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Palm, Sprint Give Pre Plan Details

Palm and Sprint outlined the monthly pricing plan for the Pre, but the companies remained elusive on a launch date or price.

Palm Pre smartphone

Palm Pre smartphone
(click for larger image)

Palm and Sprint unveiled a few new details about the Pre smartphone and webOS during a Webcast on Thursday.

The Pre and webOS were introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and they represent Palm's best shot at getting back to the top of the smartphone market. The companies did not give a price or release date during the Webcast, but they did say the first half of the year is still the target.

Users will be able to sign up for multiple service plans but will have to get an unlimited data plan. For individual monthly plans, this means the Pre plans start at $69.99 and go up to $99.99. Pre users also will be able to sign up for family plans and business plans that enable pooled minutes.

Matt Crowley, Palm's product line manager, also demonstrated a few of the operating system's capabilities. One of the most appealing features of the Pre is "Synergy," which aggregates a user's contacts across various Web services into a single interface. For example, Crowley said if a contact changes a phone number using Facebook, the change is automatically made to the phone over the air. The Pre also is capable of searching the handset and the Internet from the home screen, which is a feature that's also present in Google's Android OS.

When Sprint was announced as the exclusive launch mobile operator, some questioned whether partnering with the third-largest U.S. carrier was the right move. Crowley said Sprint was chosen because of its large 3G footprint, data plans, and the ReadyNow program. The ReadyNow program offers in-store setup of smartphones, and Sprint said it has led to marked improvement in customer satisfaction surveys.

Palm also said there would be an over-the-air application store for distributing programs, but did not offer many details. The platform uses Web standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which is meant to give Web developers an easier way to make mobile apps. This also means that the Pre's gaming won't be as robust as it is on platforms like the iPhone 3G, and Crowley said the first version of webOS would be focused on casual, Web-based games.

Smartphones are becoming increasingly capable of using enterprise-grade applications on the go, and they could ultimately be replacements for laptops. InformationWeek examined this issue in an independent report, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).

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