Tag Archives | Palm Pre

Palm’s Pre 2 Looks Nice. But at This Point, WebOS Needs More Than Nice

I don’t claim to have an unerring gut when it comes to judging new technology products. But stuff that knocks my socks off does tend to go on to do reasonably well. One notable exception, however, has been the Palm Pre–I continue to think that it’s one of the best phones on the market (thanks mainly to its WebOS software), but I can’t imagine that anyone involved with it, from Palm/HP to wireless carriers, is pleased with how it’s sold so far.

Today, HP announced the first WebOS phone to emerge since the company bought Palm. It’s the Pre 2, shipping this week in France and at an unspecified future date in the US. It looks like–well, like the Pre only better, with more modern specs (such as a 1-GHz CPU) and a meaty-sounding software update in WebOS 2.0. If it’s all it’s cracked up to be, it sounds like a phone that Palm Pre lovers will love even more.

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Palm Pre 2 Leaked: Like the Original, And That’s OK

D’oh. SFR, a wireless carrier in France, briefly posted a product page for the Palm Pre 2. The page is gone now, but we all know what goes up on the Internet never really comes down. Pre Central has the details preserved.

As the name suggests, the Palm Pre 2 doesn’t deviate much from the original. Instead, it modernizes the hardware — there’s a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and an unspecified bump in battery life — and refines the design, with a flatter screen and what looks like a matted finish to reduce cracks in the plastic. And of course, WebOS 2.0 will be on board. Think of it as the Droid 2 to Motorola’s original Droid.

It’s tempting to look at the leaked Palm Pre 2 evidence and wonder what HP and Palm are thinking. When HP announced its plan to acquire Palm, it seemed giddy about getting WebOS, but didn’t mention the Pre at all. All signs pointed to some kind of smartphone reboot, not a rehash of the same hardware models that bombed commercially.

But updating the Palm Pre to reach parity with other smartphones doesn’t preclude HP and Palm from being more ambitious at the same time. A slab-like phone codenamed “Mansion” is reportedly in the works, and we know nothing about HP and Palm’s strategies for pricing, marketing and wireless carrier deals.

Certainly, HP is in a deep hole with Palm phones. The App Catalog is tiny and brand awareness is lousy. Maybe the solution lies in releasing a lot of solid smartphones to a lot of carriers, and the Pre 2 is just the beginning. We’ll see.

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Palm’s Pre, Plussed: The Technologizer Review

From time to time, I’ve called Palm’s Pre the Most Interesting Smartphone That Isn’t the iPhone. It’s now been almost nine months since the Pre debuted on Sprint, and a bunch of other formidable handsets have since appeared, such as the Verizon Droid and Google Nexus One. But thanks to its exceptionally inventive WebOS software and distinctive form factor, the Pre still holds its own.

Now the Sprint Pre has been joined by the Pre Plus, which runs on Verizon Wireless and began shipping in January. After I recently said I was flirting with abandoning my AT&T iPhone, Palm offered to loan me a Plus for review. Here’s my take, following up on the story I did on the original Sprint Pre back in June. Executive summary: the Pre Plus isn’t a radically different phone from its predecessor, but it’s still a really good one–and while the WebOS third-party application situation pales in comparison to the iPhone, it’s better than I expected judged on the number of available apps alone.

(Note: Over the weekend, Palm pushed out WebOS 1.4, an OS upgrade that enables video capture and which supports Adobe’s Flash Player. However, it’s n0t yet available for Verizon’s WebOS phones, the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, and I haven’t tried it.)

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Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus

At last year’s CES, Palm stole the show with the introduction of the Pre–one of the most spellbinding demos I’ve ever seen that didn’t involve Steve Jobs. No repeat this year, but the company did have a press conference at which it announced the Pre Plus (with some improvements to the keyboard, navigation, and build quality, plus a Touchstone-compatible inductive-charging back cover as standard equipment) and the Pixi Plus (with Wi-Fi).

Maybe the best news about these models: They’re on Verizon Wireless. Exclusively, Palm says–starting January 25th.


Apple’s Next iPhone Must Resurrect the Wow Effect

The arrival of Google’s Nexus One smartphone is like the Beatles following Elvis Presley. Elvis revolutionized music and retained his immortal status, but The Beatles were great in their own right. The technological advantage that Apple had when it introduced the iPhone is diminishing (think Fat Elvis). And so the next iPhone will need to be another game changer for Apple to remain on top.

With the original iPhone, Apple addressed the shortcomings that most devices in the category had with fresh, innovative ideas. Initially, there were many second rate imitators, but now, products including the Palm Pre and Nexus One match if not surpass the iPhone in numerous ways.

I love my iPhone, and couldn’t imagine life without my apps. However, there are great alternatives for people who have not yet upgraded to a smartphone or want to save on their monthly service fees.

