Review: HP Pre3 | webOS Nation
 
 

Review: HP Pre3 103

by Derek Kessler Mon, 26 Sep 2011 7:32 pm EDT

Design:
Takes Palm’s old river stone obsession and kicks it up a notch. It’s smooth and rounded in a way that makes the original Pre seem clunky.

Feel:
River. Stone. There’s not a single flat surface. The keyboard feels great and responds well and the slider is the most refined we’ve seen from Palm or HP.

 

8

out of 10

Performance:
Finally, a hardware capable of backing up webOS to its full potential. GHz can buy happiness.

Quality:
It’s the best webOS phone we’ve ever seen. It’d be a worthy contender, if only you could actually get one.

The HP Pre3. The best webOS smartphone that never was.


   The Good


webOS finally gets hardware worth of the software, with a 1.4GHz processor running the show. The screen is bigger (but not large by modern standards) and gorgeous, and the build quality is blessedly solid.

   The Bad


Good luck finding one. In typical webOS fashion, there are rough edges and oversights with the software, and the lack of polish can detract from the experience.

   The Conclusion


This could have been the great hurrah for webOS smartphones. The Pre3 could actually have stood a chance against the might of the iPhone and Android behemoths. Instead, it’s not even made it into the arena, let alone the ring. It demonstrates what the Palm team was truly capableof building a great smartphone with the right resources at their backs. Too bad the support wasn’t there too.

Inside this review...

Background

Hardware

Display

Keyboard

Camera

Performance

Audio

Battery life

webOS 2.2

Mojo Apps

Enyo Apps

PDK Apps

Touch-to-Share and TouchPad pairing

Conclusion

First, a bit of background

Back on February 9, 2011, HP unveiled two devices that got two different groups of people worked up with anticipation. There was the HP Veer, which nobody was really excited about; the HP TouchPad, which the media was selling tickets to a knock-out fight against the iPad; and the HP Pre3, which was the flagship smartphone the webOS faithful had been waiting for all these years. The Veer came out and nobody cared, the TouchPad arrived and it disappointed so badly that HP cancelled webOS hardware development outright.

That left the Pre3 in the awkward position of being barely available. Just two days before HP canned webOS devices, the Pre3 had become available in unlocked form in Europe, with precisely zero carrier support. The cancellation was crushing to North American webOS fans that had been eagerly waiting for the Pre3 for months, especially since we had already seen the device running on both Verizon and AT&T.

When it was unveiled, the Pre3 was state-of-the art. The single-core 1.4GHz processor that beat inside its body was more powerful than anything else on the market, and it packed what should have been a more-than-adequate 512MB of RAM and the option of 8GB or 16GB for storage. The screen measured 3.6-inches with a resolution of 480x800, a marked improvement over the 3.1-inch 230x480 screens of the Palm Pre, Pre Plus, and Pre 2. It was thinner, finally packed an autofocus camera, and the CDMA variant was even due to be a globe-trotting world phone.

The above was written in the past tense for a reason – the vast majority of webOS fans are likely to never get their hands on a Pre3, since the device has been all but cancelled. We were able to import a QWERTY Pre3 from the UK (the Palm Eurostore sold only the French-keyed AZERTY version) and have spend the better part of two weeks putting the phone through its paces. We came away impressed, and disappointed (in more ways than one) at the best webOS phone you’ll never get to use.

 

Hardware

Dimensionally, the Pre3 is a hair less than a millimeter thinner than the preceding Pre phones, while at the same time being taller, wider, and heavier. It certainly feels bigger in the hand and in the pocket, but it doesn’t feel heavier (for the record, the weight difference between the Pre 2 and Pre3 is 11 grams/0.39 ounces). If the Pre phones before it were inspired by river stones, then the Pre3 must have been left in the river for an extra few decades. The curves are smoother and longer, to the point of making the original Pre almost feel and look boxy in comparison. The result is a phone that fits more easily into both hand and pocket, but is actually a bit more difficult to get a good grip on.

The Pre3’s front is faced by an almost entirely uninterrupted sheet of glass, with only a small slit for the phone speaker and a barely visible dot for the front-facing camera breaking the flow. The soft-touch frame curves in towards the glass, forming a slightly lip around the glass. As with all previous webOS devices, the Pre3 is spartan and understated in appearance. It’s not sexy by any means, but somehow it’s still attractive despite being exceedingly plain. Phones don’t need to be physically exciting, do they?

A single-piece dark chrome volume rocker is on the left side. The top houses (from left to right) a 3.5 mm headset jack, ringer switch, and power button. The power button actually wraps around the top right corner, making it fairly easy to reach.

An unadorned and uncovered Micro USB slot is centered on the right side.

The smooth one-piece back is coated in the same soft touch finish as the front, with a bright chrome HP logo sitting in the center.

A 5 megapixel autofocus camera and single LED flash are at the top left, with a tiny slit for the noise-cancelling microphone centered at the top.

A wide but short grille for the speakerphone sits at the bottom. It’s barely perceptible due to its placement along the slider seam, but there’s a small gap at the bottom of the phone to expose the primary microphone.

Sliding open the Pre3 reveals two things: a mirror on the back (like the Veer, it’s blessedly almost entirely without bend, making it actually useful for more than signaling search-and-rescue aircraft) and the largest physical webOS keyboard we’ve had the pleasure of using. The seam edges of the sliding halves are a little less sharp than the older webOS phones, but you’re still unlikely to be pressing against them with any part of your body, unless you have the hands of a third grader.

The sliding mechanism seems to be fairly solid and has exhibited marginally insignificant “oreo” wobble (less than a millimeter). It snaps open quietly, with a sping-action kicking in to take it the final third of the distance. Similarly, the slider pushes itself the final third when closing, though it does snap shut with a rather satisfying clack (it reminds us of our old flip phones, though without the satisfaction of actually hanging up the phone call).

Though it doesn’t appear to be so outwardly, the entire back of the Pre3 is removable to get at the battery and SIM card slot. The removal process is much like with its Pre-series predecessors, except that you start by slipping a fingernail into the microphone slit, and then work your way around to undo the two clips at the bottom and one at each side. There’s a clip at the top to hold the back, but once you’ve got the sides unhooked the back just falls off.

Under the battery cover is just as clean as the outside. There’s a flat slab of a battery (rated at 1230 mAh – previous Pre phones shipped with 1150 mAh batteries) with a horizontal SIM slot above it. With the back off you can see the tiny holes for both microphones and a secondary interior grill for what looks like a surprisingly small speaker underneath (about half the surface area of the Pre – Pre 2). Also exposed are the actual buttons for the power button and volume rocker; the chrome bits are integrate with the back cover and push down on little black squares on the phone body itself. If you look at the exposed back of the Pre3 in the right light, you can make out the lines of the printed radio antennas underneath precisely-place black stickers around the back.

Borrowing from the Pixi-series, the Pre3 finally does away with the nearly dead-center Touchstone back contact points (the back is standard with the Pre3), instead moving them to the side. New here is that there are four connection points – two for the inductive Touchstone charging, and two for triggering Tap-to-Share with a TouchPad. Those four points are mirror on the back itself, with a covered ribbon leading to a big black rectangle under which the Touchstone and communication coils reside. The back actually adds a surprising amount of thickness to the phone – without the back it’s 14.5 mm (0.57 inches) thick, while with it measures 16 mm (0.63 inches).

Not that we’re complaining, but by current standards the Pre3 is on the rather chunky side. Of course, it’s handicapped to a degree by being a smaller-screened (by modern standards) slider phone, but when we’re seeing 4.5-inch phones clocking in at less than 10 mm thick, we have to wonder if there wasn’t any space for HP to do some additional trimming.

All around, the Pre3 is about as understated as a phone can be. It lacks the super gloss of the original Pre and Pre plus, the defined corner between the screen and body and the less-matte button ring of the Pre 2, and even the fancy connector and speaker grill from the Veer. But yet, it’s still quite attractive. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something to be said for the sheer simplicity of the design. In fact, the simplicity is part of the allure – by being so minimalist the Pre3 succeeds in hiding its functionality well, and just observing it on a desk it almost seems more like what a conceptual ideal smartphone might look like instead of one that’s designed to stand out on a carrier store shelf.

 

Display

The Pre3’s screen is hands-down the best screen to ever display webOS. Seriously, it’s worlds above and beyond all previous webOS devices. At 480x800, it packs 2.5 times more pixels than the Pre 2, while clocking in with a ppi of 260, so close to the magical 300 ppi “retina” threshold that we couldn’t even tell a difference between the Pre3 and iPhone 4 screens as far as pixel count was concerned. For comparison’s sake, the Pre – Pre 2 had 186 ppi screens, while the Pixi and Veer have 195 ppi screens.

