Palm Pre Review 175
The Palm Pre is an all-new smartphone designed from the ground-up to work with the web. It's currently a Sprint-exclusive priced at $199 after mail-in rebate. It runs an all-new operating system called "webOS" that is based on linux and sports innovative features like Synergy for syncing and multitasking "cards" to quickly switch between tasks. The Pre itself is incredibly small yet has a large touchscreen and a slide-down keyboard. Quite simply, it's incredible.
We're covering the Palm Pre from all angles here at PreCentral.net. What you're reading now is our full, unabridged review of the Palm Pre. We also have have links to Palm Pre photo galleries and 12 video reviews of the Pre in our sidebar.
Read on for our massive review!
We'll begin by including our general overview of the Palm Pre in Video.
The first thing you need to know about the Palm Pre is that it feels incredibly good in the hand. It's a relatively small 2.3" x 3.9" x 0.67", but the dimensions do little to tell the story. When the Pre is closed there aren't any sharp angles anywhere on the Pre. Palm says that they were inspired by a 'riverstone' and indeed that's an apt description. It feels positively organic in the hand (helped, no doubt, by the common propensity to get a little warm as it gets used).
Although the Pre is made of glossy plastic, it does not feel especially cheap or plasticky. The Pre's plastic both on the back and the screen do indeed show fingerprints, but not as egregiously as the iPhone's screen seems to. The plastic is also tough as nails. I didn't go so far as to take steel wool to the device, but I've been awfully cavalier about throwing it in my pocket with keys and skittering it around my desk and there's nary a scratch to be found.
The second thing you need to know about the Palm Pre is that is has a 3.1" 320x480 capacitive touchscreen. The 'capacitive' part means that the Pre responds to your finger instead of requiring a stylus. The 320x480 part means that the Pre has lots of pixels (as many as the iPhone) for displaying web pages, videos, and more. The 3.1" part means that the screen is somewhat small but packs enough pixels-per-inch to make everything sharp and crisp.
The natural comparison for the screen is the iPhone, and I'd say it's a tie. The iPhone has the same resolution, but it has a glass screen and the screen itself is larger at 3.6" diagonally. That larger size does make fonts larger in most cases, but it comes at the expense of the sharpness you see on the Pre. Despite the fact that the Pre has a plastic screen, it feels very responsive and even gives you a small (software-based, don't panic) 'ripple' when you tap so you can see what you just hit.
The third thing you need to know about the Pre is that it has a slide-down full QWERTY physical keyboard. For those that are familiar with the Palm Centro or Treo Pro, this keyboard will feel very familiar. The keys have a 'rubberized' feel to them rather than being hard. This makes it a little easier to type on (especially if you have fingernails), but the keys are placed fairly close together. The top row of keys is also placed fairly close to the bottom edge of the Pre's slide, so they can be a little difficult to hit.
I've been using QWERTY keyboards on phones for over seven years now and I had no problem adjusting to the Palm Pre. If you're looking for a comparison, I'll say that it's not as good as your standard BlackBerry keyboard, but for 90% of people it's going to be much better than the iPhone's on-screen software keyboard. I know the keyboard is a big X factor for a lot of people, so the best I can say is that you not only need to try it for yourself, but you need to give it at least a couple of days of use before you turn in your verdict. I have no problems jamming away at it at high speed. I can clock in at 40-45 words per minute at http://mobiletypingtest.com.
The slide action on the Pre feels solid and definitely spring-loaded. There's 'snick-click' to it that could only be more satisfying if the Pre answered a call by sliding open and hung up by sliding closed. Please give us this option, Palm. The other nice thing about this sliding action is that you don't see any of the springy doo-dads when it's open. Instead on the inside there's simply a nice mirror surface (perfect for self portraits) with the Sprint logo scurried away on it.
