Palm Pre

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My Palm Pre booting up

I purchased a Palm Pre from Sprint in July 2009 before starting at MIT. I am on the Simply Everything 450 plan.

In high school, I used my cell phone only for emergiencies, but at MIT this was going to be my only phone. Plus I wanted a smartphone because I wanted to be connected all the time while at MIT. While I am at MIT I am always on the move, and I don't want to have to boot up my laptop to check stuff. MIT has really good WiFi, so I could have gotten an iPod Touch, but I wanted to be connected everywhere in Boston. I guess because of the expense, I didn't really need internet outside of MIT (since I rarely leave) and I could make all my calls on Skype, but it would have been a lot less convieneient.

I was really excited about the Palm as a new platform. I did not want an iPhone because I did not want to commit to Apple products. Android was still only available on a phone or two when I bought the Pre. I thought that the WebOS platform showed a lot of promise, with more phones and more apps coming soon. I really liked the UI and multi-tasking of it. I think that writing apps in Javascript is a really great concept. I love the idea of a cloud phone that does not even have a desktop program. Everything just syncs and my phone is backed up over the internet. This is really cool and easy; way better than needing to use some desktop program to sync. Even my podcasts download over Wifi. On any device it always seems that I need to manage syncs to make sure that they really work. I like that this phone is great for business with a keyboard (BlackBerry), and is fun with a big touchscreen (iPhone).

At first there was a lot of good news; Palm was rolling out new updates monthly with lots of new features, the phone was launching in more countries, their was even new hardware. But it seemed that developer support just stalled out around the beginning of 2010. I don't really know why; I guess it was because other developers did not see people developing for the phone. Or perhaps people just did not buy the phones. It was a little slow and sluggish; I think the Javascript just does not execute well; , but updates have made it better.

Over the summer at Deutsche Bahn I got to play with an iPhone and an older Android. Android devices just exploded in the past school year. It seems like a new one comes out every month that is far better than the last one. I had heard really great things about Android. I tried out an older Motorola Backflip (Android 1.6, I think) and I was not impressed at all. The UI is a mess and the app selection was not all that much better, especially for what I use the phone for. The browser seemed ok, perhaps it had a few more features than the Pre. Android is developing really quickly, especially compared to Palm which seems to be in a rut. Hopefully, they are just in stealth mode developing their new product. Before I played with the Backflip, I had thought that if I had unlimited money I would get an Evo. Now I am not so sure because I missed a lot of the features of the Pre on the Backflip. It may also be unfair to generalize about Android from that one older phone.

The iPhone was also good. Some parts were better than I expected, and way better than the Pre; other parts made me miss features of my Pre. I really like the responsiveness of the iPhone and the richness of some of the applications. But syncing to a desktop program, especially one as old and crusty as iTunes just did not appeal to me at all. It jusyt seems to me that if you do something which Apple specifically designed, it works really well. But there are a lot of roucgh edges on Apple products. Granted, an unbiased person would think that the iPhone has less rough edges than a Pre or an Android, but I still think I would like to stick with the Pre.

I also really like Sprint. I know they are losing customers like no tomorrow, but I don't know why. I've had no problems with the network, their graphic design is top notch, and their customer support is good. It is also the cheapest of any carrier, plus they keep throwing in freebees like Any Mobile, Any Time which gives you unlimited calls to any cell phone on any carrier. And since I call basically only cell phones, the $70 plan is basically still unlimited everything. This is still kinda expensive compared to Germany (but their the calling party pays up to 42 cents a minute), but in the US it is top notch.

A vibrant hacker community has grown up to support this phone. You can get into the phone and do anything on it. You can replace themes, add apps, and even overclock the phone. You can even tweak the built-in apps because theyt are written in Javascript. The "shadow" app catalog is even larger than the real catalog I think. The hacking community is first-rate on this phone. Perhaps for some reason, enthusiasts were the only ones who actually bought the phone.

The Pre's phone speaker is broken as of Aug 2010. I can only make calls on speakerphone or with headphones. I remember that it seemed to break sometime late in the spring semester. I thought that I remembered that I could hit the speakerphone key twice (turn speakerphone on and off) and then it would work again. However, when I tried it again after coming back from Germany, I tried everything, but the speakerphone did not work.

I think despite the speaker I am very happy with this phone. It could run a little faster (perhaps I should try the hack), and the battery could last a little longer. A working speaker would also help. The ideas behind this phone are golden. HP just needs to pull all of the loose ends together and start attracting customers.


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