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Wednesday
Jul012009

Don's Pre-orities

Herewith, my first assessment of the Palm Pre.  It's not very detailed, and it's not complete, but it focuses the discussion: starting with what's most important, and working its way down from there!

I preface this by saying that with a background of using every device Palm ever made (and a couple by Sony, too), starting with a Pilot 1000 and going through the Centro, and having then jumped ship for a Blackberry Curve for about a year, I LOVE the Pre.  My Curve is in the drawer, and I haven't looked back, other than to see what the BB can do that the Pre can't, yet, and to capture some of that, here, along with some things from the Treo/Centro that Palm should put back in!

Did I mention that I LOVE the Pre?

You can read more here:

http://www.palm.com/us/products/phones/pre/index.html

http://www.gearbits.com/archives/2009/06/palm_pre_review.html

 

Palm Pre-orities

 

Priority 1: Reliable device

This is the highest priority - the thing without which all the rest is meaningless. This is where Windows Mobile fell down again and again, where the Storm 1 was deficient, and where PalmOS increasingly showed cracks. I've had the Pre for almost a month and don't even know how to reset it. No resets, no locking up, no performance lags. Synchronization with Exchange is quick and so far without errors. Media sync with iTunes is the same – it just works. Sync with Google Apps, to the limited extent to which I’ve used it, also works flawlessly.

Areas for improvement

1. Battery life not great. Good news is that I can have a spare - take that iPhone!

 

Addenda regarding usability:

I had to get a replacement device.  It was a trivial thing - a vertical stripe down the middle of the "viewfinder" when using the camera - but not something that one should have to deal with in a new device.  The Verity Sprint store replaced the device, and here's what happened:

  1. At my computer:  Copied my pictures off the old device.
  2. At the store:  Full wipe of the old device (one command, that could have been done remotely).
  3. At the store: Let the new device start up.   Put in my Palm Profile email address and password.
  4. Nearly everything then came flooding down onto the device: Apps, my Exchange profile (which immediately began syncing), my Google profile (which immediately began syncing.
  5. Put my photos back on the device, and sync'd again with iTunes.
  6. What was missing:  launcher configuration reverted to the default placement of icons; launcher shortcuts to contacts were gone; Classic reverted to Trial mode (MotionApps says it can take up to 48 hours to activate), and HandyShopper (and its databases) vanished (I have a trouble ticket open with MotionApps on this); pictures associated with contacts reverted to poor quality thumbnails that come from the sync with Exchange (which themselves came from setting them up on the Pre); web bookmarks are gone; SMS threads are gone; keyboard shortcuts are gone.  None of this is vital.   

The Pre was functional in about 30 seconds, and everything that was going to be on it was on it before I left the store (about 10 minutes).  There is nothing else like this (even with the issues in #6, above) in my experience of moving from one device to another (and as my frequent readers know, I do move from one device to another!!).  I guess it will be nice to fully understand how to backup/restore the items missing in #6.  With a Treo or BB one would back up (most of) that stuff to a computer and then restore (most of) it.  With the Pre there seems to be no way to do that, so it's an area they need to address.

 

Palm Pre-orities

 

Priority 2: Great phone

Clarity and signal reception are at least as good as any other device I've used on Sprint - Treo, Centro, Pearl, Curve. Sprint performs better in my area (60 mile radius around Denver) than the other three carriers. The Pre's design makes it very easy to use, and the real keyboard makes all text-based functions easy to do accurately. While the keyboard can be a bit off-putting initially, it actually gives me fewer double-key-presses than the Curve did! The vertical keyboard makes one-handed use easy. Putting contacts directly on a launcher page is fun! One can put “t” for one second delay and “p” for hard pause inline in a phone number to control after-dialing entry of digits.

Areas for improvement

1. Many will miss the Treo/Centro “Favorites” pages. Putting shortcuts to contacts on a launcher page mitigates this somewhat, but it’s still a two-step process to dial a favorite phone number, and there are only 3 pages in the launcher, which limits space to put them compared to the Treo/Centro.

2. Need more than three launcher pages.

3. Little button on the bottom front is totally useless, but it's pretty and doesn't get in the way. Maybe somebody has plans for it?

4. Phone really needs call log function - just the ability to know how LONG a call was, and the exact time, would be great!

5. Need separate sounds for all events - ringer, alarm, notification, SMS, etc.  A full implementation of profiles, like the Blackberry, would be nice, but something short of that would be OK.

6. Bluetooth device speed dial and voice command functions don’t work. It would be nice if this were brought up at least to the level of the Curve.