Color reproduction with on Pre3 screen is incredibly accurate, with images popping with saturation, but not unnaturally so. Viewing angles are fantastic – there’s marginal black brightening at about sixty degrees off-center (that’s just thanks to the nature of polarized LCD panels), but apart from that the screen is perfectly viewable all the way to horizontal. Brightness-wise, the Pre3 is quite bright even at its minimum setting, but not as blindingly bright as a Pre 2 at full blast. Sunlight viewing is acceptable, but you might find that darker pages/images wash out under direct sunlight.

All-in-all, the Pre3’s screen, despite being an old-fashioned LCD, has quality on par with the latest AMOLED screens from the likes of Samsung, while matching the iPhone 4 for perceived pixel density (yes, it’s lower, but the phone has to be less than four inches from your eyes to see the pixels). It’s a great screen, better than anything else ever seen in the realm of webOS.

Touch sensitivity on the screen and the gesture area below it was on par with what we’d expect. Any and all taps and swipes were promptly recognized, so long as webOS was up to the challenge. The indicator light on the Pre3 has been upgraded from the triple-LED light of the previous phones to a bright smoothly graded series of lights that are difficult to count. They still pulse the same way and react to swipes in the same manner as before, but do so with a touch more polish.

The whole front of the Pre3 is faced by a continuous panel of chemically-hardened Gorilla Glass. Considering the trouble we had to go through to import this phone (seriously, we had to file paperwork with the FCC), we’re not going to give it any kind of scratch testing, but it’s worth noting that the durability of Gorilla Glass has been proven on millions of other smartphones. It’s a given that it’ll stand up well to just about anything but a direct impact.

Like the Veer, the Pre3’s glass features a subtle convex curve. It’s not quite as drastic as the curve of the Pre and Pre Plus, but it’s definitely there. The curve in this case is only from top-to-bottom (the Veer also curved off to the sides) and results in half a millimeter of deflection at best. It’s nothing we noticed when using the device or comparing usage to flat-screened phones, which makes us wonder why it was done at all, if just to continue the curves.

What’s more noticeable is the beveled edge around the edge of the glass and the speaker slit. The curling of the edge is really only evident in reflections, but once you see it you can’t stop seeing it. It’s nothing that had to be done – the Veer’s glass goes straight to the edge and meets almost seamlessly with the body – but we can’t help but like it. Like the curve of the glass, the rounded edge was entirely unnecessary, but it gives the Pre3 a touch of class in comparison to its slab rivals. Plus it reminds us of the original Pre (in a good way). The curved edge does give a noticeable corner to the soft-touch body that surrounds the screen and creates a tiny trench around the glass that surprisingly collected very little lint during stays in pants pockets.

 

Keyboard

We’ve already covered how great the Pre3’s screen is – best on a webOS phone to date, remember? Well, we can say the same for the keyboard. Like every other webOS phone, it’s a portrait style keyboard, sliding out from below the screen like every Pre and Veer before it. Seeing as the Pre3 is the largest webOS phone we’ve seen, we reasonably expected it to have the largest keyboard, and blessedly it does. In fact, the Pre3’s keyboard is an entire column wider than the Pre-series. To put numbers to that, the original Pre’s keyboard is 50.5 mm wide, while the Pre3 is 53.5 mm across. It’s a small difference on paper, but it results in keys with nearly 40% more surface area. Those with big thumbs will still find it cramped, but that’s the sacrifice you have to make for a portrait slider.

The layout and design of the keyboard is yet another evolution of the keyboard style that we can trace all the way back to the old Palm Centro, and we’d wager that this is the best iteration yet. It’s certainly better than the Pre-serious, especially the original Pre. Travel distance is minimal (less than a millimeter), but is met with a satisfying tactile and audible click with each press. Click probably isn’t the right word, as it’s somewhat gummy sounding without feeling gummy. The keys are still glossy, and still brightly backlit. HP’s continued with tying keyboard brightness to screen brightness, and despite the homebrew patch having been around for over a year, still hasn’t switched to the more logical inverse brightness scheme.

webOS 2.2 on the Pre3 still does not have a virtual keyboard, which means you’re still required to be in portrait orientation with the keyboard out to complete text entry. Well, technically you don’t have to be in portrait orientation – the screen still rotates with the keyboard extended, but you go ahead and try any serious typing with the keyboard sideways.

 

Camera

The camera on the Pre3 is the best camera we’ve ever seen on a webOS device. Noticing a trend here? Best screen, best keyboard, and now best camera. There’s something to be said for better specs resulting in a better experience. Of course, to say that the Pre3’s camera is better than the camera on the Pre 2 or Veer is pretty faint praise. Why? Because every other webOS phone came with a camera that was utter crap.

We’re a bit finicky when it comes to camera quality, and we’ve never been happy with the Extended Depth of Field digital enhancement/butchering trickery used on older webOS phones, and that’s because it never resulted in quality shots. Sure, they usually looked alright on the Pre’s small screen, but as soon as you looked at the picture on a computer screen (or Thor forbid, printed), the quality degraded to the point of wanting to gouge one’s eyes out. There’s no substitute for a proper lens, quality sensor, and actual physical focusing.

Thankfully, the Pre3 has improved on at least two of those three counts. The lens has been raised to be flush with the back, which while adding to the clean look also makes it exposed to fingerprints and scratching. Any time we went to take a test photo with the Pre3, we were sure to give the camera lens a quick wipe on a sleeve or pant leg to take care of the inevitable fingerprints. At least the lens isn’t raised and even more exposed like it is on some other devices (hey there, HTC and Samsung).

The Pre3 is also the first webOS device to have an autofocus camera, and we have to say it’s about damn time. We’ve been lusting after an autofocus camera in a webOS phone since day one (remember that the iPhone 3GS with its autofocus camera launched just before the original EDoF-packing Pre?), and we’ve finally got it. The verdict? Not bad, but not great either. Focusing range is from about four inches to infinity, which is certainly better than the 18-inch minimum for the older EDoF sensors.

Focusing from minimum to maximum range takes about half a second, which isn’t bad – the second-long delay, however, can be a little infuriating. The camera also sometimes has trouble adjusting focus when already focused on a background and the moved onto a foreground subject. The camera does also support tap-to-focus, just tap a point on the screen and the crosshairs will move there and the camera will attempt to focus on that point.

Once you’ve moved the focus point and the camera has found focus, you have five seconds to take a picture before the camera redirects its focusing attention to the center of the screen. Here’s hoping you’ve already got your photo composed when you do that. The autofocus does make a quiet ratcheting click noise as it runs through its steps. It’s loud enough that those with sensitive hearing will notice it in quiet environments, but once you get outside where there might be country breezes or urban noise, you’re not going to be able to hear it. Inside taking a picture of your dog in a compromising position, however, it’ll bother you every time.

While some might bemoan the lack of “pop” to the Pre3’s pictures, it’s actual about as accurate of color reproduction as one can get. We take photos to capture the reality of something – if you want to screw around with the saturation of the photo, there are apps for that (even on webOS). The Pre3 has just a five megapixel sensor in a time where quality eight megapixel cameras on smartphones are fast becoming reality. But the truth of the matter is, with a camera phone it usually won’t matter. It’s rare that you’ll take a picture worthy of printing even with the best camera phone, so all that’s going to matter is how good it looks on the phone’s screen and on the screens of the devices your friends will be using to view the photos (i.e. other smartphones, tablets, and desktops). The vast majority of the time, the photo resolution is going to far outstrip the monitor resolution.

It’s worth noting that you’ll always get the best photos in bright lighting conditions. Once you start getting into subdued lighting or even darkness you’ll see image quality drop rapidly, and that dinky single LED flash isn’t going to help more than a single bit (not that two of this same LED would be any better – it’s just not that bright to start with). The darker your subject with the Pre3, the worse the image noise is going to be (and the harder a time it’s going to have getting a good focus).

Speed with the Pre3 camera is actually pretty good, once you’ve got a focus point you can capture an image about once a second with the on-screen controls, but you’ll have to deal with the camera wanting to check its focus each time. Hold down the space key and it’ll capture an image every half second for ten seconds before it starts to stutter with buffering the processing of several images at once. Of course, there’s no focus adjustment when capturing images this quickly, but if you’re doing two photos a second, chances are your subject’s not going to be moving in and out of your focus plane a lot.