Other Hardware Specs
The Pre uses Sprint's 3G EVDO Rev A network, so downloads are fast and snappy and call quality is quite good -- as long as you're in an area with good Sprint coverage. Reception for the Palm Pre is very good -- much better than the several other Sprint smartphones (including a Treo 800w, Sprint Touch Diamond, and Samsung Ace) that I've tested.
There's also an accelerometer that doesn't get much use beyond the browser and an proximity detector to prevent face-tapping the touchscreen. In addition to the 3G radio, the Pre also has WiFi and Bluetooth. Both can be toggled on and off from anywhere by simply tapping the upper-right of the screen. Bluetooth also supports A2DP Bluetooth Stereo and so far in my testing Bluetooth sound quality and range are as good as any other phone I've used.
Finally, the Pre has 8 gigs of on-board storage in lieu of a microSD memory expansion slot. This is disappointing for some and a boon for others, depending on your point of view. The nice thing is that when you plug your Palm Pre into your computer it offers to do one of three things:
- Media Sync
- USB Drive
- Just Charge
...Selecting Media Sync causes the Pre to act just like an iPod: showing up in iTunes so you can sync your music, photos, and movies (more on this below).
As we have all come to expect from Palm products, the Pre has a 'Ringer Switch' on the top that allows you to instantly silence most sounds. Unlike previous Treos from Palm, the Pre's silent switch still allows music and movies to come through the speaker, but it does turn off all other sounds. Next to the ringer switch is the power button that does its job turning the screen on and off and also bringing up a dialog for airplane mode when you hold it down. It is a little hard to press when the slider is open, though.
The Pre also has a 3.2 megapixel camera and a flash. The camera takes pictures incredibly quickly and has some innovative 'depth of field' features hidden underneath. Picture quality is quite good. Unfortunately, the Palm Pre cannot record video.
Next to the camera and flash on the rear of the phone is the speaker -- sound quality on th speaker is slightly above average for smartphones. Volume is louder than the iPhone but not by much - which is another way of saying it's too quiet.
The Pre also has GPS and comes with Google Maps and Sprint Navigation both included for free. GPS acquisition time is off the charts - it picks up satellites in under a minute for me, every time.
Charging and Battery Life
The Pre charges via MicroUSB behind a fiddly little door on the righthand side. I understand the desire to keep the Pre's lines clean (and I also understand the desire to sell more of the wireless charging Touchstone docks), but the door feels a bit flimsy to me.
Finally, the Palm Pre has a removable battery that clocks in at 1150mAh. The battery is just barely enough to get me through a full day of moderate use, but with anything more than that I find I need to top the battery off or replace it.
With heavy use -- which for me means WiFi on, Bluetooth on and connected, around an hour of music listening, around a half hour of GPS, going to email at least three times an hour, web browsing at least twice an hour, and working with the other apps on a regular basis -- the Pre managed to hit the four mark before alerting me that the battery was low. Palm says that one issue with the battery is a bug in the Instant Messaging protocol which they're working on, so if you're getting a v1 Pre, you'll probably want to leave yourself signed out to maximize battery life.
It also helps that it's easy to toggle WiFi and Bluetooh from anywhere in the Pre with just two taps, so leaving those off until you need them is also a good idea. I refuse to throttle Gmail back from "As Items Arrive" to "Every Half Hour," however -- push Gmail is just too good to let go. More on that below.
Another quick note on the battery - you'll note that it's identical in size, shape, and capacity as the Centro battery. Palm, however, doesn't recommend you use a Centro battery in the Palm Pre, officially they say "There are important electrical and mechanical differences that mean that you can't use a Centro battery in Pre."
As I mentioned above, the Palm Pre seems to get very good reception on Sprint's network. Call quality was very clear and the speakerphone -- while it could have stood be be a little louder -- was acceptable.
One thing you'll find is that the Phone app on the Palm Pre is sub-par. You can dial numbers straight and also set a preference to use the keyboard to search by name (it's not set by default!), but the call history view only shows a few of your recent calls. There is no 'favorites' screen that I can find for your speed dials -- although you can add contacts directly to the Launcher (see below).