7. The far right button on the main row of applications should be assigned to something else, since the same function can be had by just swiping up!

 

 

Palm Pre-orities

 

Priority 3: Great PIM

Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Notes. The visual aspects of these are great. The Calendar is very intuitive and easy to use. Contacts are easy to manipulate, although with the global search one won't need to open the Contacts app very often. Having multiple task lists is nice, unless you rely on syncing with Exchange, where having one task list is the norm.

Areas for improvement

1. The task list is rudimentary - needs sorting, filtering, categorization. In particular, the task list should maintain its current ability to sort by creation date (VERY USEFUL and nobody else has it!!) (See Mark Forster's Autofocus system), and the search as you go narrowing the list (which is wonderful!), but add the ability to sort by other dates, priority, category, etc.

2. Notes app needs something to sync with - a desktop component - Hey! Outlook has notes - let's sync with that!

3. Multiple task lists need a PC-based SOMETHING to sync with. Syncing with multiple task lists in Exchange or multiple task lists in Google Apps would be nice!

4. Contacts should allow one to move a contact from one source to another, like the calendar does. This would allow one to look up and add a business in Where, and then move it to the "real" address book, sync'd with either Exchange or Google Apps.

5. Need to be able to exit a text field without saving, in case of error.

6. Scrolling from day to day in the calendar needs to be MUCH faster. Right now one has to wait 2-3 times as long as one would want to in order to just flick through the days to get to a given day.

7. Deleting things from the calendar takes too many steps.

 

 

Palm Pre-orities

 

Priority 4: Other

Replacement device:

 

Pre can replace a Calculator, Navigation system, Music player, camera, Alarm Clock, and Laptop broadband – WOOPS!! That last one isn’t there yet.

 

For laptop users, the Pre can reduce the need to refer to the laptop for email. Web browsing and map lookup. With higher screen resolution one can get a tolerably good experience using the Pre instead of a laptop for some functions. Some web sites are built in such a way that they don't work very well on a small screen, and there are some technologies that aren't yet implemented (Flash? Ajax?)

 

Text functions:

 

Email, SMS and MMS work very well. How nice to have REAL MMS!! Not that I use it all the time, but I can, the pictures are good enough to send, and I no longer have to mess with (or pay for) stupid stupid stupid Picturemail. The threaded SMS is lovely, as it was on the Treo/Centro.

It breaks long SMS messages into multiple outbound messages – w00t!

Email should be more configurable - number, date range, filtering

 

Areas for improvement

1. NEED TETHERING!! Bluetooth would be OK. Ad Hoc Wifi would be cooler!

2. Email should switch to landscape mode when rotated. There is a "hack" for this., but it should just do it!

3. Google Maps should be able to copy name, address, phone, etc. to the address book like it can on the Treo/Centro

4. Quicktext should be added back in as on the Treo/Centro

5. Emoticons should be added back in as with the Treo/Centro

6. Need more apps in the App Catalog!!

7. iHeartRadio

8. Nobex Radio Companion

9. Basically every app out there for the iPhone

 

Palm Pre-orities

 

Priority 5: Tips and tricks

One of the great things about PalmOS was that there were tricks and third party software to accomplish almost anything. I’m accumulating some tricks that are important to me, here.

Email in Landscape, until Palm turns this feature on for real

Gennadiy sends in a tip that's in the same vein as the now-famous Konami Code developer mode trick, but is much more useful to your average user: viewing email in Landscape mode! Here's how: when in your mailbox listing view (i.e. the top of the email app), type in RocknRollHax. It helps if you hold down Shift+ the key for the capitalized letters instead of hitting them in sequence. As Gennadiy writes, type as follows:

 

Hold Shift + R

ockn

Hold Shift + R

oll

Hold Shift + H

ax

Screen capture

You can take a screenshot of whatever is on screen by pressing orange key + shift + P all at the same time. It creates a screenshots folder in Photos and saves the image. Also you find the image in the USB partition when you hook up Pre as a USB drive."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Addenda regarding tips and tricks:

 

Tethering:  I do not include this above, since Sprint/Palm have still not enabled this officially.  I got a pretty good inside view of the fact that one can not only hack the Pre to enable tethering via bluetooth, but, even better, that one can enable "tethering" by turning on ad-hoc wifi networking, and enabling internet sharing through that mechanism.  Bluetooth is a poor protocol for many reasons.  As long as wifi doesn't drain the battery faster than Bluetooth, wifi tethering would be the way to go! 

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