Review: Palm Pre Smartphone

The Palm Pre smartphone, along with the company's much-anticipated webOS operating system, has had quite the buzz building up since its splashy launch in January.

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Battery life, unfortunately, wasn't as good. In our PC World battery life tests, the Pre had a word score of "Fair," clocking in at only 5 hours and 17 minutes of average battery talk time. This puts the Pre slightly lower than the iPhone, which had 5 hours and 38 minutes of talk time.

Aside from the keyboard, another disappointment is the Pre's lack of removable memory: The unit comes fixed at 8GB of storage. Unlike the iPhone 3G, the Pre does not come in a 16GB model--at least not at this time. Originally, Palm told us that users could tether the unit to a PC with a USB cable, and transfer files directly from the PC to the phone, which would be recognized as a mass storage device.

Unfortunately, due to carrier limitations, this feature is not available on the Pre. (The iPhone 3G is also capable of tethering, but users can't do so because it is restricted by AT&T.)

Controlling the Pre relies on a handful of primary gestures on its capacitive touchscreen and in its gesture area, which sits below the display on the phone's black surface. The device supports the increasingly familiar gestures for scrolling, paging, going back (a backward swipe), and pinch and zoom. The gesture area replaces Palm's previous dedicated navigation buttons and controls.

On its face the Pre has only one button, a rounded Center button that acts as a home button. I was happy to see that the top of the unit retains Palm's slider switch for turning off the phone's volume, and it also has a shortcut to jump to airplane mode (something that travelers will appreciate).

The standard 3.5mm headphone jack is located next to the switch as well. The Pre's volume rocker is on the right spine and the mini-USB charging port is on the left side. The back of the phone houses the 3-megapixel camera lens, a large self-portrait mirror, and the smartphone's removable battery.

webOS

With the Pre, Palm also debuts its long-delayed new phone operating system, webOS. In my extended hands-on, I found webOS one of the silkiest and best-designed smartphone platforms to come along in a while--it's right up there with Apple's iPhone OS and Google's Android.

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