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Palm Pre

 Palm Pre Discontinued
8th January 2009

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The concept of the alternate universe is a common theme in science fiction. The idea that there might be worlds very much like our own.. but somehow different is a hugely appealing one.

A strange way to start a story about mobile phones, perhaps, but the interesting thing about the Palm Pre is that it does appear to have popped in from an alternate universe. It isn't like anything that Palm have ever made before, and if the Palm Pre had come out before the Apple iPhone then perhaps the Pre would be the device that all other manufacturers were trying to emulate.

The Palm Pre isn't just a new phone - it runs a completely new operating system called Palm webOS which has been designed from scratch to provide a radical new way of accessing the Internet on mobile devices. The webOS operating system (codenamed "Nova") has been known about for some time - it combines the best of legacy Palm design with a fresh approach which seems quite different from everything else on the market. In fact, the Palm Pre is probably more about the operating system than the physical hardware.

 Palm Pre Open But before we look at the software in depth, it is worth having a look at the Palm Pre itself. This is an EVDO-based device for US CDMA networks, so unfortunately this particular model will not work in Europe. There's a large 3.1" touchscreen display with a 320 x 480 pixel resolution, plus a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard opens up into a curved shape which will make it slightly easier to type.

On the back is a 3 megapixel camera with an LED flash.. not great compared with some high-end cameraphones, but certainly a lot better than the camera in the iPhone. The Palm Pre also has stereo Bluetooth 2.1, USB 2.0, built-in GPS, WiFi and an impressive 8GB of internal memory.

As we said, the software is probably more important than the hardware. Palm's new webOS system is based on the "activity card" concept, where each application runs on its own card, and these cards run side-by-side on the screen. This is a very different display paradigm from other handsets which tend to have operating systems scaled down from a full-size computer or scaled-up from the much simpler devices from the past.

Notification appear discretely at the bottom of the screen, so new text messages and appointment reminders don't interfere with other tasks that you are carrying out. Effectively, Palm have pared down the interface as much as possible while trying to retain usability.

There are other clever things going on in the webOS software. The Pre uses a combined messaging approach where all different types of messaging are arranged by contact, so even if you use different modes of communicating, the Pre can track them all. The Pre can also combine calendars from Outlook, Google and Facebook all on one device, and it comes with some advanced features for managing contacts.

 Palm Pre (back) Palm say that webOS almost thinks for itself, because of the way that it can handle your personal data, contacts, messaging and all the other things that you might need to keep track of. Come to think of it, this was always the point with the original Palm handhelds - they were designed to help manage information, rather than to be just pretty looking gadgets.

Initially, the Palm Pre has been designed to run on Sprint's EVDO network, although they also indicate that there is a UMTS / HSDPA version in the works too.. this should bring webOS and the Pre to a much wider audience.

Legacy applications from previous Palm operating systems should also be portable to the new webOS environment, which means that there should be quite a lot of applications available shortly after launch. We understand that the Pre can also integrate with Pandora, Facebook, Amazon, AOL and Fandango.

 Palm Touchstone Our initial impressions of the Palm Pre and its webOS operating system indicate that this may well be a very good device. It's certainly a lot better than we were expecting, and just possibly it may turn the loss-making Palm company around. The Palm Pre should be available during the first half of 2009.

There's one last bit of cleverness though.. the Palm Pre comes with wireless charging using the Palm Touchstone inductive charger. As far as we can tell, you simply leave the Pre near the charger and the battery magically replenishes itself. Well, we did say that we thought this thing had popped out of an alternate universe..

You can see more of the Palm Pre in our gallery.

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Palm Pre at a glance

Available:

H1 2009

Network:

CDMA

Data:

EVDO + WiFi

Screen:

320 x 480 pixels

Camera:

3 megapixels

Size:

Large PDA-style device
101 x 60 x 17mm / 135 grams

Bluetooth:

Yes

Memory card:

No

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Yes

Java:

Not specified

GPS:

Yes

Battery life:

Not specified

 

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