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6/25/2009
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Review: Palm Pre Smartphone Mostly Pleases

Palm needs the Pre to be a smash. There is a lot to like about the handset, but the iPhone, RIM's Blackberry line, and a coming crop of Android devices pose serious obstacles.


(click image for larger view)
Palm 'Pre' Smartphone

Palm is under a lot of pressure. Once the innovative leader of the smartphone world, it has fallen by the wayside in recent years as newcomers such as Apple and Google have bested it with fresher mobile operating systems. Palm has sunk a lot of time and money into developing the Pre and webOS, its brand new smartphone platform. As Boeing once bet its future on the 747, and Ford on the Taurus, so is Palm taking a huge leap of faith in this new mobile operating system and smartphone. Will Palm be able to follow in Boeing and Ford's footsteps?

The competition is not going to make it easy on Palm. Apple's iPhone OS 3.0, and new iPhone 3G S have been well received. Sales are hot. The original iPhone and iPhone 3G have combined sold more than 13 million units.

Then there's Android to think about. It may not be the smash hit that the iPhone has been so far, but only one handset has hit the market. The HTC G1 recently passed the million-units-sold mark in the U.S., and has sold even more worldwide. The next few months should see the number of Android devices blossom.

Both RIM and Microsoft are putting forth their best efforts, too. RIM is prepared to launch a second version of the touchscreen Storm, and Windows Mobile 6.5 devices should be hitting store shelves sometime later this year. Where will Palm and webOS fit in?

Pre Hardware

The Pre smartphone itself is a solid effort, but fails in some respects. As other reviewers have noted, the materials and build quality feel somewhat cheap and "plasticky." It's true. It really does. That's not to say Palm didn't give the design some thought. The Pre, rounded and smooth, is fashioned after a river rock. It's attractive and feels great to hold in your hand. It's also small and lightweight. Those who prefer to stuff their phones into their front pockets -- or any other pocket, for that matter -- will be pleased with the small footprint.

The display is absolutely gorgeous. It may not be the biggest display on the planet, but it looks superb. Web sites look fantastic, pictures look great, and text and graphics are very readable -- including outside in sunlight.

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