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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On the surface, the idea of having all of your contacts pulled into one list seems like a good approach. In practice, however, I found it a bit overwhelming--and honestly, I'm not sure if it's for me. A lot of my Facebook friends are not people I regularly communicate with, so having them appear in my Contacts was a bit unnerving.

And unfortunately, you don't get a way to load specific contact lists from those accounts--it's either all of your contacts or none.

If you'd rather use a desktop app to store your contacts, calendar, and tasks, such as iCal and Address Book (Macs) or the desktop Outlook or Palm Desktop (PCs), you can download a third-party app that can sync your desktop software to a Google account. You can then sync your Google account to the Pre. You can also sync Outlook directly with your Pre over Wi-Fi using the third-party app PocketMirror (currently available in the Palm Apps Catalog).

The Calendar app has color coordination and multiple calendar support. The big news is that you can subscribe to public and specific calendars, like those on Google and Facebook. If you use the Pre to add something to your Google calendar, for instance, that info will sync with the details on Google's Calendar Web site (though it takes a few hours to appear online).

Likewise, the Synergy e-mail app makes checking and searching through multiple e-mail accounts easy. Select a contact, and webOS will autopopulate an e-mail message with that contact's info. Better still, if you have multiple e-mail accounts set up, you can choose which address to send from while within the message.

The Messaging application now combines both SMS and instant messaging under a single umbrella. The conversations are threaded (as they are on current Palm OS-based phones), and they can represent ongoing conversations with one contact, across multiple systems (for example, you can start the conversation via text, and continue in AOL Instant Messenger if your contact goes offline).

The Pre's full HTML Web browser renders pages beautifully. You can have as many browser windows open as you want (you're limited only by the available memory), and you can still save pages for offline viewing (say, while in flight)--a huge boon that Palm OS devices have always had, and that competing devices lack.

In addition to the messaging software, the Pre comes loaded with a few other apps: YouTube, Google Maps, the Amazon MP3 store, a PDF viewer, a document viewer, a calculator, a task list, and a memo board (which looks like a corkboard). You can also access the Palm App Catalog to buy more. Sprint apps, such as Sprint TV and Sprint's NASCAR program, are preinstalled on the phone as well.

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