Is the Palm Pre successor a killer smartphone?
We’ve unwrapped our shiny new Palm Pre 2 here at T3 towers and have been playing with it and its webOS 2.0 (called HP webOS since the takeover) operating system since yesterday. It doesn’t launch until Monday, but here’s our first verdict.
The handset has almost exactly the same dimensions as its predecessor, the Palm Pre Plus, but the Palm Pre 2 is slightly slimmer thanks to the new glass screen that sits flush on the device, rather than bulging out. The screen feels more responsive than the plastic, and the sharp edges are gone, so it won’t slice your face when you answer. On the back you’ve got a 5-megapixel camera replacing the 3-, and it’s got new insides, with a 1GHz Texas Instruments Omap 3630 processor that’s twice as fast as its predecessor.
But of course a handset’s only as good as its software, and webOS 2.0 doesn’t disappoint. The Palm Pre 2 now has ‘true’ multitasking – it has the same Cards display as before, but the windows (or ‘cards’) are live, so if a video is playing on one app, it’ll play on the Card too, just like HTC’s Android handsets when you zoom out to see all your apps at once. Cards sit side by side and you swipe up from the Gesture Area just below the screen to enter Card view, as before. You can now flick one up to close it as well, like throwing applications from a Mac OSX dock.
A new feature in Cards is Stacking – windows within applications open like a stacked deck of cards, so if you open more windows within one browser session and they’ll appear together, letting you open one full screen in no time. You can switch the order so whatever you want is on top, and there’s no hard limit to how many you can stack, it depends on how memory intensive they are. But Palm says it should run 20-30 apps at once.
Alerts come in at the bottom of the screen, appearing as icons, rather than intruding on what you’re doing. You can add pages to the menu, personalising it how you want, so you can swipe left or right rather than scrolling down one long menu. Again there’s no limit to how many you can have, and you can re-order what’s where to fit how you use your phone.
Universal search has been renamed Just Type, and you can now search apps, bookmarks, and loads more. Quick Actions are new within Just Type – start typing and you can use the text in any way you want, from updating your Facebook status to the body of a text or email. You can find Quick Actions near the bottom of the Just Type menu.
The whole platform has been opened up too, allowing you to perform actions from the phone rather than launch dedicated applications. For example you can add CNN videos to Just Type from the CNN website if you download an interface module – developers are making these to work within Just Type, so you can search a site without launching the browser. There’s no word on who’s making them yet, but announcements are to follow soon. If your social network adds a module you can easily import all your contacts from that into your phonebook, then choose the best way to contact them. Like we say, nothing’s confirmed, but we’d guess a Facebook one can’t be far off.
Other extras include selecting contacts as favourites, then they’ll be prioritised when you search, as well as have their own section in contacts so finding them is quicker. You can also set shortcuts for every text program – e.g. type ‘Br’ and it comes out as ‘Best regards’, to save time when texting and emailing.
Palm has redesigned the app catalogue, making it easier to search and for it to promote featured apps, and the Touchstone charger also has a nifty new feature. Called Exhibition, it’s a mode developers can build into their apps to show a different screen when the Palm Pre 2 is docked, so it could turn your phone into a digital photo frame, for example. Then you just choose which app will launch when you dock. This’ll be in an over the air update shortly after launch.
So, with improved hardware, quicker software with cool new features, the Palm Pre 2 is looking a real contender. It’s available SIM free from Monday for £399, network deals are yet to be announced.
What do you reckon? iPhone beater, or wannabe? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.