Review roundup: Palm Pre

The early reviews are in, and the verdict on the Palm Pre appears to be relatively positive--albeit with plenty of caveats. The highly anticipated gadget will be commercially available Saturday, and the wallets of regular shoppers ultimately will have the final say on whether the device lives up to the hype. In the meantime, read on for the nitpickings--both good and bad--by a variety of industry pundits.

And for additional Palm Pre reading:
- see our Palm Pre sound off
- check out our Palm Pre timeline
- or vote on the future of the Pre

The long-awaited Pre has nice new touches, but Palm Inc has a lot of work to do if the device is to be a serious competitor to the iPhone.

The device seemed to live up to some expectations but fall short on others for this reporter, who played around with the Pre for just a few days.

The interface does feel new and interesting with some lovely bells and whistles. But features like photo-viewing and surfing are sometimes painfully slow and social networking integration does not go as far as this correspondent hoped. --Sinead Carew, Reuters. Article

 

All right, then: the Pre is a spectacular achievement. Zero to 60 in one version.

But is it an iPhone killer, as some gadget bloggers have been asking?

The Pre will be a hit, but the iPhone isn't going away. First of all, Apple's lead of 20 million phones will only grow when the new iPhone 3.0 software (and, presumably, a third iPhone model) come out shortly.

Second, Palm's audience for this model is limited to the United States. It requires a CDMA network, so it works in few other countries.

Third, even the Pre has its annoyances. Opening certain programs can be very slow--sometimes eight or nine seconds--and there's no progress bar or hourglass to let you know that it's still working. --David Pogue, The New York Times. Article

 

The Pre's biggest disadvantage is its app store, the App Catalog. At launch, it has only about a dozen apps, compared with over 40,000 for the iPhone, and thousands each for the G1 and the modern BlackBerry models. Even worse, the Pre App Catalog isn't finished. It's immature, it's labeled a beta, and Palm has yet to release the tools for making Pre apps available to more than a small group of developers.

...All in all, I believe the Pre is a smart, sophisticated product that will have particular appeal for those who want a physical keyboard. It is thoughtfully designed, works well and could give the iPhone and BlackBerry strong competition--but only if it fixes its app store and can attract third-party developers. --Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal. Article

 

Ultimately--carriers and developers notwithstanding--what Palm has done is not only a major feat for a company of its size (and its dire position), and we think it's an important step in the evolution of mobile computing. Just like the iPhone's notches up the ladder, and the G1's contributions, the Pre moves the game forward in a very real way. We know this won't be the last of the webOS devices, and we know that as Palm improves its products, so will Apple, RIM, Microsoft, Google, and the rest of the smartphone gang. Unfortunately for them, their work just got a little bit tougher. --Joshua Topolsky, Engadget. Article

 

When the Pre launches on June 6, it will still have a long way to go. Palm and its exclusive carrier, Sprint, have not yet set up a payment system, so only free programs are available. The pages of the App Catalog, Palm's online store, are sparsely furnished and nearly devoid of games. Perhaps most surprising, there are no programs providing fast access to Facebook and Twitter. You have to use the Web browser to reach those services--a giant step backward compared with the social networking experience on competing phones. --Stephen H. Wildstrom, BusinessWeek. Article

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