Palm Pre Review-Needs Suggestions-Applying for a job @ AnandTech

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by dvdhsu, Dec 31, 2009.

  1. dvdhsu macrumors 6502a

    dvdhsu

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2008
    Location:
    Palo Alto, CA
    #1
    Applying for a job at AnandTech, they wanted a few pieces, so I'm thinking about submitting this.

    Any thoughts?


    Palm Pre Review
    Introduction:


    That day, in 2007, two years ago, everything in the mobile phone industry had changed. Up until then, all phones had their focus on making phone calls. The device, known as an iPhone, could do more than just make phone calls. In fact, its focus wasn’t even to make phone calls. This ushered in a new generation of smartphones, nowadays, to compete with the iPhone.
    The iPhone’s features actually weren’t that new. Companies, such as Palm, Research in Motion, and Nokia, had long been making devices like such. They had a market, albeit a niche one. People weren’t willing to pay for a device that worked, but didn’t work well. But then, Apple promised a device. A device that was a “widescreen iPod, a mobile phone, and a revolutionary Internet device”. From a company like Apple, it was plain they weren’t joking when they released it. There were issues with the original iPhone, but over time, it became the standard, the gold standard for mobile phones.
    Last year, Google announced the G1 (HTC Dream). It was positioned to directly compete against the iPhone, and had features the iPhone didn’t. At first, rumors abounded, but after the release, the reviews were lukewarm. With the bar set so high by the iPhone (3G at time of release), the G1 just couldn’t compete. It’s lack of innovation, chunky shape, unexplainable bugs, and immature software just couldn’t compete. There went the “iPhone-Killer”.
    Fast forward to this year, and Palm, a company known to have innovation, but then lost it somewhere along the way, comes into play. Palm’s devices had sold like hotcakes before, but with the iPhone as a competitor, sales gradually slowed to a halt. At CES, Palm promised something new. Something groundbreaking. The Palm Pre.
    Once again, the rumor mill started spinning, and many said this was the demise of the iPhone. The days gone by, with no word from Palm about the device. Then, on May 19th, the release date was given: June 6, 2009. With the iPhone 3GS coming out 13 days after, Palm had better build some good reviews to take marketshare from the iPhone.

    A Brief Peek:

    While reviewing this device, I didn’t get them from Palm. Instead, I got them from places where customers would get them, such as Amazon. I bought two to average everything out.
    Palm has definitely learned a few things from Apple, one being the packaging of the phone. Nowadays, small gadgets, such as cell phones, need to be packaged in a somewhat interesting way to give out a good first impression. The iPhone 2G’s box was beautiful, with pictures of the phone, and a small label on the bottom. Palm also goes with a box of the similar size, despite major color differences. The presentation is neat, and the unboxing experience is just fine, borderline exciting.

    Hardware:

    On a first look, the Palm Pre is a very elegant device. It may not be the thinnest, but looks pleasing to the eye.
    On one side, there’s the traditional volume buttons, though these are made out of plastic, like the whole body. The other side had a charging port, hidden behind a hard plastic flappy thing. (More on that later) Bottom is empty, and the top contains a 3.5mm headset port, and a sleep/wake button.

    Keyboard:

    One of the most touted features of the Palm Pre, was the keyboard. Coming from an iPhone, the keyboard was really new to me. Opening it up requires putting a finger (usually your thumb) on the screen, and pushing up. Considering that usually your screen is displaying data, it isn’t the most effective method. Also, on both of my units, they almost didn’t want to be pushed up, and didn’t have the snap feeling a phone like the G1 had.
    If you’re coming from a Centro, you’ll feel right at home. The keys are small, but unlike the Centro, lack depth. Overall feeling is that you’re typing on almost a virtual keyboard, but a very gummy one.
    One last thing about the keyboard that’s been bugging me: I’m not sure if this is exclusive to Palm phones, the Palm Pre, or whatever, but the raised bump thing, usually on your F and J key, is only on the F key here. To me, it’s a hassle to feel around for the F key, and then slowly feel my way to the J key. Maybe Palm decided that most people would only use one hand to type, I don’t know. Just a minor annoyance.


