Personal comparison: Pre 2 and Pre3 on Verizon | webOS Nation

Personal comparison: Pre 2 and Pre3 on Verizon

by Jonathan I Ezor#IM Sun, 09 Oct 2011 7:41 pm EDT

As a Verizon Wireless customer since the company was called NYNEX, and as someone who went from the Pre Plus to the Pre 2 (the latter courtesy of the "Oprah Moment" at last year's New York webOS Developer Day) on Verizon, I was extremely eager to upgrade to the Pre3 (what I mostly wanted was the autofocus camera and the slightly larger screen for my aging eyes) when it came out. And then it didn't. And then it did...sort of. And then I got one (through a source I will not discuss, sorry). And then I waited two weeks while Verizon wasn't able to activate it (the MEID didn't register). In the meanwhile, I bypassed activation and tried to at least connect to a profile using Impostah, without success. Happily, once the VZW Doctor was released, I was able to use Impostah, and then finally, a week or so ago, the MEID finally went through and I was finally able to switch to the Pre3 as my daily phone.

Derek has already published a comprehensive (and phenomenal) Pre3 review, so rather than reinvent that particular wheel, I thought I'd instead provide a brief comparison of the experience on Verizon of my Pre3 and its predecessor, the Pre 2. Specifically, here are the sharpest differences between the two otherwise very similar (fast, modern, Gorilla Glass-covered) webOS phones (continued after the break)...

Screen: In most situations, the additional screen real estate (480x800, vs. 320x480) is very welcome; widescreen movies display better, and mobile Web sites are in fact easier to read. Sometimes, though, the stylesheet of a particular Web site will make the text smaller on the Pre3, which was not a pleasant surprise. (The non-mobile version of The New York Times' site is one example.) Otherwise, the Gorilla Glass continues to provide a solid and comforting feel (all the more comforting given the irreplaceability of the Pre3).

Cameras: Yep, two. The rear one, with its auto-focus, enables closeups and QR code scanning just as I'd hoped. The front-facing one, added for the Pre3, works decently for Skype, although it must be oriented in landscape mode.

Speed: As fast as the Pre 2 is, especially when overclocked, the Pre3 is just a step beyond. Apps launch more quickly, screens scroll faster, and the device is just overall much more responsive.
webOS 2.2 features: Touch-to-share works, but I have found very few practical uses for it. Pairing for both messages and phone calls works too, but given the battery hit from the Bluetooth connection, I haven't used it much either.

Design: I've never had a problem with Pre-sized keyboards (or even the Veer's smaller keys), but the Pre3's larger keys are a nice feature for my large fingers. The slightly recessed switches and USB port took some getting used to, but they're quite functional. Similarly, it took a few days for my hand to get used to the larger, flatter (my Pre 2 has the Seidio extended battery back) Pre3, but there too, it no longer catches my attention. Both the Pre 2 and Pre3 are built solidly.

World phone: While the Pre3, like all Verizon phones, is CDMA, it also has a SIM slot beneath the removable back. This should mean that it's a worldphone, able to use GSM networks outside the United States. I haven't yet tested this, but I'm hopeful I'll get a chance to do so.

GPS: Here, the changes are revolutionary, rather than just evolutionary. For all the problems with the Verizon Pre Plus' GPS, and for the modest improvements in the Pre 2's GPS, let me say for the record: the Pre3's GPS is stellar. When turned it, it gets a high-accuracy fix almost instantly, without any need for workarounds like James Harris' excellent GPS Fix, and every location-based app, from Foursquare to Navit to others, can access it. I can finally use location-based apps whenever, and however, I want to, without worrying about delays or reboots.

Accessories: While the Pre3 can use the standard webOS Touchstones for charging, its flatter back causes it to stick less well, especially in portrait orientation. A forum member came up with a really good solution using flexible magnets, which substantially enhances the adhesion of the Pre3. More troubling, the aborted marketing means there are few if any dedicated accessories for the Pre3. Given that it will not be replaced if it breaks, I'd really like a hardcase and screen protector, but I'm having a great deal of difficulty finding one.

Problems and missing features: As wonderful as is the Verizon Pre3, there are still some problems and omissions. One I'm truly missing is the ability to trigger the LED flash as a flashlight; that's something I do frequently with my older Pre phones. According to my Precentral colleague Jason Robitaille, who created the standard patches for that, the Pre3 uses a different control mechanism for its flash, so the existing patch/Torch app don't work. Jason's been trying to get information on the new control elements to update his patch, but has been unsuccessful to date. Other patches are slowly being updated to support the Pre3, so it's worth checking Preware on a regular basis for new ones. Most apps work fine, but there are a few issues: some PDK apps (notably EA Games' Battleship and Monopoly) show some odd graphical glitches, while other apps have blank areas rather than filling in the additional screenspace. Many apps are not (yet) available for the Pre3, either because they just don't work on it, or because the developer has not yet updated the app's description in the App Catalog to indicate Pre3 compatibility. That said, the vast majority of my daily use apps are available and work very well.

Here's the bottom line: If you're a Verizon Wireless customer, you have an earlier webOS phone (even the Pre 2), and you can find an affordable Pre3, get it. Unfortunately, there seem to be even fewer Verizon Pre3s "in the wild" than AT&T versions (probably because the AT&T version is GSM, like the Euro-spec ones, while the Verizon Pre3 has a different, CDMA radio, so it may have been made in lower quantities).

I'll close by adding my voice to the many who lament the cancellation of this verycompetitive smartphone, and who urge new HP CEO Meg Whitman to rush them back into production. With the Pre3, the folks at HP/Palm got it right.