Pre3 – HP’s last webOS smartphone

About a month ago I felt like I needed some new hardware, and as I had the money and could buy it rather cheap (not at fire sale price, but close), I got myself a Pre3. I received it on Friday, 11th of September. This is based on my experiences using this device.

Buying a device that is pretty much abandoned ahead of launch sounds like an insane stunt. Buying a device that will most likely disappoint one in one way or another sounds even more stupid (it’s a reality to me though, I haven´t been really happy with any device since the T-Mobile G1) – I did it.Taking the device out of its box (which is rather huge compared to the box of other smartphones today, e.g. the Samsung Galaxy SII), you’ll find everything you found in a box with the previous Pre devices, which were all still released under the Palm brand – only the pouch is missing.

Hardware

Powered insidely by a second generation Snapdragon S2 chip (QSD8255) clocked at 1,4GHz, accompagnied by 512MB of ram, which is, while not dual core, not too far off from the competition (Sony Ericssons top notch Android offerings do use the same chip, alike do all new “Mango” Windows Phone 7.5 smartphones), the outsides are probably more interesting. Looked at it on pictures, it resembles the Pre2  a lot – on a first look. But it differs, the 1230mAh battery powered Pre3 (111x64x16mm, weight: 156g) has grown, mostly in length, in comparison to its predecessors (Pre2: 101x60x17mm, weight: 135g), and so, fortunately, has the display, which is at least in terms of pixel density catching up with most of the Android crowd. With 3,6” and WVGA (800x480px) resolution, the LCD has grown and improved in terms of pixel density, while keeping at least the same quality (good colours, black blacks). At 156 grams the Pre3 is rather on the heavy side, but unless you are using it alongside a really light, huge smartphone like the Galaxy S2 you will likely barely notice.

The hardware portrait keyboard became a little bigger as well, and not only that, it became clickier, too, making it more usable, more usable, alike has become the camera, which is now bumped to 5 megapixels, including auto focus and 720p video recording.

Besides that, the Pre3 now has a soft touch to it, the sides of it changed which is best illustrated with a photo instead of text, the slider is at least ok, if not great . it is snappy and solid. The screen is behing gorilla glass now, with softer edges to it than the Pre2 had, making the Pre3 a pleasure to touch, a device you want to hold in your hand.

The Pre3 has been shipped in two variants: One with 8GB storage (which is being reviewed here), the other with 16GB of place for your apps, photos, music and files – both not expandable.

Software

The iteration of HP’s webOS running shipped with the Pre3 in numbered 2.2 and has a few new features, like Skype integration, in comparison to webOS 2.1 which is available for all the Palm legacy devices exept the original Pre and that also runs on the only other HP branded webOS phone, the tiny Veer. Except Skype and – interesting for TouchPad users – the Touch to Share functionality, the webOS 2.2 on the Pre3 doesn’t offer virtually anything more, in a good way and more, in a bad way.

webOS on the Pre3 feels less slugish than on any of the previous webOS hardwares, but mostly this is due to the spec’ed up hardware. Still, you’ll notice some lags every once in a while, but you’ve got these on other platforms too, and sometimes they appear due to rather poor software, which are largely not only due to the way webOS does things1, but partly due to poor applications, too.

But that’s not to be discussed, yet. It’s rather time to start talking about the apps that are in the package by default. And aside Bing Maps, which replaces the previously included Google Maps, and while not (imho) delivering better maps is a better app, having a more accessible, faster UI, which is largely due to it is built on the new Enyo software development framework, there is nothing new in the app space. The mail app, just to name an example, still sucks badly, no threaded email yet, and there is still no such thing as virtual keyboard.

While there are plenty of new Apps for the TouchPad, the App Catalog on the Pre3 is really poorly populated, as many developers haven’t given clearance for their apps to run on the Pre3 after HP killed this device ahead of launch (in order to have the app scaling correctly on the Pre3s’ larger (mostly higher) screen, you just need to add in a line of code)2. So if you are really considering to buy this device (or have bought it already, you should defintely install Preware on it, to have access to a little more software and patches to customize your Pre3 a little bit.

