Product Palm Pre Plus
System Specifications Palm WebOS, 3.1-inch touch screen, Qwerty keyboard, 16GB memory, 3MP camera, microUSB, 3.5mm audio jack, GPRS, GSM, EDGE, HSDPA, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Li-ion battery
Price Dependent on contract with O2
PALM ATTEMPTED TO TURN AROUND its fortunes at CES 2009 by announcing not only a mobile phone operating system but also a brand new handset, both of which were a significant change in direction from past form. The Palm Pre caught the media's attention, as besides producing a decent looking phone, it was fast and had the best of two worlds - a touchscreen and a physical keyboard, hitting two handset categories in a small form factor.
Over a year has passed since then, and Palm has brought out successors to that phone and operating system. The company has since changed owners and is a part of HP now, which has big plans for WebOS and development of the brand along with its handsets.
The Palm Pre Plus has a 3.1-inch capacitive touchscreen that is very responsive to use and, surprisingly, we didn't encounter a single issue while using it, which is very rare for any touchscreen handset. Palm seems to have gotten this technology right, even from the first mobile phone. The display is housed very close to the surface of the phone, where seeing it in action puts you in mind of the Microsoft Surface touch table, with its seamless integration into the overall body of the handset.
The Pre Plus screen is bright and vivid with 320x480 resolution. The Pre Plus still has the appearance of the first model and the look of a small polished stone, with dimensions of 100.5mm x 59.5mm x 16.95mm. It has a comfortable fit in the, er, palm of the hand.
Side by side, the screen on the Palm Pre Plus looks brighter than the one on the original Palm Pre although both handsets have more or less identical hardware. However, there are some significant improvements and also some slight ones from the original phone, which arrived on O2 back in October of last year, while the Pre Plus turned up just seven months later.
Palm has increased the memory and storage in the Pre Plus, both of which have been doubled. In the previous model there was only 256MB for running applications and 8GB for media storage, but now there is 512MB and 16GB respectively. This opens up the possibilities of adding more media while benefiting from multiple applications running on the handset with the increase in the Pre's memory.
In the past there was a limit of around 13 applications running simultaneously on the first Pre, whereas now we've seen 50 applications all running at once without an ‘out of memory' error message, and we're sure more could have been run.
Multi-tasking is clearly the phone's forte. Each application is known as a card in the Palm's WebOS and all are loaded fast and effortlessly. This is all from a slower than usually seen 600Mhz Texas Instruments CPU, which shows up the 1Ghz Qualcomm variant in the way the operating system on the Palm and the hardware all work together seamlessly with no lag.
The INQUIRER hasn't seen multi-tasking working this well on any handset before and we were quite taken aback by how fast the WebOS works, either with just one application running or even 50 and how well they all switch between each other. The various applications can be switched back and forth with their running order reorganised on the touch screen, while they are all loaded, operated and run from the display or the cursor-replacement gesture area.
Palm Pre Plus's gesture area is the black touch sensitive space beneath the display. Swiping up in this space launches the application screen that houses all the apps, swiping right to left minimises the running application or goes back to the previous screen, while holding the app and swiping it up the screen closes it. In the previous handset there was a home screen button, which is now gone with the addition of the directional swipe light that has been brought in from the Palm Pixi.
Its slide-out physical keyboard has been worked on since the original Palm Pre to have much more of a robust chassis. Unlike the first model there isn't any flimsiness to the slide-out mechanism, a flaw that plagued certain handsets. The keyboard itself has been slightly updated with a similar feel to the Pixi's tactile version and more space between the keys, which delivers a better overall typing experience.
The keys on the physical keyboard are a little on the small side. Usually with smartphones of this nature we like to use the handset to write the review, but this wasn't possible in this case as there wasn't a good free application to use and our regular ‘go to app' of Upvise wasn't available for this OS.
There are some miscellaneous features to the Palm Pre Plus that really don't fall into any review category but are worth mentioning. In earlier versions of WebOS there wasn't a video recording function on the platform, but now there is and there isn't a lag from camera to screen. On the top rear of the phone that is only seen when the keyboard is slid open is a mirrored surface. This might seem to be a quirky feature of the handset, but it's useful when taking self-pictures, as you can perfectly align yourself and others with the phone's camera.
The Palm Pre Plus has a lower than expected battery rating. A 1450mAh or 1500mAh power pack is usual for smartphones these days, but the Pre Plus has a 1150 mAh battery.
In our battery tests, the Palm Pre Plus lasted for 8 hours while making calls before losing power. Gathering emails and status updates only shortened this time by a slight margin. Palm has also bundled in its Palm Touchstone back cover for wireless charging.
The Palm Pre Plus isn't wildly different to the original Pre, it's more of a service pack release. Not much has changed other than the double memory size for both storage and running applications. Holding back the WebOS operating system is a lack of applications, where there are just over 2,200 as compared to the many thousands on Android. An element we would have liked to have seen in this version is auto correction for typing, which is now standard on every OS apart from the Palm. Also, we would have liked to have seen the mobile hotspot application by Palm shipping in the UK version. This enables the Pre Plus to be a MiFi device too, which has proven to be popular in the American version and is a great selling point for the device. µ
Decent compact touch screen smartphone, great multitasking ability, double the memory and storage capacity of the first Pre.
Lack of applications, missing auto-correction while typing, missing hotspot USA application.
Not much has really changed to warrant its arrival so soon, other than fixing faults in the original Pre.