This was a tough one. Really, after buying the Acer Stream S110 earlier this year, an Android phone which would happen to be refused an update to Gingerbread not much later; and even more so after testing the Samsung GT-I9100 for a while, I felt quite disappointed with Android phones.
Not that both were such horrible devices – the Galaxy SII being good enough to sell really well, making it the Android phone you spot the most out there in the streets. Still, I hadn’t been overly enthusiastic with the Galaxy SII, I hadn’t really liked it, finding it too wide to hold comfortably, disliking the rather low pixel density and the placement of hardware buttons. Then, on the other hand, all competing Android headsets had there own flaws. LGs dual core “Optimus” superphones, the Speed (P990 / T-Mo USA P999) and the 3D (P920) seemed nicer to me because of their LCDs and overall button layout, but had obvious flaws of their own. Flawed were all the other devices, such as the Sensation, maybe the least flawed of the aforementioned, but being out of the game for me because of HTC Sense, or the Motorola Atrix, which while really cool seeming with its Laptop Dock suffered a lot from its (albeit featuring qHD resolution) PenTile-LCD screen and Motorolas slow software updates, a few variants of this device are still officially stuck on Froyo.
In addition to the hardware, I felt that the software had real problems that didn’t make it quite likable to me. I started to really dislike Android’s menu button, a relict carried over from the days, when Android was being imagined as a Blackberry-competitor running on devices that itself resembled the classic blackberry formfactor: A small, maybe 2,6” sized display, placed on a rather wide candybar in a landscape position atop a full QWERTY keyboard. This form factor had never been really popular with android, even the old and famous G1 (HTC Dream) had looked very difficult from this because of its vertical slider. But with the G1 the menu button hadn’t been much of an issue, as you had a trackball and thus weren’t really forced to use the touchscreen at all with the early iterations of Android. With the 4,3” WVGA Galaxy SII this had fundamentally changed, and it had become totally obvious to me, that Android was a land of usability horror, partly due to the aforementioned problem, partly due to apps that didn’t fit into the problematic way Android did things, resembling iOS-Apps instead.
Being frustrated with all that, and reading that Honeycomb was still overly complicated (BTW a few issues, that aren’t so problematic with smartphones because of their smaller size will likely remain on tablets even with Ice Cream Sandwich), I felt like going webOS wasn’t the worst idea ever. This turned out to be wrong the night Leo Apotheker killed webOS, rendering the really promising HP Pre 3 an unannounced device. (HP may try to revive webOS, but I doubt that they can undo the damage done, rendering what was ahead this announcement an uphill battle a battle that is virtually impossible to win…) As we know now, the HP Pre 3 will likely never ever receive more updates, rendering the non carrier branded Rest Of the World version of it stuck on basically the same version it shipped with. This version has a load of bugs, the whole Skype integration doesn’t feel matured at all, and you happen to run into “Too many cards”-Errrors way to often. That aside, the accelerometer is effingly shaky, doing very abrupt orientation switches, making the device a rather painful thing to use as you can’t even switch that thing of. There simply is no patch for that. (You see, I really should update my review of the Pre3 and make it more negative.)
The most promising Linux platform out there not yet mentioned had been killed ahead of the launch of its last device. Maemo 6 as you should call it, as it hasn’t really much in common with the MeeGo open source project (which was cancelled and will come back as “Tizen” rather soon), made a good to great impression on the Nokia N9 anyway, because of physically stunning hardware (even though the SoC is clearly old and dated) and great usablility concepts. However, it is simply to expensive, being higher priced than the Galaxy SII, making it no real option for me.
Frustrated as I was, I bought the N900 in an attempt of escapism. Well, that thing is nice, but it is an awkward thing, being nowhere near a modern smartphone in its design and much rather a downsized Nokia Internet tablet that can do 3G and phone calls. While the N900 is insanely cool because of all its geeky features (FM sender, Infrared, the debian based package system), it is also fundamentally flawed by it’s landscape forcing software and form factor, its thickness, the resistive screen and a web browser, that doesn’t show you most of the great mobile webpages that were released since the rise of the iPhone and Android – some of these are so useful, that I use them on the desktop, because they are just a lot simpler while delivering all the important parts.
So I finally had to realize that it was time to get a decent smartphone, as I can’t carry my iPad everywhere. Not that it is too big, it is really OK and has an outstanding battery life, but you get awkward looks with it on the subway and in the rest of real life. Way to many people start asking you questions about it, its way to “Show Offy”, while all this doesn’t happen if you carry an “iPhone like device”.