You can also set one-key speed dials to contacts -- i.e. when in card view or in the phone app you can hold down 'z' to call a certain person. That's a nice feature (I wish you could assign these to apps as you can with the PalmOS), but it requires you to remember which letter you've assigned to which contact.
The pain of this isn't too great for me, however, because I haven't really utilized speed dial/favorites for contacts in years. I always just 'type to find' the people I want to contact -- it's a few more button presses, perhaps, but on the Pre with Universal Search (see below) it works anywhere and doesn't require any thought.
In-call, the Pre's touchscreen doesn't seem to do any 'face-presses' when I hold it up to my cheek. The in-call screen is intuitive -- with a speakerphone button, a mute button, a button to toggle between the contact photo and the keypad, and a button to add a call for conferencing. There's also a big hang-up button, naturally.
As you may have heard, there is no visual voicemail on the Pre. Neither are there the "VCR-style voicemail buttons" that Palm has put on some of their Treo products.
One last word on Sprint: I'm still a fan of the network despite their abhorrent customer service (though it's improved of late) and their relatively spotty coverage in my rural neighborhood. You simply can't find another carrier with unlimited data and messaging plans that are as cheap as what you can get on Sprint.
There's quite a lot to say about webOS, Palm's all-new operating system for the Palm Pre. It's based on linux, but unlike the linux-based Android operating system, webOS feel much more polished overall.
The central User Interface metaphor in webOS is 'Cards.' Each application in the Pre gets run in its own 'card' that acts much like a window would on your desktop. Since the webOS multitasks, you are able to have many cards open at once -- including multiple cards for web browsing, email, email drafts, music, navigation, and so on. Cards stay fully live in the background so you don't need to wait for web pages to refresh when you go back to them. This also means that -- unlike the iPhone -- you can have a 3rd party music application like Pandora playing at the same time you're using Sprint's Navigation app to get driving directions.
A note on speed and stability: both are pretty good on the Pre. At first I thought perhaps things felt a little sluggish, but then I realized that the Pre was working hard syncing my accounts up. Once that was finished, the pause when opening apps was fairly minimal, though it did grow longer as I had more cards open. I have yet to see a serious crash, but I do have to point out that there are probably some memory leaks that haven't been pinned down.
After a reset I'm able to have over a dozen different cards open with no problem, but every now and then things start to grind a bit. I even once got an alert that I could open more cards despite the fact that no cards were even open! That's not enough to make me panic, though, as it only happened after three days of intensive testing and use without turning off the phone. A reset would fix this, but actually all I needed to do was let the Pre sit for a few seconds and it recovered fine, allowing me to go back to my dozens-of-cards usage.
Bottom line: the Pre could stand to be faster, especially when it comes to opening new applications. Given how ridiculously powerful the TI OMAP processor inside the Pre is, I'm hoping Palm can fix the software bugs here and push out updates soon.
The Pre has a single button on the front -- the 'Center button.' Hitting this button takes you into 'Card View,' which allows you to swipe left and right between your open cards and then tap on one to enter it. It's very quick and works rather well.
You can also hold your finger down on a card and then drag it left or right to reposition it next to another card, i.e. placing an email draft next to the web page you're researching.
Finally, within Card View you can simply swipe up on any card to get rid of it -- to essentially close the app. There are no save or close dialog boxes in webOS. Everything is saved automatically.
What I'm working towards saying here is that webOS has the single most intuitive multitasking setup I've ever used on a smartphone (and I've used nearly all of them). It's not enough for a smartphone to simply multitask (although it's enough for it to beat the iPhone in that department), a smartphone today needs to multitask in a way that's easy to understand to all users.
With Card View, webOS has in one fell swoop made multitasking intuitive and understandable to any user after only a couple of minutes of use. You can tell immediately what apps you have open, choose which apps to close, and navigate between apps quickly and easily. If you have to many cards open, the Pre simply pops up an alert letting you know you need to close some before you continue.
