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  (Source: HP/Palm)

HP's Palm Pre 2 features webOS 2.0 and improved internals, but only packs a tiny 3.1-inch 320x480 display.  (Source: HP/Palm)
New device features a tiny 320x480 and won't launch in the U.S. until next month -- what is HP thinking?

Today Palm ended weeks of speculation unveiling the Palm Pre 2 (previously code-named Mansion) and its new webOS 2.0.  HP has shown its hand and it appears as underwhelming at best.

On the surface the device itself seems reasonably well-equipped, containing the kind of high-end hardware you'd find on a high-end Android phone.  The phone packs a 1 GHz processor (doubling the original Pre's processor which was underclocked to 500 MHz).  The camera is bumped from 3 MP to 5 MP.  Memory holds steady at 512 MB -- the same as the Pre Plus.  And the Flash storage -- 16 GB -- is also identical to the Pre Plus'.

The biggest disappointment is the screen.  The Pre 2 still packs the same 3.1-inch 320x480  HVGA display as its predecessor, at a time when Android and Apple have graduated to higher resolutions.  Other potential downside is the lack of microSD support and the lack of support for the latest/fastest 802.11n wireless standard.

If this was Hewlett-Packard's grand scheme to use its recent acquisition Palm to make a splash on the smart phone market, something seems to be missing. 

Compare Palm's launch today with Microsoft's launch of Windows Phone 7 next month and you'll realize that Palm is at a distinct disadvantage.  Palm only has one new handset -- Microsoft has nine (as does Android, for that matter).  Palm supports apps (including Angry Birds and Oprah Mobile!), Skype, Bluetooth, and VPN, but Microsoft is expected to support these things as well (and Android already does).

One of the only advantages that Palm holds over Microsoft is that webOS 2.0, features a refined version of true multitasking, which is available for both third party and built-in apps.  Windows Phone 7 is expected to only support multitasking for built-in apps, not for third party apps.  Then again, the iOS and Android platforms already support true multitasking, so Palm is hardly in a league of its own here.

The success or failure of the Pre 2 ultimately matters little to HP, other than perhaps as a matter of pride (it's chief rival Dell is designing/launching multiple upcoming Android and Windows Phone 7 smart phones).  HP can afford to sustain Palm even if the experiment isn't working out, in interest of one day trying to conquer the phone market.

But in the face of a fast-advancing smart phone market, HP needs to do something at some point if it ever wants to get ahead -- more handsets -- better hardware than its competitors -- some decisive advantage.  That something is not the Palm Pre 2 -- a single smart phone with a tiny, low-resolution screen and lack of brand recognition. 

But HP seems determined to go its own way and will launch the device into the packed market anyways.  The Pre 2 will launch Friday in France and in "coming months" in the United States and Canada.


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RE: True Multitasking
By Moishe on 10/19/2010 3:58:07 PM , Rating: 2
True... the cards are really good. When I use a friend of family's iphone I forget and get pissed that the apps close completely.

After using webOS for almost a year, I hope that in 6-9 months there will be a newer/better webOS phone out. I don't want to drop the OS, but I do want to get rid of the Palm keyboard.


RE: True Multitasking
By MrFord on 10/19/2010 4:29:55 PM , Rating: 2
I have a love/hate relationship with the keyboard, as most users do. Granted my replacement phone is MUCH better than the original one, barely any double typing, so it seems like a QA problem more than a design one.

I find the keyboard cramped, but at the same time, I wouldn't want a bigger device. The Blackberry keyboard is a bit more easy to type on, but the Palm layout is more logical. I like the rubbery feel of the Palm over the plasticky BB, but the feedback isn't as good on the Palm.

Yes the Pre is small compared to the competition, but it should be seen as a good thing. Not everybody wants to carry a brick around with them, and the round corners makes it feel even smaller than a BB. I also like not having to turn the device around to type on it.

They definitely need to work on the hardware side, and furnish the App store. Also offer different from factors on top of Pre/Pixi.

One last thing: Touchstone charger anyone? Right there is one of the greatest feature.


RE: True Multitasking
By johnsonx on 10/20/2010 4:28:23 AM , Rating: 2
I didn't think the touchstone was such a big deal until I got one, and then another for the car. I can't imagine now what a step back it would seem like to have to actually physically plug in my phone to charge it each night.


RE: True Multitasking
By wolrah on 10/20/2010 11:44:29 AM , Rating: 2
The unfortunate thing with the Touchstone is that it requires a magnetic rear case on the phone, making a compass impossible to support. I thought compasses were useless on phones until trying Google Sky Map on Android, at which point the potential of AR via a phone really hit me.


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