Editors' Note: Portions of the Design and Features sections were taken from our review of the Verizon Palm Pre Plus, since the phones share a number of similarities.
The Palm Pre Plus for AT&T has been a long time coming. It was first teased at CES 2010 and then officially announced at the CTIA spring show. Come May 16, you'll finally be able to get your hands on one. There aren't a ton of surprises here since the smartphone is largely similar to the Verizon variant. Obviously, it's got a GSM/UMTS radio instead of a CDMA one and supports AT&T's services, but otherwise the hardware and software remain the same.
Of course, we would have preferred new hardware (guess we'll have to wait till after the HP acquisition), but the Pre Plus finally exposes AT&T customers to the great capabilities of WebOS, most notably, true multitasking. Its well-rounded set of features and general ease of use makes it one of the better touch-screen smartphones in AT&T's lineup right now, since the Motorola Backflip failed to impress and the LG Expo and HTC Tilt2 skews more towards business users. It's certainly one of the top alternatives to the iPhone, but we think it's priced a bit too high.
At $149.99 with a two-year contract, it's hard not to look Verizon's way and see that the same phone costs $100 less and includes free Mobile Hotspot service. AT&T's limited time offer to throw in a free Touchstone dock (normally $50) when you purchase the phone at one of its retail stores is a small consolation, but with the next iPhone also just around the corner, the price is enough to make one pause. The Palm Pre Plus is a great smartphone, but knocking even $50 off would make this a more attractive option for people. We can only hope AT&T reconsiders in the future.
At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a noticeable difference between the Palm Pre Plus and the Palm Pre. The Pre Plus shares the same pebble-like shape and slider design and also features a gorgeous 3.1-inch HVGA multitouch screen. However, Palm made some slight changes to the design of the phone that really improves the overall look and feel of the device. To start, it removed the center knob that takes you to the Deck of Cards view. The function is still there, but as with the Palm Pixi, it's integrated into the gesture area so you have a more streamlined look, not to mention a smoother experience when you're swiping your finger from right to left to return to the previous screen.
Palm also revamped the keyboard. Generally speaking, it's still small and will probably give people with larger thumbs some initial problems. However, the company increased the key travel space and the buttons now give more tactile feedback, instead of feeling gummy like the original Pre's, which made a huge difference when typing. We didn't feel dragged down by squishy keys, allowing us to compose messages faster and with fewer mistakes. We asked a couple of Pre owners in the office to try it out, and they definitely noticed a difference and had a hard time hiding their jealousy. That said, it would still be nice to have a virtual keyboard for those times when you're using the smartphone in landscape mode and want to enter some text.
On somewhat of a related note, the slider mechanism feels more solid on the Pre Plus. In its closed state, the front part of the phone doesn't move around as much or feel rickety, and there's more of a spring-like action when you slide the phone open.
One final design change is that the Pre Plus now ships with an inductive back cover, so it's Touchstone-ready right out of the box. Of course, you still have to buy the charging dock ($49.99), but you won't have to get the backplate as well. As an added bonus, the phone just feels more substantial in the hand and doesn't have that plasticky feel of the original Pre. With the inductive cover, the Pre Plus weighs slightly more at 4.89 ounces (versus 4.76 ounces), which contributes to a more solid feel, but it measures the same at 3.96 inches tall by 2.35 inches wide by 0.67 inch thick.