For months, gadget hounds have been lusting after the Palm Pre, the one device that seemed to hold any promise of toppling the iPhone from the apex of smart-phone awesomeness. The wait is almost over: The Pre goes on sale Saturday, but you might not be able to find one
that quantities will be extremely limited.
Palm did have a few on hand for the nation's top gadget reviewers, though. Good move — the reviews came out today, and they're full of praise. Edward Baig of USA Today says the Pre "stacks up well against Apple's blockbuster device, and in some ways even surpasses it." The New York Times ' David Pogue finds the phone "joyous," and Walter Mossberg , in the Wall Street Journal , names it "potentially the strongest rival to the iPhone to date." Here's more of what they loved and what they hated:
Pros : Everyone swooned over the Pre's design. "I can't think of a more comfortable cellphone in my hand," Baig declares. The Pre offers two ways to type — an iPhone-like on-screen keyboard and a slide-out physical keyboard. Reviewers found both pretty good. They also loved webOS, the phone's innovative operating system. Unlike the iPhone, the Pre can run many different programs side-by-side, and it lets you switch between them with the flick of a finger. "Play Internet radio while you read a PDF document, or compare two open e-mail messages — you can't do that on the iPhone," writes Pogue.
Cons : There are two big hits against the Pre: It gets terrible battery life, and it doesn't run many third-party apps. Both Mossberg and Pogue reported that their demo phones sometimes ran out of juice in the middle of the day. The app shortage is worse — Palm hasn't given many developers the tools they need to build programs for the phone, in part because it's still working on some bugs. One of those bugs seems to be catastrophic. Mossberg says that when he downloaded a third-party program for the Pre, the app crashed his phone and wiped away all his data! (Fortunately, the phone has a backup system that allowed him to get everything back.)
So should you run out to buy the Pre this weekend? No — wait until Monday, when Apple is widely expected to announce a new version of the iPhone. Mossberg, who often gets a sneak peek at new Apple products, dangles this hint: "Whether the Pre is better than the iPhone depends on your personal preferences, though I'd note that the new iPhone to be unveiled next week will have lots of added features that could alter those calculations." Come on, Walt, let's hear some spoilers!