Pre release, Pre review and preview roundup

In case you've been living under a rock for the last few months, one of the most anticipated phone launches of the year is happening this Saturday. On June 6, the Palm Pre will be available, exclusively on the Sprint network in the United States. It'll cost $199.99 with a two-year agreement.

The Pre has been a long, long, long time coming for Palm. The current Palm OS (also known as Garnet OS) was first released in 1996 and while it has been upgraded and modified over the years, it has been left in the dust by the likes of the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and even Windows Mobile operating systems. Palm has been talking about a new operating system since, well, as long as we can remember and they've been touting a Linux based smartphone since at least 2004, long before Google was even thinking about Android. Well, in 2 days, the wait will be over.

Palm Pre specs are as follows:

  • High-speed wireless (EV-DO Rev. A or HSDPA, depending on version)
  • 802.11b / g WiFi
  • Integrated GPS
  • 3.1-inch 24-bit color 480 x 320 display
  • Dedicated gesture area below display
  • Slide-out portrait QWERTY keyboard
  • Exchange email support in addition to POP and IMAP
  • IM, MMS, and SMS messaging
  • High-performance browser
  • 3-megapixel camera with LED flash and "extended depth of field"
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP
  • 8GB of internal storage
  • USB mass storage mode
  • MicroUSB connectivity with USB 2.0
  • Proximity sensor for detecting when phone is near face
  • Light sensor to automatically dim display
  • Ringer mute switch
  • Removable rechargeable battery
  • 59.57 x 100.53 x 16.95mm closed
  • 4.76 ounces

This is also a huge event for Sprint, which as of yet has not been able to garner the buzz and attention the other major carriers in the United States have been able to get out of their touch screen smartphone releases. In 2007 and 2008 AT&T got the iPhone. In 2008, T-Mobile got the Android based G1 and Verizon got the Blackberry Storm. Although the G1 and the Storm have not come close to the level of hype and interest that the iPhone was able to achieve, they are both very popular and revolutionary devices. The closest thing Sprint has been able to do in the last year was the Samsung Instinct, which has not been as popular as was hoped. To say that Sprint is struggling, would be an understatement. At the beginning of 2009, they cut nearly 8,000 jobs and drastically reduced benefits for their employees. Sprint needs a win almost as much as Palm does to keep them going in a highly competitive market during a major economic downturn.

As for the Pre, those lucky bloggers who have had a chance to review it, have had some pretty interesting things to say. Since Neowin was not able to get our hands on a pre-release device, we thought we'd give you a quick roundup of what others have been talking about. Some of it good, some of it is... well, not so good.

Bonnie Cha @ CNET
"There are some hardware and performance issues and we're concerned about a few missing features, but we walked away impressed with the Palm WebOS."

"The tiny QWERTY keyboard isn't going to draw any praise, nor is the lack of an expansion slot. We're also disappointed that the Pre lacks some basic functions, such as video recording and voice dialing, though Palm has said these features can be added later through an over-the-air update. Battery life is also a concern, as the smartphone only lasted about a day on a single charge, which, in all fairness, is about the same as the iPhone."

"...because of the battery life and that slight bit of sluggishness, we'd don't think it's the best device for business users or road warriors."

Joshua Topolsky @ engadget
"In terms of basic industrial design, the Pre is stunning. Palm has gone to great lengths to talk about the feel of the phone, its likeness to a polished stone, how well it sits in your hand, and we'll admit... it does feel pretty great."

"The Pre, of course, contains a sliding mechanism which reveals a QWERTY keyboard beneath. One of our first minor issues was the build quality here. There's nothing tremendously alarming about how these two pieces connect, but there is certainly a small give when the screen is in its closed position."

"The Synergy premise is simple: it will take your Gmail account, Facebook profile, AIM identity, and / or Exchange data and merge it all together on your Pre, killing duplicate entries, joining together sources where there's overlap (creating "linked contacts"), and generally making your connected life super-duper awesome. What it actually does is dump pretty much all of your content into the phone without a second thought for what it's letting through the door."

"To put it simply, the Pre is a great phone, and we don't feel any hesitation saying that. Is it a perfect phone? Hell no. Does its OS need work? Definitely. But are any of the detracting factors here big enough to not recommend it? Absolutely not."

Adrian Covert @ Gizmodo
"The Palm Pre is a lot smaller than I initially thought it would be. A good size comparison would be an iPod classic with a big hard drive. In terms of thickness, it's definitely not as thin as the iPhone, or even the bold, but it's an acceptable size considering it's a slider."

"The browser is also a far cry from Blazer that was on the Treo's Garnet OS. The new browser is built on top of Webkit, just like the Android and iPhone browsers, and renders full pages in under 10 seconds. The zoom and drag/pan functionality is very much like the other browsers, both in operation and feel. There was no glitchiness and the browser was extremely responsive."

"It also has a few features not found on the iPhone, which include copy and paste and MMS messaging, something hardcore iPhone users have been clamoring for since its introduction."

Michael V. Copeland and Jon Fortt @ Fortune
"I like my BlackBerry because it has a keyboard. The Pre keyboard is much smaller than on the Bold. The keys themselves are a bit squishy and sticky. Some described them to me as "plasticky," but the stickiness sort of guides your fingers home and makes texting or composing an email easier."

"As a piece of hardware the design of the Pre is good, but not drop-dead gorgeous. Think Lexus, not Ferarri --nice but you don't hurt your neck looking at it as it speeds by. In San Francisco I made a point of taking the Pre out and displaying it strategically at as many places as I could -- bars, lunch counters, my desktop. No-one batted an eye until I told them what it was."

"After spending a few hours with the Pre, I wasn't tempted to give up my iPhone. While the Pre is a very good device that matches the iPhone in many ways and even surpasses it in a few, the iPhone is still a better handset in the ways that matter to me -- and in ways that I think will matter to a lot of potential buyers."

Peter Svensson @ ABC News
"Move over, iPhone. You've had two years on top of the smart phone world. Now there's a touch-screen phone with better software: the Palm Pre."

"So webOS makes the iPhone look clunky, which is stunning in itself. It also thoroughly shows up Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile. That operating system has had multitasking for years, but few users have appreciated that. Rather, Windows Mobile has been blamed for making phones clumsy and slow. Now, webOS comes along and does multitasking right."

So, as can be seen, there are already some mixed reviews on what the Palm will do, or can do. The general opinion from most is that Palm has made an overall solid device. With any new operating system, there are going to be issues. There are things that the new operating system lacks or doesn't do correctly, but the same things can be said of the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile.

Palm is trying to reinvent itself with the Pre, and the future devices that will be based on the same operating system. Will they be able to do it? What will the opinion of real users be? How will the device live up 6 months down the line and will the ecosystem be there to support it, like what the other major players have? We'll find out in a very short period of time.

The sad thing, for Palm and Sprint, is that they may only enjoy a few days of buzz and hype for their device, as Apple will start their next WWDC on June 8, where it is expected they'll formally announce the details on the next version of the iPhone, and possibly release the iPhone 3.0 firmware.

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