Pre


I absolutely love my Palm Pre.  There is no doubt about that.  But as in every relationship (at least with a “toy” it is good to have some objective reality about its strengths and weaknesses.

Several of my criticisms come straight from my previous use of a Palm Centro and only one of them is a quasi-response to the dreaded i word.

So first – System Sounds are pretty annoying.  So far the only sound I’ve been able to change is my ringtone.  All the other notifications, except for an upcoming event, use the same monotone ding sound.  So I have no idea if it is a new text, a new e-mail, a new set of tweets, or if it is a battery-low warning.

Next and this is kind of a big one, is the lack of data while roaming.  I don’t actually roam a lot, but for the data parts of the phone to work, you must be using Sprint‘s cell signal.  We’ve found random dead zones in the Twin Cities, fortunately you can switch to wi-fi and continue on your way.  However, this is a major drawback if you need to use Google Maps in the middle of no where  Minnesota (which is actually quite a bit of the state).  I found the below coverage map.  So this is pretty annoying.

Updated: Thanks to a commenter I was given this tip on data roaming:

If you open the phone dialer app, and click on the Sprint button in upper left, choose Preferences. From there, Network allows you to enable voice and data roaming. By default, data roaming is turned off.

I miss having a video camera like on my Centro.  I think the quality of pictures is slightly better and really like having the flash.  But sometimes you just need a video camera to capture a funny scene and a still picture just won’t do it justice.  Along with this is the lack of zoom.  Granted the Centro only had a 1x zoom, but it was nice.  With the higher quality picture you can zoom in a little bit, but that takes a lot more work!

Arrow Keys made typing a lot easier.  It was much easier to use the arrow keys to navigate around the text.  It provided much more precision than my clumsy large fingers.  You do have some ability to use the shift and function key to navigate text sections, but it isn’t the same.

Updated: Another tip:

Here’s a good analog to arrow keys: Instead of just stabbing where you want to move the cursor, hold down the orange key and drag your finger left and right anywhere on the screen to emulate arrow keys.

Another fairly personal (I think), is the mail handling app is a little clunky.  The phone is designed and integrated for using Google programs including Gmail. I am a little anal about having my Gmail sidebar showing everything as read, yet with the way the app handles mail it often either doesn’t mark them as read or doesn’t archive them.  Which means if you spend a day or two, or even a few hours working through your inbox on the Pre, you then have a mess to clean up when you go back to your webmail.  I suppose if you were using Gmail through Outlook or something then it is fine, I don’t know.  And I do really like being able to access your e-mail without having to go through the browser.  It also doesn’t keep conversation together.  If you are familiar with Gmail, you know that it keeps all the conversations together in one “column” so that 5 replies to one e-mail can be read together, yet the mail app isn’t capable of doing that.

I almost forgot about the battery life, but it seems like everyone has already hit on this issue.  It seems to have gotten better with the new OS update.  It also depends on what apps you have running and what kind of back-end processing they are doing.  We’ve had some really odd experiences with battery life, like my wife’s phone has stayed on all weekend while we were roaming.  Roaming traditionally runs a battery out quickly, but this has happened twice now.  I have mine setup with Gchat, which is always on so mine runs down fairly quickly.  But I’ve noticed that there have been times where it isn’t dead or near dead at the end of the day.  I think this just means that my usage just ebbs and flows.

Finally, the lack of apps is really getting me down.  I enjoy the ones that I am using, but I wish there was more variety and just more.  It would be nice to see if someone  came up with a better mail app or a Google reader app.  Or some different games.  I personally am ready.

I’m sure there are more criticisms I could offer, but these stand out as the biggest.

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I only brought my Palm Pre with, down to watch the Minneapolis Red, White, and Boom celebration last night.  We were treated to about 19 mintues worth of pyro-mania.   They utilized a variety of different altitude levels for a cool show.  We’ve never seen so many low-level fireworks, but they were pretty sweet.