Wrap Up

The Pre3 is a device that is nice as is. The screen is nice, beside it is a bit prone to become smudgy – it is all in all a bit awesome even. However, running webOS at not as much available Ram3, using a certain array of apps I ran in that infamous “too many cards”-error way to often with only one app open – since I replaced that app (which I will not name here) with another one, Other than that and issues that have been present on previous phones and are likely Mojo related, and have yet not been fixed.

Even more odd, considering we live in 2011, the Pre3 sucks at storage. Sorry for the harsh words, but these days, having 5.something gigabytes of storage available on a freshly bought product really is a bad thing in 2011, especially if you are not able to extend this inbuilt memory by plugging in a microSD card. There is a 16GB version, but it’s not necessarily available in your region. 16GB for the smaller version (or maybe even 32GB, as Nokia did in 2009 with their N900) would have been the way to go here.

Overall, unfortunately, while I like the appeal of the (not totally competitive in top notch (thickness, internals and, especially, storage)) hardware. Besides that, the hardware imho suffers from poor software. While that cards multitasking is still awesome and the reason I use this device, Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is not more that far away in terms of multitasking and better at many other tasks4, and this alone explains, how I feel about this product.

The Pre3 is a sad last product, released by an HP that is going through a lot of change without any real reason. It’s a product, that while delayed, still doesn’t feel quite ready – it might have felt ready with webOS 3.something, but it remains to be seen, if that is going to happen. It didn’t happen fast enough, that’s probably because that’s that (and likely: it) with webOS.

Should you buy it? Unless you are webOS fanboy, or you’ve got a TouchPad and are a heavy user of it (that touch to share thing allows for painless bluetooth pairing and answering your texts and calls using your TouchPad), I’d seriously advise against buying a Pre3.

Other Reviews of the HP Pre3


1 The not that optimized web platform and the rather slow Mojo software platform (which is based on prototype, which is on the slow side of JavaScript frameworks according to web developers, but allows for object oriented programming), and the fact that it just isn’t optimized – things seem to be getting better with webOS 3.*, but do not seem perfectly optimized yet, and it remains to be seen, what will happen in the future, if there is one for webOS at all.

2 <meta name='viewport' content='height=device-height'>

3 Because of Qualcomms way of integrating things, the TI OMAP chips in previous Pre devices had a tad more memory available.

4 but this is dreaming of a port that will likely not ever happen (though I am going to start a Google Code project full of thoughts of how to do this, because this is everything I have to offer)

Android 4.0 – What you should read!

 It’s the evening, but I don’t quite have the mind to write a lot regarding Android 4.0, it’s hard to say anything before having used it, anyway.

So I am just sharing some links, which you should definitely check out.

This not much, but the rest is essentially redundant information. Wait for my thoughts on the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 tomorrow.

The Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0: A Short Comment

Early today, at 9:00 am Hongkong time, the postponed Launch of the Samsung made Google Galaxy Nexus superphone, which is a awesome flagship device for the Android platform, featuring a 4.65 inch curved touchscreen which offers you an amazing real 720p resolution (not much less than the resolution your cheap 15.6” notebook offers). Inside, there is a TI OMAP 4460 dual core chip running at 1.2 GHz powering the slab device to likely pretty amazing speeds – on the outside, there are no more capacitive buttons, strongly reminding of the Homeycomb tablets out there.

The real innovation IMHO happened on the software side of things. Android 4.0 apparently solves at least some of the usability issues that have been annoying me for a while, to just mention one thing: multitasking seems to be hugely improved.

You may argue that Googles designers mostly just ripped of webOS and Nokia’s Swipe UI, and in some certain ways, there are certain resemblances of what we’ve seen on the aforementioned platforms before, but all together, Google reiterated on that, and while they brought in gestures, they did it in a way that really fits into what Android has been like before in order not to scare away existing Android users.

Well, maybe it’s not all that overwhelming as I think now, writing this article during my lunch break after having had a look at thisismynext.com’s coverage of this event – so you better have a look at what these people wrote, photographed and filmed for us all, before I am going to extend this article in the evening (European time).

SOURCE: thisismynext.com

iPad 2. First Impressions

So I got myself an iPad 2, to be precise the one with integrated 3G, in order to be connected everywhere.

