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Touchstone charger
Palm introduces new pre smartphone

Palm today held a special event to announce its answer to Apple’s popular iPhone and finally bring the company into the modern era of smartphones. Palm is starting with a blank slate thanks to a new operating system and a new smartphone which aims to please.

Palm started off with a new way of thinking -- as Palm Executive Chairman Ron Rubinstein stated, “Mobile is in our DNA.” Palm’s new efforts don’t revolve around the desktop as a tethering device or “home base” -- instead, Palm is looking to connect to the “cloud” of information online. Palm hopes to achieve this with its brand new webOS operating system. According to Rubinstein, anyone who can program for HTML, CSS, or JavaScript will feel right at home with webOS. The purpose of the webOS is to focus on “Your People, Your Time, and Your Critical Information”.

Tying Palm’s new philosophy to mobile telephony and the new webOS together is the new Palm pre phone. Palm’s 4.8-ounce pre aims to right the wrongs of its competitors while at the same time adding a few new twists of its own. The pre features EvDO Rev A, Stereo Bluetooth (a feature oft-requested from iPhone owners), 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, GPS, a fast OMAP processor, accelerometer, 3.0MP camera with an LED flash, and 8GB of internal storage.

The device features a 3.1” display with a 320x480 screen resolution. It also has a single, center button at the bottom of the device and a Gesture Area which provides direct access to the OS. Instead of a proprietary dock connector, the pre uses a microUSB connector located on the right side of the device and can be used as a USB Mass Storage Device. At the top of the device is a power button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a ringer switch.

Palm’s Matias Duarte took more than a few jabs at the feature set of the iPhone and talked about how no one wants to use a finicky onscreen keyboard. Duarte then went on to show the pre’s keyboard which slides out from the bottom of the device. Duarte also pointed to a feature that was implemented by “popular request”: a removable battery. And speaking of the battery, the pre is charged using an innovative wireless “Touchstone” charging dock. You simply place the dock on your desk, plug it into the wall, then place your pre on top of the dock. The device is held in place thanks to magnets built into the dock – there is no need to plug the pre directly into in an AC adapter.

Martias also went into great detail about the webOS and the numerous gesture-based commands available on the pre. I cannot possibly cover every single feature in this space, but here are a few highlights:

  • The pre can have multiple applications open at once
  • The pre uses a "cards" system which shows open applications and allows you to flick through them using your finger
  • Bringing up the four traditional Palm application icons is done by placing your finger on the Gesture Areas and flicking up. This gives you access to what were once "hard buttons" on older Palm devices.
  • The OS supports Universal Search
  • Contact information can be pooled into a single place from multiple places (i.e., Gmail, Facebook)
  • The pre can be used in portrait or landscape mode -- the cards orient themselves automatically on device position  

Sprint will be a launch partner for the pre. The pre will be available the first half of 2009 exclusively from Sprint. Pricing is not available at this time.



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correction
By SigmundEXactos on 1/8/2009 4:18:09 PM , Rating: 2
Brandon, you said "At the top of the device is a power button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a power switch." That switch is a ringer on/off switch. It switches everything to silent/vibrate as necessary--a very nice feature of Palm smartphones as at least my Treo 755p vibrates when I switch it to vibrate, so I can "turn my phone off" without taking out of my pants pocket.

This is a very exciting development--a much better phone than the iPhone, from both a hardware and, more importantly, an UI perspective--which can't be said of most other iPhone competitors.

What will really sell this device is if it is compatible with all PalmOS 5 applications. Some applications (like LJP) that allow me to emulate NES/SNES/Genesis/SMS/NeoGeo/GB/GBC/etc/etc/etc I really want to keep.

As for Sprint being a launch partner -- Sprint has been Palm's launch partner for pretty much every device they've had. Sprint is also the only one that ever really advertised Palm devices, so this is pretty much a no-brainer. It would have been nice (for Palm and users) to be available on multiple carriers (esp GSM ones), but that's the US mobile market for you. Sprint does have the lowest data cost though -- I have Sprint for my business and their all you can eat plan ($99/month, which is really $120/month with tax). With any other carrier plan that includes (unlimited, or at least more than the crap 5GB that Verizon gives you) costs $150 + tax.




RE: correction
By Targon on 1/9/2009 8:11:31 AM , Rating: 2
The only real advantage you get with Sprint is their unlimited minutes plan for voice. AT&T unlimited data is $20/month, going to $40/month for unlimited web/messaging/data. Voice is on top of that, but the data plans from AT&T are not THAT bad.


RE: correction
By clovell on 1/9/2009 12:46:56 PM , Rating: 2
$40 + how much for a realistic voice plan?


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