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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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screen size, virtual keyboard
By ScotterQX6700 on 10/19/2010 5:13:26 PM , Rating: 2
I see writing on the wall. Yes, some prefer a physical keyboard for various valid reasons. However, the flexibility and compact nature of having a keyboard-less phone is compelling enough that we are seeing a rise in popularity of this (keyboardless) form factor. To use hardware real estate for a relatively inflexible function (physical keys) seems antiquated when you consider the alternatives.

And same with the benefits of larger screens and increasing popularity of larger screens. If we are going to be typing on the device, it's typically easier to have bigger virtual keys and more screen real estate that is not taken up by the virtual keyboard. And if you are going to be browsing web sites, clicking on links, etc., it's easier to have a bigger screen.

Of course the drawback at some point is portability. My sweet spot seems to be 4" or 4.3". I'm not sure if the Evo is too big for me. It looks like there isn't a whole lot they could shave off the sides to reduce the bevel. Some room but not much. Definitely some room on the bottom but again, only a bit. The top has a speaker and the video camera built-in so I can see a need to keep that bevel as-is. I'm just thinking out loud about my "dream phone". Those Samsung Galaxy 9000-based phones are a really nice size with their 4" screens. Very light and flat, too. But if I'm going to jump from my current Nexus One 3.7", I want to jump big. Hoping for something like an Evo 2 that has slightly less bevel, higher resolution - although - I'm not sure I would want more than 800x480 on a 4.3" screen. I know Apple does a higher rez (960x640) on their 3.5" screen (which yeah, I admit I think of as "tiny") and people seem to like it - but seriously: remember running 1024x768 on a 15" monitor? I'm thinking something like 1280x720 (720p HD) MIGHT be easy enough on the eyes on a 4.3" screen? What do you experts out there think? And I'm willing to hear someone tell me high resolutions on 3-5" screens doesn't pose any problems if you design the icons, etc. large enough or scalable ... I'm guessing this is what Apple did so that people are not squinting; everything is the right size for that 3.5" screen; and bonus, very high level of clarity and flexibility for games, photo & movie viewing, etc.?

Also: how many of you see a movement toward 16:9 aspect ratio resolutions such as 1280x720 (HD 720p), 1600x900 (HD+), 1920x1080 (HD 1080) ? I would be willing to bet the next crop of high end Android phones will run 1280x720 because it has become such a pervasive standard. Thoughts?

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