I had been waiting for the Galaxy Nexus. While Ice Cream Sandwich looked really stunning, I simply hate a few details about this device. One is the SoC, which doesn’t seem to be the best choice. I don’t really understand why this isn’t an Exynos device. However, this doesn’t make enough of a difference to kill it for me. The camera is said to be decent. Be that as it may, 5MP isn’t what you expect in late 2011. Another downside, the very one that kept me from buying the Nexus S, is that you have no microSD option. And last, but not least, there’s the same button placement (volume and power button) that drove me nuts with the Galaxy SII. I know, I am just holding it wrong, but that kills it for me. Seriously.
So I instead opted to buy two devices that are said to even be officially updated to Ice Cream Sandwich. One is the aforementioned LG Optimus Speed (P990), which I got because it is an official CyanogenMod device – I really want to have this again, as this project prolonged my G1 use by about a year. The other is running the only Android skin I might be able to like: It’s the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Pro, the best spec’ed full QWERTY Android Smartphone available in Europe.
One of these (or both) will be my next Android smartphone(s). I will share my impressions!
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.
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.
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.
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
- Darren Murph’s review of the Pre3 for AT&T for engadget.com
- Derek Kessler’s review of the HP Pre3 for precentral.net
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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)
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.
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!
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
Let´s face it: Many people like the Nokia MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan / Maemo 6 presented on the Nokia N9 – if you read the negative comments, these show concerns about buying a device which is abandoned on release, they dislike the last years Hardware platform or ask the “What about apps?” question – if Nokia hadn´t discontinued the MeeGo platform, one of these negative points wouldn´t be there, and the other two would be addressed by future devices over time (I think I read once that OMAP4 is pin compatible to OMAP3).
|One of too many webOS 2.1.0 bugs (Device: Palm Pre Plus)|
But let´s think about to whom the the Nokia MeeGo platform would have been a strong competitor. Many of you may think Android, and while this absolutely right in the long term, in short and mid term Nokias Meego platform would have been more of a competitor to the smaller smartphone operating systems / ecosystems, such as Windows Phone 7 or HP webOS, which are chosen by their loyals because of their usability, which is less flawed than Androids (menu button, multi tasking).
MeeGo, as being a still rather new development on top of very seasoned technologies, performs a lot better (which has a huge impact, you have to consider that these devices are mobile, and less CPU usage is automatically connected with better battery life..), and as Nokia´s MeeGo UI is more than competitive, this platform with Nokia’s experience in the mobile sector (which while HP / Palm have some too should be superior) could have easily made it to the third position on the market, with a huge gap to Android and iOS still, but better than the rest. Nokia opted against a clear MeeGo push though, so this is all theory (most likely they would have stuck to the way inferior Symbian too much, anyway) – thanks to S. Elop,HP has another chance.
Success, however, is something that requires more than just good ideas, even more than astonishing products (that HP doesn´t have yet, the TouchPad, Veer and Pre³ are in many ways inferior). An alliance with Samsung (that build smartphones with Android, Windows Phone 7, Bada and LiMo already) could help with great hardware, but possibly killed HPs own margins and besides that, it´s the software which until now still isn´t more than a set of brilliant usability concepts that is sort of usable. HP has the chance to fix their issues, which are many – as Elop gave them some more time.
The HP TouchPad is available in the US and a whole lot of reviews are out. Of course I don´t have a review unit, which is sad but normal for a small blog – so I can´t share any first hand impressions, just comment on what others have shared on the TouchPad.
The TouchPad is thicker than the iPad2 or modern Android Honeycomb Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – however, the main complaint is materials: The TouchPads back is made of glossy plastic, which, as you may know, feels rather cheap. Besides that, it isn´t the lightest tablet out there.
Everybody likes webOS usability. webOS 3.0 on the Touchpad starts with around 300 apps, of which 50 are great apps – this is more than the Android Honeycomb tablets started with, which is good, too. There are some complaints though, too: The Skype integration is not perfect yet, so is the overall speed of the device, hickups are said to occur from time to time (despite the fast Qualcomm chip inside). HP stated, that these issues are supposed to be fixed in about a month with an OTA update – there is only one first impression though, and this is as its always been with (HP) webOS: Great ideas, not polished yet (I was going to write: “Great ideas poorly carried out” but that sounded to harsh without a deep dive into the TouchPad (e.g. a long hands on (a few hours or days)).
Still, comments and ratings on the HP TouchPad have been overly positive. It´s said to feel very “natural” in use, that some parts of its usability are like “that tune you can´t get out of your head”, e.g. the swipe up to close an application. In fact, i have read more than once that while not yet on the iPad 2´s level, the TouchPad is already a serious contender to the Honeycomb tablets, which are believed to have an overly complecated user experience.
Whether this is enough to have TouchPad sales at the level where HP expects them, remains to be seen.
(Stay tuned for another article on HP webOS in general later today.)
Ben (@benz145) of carrypad.com wrote an article on the TouchPad titled “Strengths and Weaknesses — A Look at HP’s TouchPad”, which I really recommend you to read, it´s a great article. In fact, you should head right over and read it now, because what follows is a slightly edited lengthy comment I wrote on that article:
The Hardware: I absolutely agree with Ben here. It is a huge dissapointment, that HP didn´t opt for more connectivity options. No HDMI really kills some usage cases, especially if you consider that HP wants to sell many TouchPads to businesses. USB OTG / Host would have been nice too, but I don´t think it´s that crucial. I still don´t understand why no tablet manufaturer manages an SD card reader (not speaking of µSD here) into their tablet. Many of us still use SD Cards in our cameras, as they are still cheaper at large sizes / high speeds – especially with a 3G equipped tablet (BTW: Why no 3g on launch, HP?) this is really bad. The manufaturers could easily include such a slot in a manner that the upselling still worked (sticking out SD) – and still it would be appreciated.
The Price: I totally agree with HP, that a too aggressive pricing would have implied that the TouchPad was an inferior product. Setting the exact same price is a huge mistake though, as the TouchPad will be perceived by many as an inferior product. It is heavier (740g) and thicker (13.7mm) and we don´t know yet how fast and fluid it will feel: Many customers will notice that it is a first generation product. Add the lack of an video out option and the fewer apps and content deals to it (=> the inferior ecosystem), and you are going to find out that the TouchPad is actually an inferior product. Setting a high price point will not hide this. And we haven´t even added in the fact that Apples products are way more hyped than HPs will possibly ever be in the next three years.
Another note on the App situation: One has to keep in mind that webOS 3.0, which is launched with the TouchPad, breaks compatibility to the older apps, as the old Mojo apps will only run inside an emulator with a virtual gesture area (=> not quite a breathtaking experience). From what I read in my twitter timeline, the new development kit called Enyo is great, even though it´s not as close to web development as Mojo was. Almost all of the apps I use on my Pre Plus (which I love, btw) will be available in a native flavour on the TouchPads launch day.
I have to add that I don´t see the HP Touchpad will be a definitive failure. It has certain features that will differentiate it from other devices, just think of the “touch to share” thing. However, the competition will implement these sooner or later (rather sooner), so HP must not rest on its laurels. They have to move forward, if they want to win a market share that makes the investment in webOS a profitable one. Competition is tough, now, and it will become even more fierce, as Google, Apple and Microsoft do not stand still – from what we´ve seen lately with iOS 5, Ice Cream Sandwhich and Windows 8 they do quite the opposite.
There is one big reason besides surfing and gaming that people are interested in tablets: Reading. Be it magazines or books, be it readers or publishing houses, everybody is exited about the new opportunities of digital publishing.
Actually you don´t need a tablet or a special ereader device to read on a mobile device. You can read on your smartphone, too. While there are many options on Android (including the brilliant open source application FBreaderJ) , it boils down to a few on webOS.
One of these applications is the GPLv3 licensed pReader Native (SourceForge.net / PreCentral thread), which is available in Preware (or via webOSQuickInstall). It is a rewrite of the original pReader application (which was homebrew, too), using the PDK features introduced with webOS 1.4.5.
pReader native supports many popular E-Book formats, ePub, eReader (including DRM), PalmDOC + plain text. Installing via Preware shouldn´t be to difficult, if you don´t have Preware yet on your webOS device, get it quick, it´s really worth it.
pReader works nicely. The UI may not be as fancy as the iBooks UI, but the application just works as it should, uses stock webOS UI widgets and thus doesn´t break the look and feel. Settings are plenty, you can set colors and scrolling options – everything I need is there. Reading on the Pre works nicely with pReader Native – because the Pres’ display is bright and has an acceptable pixel density.