Verizon Palm Pre | All about the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi on Verizon

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Skatter Tech has a review of the Palm Pre Plus. Here are the highlights:

Palm Pre Plus

The Body: 4.5/5 stars
The Palm Pre Plus weighs under five ounces and looks like a smooth glossy black stone. The body has a soft feel and offers a great grip. It’s probably one of the best looking phones I’ve come across recently. It definitely offers a friendly and welcoming feeling compared to devices such as the robotic Droid. There’s a volume rocker, a switch to silence your phone, and a microUSB port on the right side. Accessing the charging/data USB port was easier than on the Palm Pixi, however it needs to be relocated to the bottom. If you are holding your phone to your ear while it’s charging, it’s a nuisance since the cable extends out sideways. I also was cautious each time I tried to open the flap that covers the port since it’s quite flimsy. It is also quite tricky to get the flap open; I found myself using nails to pry it open. I feel that Palm has a secret agenda to get us to buy their Wireless Touchstone Charger by annoying us with the charging port. The back of the phone is a rear “face-plate” that comes pre-enabled for wireless charging unlike on the original Pre. Palm also offers a variety of custom artistic styles for those tired of the all-black look. Although there’s 16GB of on-board storage, which is twice that of the original Pre, there’s still no microSD expansion. The only thing under the rear cover is the interchangeable battery pack. The 3 megapixel camera, a LED flash, and speakers are on the upper rear part of the Palm Pre. The power button and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack are on the top. The front of the phone houses the slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a gesture area, and a 3.1 inch display from bottom to top. I found the curvature of the slide out keyboard aesthetically appealing and comfortable for typing. There’s also a reflective mirror hidden behind the upper portion of the phone that becomes visible when the keyboard is extended. It definitely comes in handy for taking self portraits. I’m still fascinated with how well Palm has reinvented themselves with a new generation of hardware, but it has already been over a year and it’s time for another major release.

Operating System: 4/5 stars
A smartphone’s ability to properly bring a desktop-like experience to a handheld is essential. One of those important features includes the ability to multi-task. For instance, the Apple iPhone has taken much heat for lacking that ability. Fortunately the Palm Pre Plus breezes through this with webOS In addition, since the Pre Plus sports double the RAM, it can handle running twice as many applications at once. I managed to run nearly 10 apps at once without any issues, however having too many open can take a steep toll on battery life. Even if there’s enough RAM, the CPU will become a bottleneck as it can no longer handle all the processes. Running multiple programs definitely handled better than the Sprint Pixi that easily froze up and wouldn’t even let me make a phone call at times. The home screen, interface, and major components are still pretty much the same as with last year’s webOS. The default calendar, phonebook, contacts, and mail apps are essentially identical. The Synergy feature does an excellent job which I’ll get to in the next section. The web browser does an excellent job of rendering web pages and that’s expected since it’s called the webOS after all. The pinch to zoom works seamlessly which even the North American Motorola Droid doesn’t have yet. It’s still not as great as the iPhone’s Safari Browser, but it’s drastically superior to both Windows Mobile’s IE and BlackBerry’s browser. Moving on, the Google Maps application is wonderful as always, but still isn’t the Google Maps Navigation software found on Android devices that offers turn-by-turn directions. Verizon customers will have to opt to use the VZW Navigator which costs $10/month. A new v5.0 of the GPS software with major changes should become available in a few weeks. As for getting real work done, a built in Document Viewer lets you access Excel, Word, and PowerPoint documents. If you are ready to grab some new programs, the App Catalog has come a long way. There’s a lot more it has to offer, but it’s still far from offering numbers close to the 100,000 in the Apple App Store. Despite that, there’s a great selection of quality applications for everyone to appreciate. The UI is quite intuitive and I still love the idea of being able to “toss” a program up to close it. The home screen could better use the empty space with some sort of widgets as seen on Android devices, but you can at least customize backgrounds unlike the iPhone. Even with improved support for higher quality games, the Palm webOS probably needs some more ground-breaking features such as Synergy to truly take on competition.