    Screen:

    The display is a capacitive touchscreen (Thank God), and feels all right. It’s a 480x320 screen, same as the iPhone, but smaller. Palm’s screen is 3.1 inches, while Apple’s is 3.5. This produces a better screen for Palm, and it looks more radiant, because of the extra PPI.
    Touching the screen works well, but sometimes the phone just doesn’t respond. (More on this later too) Generally, when you touch it, the phone gives a sort of wave effect, similar to Mac OS X’s dragging widgets effect, though a lot less pronounced. This helps you understand where you touched, and whether or not your touch registered. To me, it wasn’t all that useful, maybe because I have thinner fingers, and generally don’t mis-(touch).
    The screen, made out of plastic, scratches easily. This was a huge mistake on Palm’s part, and just makes the phone feel less sturdy, and a lot cheaper.
    On the bottom, there’s a Gesture Area, and it works fine, though can be finicky. There’s something similar to the iPhone Home button, but when swiping your finger over it, which you have to do while using the it, it feels a bit strange, like it doesn’t belong there. Also, one more thing that’s annoying is that fact that you can’t wake the phone with it. It’s a lot more natural to slide your finger there, and hit it, than it is to move your index finger and fumble for the power button.


    Camera:


    Not much special here, just a fixed focus 3.2 Megapixel with a LED flash. Pictures look better than on an iPhone, but the flash is almost worthless. Taking pictures in a dark surrounding doesn’t work at all with it, and in dim light, it barely works. The camera is fixed-focus, and seems to have a huge depth of field, so that really isn’t affected much, until you get within 2 feet.

    Call Quality/Network and Speaker:

    Calling between two Pre’s in the Bay Area sounded great on EVDO, but on 1x, call quality was lacking. Most times, the other caller could hear clearly, but could definitely tell I was on a cell phone. (On 1x) On EVDO, voices were clear, and recipients could not determine whether it was a cell phone or not.
    Sprint’s EVDO network is generally solid, yielding one megabit per second, when tethered and measured. The ping is typically around 180, which is actually usable for gaming (FPS-wise).
    The external speaker is a completely different story. Compared to the iPhone/iPod Touch/G1, the speaker is horrible. Playing music at more than half volume is impossible, with noticeable distortion. Speakerphone on full volume is barely audible in a car, and also very distorted. A better headset, or a BlueTooth Headset is definitely recommended here.

    Processor, GPU, Battery:


    The processor is powerful on paper, and on the phone, it is. The same processor is used in the iPhone 3GS, and overall, is decent. Performance was hindered quite a lot, by WebOS’s limitations, most notably the GPU not being used, and the fact that the whole thing is based on WebOS. There are limits to how far such simple coding can go, and here, they’ve reached the limit. The GPU sits there, not being used, and the processor tries to handle everything. When it’s not powerful enough, the phone stalls, and lags.
    Again, coming from an iPhone, my battery expectation isn’t the greatest, but I do expect a decent amount. Compared with the iPhone, the Palm Pre stood no chance. The battery was quickly drained while web browsing, and even on standby, both sample units died within 72 hours. Quite frankly, that’s unacceptable for a smartphone.

    Hardware roundup:

    The Palm Pre’s hardware is impressive in some parts: GPU, and Display, but disappoints in others, such as the battery, and speaker.
    Overall, the device felt cheaply built, with the two halves seemingly almost coming apart. The choice of glossy plastic for the whole thing doesn’t help matters either. Owning a phone like this locks you into a two-year contract, and honestly, I can’t see this phone lasting that long. Sprint’s Insurance policies/ other insurances are recommended here.

