Once the King-of-the-Smartphone-Hill with its Treo series of devices, Palm is trying to fight its way back into the lead with a brand new smartphone entry – the Palm Pre. The Pre smartphone has received a great deal of very positive pre-launch publicity since it was initially unveiled in January with many direct comparisons to the Apple iPhone 3G and the BlackBerry Storm.
The Pre will be the successor to Palm’s well known Treo family of smartphones and be available exclusively on the Sprint 3G Network. Featuring Palm’s new WebOS operating system, the Pre is currently targeted for general availability in the second quarter 2009 with the exact date being a point of much specualtion.
Palm Pre – The Details
Palm Pre is an internet-connected multimedia smartphone featuring a multi-touch screen, a full vertical slide-out QWERTY keyboard, accelerometer, 3G EVDO-capability, Bluetooth 2.1 with stereo support, GPS and 8GB of storage. The Pre has a 3.1-inch size display with 24-bit color 320-by-480 resolution and weighs a little less than 5 ounces. Overall Physical dimensions are: width: 2.3”, height: 3.9”, thickness: 0.67”
The Pre is also Wi-Fi-enabled for additional connectivity options, and functions as a camera phone, a portable media player, and an Internet client – with text messaging, email, and a responsive well-designed web browser. Detailed specs are available at the Palm Pre web site.
Additional features for the Pre include a 3.0-megapixel camera with an LED flash and extended depth of field, but no zoom capability, high speed USB 2.0 support and a standard 3.5-mm headphone jack. The Pre also features a group of sensors similar to Apple’s iPhone 3G including a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor to raise or lower the brightness automatically, and an accelerometer that allows the user to shift the viewing orientation from vertical (portrait) mode to horizontal (landscape) mode. Palm has partnered with the Amazon Mobile Music Store, so owners will be able to easily purchase and download DRM-free music tracks directly to the phone over the air.
The casing of the phone is made from sleek, glossy plastic and the phone has a bit of a curve to its body both in the back and around the sides. The QWERTY keyboard slides out from the bottom of the device downward in a curving slope. Initial reports are that the device feels very good in a person’s hand. Based on the released information the Pre is slightly smaller than an iPhone when closed and slightly larger when open.
WebOS Phone Operating System
While reports on the Palm Pre hardware have been quite positive it’s the Web OS software that has drawn the greatest praise. Palm’s WebOS operating system is based on the Linux operating system and includes what Palm calls “Synergy” for synching information from various sources into one seamless application. For example, Palm’s e-mail application can receive email from multiple accounts into a common Inbox folder thus simplifying checking for and managing of email. The synergy technology provides similar functionality for contacts and calendars.
Cutting Edge Phone Charger
One of the unique features of the Pre is the Touchstone inductive charger that lets you charge you phone by simply placing it on top of the charger. There are magnets to assist in snapping the device into place, but no cable is necessary. This type of wireless charging is known as electromagnetic induction.
Sometimes releasing new technology products – such as the Palm Pre – can be like a marathon race. A company spends many months developing a great product and then has to sprint to the finish line to generate big sales before they are leapfrogged by someone else with better technology or before the company’s financial situation turns ugly. Palm seems to be working from this script with their new Palm Pre smartphone.
The publicity for the Pre has been so positive that anticipation of the new phone apparently has many potential Palm customers deferring any new Palm phone purchases. Coupled with the current economic conditions the company’s sales have dropped dramatically in recent months. Seemingly placing Palm in a dash to the finish line to beginning generating new revenues from the Pre before the economics become too dire. It should be interesting to see how the story plays out.