Prē only – Days 5 to 12

It’s about time to give an update on how my feelings on the Palm Prē are after using it exclusively for a time close to two weeks. After I found out how to switch to 2G only mode (which doesn’t hurt at all, as I have been wasting the 200 megabytes that run fast pretty fast (thanks to tethering)) battery standby time has become good enough to make using the Prē quite a pleasure. Even though apps are limited (exspecially for me, as I don’t have a credit card and can’t purchase any paid apps), thanks to the pleasant web experience (web rendering speed is fast) and the best multitasking experience I have ever had on a mobile device. After all this time I suddenly feel like I got used to the bits I didn’t find before, because I simply wasn’t used to the way webOS, I really don’t miss Androids menu button no more. What I still miss a little bit (but only a little bit) is a softkeyboard for the landscape mode which works like androids soft keyboard (tap the text area and up it pops). That would be cool, but I got used to what was so annoying at first: slide to have a hardware keyboard, and of course my typing has become faster as well.

Besides that, I did some testing to confirm the experience, that webOS’s browser version is not the latest. HTML5 Browser Test result is 132 points (plus 5 bonus points) out of 300 possible – your average stable Google Chrome (5.0.375.125) does a 197 (plus 7 bonus points). In particular this results difference is shown in webOS lacking support of most HTML5 section elements (all besides nav), several form element types and attributes, a session history management, support for web applications, geolocation and webworkers. We’re told that all this will be fixed with webOS next major overhaul, webOS 2.0 – HP / Palm is going to follow the web, as stated several times, e.g. in this Palm Developer Podcast. – which are an interesting watch if you are really interested in webOS or even just contemporary web development, but you’ll need some knowledge, I as a web layouter and maybe designer (but not really web developer, though I am trying to get into that), I struggled to understand more than just terms from time to time.

More will follow soon..

Prē only – Days 3 & 4

Short update: I get more and more used to the Prē – it’s funny how you get used to mechanism that are different to those you’ve been used to before.
Then I managed to connect to my University’s Cisco VPN network – by simply installing “vpnc” pre packaged for nslu2. The only thing you should watch carefully is your “/etc/resolv.conf”.

Only issue so far is the “not that well working” (ding-dong) touchstone charger and the battery life – but as I am a heavy homebrew user, this is probably my fault.

Prē only – Days 1 & 2

Soon after my “Further Imprēssions” post I felt like I should give the Prē another chance and try to use it all day for at least a week (without using my G1 in the meantime). In fact I plan to do so for at least two weeks, and I will try to blog some tips and tricks regarding the Prē, and I’ll try to do so frequently.

Before I actually started to use the Prē again I re-read the instructions manual. Probably I should have done so earlier, but as I was self concious that would find out how to use this device just by actually using it, I just had had a short glimpse at it before. No I read it really carefully while actually trying out all the described features and gestures which aren’t to self explanatory. Then I went on, sat down at my PC to watch some videos about webOS.

In the first video on webOS I watched (after quite a long time), a very important term that was mentionned: “Concious design decision”. Actually this didn´ t really get me overexited (like I was when I saw the announcement video stream of the Palm Pre), but it enabled me to finally get rid of my Android glasses and see the Pre without having certain expectations. I decided to stop missing the “menu” button.

This actually didn’t kill all the points I criticised about the Prē, but it already sort of killed my “landscape mode” point because I suddenly was able to imagine that Palm did this with having something in their mind, and while I was browsing the web I understood that Palm tried to make landscape mode a “better readable” mode, which is not the worst idea I ever saw.

Soon after that I realized, that the slider is a lot less annoying when you don’t use it that often. In fact, when you sit down to have some nice, hot coffee, and want to use the Pre to surf the web while sipping that coffee in a casual way, it´s really comfortable to keep the slider slided out, and hold the pre one handed at the bottom. And it’s fast, this Pre on steroids (Überkernel), compared to my good old G1 – and multitabbing becomes multicarding on the Pre.