    Software:


    Multitasking:

    Multitasking has been one of the features demanded by iPhone users, and Apple cites battery life as one of the main reasons for not enabling it. Upon using the Palm Pre, I can definitely see Apple’s point of view. Multitasking works, and to be honest, it works well. However, when you get enough programs running, your battery life starts getting drained in a matter of 1-2 hours, with all the apps running slowly. At max, I can get around 6-7 windows open, without a browser. With a loaded browser site, such as Anandtech, Gizmodo, Engadget, and such, I can barely mange two windows.

    Synergy:


    Synergy promises simpler contacts, by integrating everything into one place. It works, but it just works too well. Sure, it can be useful, but when you have all the e-mail address of your FaceBook friends combined with phone numbers from G-Mail, and then the personal contacts you actually need, it just get’s too cluttered. There isn’t any way of managing it yet, so it’s similar to a junkyard. Yeah, there are things you need, but they could be hidden under your thousands of FaceBook friends.

    Notifications:


    Palm hit it right on with notifications. They appear in the bottom of your screen, pushing whatever you’re looking at above it. This displays the true flexibility of WebOS’s screen scaling and resizing (It’s based on HTML, Javascript, and CSS). When you don’t need them, you simply tap on them, and slide them off. Works similar to the Android OS, except better, because of how well it scales the screen when there’s a notification.


    Multitouch:


    Well, what do you know? Multitouch is fully supported here. Though only working in the browser, it can easily be implemented elsewhere with the same API.
    Unlike Google’s Android, Palm has no fear of Apple’s patents, and takes them on headstrong. Considering that there’s hasn’t been a lawsuit yet, I’m guessing Apple doesn’t exactly hold very strong patents on it.
    The “Web” part of WebOS
    WebOS is really made out of HTML, Javascript, and CSS. At first, it seems like a good idea, but over time, you realize it probably wasn’t. In the end, there is a limit how efficient those programs can be, and in the end, they just can’t run on a 550 MHZ CPU. Quite often, the whole OS freezes up, and takes a few minutes to recuperate. Sure, programming might be easier now, but creating complicated applications, such as 3D games, is just impossible. Even Palm’s own apps, such as calendar, and even the phone app just don’t seem responsive like on the iPhone. Going through the contacts on the iPhone is a breeze, but on the Pre, it’s absolute torture with all those contacts created by Synergy. It freezes often, even without any other apps open, and you just want to break the phone in half when that happens.
    Speaking of 3D games, and such, Palm decided to lock up the GPU here. Perhaps it was to save power…. I don’t know. Nevertheless, it was a huge mistake, and with the GPU enabled, the processor would have a lot more “head room” to breathe. Without the GPU, applications are limited, and eventually, ideas are going to start running out.


    Software roundup:

    Overall, WebOS shows promise. Despite some horrible decisions, most can be overcome by the next version of it, without much difficulty.
    WebOS is also the closest OS to iPhone’s 3.0 software, and really is well designed, which can be seen in the notification system.


    Conclusion:


    Since the introduction of the iPhone, the bar has been raised for the smartphone market. Everything released afterwards has been something against the iPhone, always hyped as the “iPhone-Killer”.
    Today, Palm has managed to create something that is good. It’s the closest thing that has ever come to touching the iPhone, but does have its quirks. The industrial design of the phone is nice, but build quality is severely lacking. As a hardware device, the Pre isn’t stunning, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless if you’re locked into Sprint, whether it’s for a contract, coverage area, and so on. However, the software is excellent, and if they can enable GPU support, actual programming (Non-Web standards), Palm has a serious piece of software on there hands.
    It should be noted, however, that the real impact of the Pre is not its hardware, it’s WebOS. While the hardware may be lacking, the software can be stellar, if the forementioned issues are fixed.
    Well, here’s looking towards CES 2010, and what Palm brings to the table.

    Thanks! And Happy New Year!
     
  2. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #2
    I will say it smelled a little apple fanboy to me. I think the part about not recomending it should be left out. I don't know but the review felt heavily apple bais to me.
     

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