Palm Pre review

£97
Price when reviewed

It looked as if Palm had struck smartphone gold when it showcased the Palm Pre for the first time at CES in January. Here was a phone, complete with what appeared to be an iPhone-rivalling OS, but with proper, grown-up multitasking and no iTunes lock-in.

The anticipation was at fever pitch. But months went by and all was quiet – then a launch in the US, and still nothing for Europe. Until suddenly, out of the blue, Palm announced it was launching with O2 on October 16. Joy. Elation. Excitement, once again.

But with the Pre in our hands are we still as keen? The short answer is no. WebOS may look slick in the demos, but in use we encountered frequent stuttering and a lot of pauses. When it works, it works very well, but when it doesn’t it’s teeth-gnashingly annoying. And note these aren’t early glitches, soon to be ironed out; the Pre has been out for some time in the US and any problems ought to have been sorted months ago.

It’s a shame, because the interface itself has much to recommend it. The multitasking OS means you can play music and browse the internet at the same time, for example, or flick back and forth between various applications, cutting and pasting text as you go.

Palm also places this multitasking front and centre. Rather than hiding away running tasks in a pokey dialog box, in webOS all your running applications are represented in a series of thumbnails: to see them just hit the single button below the screen and the view pulls back, allowing you to scroll through them left and right, rearrange them by dragging and dropping, and terminate them with a dismissive flick upwards.

It’s a clever system, but not without its annoyances. It can be a little confusing, for instance, that emails open in a separate card, while the switch from the account view to message browsing keeps you in the same place. Palm’s approach also ensures that the launching of applications takes a back seat. You can launch frequently used apps from a five-icon shortcut bar (which runs along the bottom of the screen in the task card view), but for everything else, you have to tap another button to fire up the application launch screen.

Another hindrance is the context-sensitive dropdown menu and status area, which are a constant presence at the top of the screen. This is simply too small to be able to press with consistent accuracy.

Details

Cheapest price on contract £97
Contract monthly charge £29.00
Contract period 18 months
Contract provider O2

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 5hrs
Standby, quoted 12 days

Physical

Dimensions 59.5 x 16.95 x 100.5mm (WDH)
Weight 135g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard Physical

Core Specifications

ROM size 8,192MB
Camera megapixel rating 3.0mp
Front-facing camera? no
Video capture? no

Display

Screen size 3.2in
Resolution 320 x 480
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family webOS

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