My life with the Pre

So I guess it’s a good time to throw out some initial impressions and thoughts now that I’ve had the Pre for a few days.   I’ve never owned an Iphone and I think that some of the reviews that compare the pre to the Iphone are at least slightly misleading for a few reasons. First, the Iphone is a 3 year old platform.  Many of the reviews ding the Pre for not having oodles of apps, but ignore the fact that the Iphone also didn’t have oodles of apps three years ago.  That’s as far as I’m going to go there.  If you love your Iphone, I’m happy for you.  It’s a great platform, but it is not for everybody and competition is good.

Things I like/love:

Email, Calendar, and Messaging – These all just work the way you’d expect them to.  On the messaging front, the built in IM client only does Gtalk and AIM, which is nice, but I would very much like to get my live ID in there as well.   Email is a joy to use.  The fonts Palm chose and the interface is just spectacular.  For Gmail, all of my sub-folders are there which really helps with mobile organization.  Deleting messages is just a swipe to the right to slide them off the screen into that big junk-mail box in the sky. 

The Calendar syncs with ALL of my Google calendars, and lets me view that information however I want (all, none, one or two, etc…)

The Messaging is quick, integrates with universal search on the device, and provides a single interface for SMS and chat, with your SMS messages threaded just like IMs.  

The fact that all of this is seamless, and I got all of this set up just by putting my Google info in once (for the email) just goes to show how much thought went into their planning this device as a pipeline into your online identity.

WebOS is beautiful.  It’s not immediately intuitive, but Palm decided to choose a few simple metaphors that ultimately pay off in usability at the expense of immediate approachability/familiarity.  Here’s a few examples:
The Pre has the gesture area, which someone coming from any other phone may not immediately realize.  It’s incredibly useful, but you have to 1) know it’s there, and 2) know what the gestures do.  When you first boot up the phone, Palm has a little welcome video and brief tutorial to teach you the back gesture.  The feedback is very nice as there are two soft leds on either side of the single button to let you know if it realized you swiped back or forward. 

If you want to close an app, you need to "minimize it" to it’s card by either pressing the single button (which will always do the zoom out), or swipe up on the gesture area quickly to minimize the app.  Once you’re in your card view, you just flick the app up to toss it away.  The functionality is really nice in that you can quickly switch between open applications (much faster than I ever could on windows mobile, although SPB Mobile Shell 3’s task manager helped with that a little bit) or close out of an application you don’t want anymore.  The functionality and the metaphor works beautifully, but if you didn’t know that that’s how it’s done, I could see a new user getting a little nervous that there’s no "X" on the app.
Another really useful motion that I didn’t know about until another Pre user showed me, is that you can access your quick launch (4 programs and your launcher key)  by slowly dragging up from the gesture area.  You can call this up even if you’re in a program.  In practice, I’m not sure if this is really necessary since flicking up quickly or pressing the single button will minimize your app, and show you your quick launch anyway, but in practice, it’s one less button press to get where you want to go. 

Moving icons around, or adding them to your dock is a simple affair, just click and hold to while you’re in the launcher menu to drag one of the four icons off your quick launcher to free up a spot, and then do the same to drag a new application down.  It works, and once you know how it works, it works effortlessly, but I wouldn’t have understood intuitively that I had to get rid of one of the icons before I could add a new one, instead, I probably would’ve just assumed that those icons are not for me to change. 

One other thing that I didn’t find right away that should’ve been touted loudly, is that you can save any webpage as an "app" so you get a little icon, and a quick launch right from the applications menu.  Very nice for example to get greader access, or any other site you visit regularly.

Overall though, the interface, the card system for applications (new applications get their own card, and applications can generate new cards for specific tasks, so for e.g. you’re in your email, and you go to start a new email – the compose screen gets it’s own card, so you can flick back and forth, or do other things while you’re composing, look at other emails, etc…) works really, really well.

Things I don’t like:

There is no way to save things like pictures or media files (podcasts, etc…) from the browser.  This is my biggest WTF yet.  I mean, seriously, how dumb is that.  I have a beautiful phone with a full web browsing experience that is fast and ridiculously beefy at rendering pages, and I also have a device with a great media player and beautiful home screen that I’d like to add wallpaper to.  So why the hell can’t I download a podcast or save a picture to my collection, or for that matter simply set a photo as my wallpaper.  Really really silly omission.  Dear Palm, please fix this.  Soon.

The usb cover.  I’m used to devices that let their jacks hang out in the open.  Minor gripe, but considering the battery life is not what it was on the treo pro, I do have to plug it in from time to time, so this could be easier. 

Lack of apps.  Speaks for itself.  Will be fixed.
Ultimately, it’s by far the best phone I’ve ever had bar none.

Any other Pre users out there? What do you think so far.

About Khidr

I'm an entertainment lawyer and musician. One of the two guys who founded this site with the hopes of adding distinct voices to the entertainment industry.