The Palm Pre uses several gestures in order to navigate within and between cards. There is a short demo when you start it up, but it's worth walking through them in some detail.
Scrolling is done just as it is on the iPhone and the G1: flick to scroll or drag to scroll slowly. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to jump to the very top or very bottom of a screen, meaning that in certain cases you're in for a lot of flicking. There also isn't any 'scroll bar' or 'scroll indicator' letting you know where on a screen you happen to be.
But bollocks to all of that: touch scrolling on the Pre is fast and smooth as butter.
Swipe to Unlock
The Palm Pre's lock screen has a 'Swipe to unlock' feature that's similar to what you've seen on the iPhone, but better. Instead of a horizontal slider, there's simply a lock button. You grab it and slide it up and out of a semi-circle to unlock the screen (alternately, you can just slide down the keyboard to unlock). This makes it very convenient for both left and right-handed people.
You can also put a PIN or password on the lock screen as well as choose whether or not you want your notifications to appear there.
The core gesture of the Palm Pre is the 'Swipe up,' where you swipe from just underneath the screen all the way to the top. If you're looking at an app, this will take you to Card View. If you're in Card View, a second swipe up will take you to the launcher.
There's a great visual indicator around the center button when you've successfully completed a swipe-up gesture - the button lights up as do two smaller lights on either side of it.
In addition to gestures on the touchscreen itself, the Pre's touch-sensitive zone actually extends below the screen. Here is where you can swipe to go 'back.' To do it, you just swipe halfway across the bottom of the screen on either the left or the right side -- in other words, it's good for lefties and righties. There is a very nice visual indicator next to the center button when you've completed a back gesture.
One quick hint - the back gesture can work all the way down to the center button, but it works best when you touch just below the screen to make the gesture.
Now long-time smartphone users may know that 'Back' means different things to different platforms. On the Palm Pre I find back to be fairly intuitive - it never dumps you out of the app you were just in and into another app, leaving you feeling lost. Instead it simply goes back a level within whatever app you're using (or, in the browser, it goes back in you history for that card). If you think of it as 'up in this app's hierarchy' as much as 'back' you'll get the swing of when you should use it fairly quickly. You'll know you're at the top of the hierarchy when the back gesture brings you into Card View.
If you head into the Screen and Lock preferences on the Pre, there is a toggle switch for Advanced Gestures: Switch Applications. Togging this on (it's off by default) enables the full swipe across gesture. Now if you swipe across the entire bottom of the screen you'll switch from whatever card you're looking at the adjacent card.
A successful swipe across also has a visual indicator of success -- the lights adjacent to the center button light up one after the other.
Half-Swipe Up, Launch-wave
The last gesture you need to know is the half-swipe-up. Like the full swipe, you begin this gesture underneath the screen. Instead of swiping all the way to the top, however, you swipe halfway up to get the 'Launch Wave.' This is a set of your 4 favorite applications (plus a shortcut to the Launcher).
The Launch-wave is great because it gives you one-touch, immediate access to four of your most important apps without requiring you to delve into the Launcher or Universal Search to find them. It's part of Palm's history of offering one-touch access to their core applications and it works quite well here.
Cut and Paste
Did I mention that the Pre supports cut and paste? It does, but unfortunately it only works on 'editable' text fields. You cannot select text from a web page or email -- though if you reply or forward the email the text then becomes 'editable' so you can select it. Hopefully Palm will take their system for selecting text and apply it to non-editable text in an update.
To select text, you simply hold down the shift key and then drag anywhere on the screen to slide the selection bar. It's really convenient because you don't have to cover the text with you finger to see what you're selecting. As a side note, you can also hold down the Orange key to put the cursor into a 'positioning' mode, which means you get a cursor which you can move by, again, dragging your finger anywhere on the screen.