Preware (which I had installed before, but hadn’t really looked at is another great thing. Whenever there is something lacking (talking of the default apps), I simply check Preware whether there isn’t a patch.

The first patch I want to talk about, is a rather simple one called “Read/Delete All Email”. It extends webOS’s mail client by offering two extra buttons, one to delete all mail (which I don’t use at all), the other to mark all mails as read, which is handy when dealing with mailing lists and ebay reminders as a person that get’s distracted when a device claims that there is mail waiting to be read.

Another one which turned out to be pretty nice is “Alarm Daily Options” which extends the otherwise too basic (Alarm) Clock, rendering it useful – I will not describe what it does here, it’s too obvious.

More Prē/webOS observations / wishes soon.

Further Imprēssions

As I haven‘t sold my Palm Prē yet (which is in a way unfortunate, as there has been a huge price drop recently) I feel like sharing my opinions on the Prē.

I have used it quite a bit, though not as much as I could have, because I use my G1 most of the time: I am afraid of scratching the Prē. While the form factor is nice (though there might be people that prefer a slightly bigger screen (which would result in a larger device) at less thickness), the Prē‘s surface is made of glossy plastic. If you ever handled glossy plastic, you might have noticed that it catches scratches easily. Besides this, there are some more hardware issues: The keyboard, which I don‘t really like, as it is pretty small. And there is no soft keyboard, besides a hacked-in one on PreWare which unfortunately doesn‘t quite do what you would expect from a decent soft keyboard: come up automagically whenever there is something to be typed – in fact this experience reminds me of the soft keyboard Android 1.0 on the OpenMoko had.

Having no software keyboard, you have to use its hardware sibling i already critisized, and this means, whenever you feel like typing something (or not, but you‘re required to) you have to switch to portrait mode. As a G1 user, which has a hardware keyboard which you use in landscape mode, this feels slightly inconvinient. In fact webOS feels much like you´d expect looking at Palm‘s device range: It‘s all portrait optimized (but I am used to landscape thanks to the G1’s keyboard). In fact you notice this when you get some notifications. Soon you will feel a little bit like watching a 2.35:1 movie on a 4:3 screen if you know what you mean. This, again, doesn‘t feel too great, so it‘s not as bad as turn to portait whenvever there is typing action thing. In fact I didn‘t manage to try out too many apps as I didn‘t want to throw money at Palm‘s App Catalog as I never felt like that the Prē would replace my G1 – after buying it. So all I tried out was actually for free (there are considerably less high quality free apps on webOS than on Android (though the homebrew/PreWare community came up with some nice ones) which is probably due to webOS proprietary nature) or inbuilt. And sorry to say so, but that‘s not it. I noticed a lack of creativity apps (like pianos, drum machines and alike), but there is one more point that annoyed me a lot more, being a heavy GMail user who follows mailing lists using GMail: No threaded mail in webOS mail client, and simple no way to mark tons of Mail as read. Really, webOS‘s inbuilt email client killed the experience. Not only it felt hard to write Mail (because of the keyboard issue), in addition to that it felt hard to manage my mails, or at least a lot more inconvenient than on Android. A simple GMail notification service linking to the mobile GMail web interface would do a lot better (sometimes I think so on Android as well).

While there might be further issues, which i didn‘t notice because I didn´ t dive deep enough into webOS, aside the mentionned ones which could be rouled out by another webOS update.

Conclusion: I have to say that webOS is a great platform with perfect mobile multitasking, which has nice animations rocking a beautiful interface (even great sounds) that is not that usable as it should be running on beautiful hardware which doesn‘t feel that solid or sturdy you would like it to. A platform that might be really great with a few new devices and a new software revision. I recommend to wait for webOS 2.0.

Regarding the Prē I have to say that it is overall a nice, rather speedy device which has a nice camera (image quality is more than ok and the shutter speed is the best I ever experienced on a smartphone (though I didn’t invest much in camera savvy smartphones). If there was a decent Android port (or a webOS without the issues I mentionned), it could be my number one smartphone.


