palmpre_socialnerdiaFrom its foundation in 1992 to being acquired by U.S. Robotics (which in turn was acquired by 3Com), and finally becoming publicly traded in 2000, Palm has quite an interesting history. Palm's innovation in hand held devices has given it a memorable past, but the company seemed comfortable lagging behind RIM's BlackBerry and Apple's iPhone in recent years. That all changed at CES this year, when Palm announced a new device called Pre.

The CES presentation created a lot of buzz, hype, and rumors because the wait for a cool Palm phone was almost over. It wasn't only Palm's new hardware that made news, but also the new OS (WebOS) that looked like nothing else in the market. No wonder it won CNET's "Best of CES" and "People's Voice" awards.

I quickly became very excited about the Pre and applied to be part of the "Palm Real Reviewer Program" at Palm's blog. I received a call a few weeks afterwards from Palm. I was a finalist! After a few more calls and a letter from the company, I received a Palm Pre in the mail two weeks ago. I was one of 10 "Real Reviewers". While I have tested hundreds of mobile devices, I have only owned a few smartphones, so I cannot express how excited I was to have the opportunity to use a Pre for 6 months. I had huge expectations for this phone and I have to say that the Pre has exceeded them. I will write about my thoughts on the Pre on this site from time to time, and I will also do so on Twitter and Palm's Facebook Discussions. Let me start with first impressions...

The Pre arrived in a nice looking package. I love usable, attractive, purposeful design. From the shape of the box and the colors of the carboard throwaways inside the box, Palm put time and effort into the details.

palmpre_open_socialnerdia1The device itself looks and feels great. Palm was not kidding when it said this over and over again. When closed, it is small enough to easily carry around everywhere, and when opened, it simply makes much more sense than other phones. This may be the first time a smartphone doesn't feel like a brick to me. And the combination of a 480 x 320 touchscreen and a QWERTY physical keyboard begs the question “why didn’t anybody else do this earlier?” Or maybe... “Why didn’t anyone do this SO WELL in the past?”

The black, glossy, and nicely shaped phone should be appealing to almost anyone. My wife likes the Pre almost as much as I do. But she absolutely hated carrying any of my old smartphones around. "Too manly," she'd say. The Pre looks stylish, no matter who you are. And that's even before you turn it on.

With the user interface, Palm again goes all out with the details. With readable and stylish fonts, great use of spacing, nice transparencies and images, the old ugly Palm UI is gone and gone forever. While the screen does not look as good on a sunny day (especially not if you're at the beach), it is bright and colorful.

WebOS goes beyond looking cool to rethinking the way we use mobile phones. Cards, gestures, syncing with Gmail/Facebook, combined messaging, and the launcher make for an awesome experience that makes sense and is actually fun to use. Multitasking is taken to a new level; you can open an app like Pandora to listen to music while tweeting, sending txt messages, browsing sites, getting notifications, and more. Opening cards/apps is easy, switching from one to another is even easier, and closing them is, well.. extremely fun. This may sound weird, but I just love swiping my finger to send an app into oblivion. No more pressing a bunch of button to close a window/app. With the Pre, I just swipe away upwards. Fun times.

What else? The touch sensitivity responds well, and I like that it doesn't try to constantly correct me all of the time. I may miss an apostrophe here and there, but I know how to spell, thank you very much. I guess my only huge problem with the Pre is that the battery cannot keep up with the multitasking and it will take a while before you can use it again once it is charging. I have no choice but to charge the phone at various times during the day to really be able to use it as I want to. There are a few other things I'd like to have (like video), but overall the Pre is an awesome experience and I cannot recommend it enough.

The hype around the Pre created a little skepticism in me before it launched on June 6th, but now that I have one, I wonder why the hype wasn’t even greater.  Sure, the tech community made a big deal out of it, but the average consumer might still not be fully aware of its existence nor its power. It will take some time to make Palm what it once was, but it sure looks like the future is bright. The Pre really is as good it seems and you'd be surprised about how quickly you get used to it. Without an expensive cost of ownership (as other phones in the market), and with an OS that is truly innovative and usable, the Pre changes everything. Palm is back because it has created a functional and unique product that people can be excited about.

In future posts, I will write about the Pre's awesome 3.2 megapixel camera, the sound quality, the "wave", marketing and advertisements, available apps, features like copy/paste and universal search new things I like or don't like, news and more.

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.