Why, you may ask, did I do that? Why didn’t you buy a nice honeycomb tablet?
Or a MeeGo tablet, like that good old WeTab? Well, first of all, I have been noticing that I have noticed that I have become real picky about bad usability, and Honeycomb IMHO isn’t that great in terms of that – and as I felt like I would need 3G for my use case, the otherwise o.k. HP TouchPad didn’t seem exactly suitable.
Besides, I am now in the media business and at least as far as the German market is concerned, the iPad is currently THE content platform – almost the only.

When I unboxed it, I became very excited, after having installed iOS 5 on this device, I knew I had entered the often mentioned reality distortion field, that Apple devices are known to impose on their users.

Right now, as I am writing this, I am less than overwhelmed, as I stumbled on a few annoyances, despite those that I expected anyway (iTunes, being forced to spend money in the App Store to have an usable device after all, there isn’t even a voice recorder preinstalled), and so on. The most annoying thing I stumbled upon: if an app (or media file in iTunes) is larger than 20 MB, you will be forced to download this over WiFi, which simply doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I can’t understand why this is so, as downloads in the browser work nicely without any hassle, no matter how large the requested files are – while a warning would certainly be nice to those with a very limited data plan, being forced to find a hotspot near you is a real PITA.

On the other hand, everything is really smooth. I had a few apps that didn’t work too well (itself or in combination with that new split keyboard), some even crashed, but that maybe related to the new features and thus changes Apple introduced with iOS 5. In general, everything’s smooth, and those Music and painting apps are something I’ve been longing for for quite a long time, so I really enjoy that.

But then, there are those mixed feelings again, because of all these limitations, the fact, that I miss certain open source apps and know that it’s virtually impossible to ever use them on this device (more unlikely than it would be on Android, whether it would even be easily doable on the HP TouchPad using the homebrew software Xecutah) – I don’ t really know whether I will actually keep this tablet, which doesn’t lead the tablet market for no reason.

I will keep you updated about me and my iPad – don’t worry, it won’t be more often then, say, monthly.

The next Android flagship: Nexus Prime (Video)

Update (10/08/2011):The launch of the next Android flagship has been postponed because of Steve Jobs death – a gentle act. The launch will take place in London, October 27th.

BTW: I don’t feel like writing a tribute to Steve Jobs, so many others have and there is not a word that I could add to praise this great visionary without whom we likely wouldn’t be where we are with computing today. When I read that message in the morning on my way to work in the subway, I almost started to cry – something that happens really rarely to me.
Thanks for everything, Steve. Thanks for reinventing computing every once in a while, making the use of computers a joyful thing to everybody!

I haven´t been writing much lately, especially not about Android devices – I felt really bored by all the new devices that did not change much.

Most of the new devices are pretty good, at least those that you can consider flagship devices – and if you are not into spending much money for such a useless thing as a smartphone (or simply don´t have that much money at hand), there are plenty of OK mid range devices.

Soon this age of Android boredom is going to end, new devices are going to be released, but more importantly, the Android platform (the software, to make it perfectly clear what I mean) is going to be renewed with the next iteration of Android that is supposed to be numbered 4.0 and has the code name / branch name Ice Cream Sandwhich.

Ice Cream Sandwhich will reintegrate the two branches of Android we have right now: 3.* Honeycomb, which was newly developed for the special needs of tablet devices (bigger screen ;) ) and Android 2.3.* Gingerbread, which feels like it´s been around forever (actually, this is almost true: It was announced in December 2010). 

New software – this implies new flagship devices. One of these will be the device rumored to be called the Nexus Prime (other rumors say the Samsung made devices will be named “Samsung Galaxy Nexus” (what a stupid name!)).

Specs are rumored everywhere in the internets and honestly, I believe that they are accurate, but don´t feel like spreading them before the actual announcement at Samsungs Unpacked event on monday (October 11th, 2011).

Here however, is something more interesting a video of ICS running on the smartphone believed to be the next android flagship smartphone.

 That´s what I wrote all this for. More information and opinion after the official announcement!

VIA: thisismynext.com

Apple introduces the iPhone 4S

Apple held an event to announce its latest iOS products today. As these products are still market leaders, this certainly is an important day for the whole mobile computing industry.

Many people expected a new iPhone 5, changing a lot. With me being far from being an Apple fanboy (I like the culture they bring in their products and love the fact that they announce late so that it doesn´t take ages from announcement to delivery), I was hoping for a new impulse to the smartphone market, not really knowing, what exactly I was hoping for, maybe I was just hoping for something great because it took Apple so long to get this new iPhone out.