The Pre3 is the first webOS phone to shoot HD video, clocking in at 720p (1280x720). That’s with a camera with the same full resolution as the 5 megapixel shooter in the Pre 2, but with an admittedly better sensor and autofocus. Except that autofocus doesn’t matter when taking videos, as the camera defaults to maximum range focus. There is no option for on-the-fly focusing or focusing at a distance of your choosing. Granted, focusing on a subject several feet away is how most people will record video with their phone, but to not have the option is irritating.

While the video recording may not allow for focus adjustment, it does feature one thing that we’ve yet to see on any other smartphone: video stabilization. There’s a new button in the video recording interface: a little crossed-out hand. Tap it and a second later the recording interface returns, ready to smooth out your video with the assist of the accelerometer (we’re assuming it works by actually using more pixels to record the video, allowing the phone to pick offset frames to compensate for the accelerometer-detected bumps).

The effect isn’t that noticeable until you record the same video twice, once with stabilization off and the other with it on. Check out the simple video of walking down the path below to see the difference. The stabilization isn’t dramatic, but it works well enough to smooth out some of the jitters inherent in moving video capture.

What they haven’t managed to smooth out is the “jello” wobble (oreo, jello… maybe there’s something to techies and food comparisons?) that comes with moving the camera too quickly from side to side.

That’s because, like practically every other camera phone on market (iPhone included), the Pre3’s camera doesn’t capture a complete frame every 25th of a second, because doing so would require more processing power and bandwidth than the phone can handle, so you get a bit of a wobble effect if you try too much running or panning with the phone. So don’t do that if you want decent video. Of course, you have to deal with the video you’re given, and the Pre3 doesn’t exactly excel in this department. While photos are pretty accurate (if unexciting) representations of real life, videos seem to be pretty dulled in comparison.

After using a Veer, there was one area I was expecting disappointment in the video recording department, but instead ended up pleased. Both the Veer and Pre3 have front facing microphones for calls and rear microphones to assist with noise cancellation. The two work pretty well in that regard, but the Veer frustratingly did not switch to the rear camera when recording video. Thankfully, the Pre3 does, though we can’t quite confirm or deny if there’s any pickup from the front/bottom microphone (if there is, it’s quiet enough that if heard by the front it’ll be picked up by the rear). On the subject of sound, it’s still enormously annoying that webOS doesn’t mute system sounds when you start recording a video. Nothing ruins a video like the ding of an email.

All of this has focused on the Pre3’s rear camera. It’s a pretty decent shooter, and while nothing to write home about (unless you’re a webOS fan), it also doesn’t deserve to be pitched into Mordor like the cameras on every other webOS phone. But there’s another camera – a tiny VGA sensor on the front that you can use for Skype video chat and nothing else. It really is nothing to write home about – the picture isn’t fantastic, but it’s better than nothing (though it’s a little confusing that the notification comes in portrait mode and the video is only in landscape).

Video calls are handled like any other phone call, you get a ringer just like it’s a phone call (except it’s coming through as Skype), and then a second ringer-like prompt to switch or deny video. Once you’re in video chat, the phone goes sideways, with a little image of your feed in the bottom left and your caller’s video filling up the rest of the screen. Tapping will make mute audio and kill video buttons appear, as well as a big red end call button. Confusingly, even though you’re chatting with the front camera (there’s no option to use the rear), Skype would switch to the rear microphone, which is a little annoying if you happen to be cupping the phone with your hand.

As webOS is a multitasking beast, you can actually go to card view and use other apps while continuing to stream out your video for chatting (you, of course, won’t be able to see the other end’s video until you switch back to the phone app). There’s also the issue with the Skype chat only being in landscape, while most of the apps you’ll use on the Pre3 are going to be in portrait mode (see: physical keyboard). Implementation of multitasking video chat isn’t quite perfect, going into card view temporarily halts the video chat before resuming, which (at least on the Skype client for Mac) required the other end to restart their video broadcasting when we returned to the app.

There’s one glaring problem we had with Skype, though: logging into Skype from any other source, such as your computer, will log you out of Skype on the phone. And it doesn’t automatically log back in, even if you try to place a call. Instead you have to open the Accounts app (or Preferences & Accounts from the Phone app menu) and reenter your password to long in. It’s a pain in the tookus that really defeats the purpose of having a Skype log in. You could create a secondary account for use on your phone, but then you didn’t read the previous sentence about tookuses.

Also worth noting: Skype video chat is a good way to kill your battery extra fast, especially if you do it over cellular (which it does support, at least in this unlocked state). Skype over Wi-Fi actually looked good. Skype over 3G was not so good, with framerates of 2-3 per second on our end and one frame per second on the other if they were lucky.

 

Performance

As was noted earlier in this review, the Pre3 was state-of-the-art when announced back in February, at least as far as the processor was concerned. The 1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm chip is still blazingly fast, especially when compared to the 1GHz Pre 2 (it’s just cruel to compare with the 600MHz TI chip in the original Pre). Like the Veer, Pre 2, and Pre Plus, the Pre3 includes 512MB of RAM, which before this phone was plenty of memory.

Now we’re not so sure. Thanks to having to fill a bigger screen, handling both Enyo and Mojo frameworks at the same time, and the nature of the Qualcomm chipset, we ran into memory issues more often than we would have liked with the Pre3. The problem is that in two weeks we never received the much hated “Too Many Cards” error. Instead the phone would just bog down and lag for a minute or more while it attempted to clear space in the RAM. This was most evident in the web browser, where having three or four cards open would slow the phone to a crawl while we watched each card go to a giant gray spinner. It’s disheartening.

While the Pre3 probably could use more RAM (768MB and 1GB are becoming more and more common these days), the processor seems to be more than up to the challenge. Everything opens faster than when compared to even its next most speedy webOS brother, the Pre 2. Apps like Email and Calendar fly up into view as if they were never closed, seemingly forgetting to stop in the pulsating card view for even a second. Even PDK apps properly sized for the screen (more on that later) load faster than the lower-resolution counterparts. The only thing that didn’t happen faster was email notifications, even when both were connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

As the Pre3 used in this review was imported from the UK, we weren’t entirely optimistic about our 3G coverage chances. After all, despite being similar GSM networks, AT&T uses different bands for their HSPA than all of Europe, but there’s at least one in common: 1900MHz. At least in the cities where we test the Pre3 we were able to get good 1900MHz coverage, with download speeds usually right around 4 Mbps and uploads around 1 Mbps. The Pre3 was more willing to drop off of 3G and down to EDGE than our AT&T Veer 4G, but then again the Veer can access more of AT&T’s 3G/4G frequencies than this UK Pre3. Your mileage may vary, but by and large we received adequate coverage in our testing. Would we like to try it out on an unreleased AT&T Pre3 4G? You betcha, but those are beyond hard to come by.

 

Audio

Call quality while on 3G was typically extra clear, and if stuck on 2G not so much. The speaker was adequately crisp and loud, though we usually had it turned up towards the high end of the volume range. With two microphones, one on the bottom and one high on the back, the Pre3 is able to manage decent noise cancellation without being too aggressive. Even though the front-facing microphone is at the bottom of the slider, we found that callers reported no difference in voice quality with the slider open or closed. In fact, the difference in distance between the two positions was practically negligible, with the microphone just behind our mouth when closed and just ahead of it when open.

The speakerphone on the Pre3 was actually a very pleasant surprise. Located towards the bottom of the back of the phone, the speaker grille is strip some 17mm wide and 2mm tall. Once the back is off, there’s a smaller but taller grille on the body beneath, with an even smaller circular speaker (maybe 5mm across) hiding behind it. It’s a tiny speaker, especially when compared to the 8mm diaphragm on the older Pre phones.

Somehow, this tiny speaker has managed to be both surprisingly loud and clear. It’s not going to fill in for a proper stereo at a party, but for sharing videos or music with a group of friends, it’ll actually do just fine. You just have to be careful not to cover that speaker grille – just like on the Veer, HP did a fine job of sound isolation (something they apparently learned from their experience with Beats) and not a lot of sound leaks out from anywhere but where it’s meant.

The headphone jack’s placement on the curved back might give you bad memories of the original iPhone, but never fear, it’s not recessed. In fact, you might say that it sticks out too far – there’s a few millimeters of headphone contact exposed around back when you plug in. But pull the headphones out and you can see the topmost contact is there and making contact when you plug in. HP seems to have learned a few lessons from Beats here as well, as audio getting pumped out through the Pre3’s audio jack is clear and rich. There’s not even a hiss of static and both high trebles and deep basses come through beautifully. Also, this headphone jack is loud (like the speakerphone), but in a good way. We couldn’t coax any distortion out of this jack that wasn’t the fault of the headphones.

