2011 10 03 223734

 

Listening to music on the Pre 2 is (sense a trend happening?) good but no where near as good as listening to music on the iPhone. It is a cool UI but it lags a bit and I would say that the quality was only just above average.

The Pre 2 comes pre-installed with Google Maps but the experience is just like any other map client that uses Google Maps -so, it is good. There is hardly any lag and the map renders quickly. Directions are alright. Like iOS it just has the route overlaid on the map alongside a list of directions but none of these compare to the way that Android implements navigation.

Maps 2011 10 03 225014

 

Unfortunately, I could not test the touchstone charging method that is unique to webOS devices. From what I can gather from other reviews, it is a really cool charging method where you just have to press the Pre 2 up against this special charger and it recharges  wirelessly! Sounds really cool, but sadly my review device didn’t arrive with one for testing so as I said, I have no personal experience of what it’s like.

While on the topic of charging, lets talk about the battery. The battery life on the original pre was renowned to be quite bad barely getting through a day. But this is one area that seems to have drastically improved with the sequel. With many cards open (grudgingly I might add, I hate having lots of things open. Damn you OCD!) with Twitter, Facebook and push email happening all day, I still easily managed to get through an entire day on a full charge.

 

Conclusion:

Just like James said with the original Pre review, the conclusion is also pretty simple for the  Pre 2: Software is great but the hardware is lacking.

It definitely is a good iteration on the original but I still don’t think that it has enough to stay competitive in the 2011 smartphone market. Consumers generally think that good quality hardware = good product, and if Palm/HP continues to produce phones that are lacking in the hardware department, despite the great software, I feel like the Pre 2 will go the way of the original Pre, that is dead on arrival.

So, original Pre owners should you upgrade to the Pre 2. NOOOOO!!!! With the Pre 3 just around the corner I simply cannot recommend the Pre 2 to anyone unless you can get it  dirt cheap or if you don’t want any of the new features that are on the Pre 3.

Like many people who have used webOS, I think that Palm/HP is onto a winner with webOS but until they offer a compelling app platform for developers, good hardware for users and market the hell out of the handset, I cannot see webOS ever being a success.

Posted by: Patrick

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