It's not the most intuitive cut and paste solution out there, perhaps, but it works quite well. Even better, there are keyboard shortcuts for it. Rather than forcing you to try to hold down Orange + C (which are very close together), you can simply set your finger on the Gesture area as an 'alt' and then hit C or V to copy or paste.
This is as good a spot as any to point out that when you have Shift or Orange selected or double-tapped to lock caps or numbers, there is a tiny little indicator right underneath the cursor where you're typing. Nice.
The Launcher is, of course, where you can find icons for all of your applications and preferences. It consists of three -- and only three - screens that you swipe horizontally to page through. Each screen can hold as many apps as you'd like, you simply scroll down to find more. Each screen also remembers its 'scroll state,' so if you were at the bottom of a screen the last time you saw it, you'll go to the bottom again. There are little white lines at the bottom of the screen to indicate which page you're on.
The Launcher does look quite nice with its semi-transparent background -- you can access it from anywhere with two swipe-up gestures or (more conveniently) a half-swipe up and to the right to hit the Launcher icon on the Launch wave. You can rearrange icons within the launcher simply by holding your finger down on an icon and then dragging it to your desired location.
The Launcher is also where you delete applications. You hold down the orange key and then tap on an icon and a dialog box will pop up allowing you to delete the app.
However, the limited number of screens and the lack of traditional PalmOS categories significantly hampers this launcher. It quickly becomes a bit of a hassle to find the app you're looking for. After a couple days use I found the only thing to do was put my top apps on the 1st screen and use the launcher for those -- everything else I just used Universal Search to find (see below).
It's especially aggravating because Palm got the launcher right in the PalmOS -- there were customizable categories and an 'all' category for all your apps. Add in the fact that there isn't a single 'Settings' app but instead separate icons for each kind of 'preference' and you really start to feel cluttered. Then add in the fact that you can put contact thumbnail speed dials and web page shortcuts and it just becomes a mess.
Trust me on this: the Launch does OK for your top 9 apps (that aren't on the Launch Wave). Put those on the first screen. Throw everything else on the 2nd and 3rd screen and then use Universal Search to find them.
Hopefully Palm will either add more Launcher screens or Launcher categories in the near future.
Preferences on the Palm Pre appear in a couple of different places. Your general system preferences are there in the Launcher as discrete applications. I'd really prefer that Palm saved some Launcher real estate and put them all into a single Settings app. Specific settings for each individual app are found under the menu for that app.
There are preferences for the following:
- Sounds & Ringtones. Sadly, you cannot set the sounds on most alerts like email and SMS, these are all set to default sounds. Hopefully Palm will allow customization of this soon.
- Screen & Lock
- Location Services
- Device Info. This is where you find your reset options
- Date & Time
...we covered the different preferences extensively in the video linked above. Note the lack of an "Accounts" or "Synergy" preference app, which I'll discuss below.
"Synergy" is Palm's name for the other big, innovative feature of the Palm Pre. The Pre is designed to live 'in the cloud' (where by 'cloud' I mean the internet) instead of needing to be tethered to your computer to sync. Instead of hooking your phone up to the computer via USB, the Pre pulls down all of your key data directly from the internet. Synergy works with Contacts, Calendars, Email, and Tasks (but tasks only work with Exchange).
Essentially, here's how it works. You can set the Pre up with up to 8 different accounts to pull data from. As of this writing, the Pre can pull data from:
- Google & Gmail
- AIM buddy list
- Palm Profile
When you plug in your account credentials for any of the above inside Contacts or Calendar, the Pre automatically begins importing all of the information from that service into your Pre. Once it's finished its initial sync, it then automatically checks each source every 15 minutes for changes and then updates the information on your Pre.