After reading a few tips about how to capture fireworks displays on the camera, including the iPhone (I can’t seem to find it in the article now), I thought I might get some quality shots with the Pre. Below is one of the best shots, it didn’t do well with getting rid of excess light and lack of a zoom makes for lots of wide angle shots.

09fireworks

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gallery-pre-10I’ve been trying to use as much of the Palm Pre as I can to see how things react and work.  I am still very pleased with the phone (it would probably take quite a bit for me to be upset with it since I dropped some cash on it!).

One of the most exciting things, at least for me was that I helped Christy setup a Twitter account using the Pre.  I also got my Facebook vanity URL via the browser on my Pre.  It was fairly easy to do all of this.  I am still a HUGE fan of the slideout keyboard, however, to get the best view in the browser you need to flip it sideways, so you are going back and forth (horizontal  and vertical) to use the keyboard.  We setup her Tweed account and she was off a twittering. I like Tweed – it allows me to track both my personal account @crossn81 and @sewardchurch which has helped make the latter more interactive.  One problem I have with Tweed is that it will post a notification that @crossn81 has been mentioned, but when you tap the alert nothing happens.  A simple update should fix this.

I was able to easily livetweet this week’s message at the @sewardchurch account.  The Pre/Tweed interface made it slightly easier  to do so.

We used our laptops to finish getting her Facebook and Twitpic accounts fully mobile and she’s off and running! We discovered a small problem at this point.  Twitpic uses an e-mail based system to post pictures via your Twitter account.  Evidently Facebook only uses an MMS system but has an e-mail looking address (mobile@facebook.com). On my Centro I was able to send a picture to both Facebook and Twitpic from the same screen.  It now appears this isn’t possible.  Christy tried and got an error message. The Pre offers three sharing options for pictures – e-mail, MMS, and upload (to Facebook or Photobucket) currently.  So if you wanted to add the same picture to Twitter and Facebook you have to send it twice.  Hopefully they can work this out, because that is fairly annoying.

Keyboard

The keyboard is one of the bigger selling points of the Pre.  It is nice to have a slide-out keyboard instead of the touchscreen on the iPhone.  For me the keyboard adjustment has been pretty easy.  It is basically the same keyboard that was on my Centro – only a little bigger and with one significant change.  On the Centro the “0” key is the primary button on the bottom – so whenever you hit it you get the 0 but if you use the shift key then you get the “@” symbol.  On the Pre it is reversed.  So I’m still getting used to that change.  It is a standard QWERTY and I can type fairly well on it.  I do occasionally hit the “enter” key on accident and send a text or chat message a little early!  Sometime the top row of keys feels a little too close to the bottom of the phone, but I think it just takes some getting used to.

iPhone vs Pre

I’m sure this debate will continue to rage on and I’m not the best person to do a comparison, but a friend and I went back and forth through all the features we thought made our phone better.  They seem almost exactly alike except for screen size and keyboard.  The iPhone has a slightly larger screen until you try and use the keyboard.  With the iPhone’s keyboard up, the screen is basically half the size of my Pre screen.   We discovered that the Pre makes viewing a YouTube video clearer, although the iPhone may have slightly better sound quality.

This is getting fairly long, so  I will stop for now and keep updating randomly about the Pre. But one quick comment on the battery.  I’ve had to charge mine every night and sometimes in the evening when I get back from work.  Christy’s holds the charge slightly better, but I think that is because her sits in her purse most of the day while I’m using mine off and on throughout the day.  I also have AIM and GTalk  running in the background constantly which would slowly drain the battery of any phone.   Oddly enough Christy’s old phone a Sanyo 2300 is still showing a full charge after sitting in standby since Tuesday!   I forgot to mention in the initial post that they transferred all of Christy’s contact information to the Pre for her – mine was all in cyberspace already so it was a piece of cake.

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TouchstoneThe first full day of owning a Pre was pretty nice.  It was a little frustrating too.  My phone charged well overnight on the Touchstone.

