So you want a touchscreen phone but the iPhone is just too big, Windows Mobile isn’t much fun and Android phones just aren’t stylish enough? Check out the Palm Pre, the coolest alternative available, small and sleek with, in case you find texting tricky on a flat surface, a full Qwerty keyboard.
What we like
There’s a lot to like about the Pre. The screen is bright and pin-sharp, and it registers your every touch with a cute ripple effect. Unlike Apple’s iPhone, the Pre is good at multitasking so you can download an update and scroll through your contacts simultaneously. You can move different active applications round the screen like cards, flicking them off-screen to close them.
Palm has always been good at search and you can easily find contacts and calendar appointments. If the phone thinks you’re looking elsewhere, it takes you to a page with options for Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia and Twitter.
The Pre is well-connected, and helps you make sense of your life by collecting your information from work and personal calendars, Facebook and more. So when you click on a contact, you see your friend’s Facebook photo, for instance. Palm’s earlier phones had thousands of applications before the iPhone had even thought of an App Store, so it’s no surprise there’s an App Catalog here.
What we don’t like
That App Catalog is rather sparse at the moment, though it will grow. Some may find the Pre’s build quality a little plasticky or the styling not as sharp as other high-end smart phones. It’s certainly true that, simple and effective though the touchscreen interface is, it’s not quite as sublimely intuitive as the iPhone’s.
The keyboard is good but it’s certainly small and bigger fingers may find it’s tricky to type accurately at speed. Because it’s a physical keyboard, the phone lacks the error correction smarts found on some onscreen keyboards.
The price to be paid for a more pocketable handset is that Web surfing isn’t quite as easy or satisfying, even though Palm has a pinch-to-zoom effect just like that of the iPhone. Finally, the 3-megapixel camera has an LED flash and takes decent snaps, but it’s outclassed by the HTC Hero, for instance.
Although it’s not perfect, the Palm Pre is a good-looking smart phone that’s fun to use. The touchscreen is fast and responsive, the interface is accessible and stylish and the programs on board work well. If the iPhone didn’t exist, this would be the outstanding touchscreen device – as it is, it runs it a pretty close second.