>> Hi, I'm Bonnie Cha, senior editor at cnet.com, and today we're taking a first look at the Palm Pre Plus for Verizon. This is basically a jacked-up version of the Palm Pre, and I mean that in a good way. To start Palm made some slight changes to the design of the phone that improves the overall look and feel of the device. For one thing they removed the center knob that takes you to the Deck of Cards view. The function is still there but like the Pixie it's integrated into the gesture area. So you have more of a streamline look, and it makes it for a smoother experience when you're swiping your finger right to left to return to the previous screen. Palm also revamped the keyboard. In general it's still small and will probably give users with larger thumbs some initial problems, but the company's increased the key travel space and the buttons provide more of a clicky tactile feedback instead of feeling gummy like the original Pre's which makes a huge difference for when you're typing. I definitely could type faster and made less mistakes on the Pre Plus' keyboard than on the original Pre. I had a couple of other Pre owners in the office check it out and they're definitely jealous of this keyboard. One final design change is that the Pre Plus now ships with the inductive back cover. So it's Touchstone-ready right out of the box. Of course, you still have to buy the charging dock, but you won't have to get the backplate as well. And an added bonus is that it just gives the phone a more solid construction so it doesn't quite have that plasticy feel of the original Pre. In terms of features, you're getting double the memory over the original Pre, so you get 16 gigabytes of internal memory with about 15 gigabytes of that available to the user. The Pre Plus can also handle 3-D gaming, and we had a couple of games already preloaded on our review unit including EA Sims 3 and Need for Speed Undercover. I was really impressed by the graphics and smooth gaming experience on here. I think Palm and EA also did a nice job of integrating the phone's features such as the touch screen and accelerometer to help with game play. These games are available from the Palm App Catalog which is still small compared to iTunes and Android's Marketplace, but it's growing weekly so that's a great thing. Another app that will be available from the app catalog is Palm Mobile Hotspot. This is something exclusive to the Verizon Pre Plus and Pixie Plus and allows you to turn the smartphones into mobile Wi-Fi router and provide broadband Internet access for up to five devices. Certainly a great feature, but you do have to pay for the privilege though. On top of your monthly voice and data plan, you will need to pay $40 for Verizon's 3G Hotspot plan. And there's a five gigabyte data cap so it doesn't come cheap. The rest of the phone pretty much falls in line with the Sprint Pre. You get a super sharp 3.1-inch HVGA display with multi-touch capabilities and a solid set of multimedia features including an excellent 3 megapixel camera. Like all other Web 0S devices, the Pre Plus will get video recording capabilities and flash support with Web 0S 1.4 when it's released in February. The Palm Pre Plus will be available from Verizon on January 25th for $149.99 with a two-year contract which I think is a pretty fair price. The design improvements and added features definitely adds value to the phone plus it has good call quality and the smartphone feels faster, but we're still testing battery life so it's hard to say if it's better. Hopefully it is. Verizon has added a lot of smartphones to its lineup lately, so the Palm Pre Plus will definitely face some stiff competition. But I think with its more user friendly interface and great multitasking capabilities, it will prove quite popular with Verizon customers, particularly with the consumer crowd. I am Bonnie Cha, and this has been your first look at the Palm Pre Plus for Verizon.
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