Touchstone is a sweet charging system that Palm developed.  It uses the standard USB charger that plugs into a AC/USB converter into the wall.  Then instead of plugging into the phone you plug into the “stone”.  The stone allows you to lay your phone (with a special  magnetized back) onto it to charge.  It is supposed to find the sweet spot which allows it to charge wirelessly.

While on the touchstone the screen displays a digital clock.  Like I said, my phone charged well overnight and was fully charged as I headed to work.  I usually stream The Current on my laptop, but I think the evil IT people finally blocked it.  No worries I have my new phone with Pandora and Sprint Radio which features a few local radio stations.  So I streamed music over Sprint’s high speed network and it sounded good and worked well.  It also sucks your battery life.

I finally shut it off so I would have a battery left.  I made a phone call on the way home and arrived in time to get it on the Touchstone before it died.  It is sweet when you set it on the Touchstone it automatically switches to speakerphone for you.  The call ended and I assumed everything was great.  I went in later and realized that my phone had died and was turned off.

I couldn’t get it to turn back on, even though it showed the charging symbol.  Ok, it might take a little bit to get the energy to turn on.  Nope, 20 minutes later nothing had changed.  It had frozen in the battery charging symbol.  I used Palm’s reset directions to no avail.  So I did what the Sprint guy said not to do – took out the battery.  I had never had to do this with my Centro, so it was a little disappointing.  But after doing that everything worked well.

Another minor frustration today was with the contact lists.  The Pre syncs to my gmail contact list which I spent a few hours cleaning up over the weekend.  However it automatically merges contacts with similar information.  I went to text one of my sisters and couldn’t find her name.  I discovered the culprit.  One of her e-mail addresses was listed in both her name and my dad’s.  So the Pre merged the two together.  So I fixed it in gmail by deleting her old e-mail address.  Still didn’t change on the Pre.

But I found a way to unlink profiles on the phone.  And now that works well. In contacts it showed a little number 2 next to my dad’s name (where the picture should be) so I touched (clicked) it and that showed the two accounts that were linked.  Then I touched her name and was given the option to “unlink this profile” it worked magically!

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Palm PreI have been waiting with much anticipation for the new Palm Pre to be released.  This is the first gadget/toy/material object that I can recall waiting, watching, researching, and anticipating for months before its release.  You may recall (but most likely not) that the Pre was first announced in February.  It has been a long wait.

The Pre was released on Saturday, June 6.  Being the somewhat rational person I am, we didn’t make a rush to be waiting in line at a Sprint store for the announced limited quantities.  We did our thing in the morning and meandered out in the afternoon going to Best Buy first (they offered an instant rebate instead of mail-in) but they were sold out (and quite unhelpful and almost rude).  Grabbing lunch we realized there was a Sprint store and jumped in on the off chance they might have one.  Nope, but we got added to the wait list.  It should arrive mid-week.

On Sunday we went to watch a friend race a triathlon and on the way out passed a Sprint store in the middle of no where.  So we stopped in on the way home just to see if they had any.  Nope and the guy was extremely rude (it was an affiliate store and they hadn’t gotten any Pre’s yet).

Sprint Nextel
Image via Wikipedia

Undaunted we waited.   We got our phone calls mid-afternoon on Tuesday.  We had to do some things around the house and arrived at the Sprint store around 6.  Eager with anticipation we waited for the first available employee (who ended up being the store manager).  He carefully walked us through the whole process, explaining everything in detail.  Ultimately it took an hour and a half for the whole process.

Yes, that is a long time, but we walked away with a very good understanding of the basics of the new phone.  This was especially important for Christy, since this was her first endeavor into the smartphone realm!

So far everything is going as advertised with no issues.  We purchased the last touchstone in stock and a car charger.  He was quite helpful and made sure that we got all of the discounts (17% a month from Christy’s hospital) and phone credits that we were eligible for.

We played around on them, downloading the currently free applications for the phone such as Pandora, Where, Suduko, the weather station, and more.  It has a limited selection for now but will soon be expanding!

We quickly drained our batteries (about 25% charge out of the box) by playing around and charged them overnight.

No problems.

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