Combine the stellar audio with the fantastic screen and you find that the Pre3 is actually an incredibly capable media machine. Which is frankly a surprise, considering that all of the preceding webOS phones, including the most recently released Veer, were nothing exciting in the multimedia department.

 

Battery life

To be honest, it’s might not be fair to judge a European phone on its battery life performance while on a US network. But we’re going to do it anyway. The Pre3 ships with a 1230 mAh battery, barely bigger than the 1150 mAh batteries packed into the older Pre- and Pixi-series phones. And yet, despite having a significantly beefier processor and a larger and more pixely screen, the Pre3 manages battery life that’s fairly respectable.

We didn’t perform any battery rundown tests, because those never reflect real life use cases. The only time you’re likely to sit down and watch an entire movie on your phone without a power cable handy is going to be on an airplane, and then you’d be turning off the radios anyway. Our average daily use – 3-6 hours off Wi-Fi, approximately an hour of web browsing, thirty minutes each on the phone, Twitter (via Carbon), and Google Reader (via Feeder), twenty text messages, fifty emails, and randomly opening other apps like Weather Channel, Calendar, and Maps as needed – resulted in the Pre3 usually being around 40% at 8PM after coming off the charger at 8AM.

As usual, your battery life will vary depending on a variety of factors, with the screen as always being the biggest drain, closely followed by cellular data. There’s not much you can do about that, except for keeping the screen brightness down and hooking up to Wi-Fi whenever possible. But even so, we found that the Pre3 outperformed our admittedly low expectations. It’s not going to win any battery life contests with this measly of a battery and power-hungry of a screen and processor, but it surprised us by doing better than we anticipated for the size of the battery.

 

webOS 2.2

The operating system on the Pre3 is the third iteration of webOS 2.x to hit the wild: 2.2. The Pre3 is the only phone currently running 2.2, which only contributes to the fragmenting nature of the webOS base and the updates provided by Palm and now HP. There are at least eight different publicly-available versions of webOS out there, from 1.4.0 on the Telcel Pre to 3.0.2 on the TouchPad. The Pre3 only adds to the OS versions that developers must take into account when developing their apps.

On its surface, the Pre3 doesn’t operate any differently than the Pre 2 or Veer. It is webOS, after all. The only cosmetic user-facing made for webOS 2.2 were scaling the operating system up to the larger screen and higher resolution of the Pre3. Under the hood is support for the new Qualcomm chipset, the Enyo app framework, PDK scaling, Touch-to-Share, and TouchPad pairing.

The phone app was rewritten in Enyo and to support video calling, the Camera app got tap-to-focus support, and Maps was also coded in Enyo and switched to Microsoft’s Bing Maps (more on that in a bit). Apart from those three, there aren’t any noticeable changes to any of the other built-in apps. Even the Calculator app was merely scaled up to the taller screen, even though its TouchPad equivalent received all the same function keys in a layout that doesn’t require the space bar to switch (surely we thought that layout’s extra row would make it onto the Pre3, how silly of us).

 

Mojo Apps

A quick refresher on webOS apps: Palm designed webOS to be built around web technologies (webOS, get it?), with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript at the core of the operating system and app development. The first app framework created for webOS was called Mojo – apps are coded almost entirely in the aforementioned languages of the web. For the most part, those apps worked well until you wanted to do something really in depth. Part of the supposed awesomeness of Mojo was the scalability of the framework – apps written for the Pre could run with easy on the smaller-sized Pixi, and presumably on bigger screens as well.

With the Pre3 we have the bigger screen, but mostly in resolution and not so much in size. Simply expanding old Mojo apps at their 186ppi sizing would have resulted in excessively small user interface elements (image all of the buttons on your Pre being 2/3 the size they are now). So HP whipped up some magical 1.5x UI elements that would allow apps to stay finger-friendly on the higher resolution screen.

There’s just one catch. The write once, run on any device nature of Mojo development shows its limitations on the Pre3. First there’s the need larger high-resolution user interface elements (especially if a developer has built an app that uses a lot of images in the interface). And then there’s the aspect ratio of the Pre3’s screen. Where the Pre had a 1x1.5 ratio screen, the Pre3’s screen is 1x1.666. Mojo apps on the Pixi scaled down just fine. But when they’re scaled up on the taller Pre3 screen, there’s a black bar 38 pixels tall across the bottom of the screen, distractingly missing the rounded corners of everything else in webOS.

Here’s what happens: Mojo apps designed for the older 320x480 screens are scaled by a factor of 1.5 on the Pre3. That gives them the proper width of 480 pixels, and expands the height to 720 pixels. That’s enough to stretch from the bottom of the top menus bar to 38 pixels from the bottom. HP’s made it easy enough for developers to fix, all they have to do is add “” to the app’s index.html (hat tip to Hedami Software for the tip) to have the app go full-height on the Pre3. But the fact that the developer actually has to do that to make the app fully take advantage of the bigger screen is just disappointing. I’m not a developer, but it seems silly that super scaling webOS Mojo can’t handle a slightly different aspect ratio without extra coding.

There’s another note on Mojo apps, since those are going to be the vast majority of the apps you run: notifications suddenly aren’t good. They still work the same way – you get an icon/banner in the notification area, a buzz or sound if the app is set to do it, and then a full-size dashboard bar for the app’s notifications. There’s just one glaring issue – after the initial banner notification (if the app supports it), the notification icon disappears. The little raised black bar of the notification area stays there, but for your Mojo apps, there’s no icon. The built in notification apps (Email, Messaging, Calendar, etc) all work fine and have their icons appear and everything.

We’re not certain if this is a problem with the scaling or not, as the only Mojo apps we were able to test notifications on were apps that hadn’t been updated to fully support the Pre3’s resolution. If you can deal with the black bar (or nagging your favorite app’s developer to add a single line of code) and missing the at-a-glance notifications, then Mojo apps will work just fine for you. That said, these issues aren’t problems you should even be facing; we can’t imagine how all of this tweaking for the larger screen couldn’t have been handled by webOS itself, so the code once, run everywhere mentality could persist. Obviously, developers could make tweaks to their apps to better support the extra pixels, but scaling should be a purely automatic affair (especially when we’re talking about a measly 38 pixels here).

It’s a small bit to harp on, but it’s this lack of attention to detail around the minor aspects of the user experience that has plagued webOS from the start. When things don’t work exactly how a user expects (or worse, is used to) them to work, they notice. It removes them from the experience of using the device without thinking about using the device. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s incredibly important in building customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

 

Enyo Apps

New, at least to webOS 2.x, is support for the Enyo app framework. Enyo isn’t quite an evolution of Mojo, but it’s based on the same web languages. The difference is that it’s obsfucated under a layer of easier-to-write Enyo code. This makes it easier to learn and write if you’re up for learning a new coding language, but it also removes the whole “if you can develop for the web, you can develop for webOS” angle that Palm was pitching. Not that it was an effective pitch (though it’s a pitch Microsoft is making with Metro apps for Windows 8).

Enyo saw the light of day with the release of the TouchPad. The big-screened webOS tablet is based almost entirely around Enyo, with all of the native apps rebuilt around the new framework. Enyo’s visual style is a bit cleaner and more subdued than the dimensional Mojo, but that’s not something you notice on the TouchPad, since everything is Enyo – it’s the Mojo apps that stand out.

HP has included basic support for Enyo apps in webOS 2.2 on the Pre3. Just as with unmodified Mojo apps, there are some caveats to Enyo on the Pre3. For starters, Enyo has to be scaled up by a 1.5x factor just like Mojo (the TouchPad’s screen is 132 pixels per inch, the lowest pixel density of any webOS device, and practically half that of the Pre3). There’s also the matter of the smaller and different-sized screen of the Pre3, and the differences in APIs between webOS 2.2 and webOS 3.0.

The end result is that there are only a few Enyo apps, at least apps that are evidently so on the surface. We’ve already discussed the video-enabled Phone app, which isn’t clearly Enyo on the surface. Visually and functionally (excepting new features), it works just like its webOS 2.1 counterpart.

Maps, however, has gotten the full Enyo treatment. In a way, it looks to have been pulled off the TouchPad and made to work on the Pre3’s screen. This means that Google Maps is out and Bing Maps is in. Functionally, they work pretty much the same, with Bing having the added layer of Bird’s Eye 45° view available, but with no ability that we could discern of rotating the view like you can on the TouchPad. Where things get interesting is when you get into the options. Tapping the not-at-all-obvious-what-it-does folded map and point marker icon slides in an Enyo panel from the side that gives the option to change the map view (road, satellite, and bird’s eye), and toggle traffic.

