The Palm Pre is the smartphone saviour that never was. Sleek and replete with the most intuitive smartphone operating system, webOS, since iOS took a bow, it failed to do the business, eventually leading to its makers subsumed by tech giant HP.
The Pre 2 is now here to reclaim Palm’s rightful position at the top table. But does the all-new hardware match up to the rebooted webOS 2.0 or HP webOS (as it’s now called) sitting under the hood?
Let’s be perfectly clear. The Palm Pre 2 isn’t really the world-beating sequel to the original Pre. If anything, it’s a tweak on a par with the Pre Plus, unleashed earlier this year. While the panel is now flat where the original rocked a glaretastic curve and the build quality is undoubtedly sturdier, little has changed on the exterior. Inside, the CPU has been ramped up to 1GHz though, which makes a real difference when zipping around the ace new version of webOS.
Palm Pre 2: HP webOS
Make no mistake. It’s HP webOS that takes centre stage here. Everything about this OS screams class, thanks to its excellent and breezy UI. The cards system from before has been retained, with stacks which allow you to pile up windows from the same app in one place on the homescreen. Don’t need a card any more? Simply flick up and it’ll disappear.
WithLive Multitasking support, basically the cards are now live, and number you can have open is limitless meaning you can easily multitask by opening as many apps you like and working your way through them on the homescreen.
The Synergy application feels like it's been given a shot in the arm too. It now supports third party apps, which means you can pull together content from sites as varied as YouTube, LinkedIn and PhotoBucket not to mention your usual email and social network suspects. Contacts are then aggregated in one place, allowing you to see social network pals alongside regular number information.
This is also meant to work across calendars too, but when we loaded up our Gmail address we were told it wouldn’t play nice with our diary. The most cursory of web searches suggest this is a problem suffered by plenty of early adopters.
The ace Just Type feature, which puts Apple’s iOS spotlight function in the shade, couldn’t be easier to use. Simply tap the keyboard and you’ll get search results from apps across the device, as well as the chance to search Google, Google Maps, Twitter, the App Catalog and Wikipedia. Its nifty and works in zippy fashion. You can also set contacts as favourites.
Palm Pre 2: Browsing and screen
The arrival of Flash is also welcome, although it has to be said that the web browser itself really does need to work before Adobe's plugin can take centre stage. That’s not to say it isn’t easy to use, just that page rendering is very poor. Images appear grainy and text can be hard to read. The BBC’s mobile site, hardly the most intensive of web destinations, really doesn’t look up to scratch. This can partly be put down to the screen, which at 480 x 320 remains the same resolution as the original Palm Pre.
This is a huge oversight on the part of HP and Palm. Devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S and Apple iPhone 4 have set a whole new standard in display and the Pre 2’s low res number contributes to the feeling that this a device rolled out in order to show webOS hasn’t been forgotten by new owners HP.
The other issue with the screen is its size. At 3.1-inches, it’s hardly one of the capacious panels we’ve become so used to in the smartphone arena. That said, the multitouch tech works seamlessly.
The lack of a virtual keyboard is a real miss however, even though the physical slider is decent enough. The keys themselves could be bigger, and those with sausage sized digits will struggle, but it doesn’t take long to get nice and speedy with it.
Palm Pre 2: Camera and battery
At 5-megapixels, the camera has been given a slight resolution boost. But while shots are decent and crisp enough in good light, the sharing options, via email and MMS, hardly match up to Android’s deep social network integration. The latter is a huge deal these days and is something HP/Palm needs to address with newer devices.
We squeezed just over a day out of the Pre 2 before we needed to slip it onto the ace Touchstone wireless charging extra. That’s not bad, but when the iPhone 4 and Nokia N8 can keep on trucking for 48 hours while handling a slew of intensive tasks, it does mean the Pre 2 could be better in the battery department.
While there’s no denying the Pre 2 is a stunningly sharp device, it’s pretty much all thanks to the ace operating sytem. The minor hardware bumps mean this is a phone that’s hardly worth laying out for at a time when better cameras, sharper screens and more reliable hardware are all available on rival devices. Although we'd certainly be curious to see what HP/Palm pulls out of the bag at CES. If there’s nothing on show in Vegas, then by all means find the cash to get this slick smartie.
Palm Pre2 release date: Out now, find out more from Palm
Palm Pre2 price: It hasn't been taken up by any operators, so it's £399 sim free