Social networking on cell phones is all the rage these days, and if you text, Tweet, and e-mail a lot, you'll like Palm's new Pre. Web access is simple, and it gets extra credit for an easy-to-use keyboard that's also easy to slide away.
It is sold exclusively through Sprint and according to store managers, they were sold out by noon Saturday. If you want one, you have to get on a waiting list.
In the tech world, the easiest way to deflate a new product is to hype it to the moon before it's even released. So, to be fair, let's pretend that Palm didn't peek-a-boo the new Pre smartphone six months ago in Vegas, only to hide it until its debut this weekend.
As we already knew, the Pre looks good. It feels good, too. Small, roundish, easy to slip in and out of your pocket, and easy to hold in your hand. When you turn it on, you realize, this is what we've been waiting for: an honest-to-goodness competitor to the Apple iPhone. But don't take my word for it. Says gadget-watcher Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies: "What we have for the first time is a competitive product for the iPhone."
We went to Bajarin's office to play around with the Pre, and I must say, it's impressive.
You've probably heard about how the Pre lets you multi-task. This is not a small point. It's a key advantage over the iPhone, especially if you find yourself switching between work and Facebook a lot. If you're an avid social networker won't miss a beat, and Palm will keep whatever website or app you're on sitting and waiting for you when you get back to it.
Ah, but the apps. This is where the Pre falls short, at least for now. There will, according to Palm's Matt Crowley, be a dozen or two apps ready to when the Pre launches. But an app store? Still to be announced. Thanks to the iPhone, we know there's a whole community of creative app makers out there, and Palm should waste no time trying to woo them. Palm still hasn't said how much revenue it will share with developers, or whether its store will have an interface to rival the slickness of iTunes. In the meantime, Apple will likely keep signing up new apps.
All in all, the Pre is a worthy competitor to the iPhone, and that alone is worth kudos. It should make Apple reach even further for its next round of updates, and competition is always good for the consumer. Expect the next year or so to bring the smartphone to the forefront of tech gadgets. Now, if we could only do something about these silly phone plans.