Palm's new smartphone, the Pre, goes on sale this Saturday, but a few reporters have been using test units for the last few weeks and today they are allowed to talk about it. After reading the reviews, it looks like Palm has done a great job with the Pre. It incorporates (or I suppose you could say plagiarizes) many of the great features of the iPhone, but at the same time has enough unique features to feel different. The app store is virtually nonexistent right now and Palm has been slow to give developers the tools that they need to create apps (presumably because Palm is still working out the kinks), but the iPhone didn't have apps until a year after initial launch. E-mail doesn't appear to be quite as sophisticated as the iPhone, but you do get a real keyboard (albeit a tiny one harder to use than a Blackberry) and it does work with Microsoft Exchange. Web browsing seems just as good as the iPhone. Battery life is not as good as the iPhone, but you can replace the battery. The website PreCentral -- which is obviously going to be biased in favor of the phone -- nevertheless says this in their conclusion, which seems apt to me:
So what's our verdict on the Palm Pre? Simple: The Palm Pre is a stellar 1.0 product. Given Palm's fractured and foible-filled history, the fact that they were able to pull all this off is nothing short of amazing. There are faults here and there and I tried not to be shy about pointing them out, but I attribute nearly all of them to the fact that is is Palm's first outing with webOS, their 1.0. Compare the Palm Pre to the initial release of the iPhone or the initial release of the T-Mobile G1 and you can safely say that the Pre is in their class and quite possible at the top of that class. ... The iPhone ushered in a new era of mobile innovation. Many thought Android would do the same, but as of yet it hasn't. BlackBerry and Windows Mobile have improved incrementally but both essentially use the same basic smartphone ideas that they've been running with for years now. The Pre and webOS are different, they're genuinely new and genuinely exciting.
For people who already own an iPhone and have invested in apps, I suspect that very few will see a reason to jump ship and get a Pre. On the other hand, I can see a lot of Blackberry users who are getting tired of the Blackberry's limitations giving the Pre a very hard look as a real alternative to the iPhone. The iPhone has virtually unlimited apps and a huge head start, but the Pre has that real keyboard that many Blackberry users will think that they need. The Palm Pre will be a robust competitor to the iPhone, and will help push Apple to continue its innovation on the iPhone. Of course, who knows what Apple has in store for us with the next version of the iPhone due any day now. One thing is for certain: it is a very exciting time to be a smartphone user.
- New York Times -- Nice, reasonable length review from David Pogue, perhaps the best technology writer in the U.S.
- Wall Street Journal -- Just as good as the New York Times review
- Engadget -- the most comprehensive review of the Palm Pre, written by Joshua Topolsky, who I suspect has had a pre-release version longer than anyone. (He even showed off the Pre on TV to Jimmy Fallon back in March.)
- PreCentral -- good, detailed review
And these are also good: