One Man's Eyes

I'm an early 30's engineer with delusions of adequacy. From here, I'll share my perspective, usually through words, sometimes through pictures, of the view of the world from one man's eyes.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

And the winner is.....

After much reading of reviews, comparing of price plans, features, and coverage, the winner is the Palm Pre! Saturday morning, we braved the small crowd that gathered at the local Sprint store in Pearland and Jen and I each scored ourselves a Pre...and something else that I'll mention later.

So, the tech geeks are asking "Why didn't you wait to see what Apple is going to annouce for a new iPhone on Monday???" Well, I'll tell you. First, a lot has already leaked about what Apple will be delivering for the third round of the iPhone and it just doesn't sound like too much of a leap over the current one. Sure, there will likely be a 32GB version that could probably serve as my main music device and it's going to have a compass...which will be cool if it can geotag photos with heading you are facing when taking a picture. Still, I've always been leary of the phone/mp3 player combo. My trusty 60GB iPod has outlasted several phones and there's really no need to replace it on that basis. Plus, I'm comfortable taking my Ipod out pretty much anywhere, knowing that, at this point, it would be pretty cheap to replace if I dropped it off a cliff or ran over it with a lawn mower. Not so much with a phone. Sure, they are fairly cheap with a two year contract subsidy. But, not so cheap to replace.

Also, AT&T just doesn't compare to Sprint for my family. We've got a family share data plan that gets us unlimited messages and data, along with 1500 minutes a month to share (and free time starts and 7pm and weekends, so that's a lot of time that minutes won't even get used!). We're now a three phone family - yes, the Princess has beaten us into getting her first phone (Jen and I were late in college before we got our first brick of a cell phone!), so that's three lines. It's going to be several hundred dollars a year less than AT&T and even more so than Verizon. So, the iPhone would have to be a whole lot better for the deal to make sense. Really, it's the two years of service that are the bulk of the cost, so you can't just focus on the hardware alone.

Which gets me to the hardware. Reviews are available everywhere and I read just about every single one of them since they started hitting on Thursday. All sounded good, save for two areas of concern - the keyboard has drawn a lot of criticism, and the battery life has been dissed. When we went to put our hands on it, these were my main things to check. While there's no doubt the keyboard is small, it is effective. It's taken me a little getting used to, but my speed is picking up nicely. As for the battery, if I can get through a full day and charge each night, that's something I can live with. I pulled it off the charger early this morning and have been using it fairly heavily today (as much as I would expect on a heavy day) and now near 10pm I've just hit the 20% warning. I don't expect to use the WiFi radio very often and I will pretty well just use the Bluetooth radio when I'm in the car, so that will help me battery life as well.

So, with the major concerns aside, the rest, as I've said elsewhere, is about 95% pure awesomeness. The screen is simply fantastic - sharp, clear, gorgeous color. Palm spent a lot of time on the ergonomics and it shows - it feels good in the hand and, unlike so many "smart phones" it is pretty easily workable one handed. The connection with my Google mail and calendar, at least with the flow from Google to the phone, is pure joy. Today, I when through my photo album, finding good head shots of friends and family to crop out and attach to my contact entries in Gmail. As I check the phone less than an hour later, all of my contacts have been updated with their new photo ID's. I can see all the Google calendars (one each for myself, Jen, the Princess, and the Tornado) color coded on my screen to keep up with our way too busy lives. The included applications work well and the multitasking is simple and effective. I can't imagine having to shut down an application to use another. It's like using a real computer. I've generally found it to be quite responsive.

As a phone, it is a big step up from what I had been putting up with. I know that you can assign a calling shortcut to each key on the keypad. I had originally planned to take advantage of the letters for some logical mappings (H for home, J for Jen, etc.) But, I've not bothered so far. Why? Universal search - slip open the keypad and start typing. The Pre automatically starts filtering contacts and within three letters I've pretty well got my intended contact narrowed down. While, I'm sure just pressing a holding a mapped button might be faster, I just don't see it being worth the effort to memorize letter keys. On previous phones, even with 99 speed dials available, I never used more than three as I couldn't remember what any of the others were. No more with that on the Pre. Between contacts, the calendar, pictures, the internet - the Pre makes it easy to locate information.

What's not too like? Well, nothing is perfect. I do have to agree with the observations that this thing is a magnet for fingerprints, both on the screen and the body. However, I've also found that slipping it into the simple pouch that comes with it does an excellent job and cleaning the prints off. I've gotten into the habit of carrying it around in the pouch. Probably the biggest complain I have is with volume. Even maxed out, the ringer volume is not very high. The speakerphone volume is also pretty low and the earpiece volume is fairly low as well. I would expect to have trouble using this in a noisy environment.

Finally, while I can understand it, it's still a little disappointing that ther aren't more 3rd party apps available yet. I know that Palm is releasing a developer kit to the general community soon, and I expect (especially with the way AT&T and Verizon are scared of Sprint's exclusivity and salivating over getting it for their networks) that there will be a good market of apps. There's only a few that I'm really interested in, most especially Ewallet.

Well, that's the view after a day and a half. I've read on the PreCentral forums of people giving up on is, which I just find mind boggling. It's true, WebOS is different from the old PalmOS and different from iPhone, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile. It does things differently and for the most part, better in my opinion. But, it does take a bit of getting used to. Finally in 2009 I am seeing some change I CAN believe in, and it is the Pre and the future of WebOS.

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