Maps on the Pre3 has inherited every feature from its big TouchPad brother, including the option to drop and move pins, and save bookmarks. Routing instructions are by default displayed in a swipeable bar at the bottom of the screen, though you can tap a button to view them as a list should you so desire.

Inexplicably, Maps still takes forever to load, especially over a cellular connection. But the functionality improvements brought in from the Enyo version make us a little less irritated by the wait. It’s also just nice to see and use Enyo on another form factor.

Third-party Enyo apps for the Pre3 in the App Catalog are a rare sight. In fact, there are only a handful, including Instapaper client Paper Mache and Google Voice app GVoice. Where Maps is smooth like butter, GVoice and Paper Mache struggle and stutter worse than a two-year-old original Sprint Pre. It’s especially frustrating in Paper Mache, since it’s a reading app and you’ll be scrolling a lot as you read. Each swipe through an downloaded article results in a frame rate of around two per second, a frustrating experience considering the smoothness exhibited by just about every other facet of the OS, including the Enyoriffic Maps app.

There’s another problem we’ve run into with Enyo apps, and it has to do with notifications. Paper Mache was the only third-party Enyo app available on the Pre3 with notifications that we’re aware of, so we can only draw conclusions from it. But what we saw wasn’t great. Paper Mache can be set to sync from Instapaper in the background, and to give you a notification when doing so (just so you can keep tabs on what’s going on). The icon appears just as you would expect in the notification area (meaning that it does), but if you happen to tap the notification area to expand the dashboard, the space set aside for Paper Mache is displayed as a big white blank space with just the Paper Mache icon. For the record, it looks nothing like that on the TouchPad when in action.

Remember that bit when talking about Mojo apps and their notifications? Yeah, the one about attention to detail and distracting from the user experience. That applies here too.

 

PDK Apps

So we have mixed bags for Mojo and Enyo apps. What about PDK? Actually, what we have is pretty reasonable. Before the Pre3, every PDK game for webOS was made for the 320x480 resolution of the Pre (and occasionally the 320x400 Pixi). Unlike with Mojo and Enyo apps, PDK apps simply aren’t designed to scale automatically. Even the iPhone 4 and iOS 4 don’t scale apps elegantly up to the higher resolution display – it merely performs a “pixel doubling” of the older app, stretching a 320x480 app up to 640x960. It’s practically seamless.

The Pre3 doesn’t have quite as many pixels as the iPhone 4, where iOS can perform a simple doubling of every pixel, webOS 2.2 on the Pre3 only has 1.5 times the pixels. So any “standard” PDK apps (Angry Birds, Need For Speed, Rednecks Vs Aliens, et al) are scaled up by a factor of 1.5x. Essentially every other pixel is doubled, so you get a game that’s excessively jagged. For apps with lots of simple high contrast stills, like Angry Birds, the jagged pixels are glaring and distracting. But it’s better than everything being scaled to blurriness. Given the situation (scaling 320 up to 480), it’s the best that could happen.

There are a handful of PDK games that have been updated or designed to support the Pre3’s higher resolution screen. That handful is at least a bit more plentiful than the Enyo apps available, counting among them Angry Birds Seasons, Quell, and Ground Effect. These games look fabulous on the Pre3’s screen and handle themselves as smoothly as any other. Quell and Ground Effect have been scaled up to fit the big screen while retaining the size of buttons, text, and the like.

Angry Birds Seasons, however, was scaled up awkwardly, with the game part of the app adapting to the bigger screen, but things like the level selector, current score, level cleared, and a few other elements are still displayed at the lower older resolution, meaning that they’re displayed at 2/3 size. It’s distracting (lost of that, it seems), but in this case it’s not the fault of HP – scaling up PDK apps to full Pre3 resolution is the job of the developer.

 

Touch-to-Share and TouchPad pairing

One of the cooler hardware features of the Pre3 is how it can pair up with an HP TouchPad. The pairing is initiated by pressing the back of the Pre3 against the center button of the TouchPad. The “communications coil” is located directly under the HP logo on the Pre3’s back. Pressing the two together triggers a giant ripple across the TouchPad’s screen and automatically pairs them over Bluetooth. The phone prompts you to allow Messaging sharing over that Bluetooth connection, you accept, and that’s it.

From there, your text messages to the Pre3 are automatically shared with the TouchPad, allowing you to easily reply to messages from either device. It’s a simple but genius arrangement. Also pretty awesome is Touch-to-Share: merely tap the phone to the TouchPad to send the URL of the currently active browser card on one device to the other over Bluetooth. It’ll work in both directions – the Pre3 can send a URL to the TouchPad, and the TouchPad can send a URL to the Pre3. A web browser needs to be the active card on either device, though you can have a browser card active on both devices and they’ll swap URLs and load them in new cards.

Disappointingly, URLs are the only thing that can be transferred, and they can only come from the web browser. If you tap the devices together with no active web browser open, you’ll get the Touch-to-Share ripple and nothing else. You can’t share photos, App Catalog listings, emails, memos, or even Map locations. It’s frustrating to have such a promising technology limited to such a confined to such a narrow use scenario. There’s an API for developers to add Touch-to-Share to their apps, but it’s only slightly more broad than the built-in option – you can send a URL from an app to the device to open a browser card. Exciting, we know.

There’s one more problem with the TouchPad pairing. When it works, it’s great. The problem is that if you take the Pre3 out of Bluetooth range with the TouchPad, the connection is lost (obviously) but is not restored when you return to range. You can tap the Pre3 and TouchPad together to reinstate the pair, do it manually via the Bluetooth menu, or by restarting the TouchPad. Strangely, restarting the Pre3 did not reconnect the devices, which makes us think that this might be a TouchPad problem (we’ve tried it with two different TouchPads, same result on both).

 

Conclusion

After two weeks with the HP Pre3, we’re left conflicted. It’s not the perfect smartphone, but it’s as close as webOS has ever gotten. It’s simple yet attractive, and there’s finally the hardware there to back up webOS. It’s the best webOS smartphone we’ve ever seen. And it’s also the best webOS smartphone most of you are never going to see.

That’s the depressing part of it. The Pre3 is likely to never be made available to 99% of the population, and even though there are plenty of webOS fans willing to jump through the flaming hoops to import one or grab one of the super rare AT&T versions off eBay for a massive premium. The Pre3 is not the most powerful smartphone on the market, nor is it the thinnest or biggest or fanciest. It doesn’t have NFC, LTE, USB host, or any number of other features.

But the Pre3 is what may be the last hurrah for webOS, and while it could have been a triumphant shout, it’s instead a whimper. It’s sad, because this is a good smartphone. Perhaps it’s even a great smartphone, but it’s never going to see any success. HP’s resigned themselves to taking a massive loss on webOS and trying to figure out how to recoup at least a portion of the billions they’ve spent by selling or licensing webOS and/or its related patents.

So we’re left here with this Pre3. It’s the epitome of the webOS smartphone – fast, gorgeous, and bridging the gap between the older phones and the TouchPad. It’s not without its flaws and annoyances, but it’s the one phone that’s finally worthy of webOS. Too bad they’re near impossible to get.

Category:

103 Comments

It's everything I wanted.

Not quite EVERYTHING I wanted, but if this had come out by April or even June, I would definitely be rocking this phone. If it came out now, I would still lean toward it but would be lusting after a webOS phone with a 4" screen, NFC, dual core processor, larger battery, 1GB RAM (or more... webOS3.x on the Touchpad is insanely memory hungry).

But hey, this was definitely better than the Pre2 and Veer. I was actually excited for the Pre3, as was some other people I know.

Thanks for the review, Derek. It's unfortunate that this review might as well be modern fiction.

A lucky few in Europe and those lucky enough to bid on eBay or buy privately actually have their hands on the Pre3. I came close, but I'll have to settle for the Pre 2. I'm not giving up on webOS. I wish HP wouldn't. I just refuse to pay hundreds of dollars for a phone that was going to cost me $100 with my new every two on Verizon. There are a few VZW Pre3s out there.

I peg webOS's survival chances at like 1%. Everything Palm/HP did ruined it's chances. They pretty much prioritized everything incorrectly. I mean one of the biggest things is the Veer over the Pre3? **** the Pre3 (with a slower chip) should've been the Pre2.

I can't see any company sinking money into it. The best chance is HTC because they said they'd consider buying an OS (Samsung says no), but what I bet is HP is asking for a lot of money or refusing to sell it and they won't sell it until webOS is dead. Then they'll be like "oh! Buy it? Please?"

Sigh.

"**** the Pre3 (with a slower chip) should've been the Pre2. "
exactly...

"I bet is HP is asking for a lot of money or refusing to sell it and they won't sell it until webOS is dead. Then they'll be like 'oh! Buy it? Please?' "
...exactly... Them decision makers at HP are much more concerned with their petty careers, and especially at that moment of a giant shake-up in the company, than anything else, much less so some webOS "thing", that apparently "no one wants", in their simple minds.

Well, I am collecting my Pre 3 this Friday, and **** HP, will use it alongside my Galaxy S2 (and quite possibly as a main phone, we will see), until it fells apart, probably.

All the best,

Thanks for the call out to Paper Mache - the work to support the Pre3 was done without a device, so it was a bit of a shot in the dark.

The performance issues noted do not appear in the webOS 2.2 emulator provided by the SDK - they only appear on the devices, so it wasnt apparent until it was released that it was slow.

I've recently procured a Pre3 so I can begin to investigate what about Enyo is slowing things down on the device and see if they're possible to address.

Awesome, glad to hear it! And thanks for making an Enyo app available on the Pre3. :D

I've fixed some of the performance issues experiences on webOS with the Pre3 in a new Beta release of Paper Mache:

http://ryanwatkins.net/software/papermache/beta.html

There is still some lag, but this should be more usable.

It also addresses the white notification for Paper Mache, but this bug will still affect other Enyo apps on the Pre3.

There appear to be a few specific items in Enyo that trigger performance issues in webkit on webOS 2.2. Developers can work around some of them, but without a clear path to 3.0 it will likely always be secondary to the experience on the TouchPad. Too bad, as it looks like it was *almost* there.

A version with performance fixes and fixing the blank notification for the Pre3 is now in the App Catalog.

There are still some scrolling and resize performance issues on the Pre3, but this should be much improved.

https://developer.palm.com/appredirect/?packageid=net.ryanwatkins.app.pa...

To clarify, to convert Mojo apps to run full-screen on the Pre 3, you have to add an actual HTML code piece to the HEAD section of index.html (not just plain double-quotes as is mentioned in the article). I tried adding it to this comment, but the comment system removed it since it's probably set up to remove HTML (guessing that's why it's missing from the article). Just search the Palm dev forums and you should find it.

Another thing to keep in mind is there's a bug on the Pre 3 and the TouchPad where the Mojo deviceinfo width and height functions returns the actual width and height of the device, not 320 and 480 (the virtual Mojo screen size). So you have to account for this if you use the deviceinfo functions. There are also other little things you may encounter when getting your Mojo app to run on the Pre 3, so be sure to test every screen.

You guys can get one of these on ebay, I did and I love it. Gaet the unlocked version and use it on any unlocked network, just pop in the chip.

I love my Pre3, it was worth the $400.00!

I've seen it go for $300 a few times on ebay, they were even 16gb att unlocked

Thanks for the review. How many words was it?

8767. Longer than the Veer, but well short of the 14,000 CMS-breaking words of the TouchPad review.

so they built all these phones and they are just sitting somewhere, why not just charge $500 bucks a piece, us Palmers will buy them and at least cover the price of manufacture for them...what business sense does it make not to unload them especially when there is a market for them from the loyalists who have waited this long already

F* YOU, HP.

This is how bad I want one: I'd sign a two year contract with AT&T to get one. And I HATE HATE HATE AT&T.

I'm one of the lucky people in Germany to have a Pre3. This review is great and reflects much of my own experience. This ist pretty much the Pre I always wanted to have (screensize, keyboard, a usable camera, faster - but still a Pre).

I'm glad I got one, coudn't even think of buying an Android after using my original Pre/webOS for years

Is it just me or is the final score a bit higher than the review leads us to believe it should be?

Not just you. I'd give it a 6/10. But that has much to do with webOS remaining unchanged and way too buggy.

I'm not sure why Touch to share was such a big thing around here. It still looks as useless as it did in Feb.

And then there's the quality factor. I experienced more Pre's than I care to count. The TP's are all cracking up. I really doubt this would be any different.

Biased reviews should really only be frowned upon if they're AGAINST WebOS. Otherwise, they're great!

Oddly, the review left me even more uncertain about whether I should try to snag one on Ebay and switch to AT&T... I guess I will see if the price drops enough by the time I have the money to order one...

I love webOS and I currently have a Pre2 and I know this is PREcentral but you have to at least *try* to be a little IMPARTIAL.
I read a review about the Pre3 3 days ago on ENGADGET and they said:

+ "call quality is exceptional"
+ "speaker on the Pre 3 is well above average"
+ "soft-textured back is lovely to hold"
And many other good points...

BUT they also said:
-"webOS should allow you to search for and connect to a network right away, before setup truly begins" TOTALLY AGREE WITH THAT!
-"The keyboard is exceedingly cramped... and the buttons lacked any appreciable travel or impact"
-"the camera here is just outright lousy. Colors are lifeless ...and grain is impossible to avoid" + videos are "not superior (or even on par) with the competition"
-"the built-in mail app is a terrible excuse for one" "Gmail syncs are still just as sporadic as ever" (probably also AOL, which asks for my password once a week)
-"In a world dominated by sleekness, churning out a third pebble while attempting to grab even a sliver of market share never did feel like the best approach"
-"The harsh reality is this: even if HP would've gone ahead with the Pre 3's launch on AT&T, moving 'em would've been tough"

I mean I believe in what you guys say here, but you can't paint it all in a good light.

Maybe I'm a little upset because I won't be able to sell my Pre2 to get some extra cash for a new phone (like I did with the Pre Plus and a Samsung before that) or because now I realize I'll have to buy an Android phone. But suggarcoating this is not helping me at all

You're really taking Engadget's review for anything? I hardly believe anything that they ever write even though I read it religiously. I agree that a precentral review may be slightly biased but the negatives pointed out in this review aren't even mentioned in the engadget one (All the enyo, mojo, pdk stuff for eg. ) which any slight use of the phone should have shown you. Good stuff from this review is totally ignored in the Engadget one as well like touch to share. And you mention the camera. Engadget didn't even mention image stabilization or the ability to rapidly take pictures.

Not that this phone needed the most in depth review ever but I always feel like Engadget just uses a product for a day to be able to write 1000 words. Their reviews are some of the worst out there.

You read religiously what you don't believe in??

sounds like religion to me ;)

The Engadget review is downright wrong on some points.

Everybody agrees about wifi access at first startup - but it's a one-time problem. Not such a big deal.

On keyboard and camera: Both are good. I do not understand how the reviewer can call this crammed or lousy.
"Not superior" - What kind of silly rating is that?

Email app - not perfect - could use some tweaks - but does the job. Dunno what the problem with Gmail is supposed to be - syncs fine for me - always has.

That engadget review is just wrong on most of the negatives. There are several ways to bypass using the sim at startup and has been available for years. Besides, iphone does the same garbage but oddly noone complains about that..
The camera app is comparable to my wife's iphone 4 in terms of quality though it is not perfect. point is pictures are quite good now and so is the video (for a phone).
Gmail synchs are perfect for all three of my gmail accounts. faster than my outlook at times; what is he talking about?

And for sleekness, it's about the same as every other phone with a real keyboard and actually much easier to hold and use than ANY other keyboard phone on the market except blackberry.

Again, it's not perfect by any means but no phone is. Point is the engadget review is wrong on the bad points - he MISSED those.

Every person who has seen me use my touchpad or phone to get things done is totally impressed by how good the operating system is and how easily I get work done. On many days, so am I.

I disagree about the 'sleek' point. The pres fit perfectly in my pocket and I don't worry about sitting down and cracking it. I had given up and went to buy a Verizon Android or maybe iPhone just to stop fighting the app battle the other day and was SO turned off by the form. They're half the size of my (admittedly little) laptop.

A small, sleek phone would be wonderful - I'd but it in a second. But a big sleek phone? Give me a pre. I love how it feels.

To be honest, Engadget also has a long history of partiality (toward the Apple side) and tend to play down the strengths of competing devices. This was particularly the case w/ reviews or commentaries from the crew now over at 'This Is My Next' - something that drove many (myself included) from that site.

As the saying goes, it is what it is. At this point, the webOS craze is fading rapidly for me and Im no longer going out of my way to secure the Pre3. I have an iPhone 4 that I refuse to use. My plan was to trade it for a Pre but I've concluded that the hassle is not worth it. I mean, all the searching and calling and daily reading - just looking for a deal - is that something that anyone should be doing for a phone? I'd rather spend my time on some of the more important things in life.

It's HPs loss, literally, and their competitors' gain. I guess many valuable lessons on what not to do will serve current and future corporate decision makers, as well as aspiring marketing and management students everywhere. **** I learned a great deal form the Palm/HP experience and for that I'd love to buy someone over there a drink. Hmmm!! I wonder where I could find that lousy Leo? I know he needs one right about now.

Nice review!!

It's sad that i can't have one Pre3 in Canada!!!!!

My unlocked Pre 3 should be here by Friday; I'll be using it on T-Mobile, just like I have been doing with the Pre+ for the last 1.5 years.

Its not perfect, but, its the best WebOS phone to date, which is what I really wanted, in the end.

Im just hoping that this isnt "the end".

same here... Unlocked pre3 arriving Friday, going to use t-mobile. Whoever gets it first should start a forum thread detailing the experience... Call quality, data speeds etc. Just like the similar thread for UK pre3's on at&t.

Go read this UNBIASED review
www.engadget.com/2011/09/24/pre-3-for-atandt-review
and find out what is really good and bad about the Pre3

It's not an unbiased review and wrong on several points.
If you think this review could be true then you never handled a Pre3. And if you never handled a Pre3 - how can you judge if it is unbiased and correct?

The keyboard is great. The camera is far from lousy. He criticized the screen for having too much pixel density (he must have hated the Iphone 4 display ;-) ).

Even when he had good things to say he usually just couldn't let that stand without some qualifications.

After 2 weeks use on a Pre3 I cannot replicate or understand half of the criticisms.

Engadget plays for hits to their site. I really doubt they want to give a discontinued phone much of a chance. Their website is garbage for reviews. But at least they get the news out fast.

Derek and Dieter have always been fair and detailed in the reviews even if they don't always appropriately summarize it in a score or whatnot.

I thought I was somebody, but Derek has now announced that I'm a nobody. All this because I am much more excited about my Veer than any other WebOS device. ;(

The longer its out, the more I'm thinking I want a veer and a tablet (of some ilk) to link with it. I want a smart phone to look things up with, etc., but a big screen to do most everything else. I am usually with a laptop. I could virtually always be with a tablet. I want a nice, clean phone with a good os.

I thought the USB hosts mode was disabled in the software/os. Hmm.

I don't care if I have to spend $499 to get one, I WANT ONE. Dammit HP!

Fortunately though my AT&T contract doesn't go up for renewal until March.... so who knows what'll happen by then. Perhaps HP finally does spin off their PC making business to, oh, I dunno, "Palm Computer, Inc." and HP finally finds a licensee for webOS.... Palm Computer, Inc. If HP doesn't make hardware, I just hope that new spinoff maker does.

if you're already on at&t, why not just buy one on ebay? It seems like a no brainer if you want it so bad. Just put in your sim and go.

I wondered the same thing. There's nothing keeping him from buying one right now. His contract renewal doesn't factor.

BTW, is it possible to import a Pre 3 from Europe and use it on USA networks, such as AT&T? If I can do that, then that's what I'll do.

yes, you can via ebay, but if you want AT&T, why not just by the at&t version? There's dozens of them available, and the price seems to drop every day. I bought last night @$325, and now people are saying $275 less than 24 hours later.

Just buy an AT&T Pre3. there seem to be plenty of them on Ebay right now for an okay price. half of what it would cost you to get it from Europe.

And you have to be careful on the European phones:
1) you may not get a QUERTY one (several different keyboard layouts in europe)
2) Adam Marks pointed out in the precast chat and Derek pointed out in his review that European 3G bands only share one band common with AT&T 3G bands. so your 3G access would not be as good.

I ordered an at&t Pre 3 off ebay earlier today. Got it for $260.
Prices have been dropping all week, and as long as more come up for auction, I expect they'll continue dropping. Currently there are around 70 up for sale. Last week there were just a handful.
Now's the time for those people that want one.

Where Can I get a Pre3, its my dream, anybody Knows?? Is possible to acquire in internet??

PreCentral Guys you are great, excellent work!!

WebOS just needs promotion, cause has everything all we want, we are unique persons (this community), but sometimes I feel very strange due to I have no friends to share this kind of information, very few guys in Mexico know WebOS devices, poor guys eating the Apple stuffs, I have more apps than anyone who has an Iphone (in my work, family)not to mention all of them free, is amazing but a crazy, very crazy world that I don´t understand!! webOS deserve Fama, We deserve more WebOS.

Long Live WebOS!!! Long Live PreCentral!!

ebay

Maybe ebay needs promotion too?

Whew! That was a very indepth and long review!

Truly honestly, I wish I had one of these devices.

GVoice author here, I was informed yesterday of a problem that is made known only by actually running the program on a Pre3 device -- and that problem has been fixed, and the program -will- be working on the next update. I'm hoping that it will be functioning completely as it's Touchpad counterpart does, although I may not have time to get that done - I'm going to update before the weekend, regardless.

What I -haven't- been told, is that it's slow. But, then, I only have one person who's got the dev version in their hands along with a Pre3. I do see on the emulator that the display flickers horrifically, but I was assured that is merely an emulator problem.

I just spoke to the dev for Paper Mache (actually he pointed me to this article, I don't normally check PC's front page until the wee hours of the morning just out of habit), and we're both going to do some looking into it.

Damn it!!! I hate HP's decisions!!!

I'm sure I'll never see one of those wonderful devices! Here in Mexico is extremely difficult to get a beauty like this!!!!

This review is against other WebOS devices and not other smartphones on the market. The Pre and webOS is far behind the competition that only a select die-hard fans would want to buy it. I mean the Pre still can't even edit documents and it is the only smartphone on the market with that limitation. How pathetic is that? The engadget review makes a lot more sense than this.

yeah, because editing office documents on the phone is something that you do all day, isn't it, and it TOTALLY destroys a smartphone to not have an office suite available...

...if it was the only problem that webOS is facing... sigh.

I think he meant messing up docs and especially spreadsheets. That's what these mobile office suites are good for.

I REALLY wanted one. I'll just console myself with thoughts of HP flushing itself down the toilet.

really, you post this story to rub it in our face.

It's like reading a review of Jennifer Aniston. I'm never going to have her, either.

Those interested in purchasing an AT&T Pre 3, please visit this thread: http://forums.precentral.net/marketplace/301316-att-pre-3-16-gb-nib-unlo...

or email me!

The review of the Pre 3 on Precentral is like the nice things you say about someone at their funeral. The time to say critical things is not right after the person dies - especially in front of family and friends.

One would expect nice things to be said, however, it's hardly the venue in which you would seek the most accurate information.

If you want to huddle here at the home of the former webOS hardware and talk about how great the Pre 3 would have been had it seen its day then few people will argue the point. After all, what does it matter?

Here's a promise - if I EVER see a Pre 3 out in the wild being used by ANYONE I'll send webOSinternals $100.

Promises are easy to make. Just look at HP.

OK, all those of us who have bought one off eBay, let's find out where weavesome lives and start hangoung out around his house, using our Pre 3s to call WebOS Internals to alert them to all the cash coming their way....

I would laugh if you saw someone tomorrow. lol I am laughing now just thinking about it

why are so many people lamenting how they'll never get their hands on a pre3, but they want it oh so bad?

seriously, these things are all over ebay. Almost all sell unlocked (or with an unlocking code). Especially if you already have at&t, why wait?

I'm going to give mine a go with T-Mobile when it gets here in a day or two. 2g only, but I use very little data so it should be ok.

It's the same with the Touchpad. Everyone is lamenting they couldn't get it, at the cheaper price. People would've bought the Pre3 at the carrier-subsidized price. People would've (and did) buy the Touchpad at the firesale price. But with the ebay tax tacked on, it's never mind.

These are incredibly cheap at 250 or so. That's without a contract.

You'd have to pay 599 or 699 for an iphone off contract.

But if you're on AT&T, don't let your upgrade just sit there. Use it. Buying an iphone 5 (199 or 299) and reselling it for around 500-700 is easy to do. Then get your Pre 3.

I agree with johnsonx42, they are plenty on ebay - which is where I bought mine. A snip at £225, the funds for which came from selling my other phones. After just a week with the Pre3 I can confirm that it rocks, everything is tweaked to be better - the screen, slider, keyboard, speakers, camera, the speed of the usb drive - it's an absolute marvel and I would not change it for the world. I already have a screen protector fitted and all my Google stuff just works! A stunning phone which should have been given more of a chance. Love it.

Okay, let me ask a stupid question. I am locked into Verizon - I've got a family plan and can't move, essentially, forever.

Can I get an unlocked one on Verizon. And (I somehow missed this) - this is not global correct?

I had SO wanted a global Pre3 on Verizon.

Mojo notifications work fine on my Pre3. I don't see any difference to the Pre 2.

I am one of those lucky guys who got a pre3 (without troubles through palm europe).
I used to have a pre(-), and after it died I had to switch to Android (HTC Desire HD). I used Android for approx. 10 months, and I never got used to it (notifications, fragmented UI, just overall a very bad UX).
The build quality of the HTC is good, but comparable to the Pre3. IMHO the Pre3 is the best smart phone you should get today. It's fast, reliable, and webOS is just a very efficient OS. Concerning battery life: the consumption is almost equal to the HTC Desire. A thing where everybody else admits instant jealousy: the pairing of my TP with the Pre3. This is magical, and I still do not understand HP that they let this opportunity go by: creating a OS-ecosystem that integrates seamless with other devices. It's just so obvious, and I wonder why Apple didn't come up with this: you have your iPad and your iPhone but they don't seem to talk to each other, my Pre does talk a lot to my TP.

They aren't so difficult to come by if you live in the UK (or have someone over here to buy one for you (and maybe unlock it...)).

The best deal I've found for a HP Pre 3 is £9/month (after rebate) on a 12 months contract with Vodafone offering 300 mins/unlimited texts/500MB data). That's £108 in total for the phone and 12 months of service. Bargain.

And they just got more stock in yesterday!

http://www.techfruit.com/2011/08/23/hp-pre-3-firesale/

Or direct buy link: http://tidd.ly/ad4ae70

When did they go back on sale? Awesome.
Any more TouchPads coming too?

No idea on the TouchPads I'm afraid, but I'm keeping an eye out!

When can I get one at my local Sprint store??

NEVAR!

This just makes me more mad at HP for not releasing such a great phone. I would've left Sprint for this phone. Such a shame HP couldn't see two-inches past its failures.

Just got mine on eBay - and there's lots more of them up for bid. They seem to be going for about $350 for unlocked 16 GB units.

In the UK and managed to get a Pre3 on a Vodafone contract, but they went really really quickly. Seeing as I have been using a Palm Treo 680 for the last six months after my release day Pre finally gave up the ghost (part build quality, part dropping the thing) the Pre3 is a huge step up. If HP had made good on their plans to tightly integrate webOS in to their product range, had a proper marketing strategy plus getting some apps things would have undoubtedly progressed better than they have.

Hopefully someone will give Meg a Pre3 & a TouchPad and get across to her how good the product is. Go on Meg throw some proper cash and more importantly some real talent at webOS. It does not have to be a iOS or Android killer just a really competent tightly integrated eco-system that businesses especially will eat up.

I was with you on this being a pretty good smartphone until you got to the point where the 512 MB memory was causing the phone to hang during web browsing. BOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! What's the point of owning a smartphone if you are not browsing the whole time??? Maybe it is a network problem being a UK version. We would all love for you to eBay an AT&T one and review it before buying one. Why not go for it? You only live once and it maybe Precentral's last chance ever to review a WebOS phone.

Also disappointed that you can't share photos with the Touchpad. Pretty frustrating there is no simple way to do that right now. At least the URL sharing is pretty good.

I missed that part. That is weird Precentral wouldn't review the AT&T one.

You guys are nice with the pre 3..is it me or engadget hates everything webos? Their reviews for pretty much every webos phone is a bad one. Lol.

Anyways, I still want a Pre-3. :( Sad... I won't be getting it.
Still, does the franken pre (verzion pre 2 to sprint pre hack) still work?! That's an option im still considering.

They loved webOS, when Josh Topolsky still worked there. But when he left, both of them started hating webOS.

You haven't heard Josh's latest missive about WebOS and the Pre 3 then?

He still loves WebOS, but feels that the OS is still half-baked, which is terrible considering it's been 2.5 years. He's also not fond of the Pre 3 and said that he would likely throw it at the wall if he had to use it as a daily driver.

Hmm... I know I am not going to make friends by saying this, but I'm starting to think that maybe HP was right to kill the WebOS hardware division. This phone wouldn't have sold to anyone but the most devout WebOS believers, and clearly there were not enough of us to keep Palm in business. It is a shame too, because if they had just let the HP hardware guys take over the design, I think they could have made a really great, lust worthy phone.

Pre3 = Eh, she's not really hot, but I'd do her.

That doesn't make a lot of sense considering most of the negatives have to do with webOS, not the hardware.

Thanks for this informative review of the HP Pre 3. I look forward to the video review.

I actually passed up an opportunity to purchase the unrelease AT&T HP Pre 3 for $350 and bought the Palm Pre 2 for $150 instead.

And I can certainly say that after this review, I am pleased with the decision that I made.

The review illustrates that in terms of finish, polish and stability, webOS seems to have undergone a regression based on the fact that legacy mojo apps, PDK apps and the few Enyo apps do not run optimally. It is a shame that the ~10000 apps currently available for webOS phones cannot be used to their full potential (note the issues with resolution and notifications) on HP Pre 3. It is possible this might have contributed to how things turned out.

You know, I saw a video review of the HP Pre 3 that showed the new Map apps (bing maps) and the UI elements didn't seem appropriately scaled for the screen resolution.

Even as a webOS fan, I still have difficulty spending money on this phone. At least not until there is some assurance that an update is pending that will resolve some of these issues with no modifications by the developers.

Considering that the Palm Pre 2 performs like a champ, I would like to see a video comparison of Palm Pre 2 and HP Pre 3 just to compare them overall because as things stand, I would rather hack a front facing camera into the Pre 2 than have to tolerate what could turn out to be usability frustration by non-webOS-enthusiast user.

Speaking of which, can we see a comparison between the Nokia N9, which seems to be facing similar prospects as the HP Pre 3 albeit seems to have a higher level of refinement.

I won't be surprised if Microsoft or Google does not snag up Peter Skilman who worked on the original webOS/Pre and describes the design philosophy of adopted for the Meego version running on the N9.

Jesus what a long review

I just bought one At&t Palm Pre 3 with model #FB389AA#ABA on eBay. But the guy doesn't know if this model is 16GB or 8GB. I found on ebay the same model with both capacity of storage. Somebody here knows how many GB really this model has? Thanks

Wait, you've got Skype on yours?
My AT&T Pre3 doesn't have Skype.

Is your model #FB389AA#ABA? How many GB it has?

that would be one of my main reasons for upgrading to a Pre3. Does the AT&T Pre3 not do skype video calling, or is it just that it's buried in the accounts app?

I understand that the Skype app is now available in the AT&T app catalog. Does this mean the Pre3 on AT&T does NOT have Skype integrated in Messaging/Contacts/etc?

Love mine. It has relegated my iPhone 4 to a drawer...which never happened before with other platforms. Also gotten compliments on it.

PS- The Gorilla Glass WILL scratch with time. Have had to resort to an ugly screen protector.

Brought a tear to my eye; thanks for the review.

There are 2 advantages:
Few of us now can be really different and unique having the phone and the tablet with most profound OS - let others be jealous! :)
And got it for a great price!

Actually, the Pre3 doesn't just do b/g/n wifi, but even a/b/g/n.
The additional 5GHz band used by 802.11a/n is extremely helpful in places densely populated with 2.4GHz (b/g/n) wifi networks. While those popular frequencies easily get congested, my Pre3 always has perfect connectivity at home...

There are plenty of Palm Pre 3 phones available on eBay starting at $249 with free shipping! So i'm not sure why the comment 'good luck trying to find one'.

Pls update review, as it's easy to find unlocked AT&T 16Gb PRE 3's on eBay now. Just got two of them for $230 ex shipping.

I see an unlocked Pre 3 available at Amazon.com. Does anyone know whether I can use it with Verizon Wireless? If so, how? Thanks for any help.

no :( GSM CDMA

no :( GSM CDMA

Wow, I can't put greater than and less than in posts? ok, well GSM isn't CDMA so the phone won't work, unless there's a way to frankenPre it, which I suspect would require a CDMA Pre3 anyway, which is what you really want :) (me too)

"The Pre3 is likely to never be made available to 99% of the population" haha, here comes "Occupy HP" Hmm maybe we need to do that anyway. It actually made me laugh enough not to say what I was going to say about having a 3 and bragging and gloating and rubbing it in with us about something we can't ever get, while our beloved OS continues to flounder, and that's some way to support the community (same for the white tablet), but I won't. This article was quite honest. Well done.