Synergy is very smart about how it handles all of the data it downloads. Data from all of your sources is displayed together, but behind the scenes they never mix. This means that you won't get stuck with duplicate contacts, for example. Instead, what the Pre does is 'link' any contacts it thinks are the same person (i.e. everybody named 'Joe Schmo') and displays that person as one contact. If you see a profile picture 'stacked,' then you know that that person's contact info is being pulled from multiple sources.
Even better, you can set one of those sources as 'primary.' I set mine to Facebook for most people because then if that person updates their default profile picture, that's the picture that appears when they call me. It's neat.
Calendars work in a similar way, but instead of combining events the Calendar app just displays all of your calendars with multiple colors in a very clever way.
In all, I am a big fan of Synergy with one (major) caveat: how it pulls from Google. Google has two different kinds of Sync that it offers: 'All Contacts' and 'My Contacts.' 'All Contacts' includes all the contacts you've manually added to Google and pretty much everybody you've ever emailed. The result is that the contacts list (and the contacts app on the Pre) quickly becomes an unwieldy mess of a ginormous number of people. It doesn't bother me too much because I'm such a proponent of 'type-to-find' and Universal Search that I never really scroll through contacts anyway, but I can see how it would get on a lot of people's nerves.
I've beena Gmail user for several years -- I have Synergy linked to two Google accounts, a Facebook account, and an Exchange account. Doing twenty flick-scroll gestures gets me down to the 'Js' in my address book. Type to find definitely a necessity with the Pre.
With Synergy, you can set a default account that new contacts and calendars will be placed in, but you can always switch any given appointment or contact to get synced to another.
One last note on Synergy - in order to set up an account you need to go into Contacts or Calendar. There is no "Synergy app" or "Accounts" app, which I find to be a bit of a failure. I'd like there to a be a single place where I can manage all my Synergy sources and pick which types of information gets synced.
What about Sync??
For those that aren't already using one of the above services, you have a few options.
- Start using Google or Exchange and export all your data into one of those services
- Use Palm's Migration Assistant to export all of your data to your Palm Profile and have it sync from there
- Use a 3rd party program like PocketMirror (available near launch) (Corrected) from Chapura (available at launch) to Sync directly to your computer over WiFi.
Of the three options, 1 is what I try to recommend to people - life really is better in the cloud. For those concerned with security, however, you will want to invest the money to purchase PocketMirror so your data only lives where you want it to.
You'll see I mentioned a 'Palm Profile' above. This is a new service from Palm. It allows you to back up much of your Pre's data to their servers to be restored if they're ever needed. (It restores all your accounts and downloaded apps, but I found it didn't remember where I'd placed those apps in the Launcher).
Additionally, you can use the Palm Profile to remotely wipe your Palm Pre if need be. You really need to use the Palm Profile if you want to get the most out of your Pre -- without it you won't receive automatic software updates or even be able to access the 3rd party software in the App Catalog.
See our Palm Pre PIM Apps Video Review
In the past, I've gone after the iPhone for not doing the "Four Pillars of PIM" (personal information management) properly. PIM is something that Palm got exactly right back in the mid 90's with the original Pilot. Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Memos. These are the essential apps for managing your life with a personal digital assistant. So the question is: Did Palm get them right with the Pre?
With the above caveat that Synergy just puts way too many contacts from Google into the Contacts app, the Contacts application on the Pre is rock solid. You can see photos of your contacts in the main listing on the right and see if they're stacked to know if there are multiple sources for that contact. You can type-to-find contacts quickly and easily. Setting up Contacts with Synergy is a snap, too.
There are essentially two views for each contact -- a standard view that integrates the different duplicate information from different contacts so you just see the information you need (though I'll note that it does a fairly poor job of recognizing duplicate physical addresses since the format for these are different on different sources). Somewhat un-intuitively, it's on this view where you can tap the contact's photo to bring up a list of all the sources and link it to other contact entries that Synergy may have missed (I think this belongs in the Edit mode). This is also where you set the 'Primary Profile' that sets the default photo and contact info.
You can tap on any field in this view mode to go to the appropriate app - calling, SMS, IM, Google Maps, Email, etc.