Finally I got myself a Palm prē after this Toshiba TG01 dissapointment, and well, what shall I say? It’s yet another dissapointment? Well, that would be the truth, almost. The prē is a package of promises, but Palm didn’t manage to fullfill them. My complaints are those that you’ve probably heard a couple times. Quality issues for example. The sliders bottom is sharp enough to cut cheese, which is really bad because it makes using the tiny keyboard even more unpleasent. And the slider itself could be more snappy – as there is no soft keyboard, you have to slide the phone open whenever you feel urged to type something. It’s annoying. HTCs Android first timer (for those of you that forgot it: The first two iterations of Android (1.0 and 1.1) didn’t have a software keyboard as well) did much better. And this isn’t one of the first prē’s – it’s a shame Palm didn’t manage to address these issues yet – rumors have it that they managed to do better with the Prē Plus – but still: Without HP Palm would have failed, and this mismanagement regarding the quality issues might have very well killed Palm.

Let’s skip hardware without mentionning the good points (lovely form factor), and move on to software. WebOS is a nice platform, no doubt about that. But it isn’t that mature yet, if you ask me. And there are some things, that do annoy me. Example? Take the lack of something like APNdroid, which is so nice for Android, not just to save money (you can’t use the Prē without a data contract), but as well to prolong battery life. Take the mail client, which annoyed me by not threading mails. I am really locked into Android apparently – and if there is one more device of the current smartphones out there that I would try, it was probably be the Motorola Milestone.

I buy a Palm Pre and HP buys Palm

While there is no more text needed, I have to say that I am pleased that it is HP that buys Palm: While HP is powerful (in terms of capital and distribution) Palm has all those nice patents and WebOS, which is (with all its flaws) certainly one of the todays greatest operatings systems.

While I don´t believe in HP with Palm integrated (I hope that they don´t waste the Palm brandname) being the next Apple, I am pretty sure that HP aims to get closer to Apple with this aquisition in terms of becoming a brand that delivers excellent, innovative products (they do so, just have a look at the design of their “Envy” notebooks). That´s probably why this transaction is good for the future of WebOS: While Android is something that everybody can adopt and customize, WebOS is something special, differentiating. If you think that this conclusion is pathetic, you might be right, but you have to accept that I consider you´re wrong.

I am just happy about this right now, because I believe that HP and Palm fit rather well together, it´s two US american companys joining each other. There could have been worse team ups for Palm, and it was very important that this was announced now: Every single more week with Palm struggling would have damaged Palms´ platform.

Thinking about the Pre.

The Palm Pre has been released before a long time. Admittedly, the european release of the GSM Pre is not that long ago (fourth quarter of 2010), but as the Palm Pre was presented on last years CES in Vegas, the device feels already pretty old. It’s the gadget hunger that drives me to looking at different devices – it’s pretty affordable on eBay right now, you get new (or almost new) devices for ~200€.

There are many reasons for Pre prices dropping so quickly. I could name them here but Engadget did a write up recently (naming several other issues Palm should address), so I don’t have to sum it up entirely. One problem was (or still is) hardware quality (sliders, power buttons, screens – all broken too often for a premium device), an other is (apparently, from what I read) software stability. And WebOS is a unique platform. While I fell in love with it when I saw it for the first time, WebOS has (in comparison to iPhone OS, Android or Windows Mobile) a rather small userbase, which leads to what you might guess: There aren’t as many apps as on other popular platforms, rumors are telling me that it are still less than 500 here in Germany.

Still, hopes are high that this situation will change, as Palm just introduced paid Apps to its european ‘App Catalogs’ and because of the PDK which is said to make porting iPhoneOS Apps easy.

But this is just the App situation. Let’s have a look at the Hardware. The Pre Plus, which is going to be released in Europe this month, in May or June is not a big change compared to the original Pre – it is just (as you might have guessed) a tweaked and tuned Pre, featuring a better keyboard, no “pearl”, and twice the ram and flash memory. Considering the Pre Plus, the Palm Pre is still a good choice for the budget gadget guy, because the difference isn’t that big.

So will I drop some money at a Pre? It’s very likely.