The Pre Plus definitely packs a punch and seems appealing until you look at competition. The webOS, Synergy, and the hardware are all great, but it’s definitely a notch down from what both the Motorola Droid and Apple iPhone have to offer. It’s especially in the shadows compared to the Google HTC Nexus One. If you’re a Verizon Wireless customer or planning on switching to their network, the Droid is only $50 more, offers more features, and has the same monthly fees. Although the Droid may not have the ability to host a personal WiFi Hotspot, I doubt many customers will opt to pay the extra $40 each month in addition to a calling + data + texting plans. I should note that the Palm Pre is definitely easier to use and has a friendlier feel, but I truly have a hard time recommending it over the Droid. For example, the Pre Plus requires a $10/month fee for using VZ Navigator, while the Droid has the free Google Navigator. The Palm Pre hasn’t really seen any major changes other than the new gesture pad and doubling the RAM and Flash Storage. It was a unique product and fairly decent device about a year ago when it first launched, but it has definitely begun to look old compared to newer phones. The Pre Plus is really due for a major hardware upgrade along with new cutting edge software features to stay afloat. Plus with a few disadvantages such as a mediocre camera, no voice commands, a slow CPU, and a lacking App Catalog, there’s not much it offers versus other smartphones at nearly the same price range. However I should note that there isn’t anything particularly wrong about the device. It’s a wonderful creation, has a great polish, and does what it’s designed to do but simply can’t stand up against competition. If you simply like the aesthetics, the webOS, or need the hotspot feature, then this phone won’t disappoint.

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Palm got another shot in the arm after an analyst said he thinks Palm can ship 600,000 webOS-based devices through Verizon Wireless in the current quarter. He also said it is possible that Palm will eclipse Research in Motion’s BlackBerry platform and Google’s Android OS in developer support by the end of this year.

The analyst, Jonathan Goldberg of Deutsche Bank, raised his price target on Palm’s stock, which was recently trading up 5.4 percent to $11.11 per share. Calling webOS a “scarce resource,” Goldberg said in a research note that Palm’s App Catalog already has 1,300 apps, more than in app stores by Nokia and Microsoft. “We think Palm has created a valuable asset in its webOS. If they can grow their installed base of users and keep the carrier momentum going, this value should become more apparent,” he said.

Read more: fiercewireless

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Saul Hansell’s blog post for the NY Times talks about Palm’s chances, here are some highlights:
In a land of cellphone giants, Palm is a mouse. Palm is tiny compared with Apple, Research in Motion, Samsung, Google, Microsoft and Nokia, which are battling to control the future of smartphones.

While no one expected Palm’s sales would rival the sales of iPhones or BlackBerrys — and they have not — developers have not rushed to write applications for the phone as they have for the iPhone and Android phones.

Jon Rubinstein, Palm’s chief executive who was the top Apple engineer and the first head of its iPod division, said in an interview that Palm does not need to be as big as its rivals to thrive. His former employer, after all, was long able to carve out a lucrative niche in the computer business.

“One of the key things we need to do as a company is to get to scale,” he said. “We need to bring on more carriers and more regions.”

Analysts expect that Palm will sell an upgraded version of the Pre with Verizon early next year and add AT&T later in the year. It sells phones in six countries and is steadily expanding to others in Europe and North America.

Mr. Rubinstein said Palm would never need as many applications as the iPhone. “We are focused on quality over quantity,” he said.

Palm is still testing its app store, called the App Catalog, with a small group of developers. It will open to anyone who wants to write an app next month — six months after the Pre was introduced.

Mr. Rubinstein says he expects developers will write for Palm devices, in part because Palm’s operating system, called webOS, is based largely on the same languages used to design Web sites. Android, by contrast, is based on Sun’s Java language, and Apple uses a variation of the C computer programming language.

He discounts Android’s chances because, he says, it does not yet have mass appeal. “Android, and the Droid in particular, are designed for the techie audience,” Mr. Rubinstein said. “We are doing a more general product that helps people live their lives seamlessly.”

While Android is getting a lot of attention because it has attracted so many phone makers, those companies, Mr. Rubinstein, argues “have to depend on the kindness of strangers” — meaning Google — for their software.

“The companies that will deliver the best products are the ones that integrate the whole experience — the hardware, the software and the services — and aren’t getting one piece from here and one piece from there and trying to bolt it all together,” he said.

“The Palm Pixi is the only low-end smartphone with a new operating system,” said Mr. Kuittinen. “That is fairly impressive.”

He estimates Palm may be able to sell 10 million handsets next year, about 5 percent of the smartphone market. That assumes the company can get more carriers in the United States and Europe to sell Palm phones.

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