The other mode is the Edit mode, which gives you a gigantic list of everything you can enter for a contact and the option to link each piece of data to the appropriate source. Additionally, there are some nice extra fields beyond your standard email, phone, IM, and address fields:
- Reminder. This lets you set a reminder that pops up in the notification area whenever you receive any message from that person
- Note. You can apply multiple notes to any contact
- URL. You can assign URLs to contacts - i.e. their homepage
It's worth noting again: I'm really fond of the Facebook integration here. I love that the default photo changes when a friend changes their picture in Facebook.
The Calendar app is where the Palm Pre really shines. Each source displays its calendars (if there are multiple ones) in a different color that you can configure in the preferences. You can set a default calendar for new appointments, but you can also still set the source for any given appointment.
The default day view does a great job displaying appointments, though I do wish it managed to have more than 7 hours displayed at a time. Overlapping appointments are handled with aplomb. You can also tap a button in the upper right and set your view to only look at a specific calendar. When you do, the other calendars become gray bars (so you know you're still busy), allowing you to focus on the specific set of appointments from that source.
The day view also has an 'accordion,' for free time. If there is more than two hours free between two appointments, webOS automatically collapses that time so you can see your appointments with less scrolling. You just tap the free time button to expand the accordion to enter an appointment into that free space.
The week and month views also work quite well once you get a feel for which color applies to which calendar. I do wish there were a 'list view' that just listed all of your upcoming appointments in a simple text list.
Creating an appointment can happen either via the menu or by simply tapping on an open spot in your calendar. You can just type and hit enter to have it be a default appointment or you can go into the full appointment view to edit it.
In the full appointment view you can set the calendar you want to sync the appointment to, choose time (or all day), choose an event location, set your repeat options (including some decent custom options), change the alert settings, and add Event notes.
Preferences for Calendar let you set your standard workday, default notification, and so on.
The Tasks app on the Pre is fair-to-middlin'. The look of the app itself is quite professional, I like it a lot. You can create multiple ToDo lists on the main page of Tasks and also take a look at all your tasks in one big list. ToDo lists with overdue tasks are put in bold and the number of tasks that have due dates is also listed on the main page
Within a ToDo list, you can quickly and easily add tasks and also filter your view between All, Remaining, and Completed. Adding a task is a simple affair - just tap the add button. As with the Calendar, you can drill into the details for a given task to add more options - priority, assigning to a different ToDo list, due date, and notes. To delete a task, you can just swipe to the right to delete it.
Tasks will sync with Exchange servers but that's it, there's no support yet for syncing to Google's (admittedly very very new) tasks functionality.
One interesting note: in Tasks you can just start typing to filter through the screen you're looking at. If you're on the ToDo summary screen, it auto-filters down there. If you're on the Task listing page, it filters that. It's a nice option but it makes me wonder: if it works within the Tasks app, why on earth isn't it exposed to Universal Search?
I'm sad to say it, but the Memos app on the Palm Pre is sub-par. It does not sync to Exchange. There are no categories. There doesn't appear to be any good way to import memos. It's very pretty and useful for short notes, but beyond that you're going to want something more robust. Don't think of this as a Memos app, think of it as a Post-it Notes app.
All that said, once you've adjusted your expectations to it being a Post-it Notes app, it's a pretty good app for that purpose. You can create a new note by tapping the new note pad in the upper-left. You can set the color of a note by tapping the curl on the lower-right of a given note. You can re-arrange notes by holding your finger down on a note and moving it around.
There doesn't appear to be any limit to the number of notes you can create and although I haven't tested it, the infamous PalmOS memory limit probably isn't in effect here ;)
Notifications are another of the incredibly cool features on the Palm Pre. The short version is this: they get your attention without ever getting in your way. At the bottom of the Palm Pre is a 'notification area' and that's where all your email, calendar, SMS, IM, and other alerts go. They pop up down there with a quick one-line preview and then shift to a row of icons on the right. Heck, even incoming calls appear down there.
