Editors' note, March 2, 2011: We have adjusted the ratings since the original publish date to reflect new products that have entered the market.
When Palm officially unveiled the Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus at CES 2010, it wasn't a complete surprise. Rumors of the two Verizon-bound smartphones had been circulating for weeks before the show, but that doesn't mean we weren't interested in checking out the products.
The Pre Plus is definitely the more exciting of the two devices. It includes design enhancements, such as a revamped keyboard, that improves the overall look and feel of the device. Palm also beefed up the internal storage and RAM, giving the smartphone's performance a boost in speed and expanded capabilities. If Sprint Pre owners weren't jealous enough, Verizon customers will also be able to use the Pre Plus, as well as the Pixi Plus, as a 3G mobile hot spot.
Now, Verizon has added a lot of great smartphones to its lineup lately, so the Palm Pre Plus will definitely face some stiff competition. But with its added features coupled with the WebOS's easier-to-use interface and great multitasking capabilities, we think it's a perfect device for the consumer who is looking for a smartphone to balance work and play, and who might find Android or Windows Mobile a bit much. The Palm Pre Plus will be available starting January 25, 2010, for $149.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Pricing on Verizon's voice plans were recently updated and you can find the new rates here, while the carrier's unlimited data plan costs $29.99.
At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a noticeable difference between the Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pre. The Pre Plus shares the same pebblelike 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 it makes for 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's increased the key travel space and the buttons now give a more clicky 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 springlike action when you slide open the phone.
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 quite have that plasticky feel of the original Pre. With the inductive cover, the Pre Plus weighs a slightly more at 4.89 ounces (versus 4.76 ounces), contributing to a more solid feel, but measures the same at 3.9 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick.