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.
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:
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.
quote: Task-based, not app-based By ditching the app + window paradigm (which the iPhone still essentially uses) in favor of a card paradigm, Palm was able to invent a truly task-based interface that lets you use the interface to do things, instead of using apps to do things. Let me give an example. Instead of having multiple communications apps on the phone, any of which you can use to carry on a conversation via multiple services, you just open up a single chat card with that user. That chat card hosts a continuous stream of conversation that combines SMS messages and IM in a single, seamless interface and chat experience. That way, the focus is on the conversation, and not the medium (SMS, Gtalk, iChat, AIM, etc.). It's very nice, in an "I want to be able to do that right now on my iPhone" kind of way. Palm has saddled this fantastic approach with an overused buzzword-turned-name: synergy. But, in light of how compelling both the idea and the implementation seem to be (at least based on this staged demo), the annoying name is a minor issue.