Unfortunately, this didn´t happen. Apple just announced the iPhone 4S, a spec bumped iPhone 4 – new 8MP camera (impressing!), Apple A5 chipset (dual core is flagship standard nowadays), new dual mode chipset (nice for US people), new 64GB storage option. Aside from software news (which are interesting and certainly change iOS a lot), that´s it.

After all I don´t know whether there´s a reason for disappointment: We´ll see an iPhone 5 or 6 next year, probably in June already, and that thing might “change everything again”, as Apple will likely put it. What I know is that there is disappointment out there – I tweeted this, and considering the extremely low follower count this blog has, it was retweeted really often (you´ve got to add a large number of RT´s and ” ” quotes).

Mer – again!

Remember Mer? That attempt to build a free Maemo distribution by replacing the closed source parts of Maemo (yes, there were some), which was halted when MeeGo was introduced? Remember that Mer stood for “Maemo Reconstructed? Well, if you don´t remember that, I didn´t remember the second part, either.

Now that MeeGo is, say, abandoned, Mer is live again.

It´s a little complicated to understand all this. First of all, there wasn´t just one “MeeGo” distribution, there were at least two – the open source project, Nokias MeeGo (Harmattan (N9, N950)) and so on. Talking of releases, this becomes a mess, so I don´t want to go into detail.

Now that Intel, The Linux Foundation and the LiMo Foundation (that backed the MeeGo competitor “LiMo” before, which is better defined as a set of technologies or a middleware than as a mobile OS (unlike Android, ..)) moved on to build something new again, which they call “Tizen”, there are (naturally) some MeeGo developers – or to put it differently – some parts of the MeeGo community, that don´t really like this move (towards HTML5, towards yet another platform initiative) and want to go on with MeeGo. For all these people, Mer is a vehicle.

As I may be not all correct with this post, I highly recommend you to read Carsten Munks Mailing List post.

Make sure to check out this Mer blog, too.

Breaking news: TIZEN is LiMo+MeeGo+HTML5

It´s a nice day, the weather in Munich is awesome, but I am staying in during lunch break to write this article on what just happened today.

Today Tizen was announced. Tizen is yet another Linux based operating system, which replaces (read: probably merges) LiMo and MeeGo into one common platform which is supposed to be optimized for HTML5 apps.

While MeeGo relying pretty heavily on Qt and LiMo was known for it´s use of GTK+ (in its fourth release GTK+ was joined by EFL, but as there are no known devices build around the LiMo r4 platform, let´s forget this here ;) ), this is a change to, let´s call it “Linux + Something (doesn´t really matter, as all of the afore mentioned Toolkits/Frameworks include their own flavour of WebKit) + WebKit.

The first release of Tizen, which is backed by Intel, Samsung, The Linux Foundation and most likely other players is going to be released alongside an SDK in the first quarter of 2012. Tizen is meant to run on a variety of different classes of devices, namely Smartphones, Tablets, Netbooks, In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems and Smart TVs.

Comment

I am not really sure what to make out of all this. It feels like an insane stunt. While it certainly makes sense to merge two foundering platforms, the HTML5 move seems odd and nothing else, considering that webOS, which was build using these exact technologies, is dying, partly because of its extensive use of these technologies which simply aren´t that mature yet (webOS always had speed issues). There is one more concern: Is there the room for yet another platform? With Windows 8 coming to ARM, Android being really huge and still growing (despite all the issues it is facing), there is not that much room for another player, as Apple has a large share of the market, too.And then there is Chrome OS, which is basically a glorified web browser, a competitor which may be (when first mass market aimed Tizen devices will surface, it will likely be late 2012 or 2013) different and stronger than we expect it to be right now.

However, I wish the new Tizen project the very best luck and success, because I believe that the market and the users need a truly open alternative. Tizen could fill this vacancy, let´s hope it will do!

SOURCE: Tizen.org, MeeGo, LiMo

HP announces to kill webOS devices, looks for licensees

Imagine you were spending a day at work lifting boxes and while doing so you would think of what kind of blog article you were going to write later that day. This article would be an announcement, that you were going to write about some kind of a product, say a HP Pre 3 in the future because you just made the decision to get this device as your next primary phone. Later that same day, right before sitting down to write that aforementioned article, you would check twitter and see rumors of the very company making that very product was going to discontinue that, and not only that but the whole range of devices using the same software platform.


