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CNET First Look
Product Spotlight: Palm PreSix months after its debut, we finally get our hands on the Palm Pre, without supervision from Palm or Sprint. Find out if Palm's new smartphone lives up to all the hype in our Product Spotlight.
^B00:00:00 >> Hey everyone. I'm Bonnie Cha, senior editor for CNET.com, and today we've got a very special product spotlight for you. It is the Palm Pre. It's probably one of the most anticipated smartphones of the year. It was announced back at CES 2009, and since then, the Pre's been called everything from an iPhone killer to Palm's comeback to Sprint's savior. Now that we finally got it, and I can actually touch it, does it meet all those expectations? Let's say, for the most part, I'm pretty happy, but there are some disappointments as well. But I will start with some of the things I love about the pre. First off, this screen is amazing. It's smaller than the iPhone's, but I think it's sharper and more vibrant, and it's got multi-touch capabilities, like the iPhone, so you can easily zoom in and out of pages by pinching your fingers together. You can also delete emails by swiping left to right on the screen. Plus, Palm did a really nice job with the user interface. The apps are organized really well, and the transitions between the menus are fluid. As far as physical design of the phone, it's really nice and compact, and has a simple, elegant look. Some people have been worried about it being made of plastic and feeling cheap, but I think it feels pretty solid. The multi-tasking capabilities and notification system of the Palm Web OS is really what makes the Pre special. And it's one area, where, I think it beats the iPhone or any other smartphone on the market right now. With the Deck of Cards feature, you can have multiple apps running in the background, so unlike other smartphones, you don't have to close out of one application to use another. All your open programs will be displayed as cards and by pressing the center button, you can minimize all the apps, scroll through them left to right, and then bring one to the front simply by tapping on it. This quick launch bar also makes it easy to open apps while your working in another program. And when you're done, you just simply flick the card off the screen. The notifications bar along the bottom of the display also alerts you to any missed or incoming calls, upcoming appointments, and new messages with the email subject line displayed, or a one-line preview of your text and instant messages. Also, in some cases, you can actually interact with the apps right from the notification. For example, if you're listening to music, either through Pandora or the built-in media player, you can skip through tracks and see what's currently playing. Another great feature of the Pre is Synergy. And this is what pulls in all your contact, email, and calendar information from various accounts, including Google, Exchange, and Facebook, and combines them under one umbrella view. You can still see the different email accounts and calendar separately if you don't want to have that, but I think it's just nicer to have all your information merged together for you. I actually synched my review unit, here, with my Google accounts and Facebook and Exchange, and it worked really well. Now, for some of the things I don't particularly like, starting with the keyboard. I'm actually a little torn on this because I'm one of those people who absolutely needs a physical keyboard, so it's great that it includes one, but it's also really tiny and cramped. And I've got small hands, and even I had problems typing on the Pre. But I would say, like anything else, you learn to make adjustments and with more use, I felt more comfortable with it, and you could type faster. Still, I hope for future devices, Palm considers adding some bigger keys. Also, there's no on-screen keyboard right now, so if you happen to be viewing a web page in landscape mode, there's no way to enter text, so you have to rotate the phone, slide open the keyboard, and then type, which seems like a big waste of time to me. Memory is another issue. The Pre comes with eight gigabytes of built-in memory, which might seem like a lot, but if you've got a large multi-media library, that storage can disappear pretty quickly. So an expansion slot would have been nice. I'm also a little curious about the app catalog. It's in Beta right now, and there are only about a dozen apps available at launch. Palm's got a lot of catching up to do is it wants to catch, you know, Apple's iPhone apps store, as well as BlackBerry. Finally, there are some performance issues with Pre. Call quality was great, but there can be a little bit of lag when launching programs. It's no worse than a Windows Mobile phone, but I think the bigger thing is the battery life. I was able to get about a day's worth of use from a single charge, but just barely. So those are just some of the highs and lows of the device. The Pre has tons more features, which you can check out in our full review. The Palm Pre is currently exclusive to Sprint, and is available for $199.99 with a two-year contract and mail-in rebate. You can also pick up the phone at Best Buy, Wal-mart, and Radio Shack stores nationwide. Would I call it an iPhone killer? No, mostly because I hate that phrase, and I also don't think anything is gonna completely kill the iPhone. But I do think that Pre is a worthy competitor. I'd say, for Sprint customers who are looking for something like the iPhone or want a multi-functional touch device, the Pre is gonna do a good job for you, but because of battery life and that little bit of sluggishness, I wouldn't recommend this for business users, or anyone who needs a high performance device just yet. Looking more at the bigger picture, I think Palm's Web OS is very impressive and exactly what the company needed to compete with everyone else. So I'm looking forward to seeing what other devices will come of it. I'm Bonnie Cha, and this has been your product spotlight on the Palm Pre. ^M00:04:56 [ Music ]