Here is the Palm Pre's main home screen. In the upper-right corner, you'll see your signal strength and battery life. Along the bottom are the quick launch and notification bars. The quick launch tray includes shortcuts to the onscreen dialer, contacts, e-mail, calendar, and the main menu (aka Launcher).
By the way, if you want to take your own screenshots, just press the orange, Symbol, and P buttons on the Pre's keyboard. You'll then find the screen captures in their own folder in the photo roll.
Unlike the iPhone, turning on your wireless radios is a snap. Simply tap the upper-right corner of the screen and you'll be presented with this wireless manager where you can turn on/off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and airplane mode as well as see your battery life.
The onscreen dialer is large and easy to use and includes shortcuts to voice mail and your call log. The QWERTY keyboard also includes number buttons (shared with the letter keys), or you can also use the universal search feature to bring up a contact's info.
The Pre's universal search allows you to enter a search term from anywhere on the phone, and it will look through your contacts, applications, the Web, Google Maps, and Twitter for results. The feature worked well, but it's not quite as robust as the iPhone's in that it doesn't search e-mail headers, calendar, notes, or the music library.
Pressing the Launcher icon will bring you to all your applications and settings. It consists of three panels that you can swipe from left to right (and vice versa). This is the first panel, which is where you'll find the phone's core functions, such as the Web browser and multimedia.
On the second panel, you'll find more service-oriented offerings, such as Sprint TV, Sprint Navigation, and the Amazon MP3 Store. The Palm Pre App Catalog is also here, though any downloaded apps will show up on the first panel.
The third panel includes settings and utilities for the phone, such as turning GPS on and off and backup options. The Updates section is where you'll find any updates that Palm pushes out to over the air to add new features or fix any bugs on the Pre.
The Pre's multitasking features are what sets the smartphone apart from the competition. With the Deck of Cards functionality (pictured here), you can have multiple apps open and running in the background. You can swipe through the various "activity cards" and to make an application active, simply tap on a card. To go back to card view, just press the center button on the phone.
The notifications bar sits along the bottom of the screen and alerts you to any missed/incoming calls, upcoming appointments, and new messages. In some cases, you can even interact with the app right from the notifications bar. For example, you can skip tracks in the music player or like/dislike songs in Pandora.
If you're already working in an application and want to open a new program, you can use the quick launch bar to do so. To bring up quick launch, start in the gesture area and then drag your finger up to the screen. The bar should appear and from there you can move to the desired app.
The Palm Pre supports multiple e-mail accounts, including POP/IMAP and Microsoft Exchange. Setup was a breeze. For our Yahoo and Gmail accounts, we simply entered our log-in IDs and passwords and for Microsoft Exchange, our e-mail address, mail server, username, and password. All data was imported without a hitch and the push e-mail delivery is instant.
With the e-mail setup, all relevant Calendars will also be synced to the Pre and brought into one calendar view via Synergy. Appointments are color-coded to help you differentiate between the different accounts, but there is also a drop-down menu where you can view each calendar separately.
Sprint Navigation is included in the cost of Sprint's Everything Data Plans. Using the Pre's built-in GPS, it can provide real-time text and voice-guided directions as well as traffic data, business searches, and the ability to text message your location to contacts. The Pre also ships with Google Maps.
Based on WebKit, the Pre's browser renders sites onscreen as you would see on your desktop and with the multitouch screen, you can easily zoom in and out on pages with a double tap or by pinching your finger together or apart like the iPhone.
There are a couple of ways to transfer files to and from the Pre. When you connect the smartphone to your Mac or PC, you'll be given a choice of Media Sync, USB Drive, or Just Charge. Media Sync will allow you to connect with iTunes while USB Drive lets the Pre act as a storage device where you can drag and drop files.
You can have iTunes automatically sync your music library with the Pre or you can manually transfer songs. The 8GB cap and lack of an expansion slot really became an issue here as we watched the Pre's storage diminish with the more music we added. As such, users with an expansive music collection are going to have to cull their selection.
The Pre's music player offers basic functions: play/pause, track forward/back, shuffle and repeat modes. In addition to the standard forward/back buttons, you can swipe on the album covers to proceed through songs, though it's not quite as slick as the iPhone's Cover Flow feature.
In addition to support for MPEG-4, H263, and H264 video formats and access to Sprint TV, the Pre also comes with a dedicated YouTube app. You can search for videos and we were quite impressed with the smooth playback.
The Palm Pre App Catalog is still in beta but will launch with the smartphone when it goes on sale June 6. About a dozen preview apps will be available then, including Pandora, Fandango, Accuweather, and Connect 4.
Of the apps we downloaded, we were impressed with the integration and functionality of the programs. For example, in Fandango, not only can you check for local movie times and theaters but you can also read reviews and view trailers and photos.