Well, this is what happened to me today. And you know what? I will buy a Pre3, anyway.

This was quite a long introduction to a rather sad story. HP has, about 16 month after purchasing Palm, decided that they will stop producing webOS devices later this year. While this doesn´t neccessarily mean that webOS is all dead, this is sad news for me as a person that likes choice and loves Linux, and most importantly, loves webOS.

I haven´t been happy with HPs progress with webOS anyway, but this news is a huge disappointment, especially because it always felt like that HP hadn´t really started to push webOS forward: The Pre2 was a lot, but definitely not too exciting and little more than a ruggedized and sped up Pre (Plus), the Veer has this special form factor which doesn´t make it too attractive for many (even though it has become really cheap recently here in Germany – you have to pay a little more than 150 EUR) and the Pre3 is just being launched. HPs TouchPad isn´t a flawless product, but it´s nice – initial pricing was way of and the fact that it was released in what one may call a pre beta stadium is a real disappointment. These are all the products HP has launched, 3 of them only very recently and yet they are pulling the plug. Knowing something about business I do understand that measures are possible this early, but seriously: They didn´t launch one exciting smartphone and postponed the one, that could have been exciting for more than six months, they released a tablet which, in terms of look and feel, is unfortuntely inferior to the first iPad (Samsung somehow managed to quickly crank out an even thinner Galaxy Tab 10.1 in about the same time it took HP from announcing to selling the TouchPad) – it´s all a sad story. And the software: I would have hoped for HP to move forward at a faster pace there, too.

I could start to critisize HP webOS even more, but I will do so, when I´ve got the Pre3 – if necessary. I like this software, and webOS is a weak platform right now, which doesn´t need any harsh words – it needs (and deserve) soft care instead. Just saying: Even with the flawed Pre Plus hardware (which is already a lot better than the original Pre) I love to use webOS for its ease of use that you feel once you are used gestures and cards. HP, btw, announced a purchase and that they are actively considering to externalize their PC business – this day could be the day that marks the end of HP as we know it. I, for one, feel like Léo Apotheker is trying to make HP another SAP – I may be wrong there, but seriously, I believe most of you didn´t see as HP as a software company until now.

The future is open, it will always be. I am excited to get my hands on the HP Pre3 and hope for some licensees that will crank out the kind of products webOS needs to become what it maybe could not become with hardware made by HP / Palm: A Success.


SOURCES / RECOMMENDATIONS TO READ ON:
thisismynext (the fellows that will become “The Verge”) have a great live blog of HPs Q3 2011 earnings call
thisismynext: HP killed webOS devices

Google Buys Motorola Mobility – A Comment

It´s been a while since my last post here (over a month in fact), and this post won´t be that great – apologies for that.

Almost everybody shared their feelings and thoughts on the fact that Google announced it´s willingness to buy Motorola Mobility 12.500.000.000USD, and I have to share my 2 cents on that, too.

I think that this deal makes perfect sense. Motorola Mobility hasn´t been doing too well, and they have been  Android only in the smartphone markets – despite that, they are a US company, just as Google, so integration (I doubt that the brand “Motorola” will vanish) won´t be that problematic. While many users certainly hope for Google to change Motorolas software team as people haven´t been all that happy with Motoblur and Motorola ´s slow Android updates (if any), this is not why this is happening. It should be a well known fact that Android has many enemies out there, partly due to its relatively open nature, partly due to its blazing success. Patent fights are going on, and the thing is: Google doesn´t have that many patents, as it´s not that long in the mobile OS business. Motorola on the other side has loads of patents as it has always been busy to patent things, in fact, as Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha recently uttered, Motorola was even planing to use their patent portfolio to make some money, e.g. by sueing other Android device makers.

This exactly is the reason why the other Android device manufacturers almost like the fact, that Google is aquiring Motorola Mobility, as it protects them. Google, on the other hand, will, while certainly interested in a profitable and flourishing Motorola Mobility, not use their new hardware division to get other companies like LG, HTC or Samsung out of the market; as they are interested in maximising Androids market share.