Case in point: A few months back, a friend and I were sitting in an East Village bar waiting for a bossa nova show to begin. We both whipped out our phones (his was a Pre) and had the proverbial “size contest.” I couldn’t knock the Pre, and he is very happy with it.

Moreover, AT&T’s decision to carry five Android phones is prescient–Android has no place to go but up. While it’s still not fully mature, Android is a great operating system for device manufacturers that do not have their own OS, and that is somewhat reminiscent of the early days of Microsoft Windows.

What is Apple to do? It will do very well due to the strength of its brand, and dedicated users like myself, but those strengths will eventually decline into inertia. Even a phone that leaves the Pre and Nexus One in its dust will not be good enough–Apple must bring back the “wow” factor in order to maintain its leadership of the market (or cede and focus on another groundbreaking product).

I’m confident that Cupertino has enough tricks up its sleeve that it could leave the rest of the industry chasing the iPhone again. There is room to play as the smartphone category grows, but anything less than a revolutionary product simply isn’t good enough for Apple.


Pre iTunes Sync: Is Palm Getting Ready to Cry Uncle?

Palm Jousts

I’m shocked. Shocked. Once again, Apple has updated iTunes, and once again, the update disables the ability of Palm’s Pre to sync directly with iTunes via the Pre’s Media Sync feature. If I’m keeping track correctly, this is the third time Apple has blocked the Pre.

I would have guessed that Palm would have given up by now. And I think it should give up–even if you’re okay with the Pre piggybacking on Apple’s software by using USB in a way that the people in charge of USB apparently object to, a feature that’s destined to break over and over isn’t really a feature. It’s an unreliable kludge. And Palm could implement non-kludgy iTunes sync if it chose to. The way some of its competitors have.

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iPhone On Track to Become #1 Smartphone in US

Future iPhoneApple’s iPhone continues it’s march toward market dominance, a survey released by ChangeWave Research on Tuesday indicates. From June to September, Apple’s share of the market jumped from 25 to 30 percent, while competitors RIM and Palm basically stayed unchanged over the same period.

RIM’s share fell 1 percent to 40 percent, while Palm’s share remained unchanged at 7 percent. It’s clear from these figures that the Pre has done little to fix the company’s woes, adding weight to the calls of “failure” from some industry watchers.

(It could also be due to the fact that the lady on those commercials is just creepy looking, but I do digress.)

The news gets even better for Apple: Over the next 90 days, 36 percent of those surveyed said they plan to purchase an iPhone in that period, compared with 27 percent for RIM and 8 percent for Palm. In other words, the iPhone’s share isn’t done growing yet.

Part of this success may also have a lot to do with customer satisfaction: Apple completely kills the competition here. 74 percent report being satisfied with their devices, with the next closest, RIM, coming in at 43 percent. You have to go to sixth spot to find Palm, with only a third satisfied — behind competiors LG, Sanyo, and HTC.


Palm’s Quixotic Quest Continues

Palm Jousts

What is Palm up to? With its new WebOS 1.21 update, it’s once again re-enabled the Palm Pre’s ability to sync unprotected music and videos, photos, and now photo albums with iTunes, no extra software required. The move comes after the USB Implements Forum took Apple’s side in the tiff over Palm’s spoofing of iTunes into thinking that the Pre is an iPod. If I recall correctly, Apple has released two iTunes updates that blocked earlier versions of WebOS from syncing, and chances are presumably sky-high that it’ll block this one the next time that it pushes out a new version of iTunes.

I keep declaring this clash of wills between the two smartphone companies to be over, but I’m officially giving up on making any guesses. Whatever will happen will happen, and Palm, at least, isn’t behaving in the nice, predictable way that you expect of large companies. I dunno how the USB-IF will respond to Palm ignoring its stance that the Pre shouldn’t masquerade as an Apple product via USB connection, but it seems to be clear that Palm is willing to burn bridges behind it.

The company is unquestionably bursting at the seams with smart, talented folks; the Pre remains the iPhone’s most formidable competitor by far from the standpoint of user-interface sophistication. But I’m mystified by what it’s up to here. Palm continues to tout iTunes compatibility as a major feature of the phone. But the convenience that the feature offers when it’s working is completely negated by the periods when it’s in limbo, not to mention the general uncertainty of the whole idea. Whether you take Apple’s side or Palm’s or (like me) aren’t completely thrilled with either company’s behavior, it would be silly to think of the WebOS’s Media Sync feature as an argument in favor of buying a Pre.

Mac and iPhone developer Craig Hunter has a cogent post up on all this that beats up Palm pretty good. He wonders the same thing that I’ve been curious about for months: Why doesn’t Palm, like numerous other companies, write a standalone app to do the syncing? It would work well, and there’s no evidence that Apple would try to foil it.  Just how many Pre owners would vote for continuing to play chicken with Apple when there’s a boring but effective alternative route to nearly the same end result?