What's New in webOS 1.3.1 | webOS Nation

What's New in webOS 1.3.1

by Dieter Bohn Sun, 15 Nov 2009 10:41 pm EST

What's new in webOS 1.3.1? In a nutshell, Yahoo Synergy, tweaks to the messaging app (forwarding!), adjustments to PIN settings, some improvement to the music player, some performance improvements (but nothing that will blow your mind), and some underpinnings for things like the Facebook app and the ability the change default apps.

What's not new? Most of the rest of the OS, including Media Sync not working with iTunes 9.0.2.

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Yahoo in Synergy

The biggest feature in webOS 1.3.1 is that Yahoo has been added to Synergy, meaning that you can now sync your contacts, calendar, email, and IM buddies list from the service. YahooIM also now works in webOS for everybody (instead of the strangely lucky few). I'm no longer a heavy Yahoo user so I can't comment extensively on it, but I did hook up my old account and it seems to work. The ability to switch between SMS and multiple types of IM in the same threaded message view is as grand as it ever was.

As an aside, at this point we are in serious need to a unified Synergy preferences app. Adding and managing accounts is spread across Contacts, Calendars, Email, Tasks, and Messaging. More granular control is necessary - I want contacts from three of them, just IM on some of them, just email from another, and so on. A feature I'd like to see Palm steal from Google is more control over which contacts are pulled in from Facebook (and I'll add LinkedIn): the ability to only sync contacts that are already present in your address book. Palm's given us the tools to suck in a huge amount of data from the cloud, now we need tools to better manage that information.

User Interface Features

Tapping on a text message or IM pops up a menu to allow you to forward, copy text, or delete a single message. Hooray? Hooray!

In the music player, when you hold your finger down on the fast forward or rewind button, a 'scrubber' pops up so you can drag it along to the part of the song or podcast you're looking for. Glad to see this finally arrive.

In the category of often-request features, there are improvements to the PIN behavior. You can now set your PIN to be any arbitrary length (I stopped at 20 digits). More importantly, there is now a "Lock After" feature you can set anywhere from "Screen turns off" to 30 minutes.

There are now placeholder images for flash elements on web pages instead of big blank spaces. If those flash elements are YouTube videos, there is a nice preview image that you can click on to view the video in the YouTube app. (This blogger is pleased that he no longer will need to manually insert a YouTube link on every YouTube video). Full Flash support, as we reported yesterday, will come in "early 2010."

webOS 1.3.1 does not fix iTunes Sync. Make of that what you will.

Under the Hood

Palm has also told me that the 'underpinnings' necessary for the Facebook app are also in 1.3.1. That app is not included on the device by default (a mistake, in my opinion), but once you have a device that's been updated to 1.3.1, you can get it from the App Catalog. A full review of the Facebook app can be found here.

Speaking of the App Catalog, it now filters apps so only the apps that are compatible with the Pixi appear there. If you have apps backed up to your Palm Account (i.e. if you're switching), they will re-download, even if they're not Pixi compatible - see Derek's post for more on this. Not Pixi compatible as of this writing: the Classic PalmOS emulator.

One thing I'm excited to see is a new option in the Launcher called "Default Apps" that, while grayed out now, someday will allow you to choose which apps handle the following:

  • Phone Numbers (Hello Improved Google Voice Integration!)
  • Addresses (Defaults to Google Maps, theoretically you could send them to Sprint Nav)
  • Email Addresses (Somebody write me a real Gmail client posthaste)
  • Web Links (Hi Apple, Palm's cracking the door open for alternative browsers like Opera Mini.)

The same screen also lets you set the default app for a large array of file extensions, opening the door for alternative music players, video players, document editors, etc.

Besides the ability to download the Facebook app, there are no new apps in webOS 1.3.1 and only a smattering of inconsequential changes beyond the above mentioned items - at least that I can find. 'Orange' + Tap on an icon still gives you the option to delete 3rd party apps, but now it also shows you the size.

Bluetooth (on the Pixi at least) appears to have received a bunch of fixes as well. On the Pre I've never been able to get A2DP Bluetooth stereo to work with my car stereo (AVRCP controls worked fine). The Pixi pulls it off without a hitch.

With a couple exceptions, speed isn't significantly improved (more on that in our full review). There are a raft of other much-desired features missing here as well, but still and all, it's webOS and I'm rather fond of it.