Wednesday night I came home from class to find a box from Sprint. As I’ve mentioned before, I’d been considering the Pre for some time. Last week I stopped by a different Sprint store in the valley and tried it out. I have a friend that is a Sprint corporate rep and she “hooked me up” with a cheaper plan and cheaper deal on the phone than the general public would get. Lets just say I’m paying for an iphone 2G and getting a Pre… and paying for Verizon 450 minutes and no data… but getting 450 minutes and unlimited data…
At least that is what she said. I’ve been dinged $340 up front and supposedly the money will come off in a rebate and then discounted on subsequent bills after the first. Unfortunately my Pre has the same two little lighter colored sections of the screen (or “burnt” sections) on the bottom corners. These spots are only noticeable when looking at a black screen or white screen (they appear yellow against white), but don’t otherwise detract from the experience. My rep friend says that I can just exchange the phone for a new one at any store – so I’ll do that soon. Supposedly since all my data is stored with palm in the cloud I can swap phones without worrying about data loss. Other than those screen spots I like the device. A lot.
I suppose anything would be great compared to a MotoQ, but my friends with Storms and WinMo devices liked it as well. The layout (specifically the choice of fonts) is very nice; Palm hired a font foundry to create a new set of fonts for the phone and I’m sure any typographer would agree they’re delicious. The “gestures” are completely intuitive. The phone activation intro teaches you how to use the “back” gesture for five minutes, but everyone I’m sure understands after one example. What you don’t see in the ads or on the websites is that there are LEDs that glow in the gesture area when you use this gesture, and the little ball (not a trackball) lights up as well. The use of an off screen gesture area is great and speeds up the process of doing things like calendaring appointments and making task lists… not to mention web-browsing. There is also a slight “ripple” effect when you touch anywhere on the screen, which is nice feedback.
As for physical keyboard vs. on-screen I’m not sure there is a great difference. If I had to choose one I’d probably lean towards the physical keyboard because I’ve gotten used to texting on the keyboard of the Q, and every time I’ve tried to do it on an iphone or LG or whatever my texts become a garbled mess. So far I’ve IMed three people on the Pre and not had to fix my words once. There is something about the tactile sense of pushing the button down that lets you proceed to the next one that much faster. I don’t have to wait for a letter to light up before going to the next.
But, like I said, the keyboard isn’t why I bought this phone. I bought this phone because of its reliance on push notifications, OTA information syncing and account conglomeration. Within a minute of using the phone I was looking at a calendar that combined my work exchange (note, EXCHANGE, not just outlook) calendar, google calendar and facebook calendar (not that I know what the hell that is…). At first I was disappointed that it didn’t sync my google mail task list with exchange. Then I realized that the google mail task list was one of those “labs” features that isn’t official yet. Now that I have the phone I’m switching back to the outlook task list since I can add notes, due dates, etc. ALL FROM THE PHONE. And once I’ve changed something on my calendar, email or notes, it is updated immediately OTA (over the air). This is so convenient.
Also, I really don’t know how iphone (or any other smartphone users) can put up with not being able to multitask. I can make a phone call, put the phone on speaker, respond to an IM or text from somebody else, check ESPN, watch a youtube video and check my GPS location on google maps … all without stopping any of them to do the next. The “cards” system is a very intuitive way to display this. Basically the “cards” are the same as windows on a PC, and instead of hitting an “x” to close you just push them off the top of the screen. Oh, and the Pre was developed to save the battery by leaving wifi on all the time (which is the opposite of every other phone). What this means is when I go into a wifi area I automatically get the speed of that network without even thinking about it (which means my phone is incredibly fast at home of course). The Sprint 3G network is also pretty fast, I don’t notice a discernible difference between the 3G network when I’m at work and my own broadband wifi at home.
There have been many complaints about the lack of apps. I agree partially, as there only around 20. However, this phone JUST launched and developers were just given the development code weeks ago. Doesn’t anyone remember the “apps debacle” back in the early days of the iphone? There was nothing available and Apple was severely limiting who could make apps. The lack of a tetris app for the Pre is shocking though! Although, I won’t need Tetris to kill time now that I can surf the web…
Apparently Sprint’s own phone support people aren’t very knowledgeable about the phone either. I had to call support to port my number yesterday and spent an hour on the phone with the guy because he couldn’t figure out how to do anything. He would tell me to hit keys on the phone that didn’t exist (I think he kept confusing the Pre with the Centro). But, in any event, I eventually DID get the number ported and everything works fine now. Having the phone delivered next day AM was a nice touch by Sprint. Of course, maybe this is due to the fact that my friend handles corporate accounts and I wouldn’t have received this treatment as a regular joe… who knows?
To emphasize its competitive nature with the iphone the Pre comes with ear buds. I tried them out last night, they aren’t terrible, but I think I’ll get some “real” headphones for travelling. The mp3 player is decent and the headphone jack is a standard one (big plus!). However, as an audiophile I do have to complain about the lack of EQ on the player. Also, the 8GB storage limit is a downer since they decided to remove the removable storage from the phone. I may get a Zune HD to listen to music instead, haven’t decided yet. (maybe I don’t need a DAP at all, I’ve gotten by just fine so far)
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the phone is its “synergy” component. The phone merges data from all contact sources, email, outlook, facebook, etc. into one profile. For example, by just entering my account info on activiation I now automatically have a dossier on everyone I know, including birth dates, photos, all their phone numbers, all their emails, etc…. without doing anything more than entering my email accounts (which I was doing for email retreival and calendar…not this…). I didn’t realize how in depth this went – and was surprised when I tried to “test” call Cindy wednesday. When I pulled up her contact info -boom! – there was a big picture of her. turns out the synergy also pulls everyone’s facebook profile photo and uses that for their contact photo in your addressbook. I remember trying to assign each of my motoQ contacts a photo and what a hassle that was – and here the Pre does it without thinking.
I was worried that the Pre would feel big in my pocket as it isn’t as flat as the Q. However, it actually fits better because the entire surface is one even curve. So it feels like dropping in a big polished pebble, whereas the Q had odd angles and points that would catch on things. Since it is smaller in most aspects it also feels easier to hold in one hand and operate than the iphone. Of course that comes at the sacrifice of some screen real estate, but not in resolution – the Pre actually has a higher res screen because it packs the same amount of pixels as the iphone into a smaller space.
The one thing that I thought was silly about the Pre was the curved screen edges. The screen itself isn’t really curved in the corner… just the way the OS displays. I get it, the phone is curved itself, so this echoes in the OS… but… c’mon. Not a big deal, but please, I can tell where the screen “ends” are just some black pixels that look like curved corners. I’m an old screen real estate guy (30″ + 20″ multi monitor set-up at home), so sacrificing those 20 or so pixels to make the corners curved seems like a waste.