What's great about this system is that these notifications never ever ever interrupt the card you're currently using. It always stays live and you never have to dismiss a notification to keep working. They just unobtrusively pop up, then stack up.
Some notifications do appear larger than others (like calendar alerts), but you can snooze them or dismiss them and even with these they don't interrupt your current card. Since webOS apps are all based on HTML, they all pretty much resize to accommodate the expanded notifications area with no issues.
When it does come time for you to deal with the incoming notifications, you simply tap on the notifications area and it expands into a list of all your notifications. You can dismiss them in a way that's very similar to the card system -- you just swipe them to the right and away it goes. Of course, if you want to actually do something about your notification, you can tap on it and it will launch the appropriate application.
Universal Search on the Palm Pre is really grand, but it leaves me wanting more. The basic idea is this: from within card view or on the home screen with nothing open, you just start typing to find what you want. Want to open an application, type "memo" and the Pre will automatically find all the matches on the device.
In practice, it's really great. If I want to call Joseph, I just start typing his name. If I want to find out more about Joseph of Arimathea, I just type that out and the Pre recognizes there isn't an app or contact of that name and gives me the option to search Google, Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Twitter.
Right now, Universal Search has the ability to search through:
...and that's the bummer of it. Granted, those are the two most important things, but I wish that Universal search did much more. You can search within the Tasks and Memos app, why not include that in Universal search? Why not include email, or calendars? I'm not sure what's holding Universal Search from being able to truly be 'Universal,' but whatever it is I hope Palm rectifies it soon. This is coming on iPhone 3.0, guys, get on it.
Despite these shortcomings, Universal Search really is one of my favorite features of the Pre.
The Palm Pre web browser is wonderful. It ought to be, web technologies power the entire webOS, so the browser needs to be fast and powerful. It is both of those things.
Like the iPhone, the T-Mobile G1, and various Nokia smartphones, the Pre's browser is based on the Webkit rendering engine. What this means to you is that it renders full web pages quickly and accurately.
Beyond speed and accuracy, the web browser has multi-touch features. You can double-tap to intelligently zoom in on a section or you can pinch-out to zoom in manually. When you're interacting with a page, the UI is minimal - limited to just a stop/refresh button and back/forward buttons as necessary.
The URL bar at the top allows you to punch in a URL or just type in Google or Wikipedia search terms. Even better, you don't need to scroll to the top of a web page to access it, just start typing.
The browser auto-rotates into landscape mode -- and one clever feature is that when you're in landscape more the gesture area switches to a page-down area - instead of a back gesture you can use it to page down without putting your thumb over the screen.
The menu reveals a plethora of options, adding bookmarks, adding a page to the Launcher (where Universal Search can see it), Share (which emails a link and a thumbnail of the page), preferences, and history. You can also tap 'new card' to open up a new browser card here, but I find it much more convenient to just put the Web app in my Launch Wave and use that to open new cards.
Even better, cards open in the background are live and don't need to be refreshed when you go back to them -- unlike tabs on the iPhone that you haven't visited in some time, which need to be refreshed.
I do have to point out, however, that the browser doesn't support flash yet -- that will come later in the year. Unfortunately, when there's a YouTube video embedded in the page, the browser also doesn't give you an automatic shortcut to view it in the YouTube app.
Put all that aside, though. This is the best mobile browser I've ever used.
See our Palm Pre Email Video Review
Email on the Pre is impressive, but a little slow for true email hounds. You can pull in email from Exchange, Gmail, or any IMAP or POP3 account. With Exchange, Gmail, and any IMAP account that supports IDLE (chances are yours does), you can set the Pre do to Push email. That's right - the Palm Pre does Push Gmail. The default setting is to fetch email every 15 minutes, however.
The home email screen is fairly straightforward. There is a unified inbox at the top and then the