Palm Pre at work - A Real Review | webOS Nation

Palm Pre at work - A Real Review

by Riz Parvez Thu, 01 Oct 2009 7:03 pm EDT

Palm Pre at Work

Certain key elements remain every bit as instrumental to smartphones today as they did when the first Palm Pilot became available: Email, Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks.

Although many of you are familiar with the idea that every smartphone has these basic features, perhaps there is no more important topic to discuss in a real review than a real-world day-to-day account of how these key components work in harmony on the job.

Ed Note: Riz submitted this Real Review well before 1.2 came out - so blame any inconsistencies below on this tardy editor. -- Dieter

As I mentioned in my "introduction review," I'm a resident physician in a busy University Hospital system. At this point in my training, the majority of the work I do is in the outpatient world. As such, I spend virtually every day of the week working in a different clinic, with different, unique demands. Add to that residency requirements, academics, and research, and more than ever staying on top of it all means staying organized.

So here's a basic breakdown of how I try to stay organized, looking at email, contacts, calendars and tasks:


Palm Pre at Work This is probably the single most important element on a smartphone for me. Being a resident physician necessitates staying in close contact with my training department. Through them I am made aware of schedule changes, training opportunities and new requirements, which come up all the time. Additionally, working in the outpatient world means staying readily available. Just because it isn't Tuesday, doesn't mean something won't come up urgently for your Tuesday patients. Having reliable real-time email at my side helps me to deliver better care.

From an email standpoint, I’ve been pleased with how the Pre has performed. Firstly, all of my work emails (through Microsoft Exchange) show up "pushed down" to my device as they arrive. Simple and reliable.

Palm Pre at Work Where the Pre goes beyond for me is during those “flurries” of emails that everyone has experienced: something big comes up over email, and the next thing you know, 19 people are firing off their quick, "reply all" responses. Right after, each push notification interferes with what you’re doing. On the Pre, there’s no interruption. If I’m in the middle of doing something (typing my own response email, for example), I can stick to it while keeping all the "flurries" in the background.

It also does a beautiful job of thinking ahead for you. If you try to enter an addressee that is not in your contacts list, it automatically searches the Exchange global address book for a match. In fact, it starts looking before you’ve even finished typing the name.

The one thing missing is email search (which appears to be on the way in webOS 1.2). If Palm adds that in, then email on the Pre will be pretty near perfection in my book. That being said, it is a pretty big thing to be missing. I really hope email search is added soon.


Palm Pre at Work Even your most basic dumb phone can store contacts, so of course this is an expected future. Where the Pre really shines however, is in some of the elegant touches put into the contacts app. First and foremost, the global address book search functionality remains present here. There are literally tens of thousands of contacts on our Exchange server almost instantly available with no extra steps on the Pre. This allows me to be incredibly connected with other in-system providers to collaborate on patient care. I've actually been surprised at how often a situation has come up or I have to call a person I've never spoken to before to collaborate. I just type their name in, and bing (yes, bing), there's all their info.

Since I've have the Pre for a couple of months around the hospital, I've showed what it can do for a few people. The guaranteed "wow" moment every time I've done this is when I type their name in and all their contact info just shows up.


Palm Pre at Work Honestly, I've been a little on the fence with my feelings toward the calendar. On the good side, this calendar really is doing a lot... I mean, my personal calendar through Google, my work calendar through exchange, my wife's calendar, and at least two or three other public calendars are all up to date on the Pre with next to no effort from me. I love that.

I do miss a few things from the days of the old Palm OS though. For one, I used to use Datebk, and really miss being able to enter in an irregular schedule (great for anyone who's ever had to share on-call responsibilities) with just a few taps. I'm generally okay with the month view, but wonder if there isn't a way to show more information in that view while still keeping it clean looking. Most of all, the lag is my biggest gripe. Again, I know the calendar app really is keeping a ton of info up-to-date. I can almost hear Louis C.K. saying, "just give it a second!" But sometimes, especially scrolling between individual days, the pauses are long enough to be a little irritating. If I were to suggest one thing to Palm, it would be to make "snappiness" a first order priority. It's not that the Pre lags all over the place or anything, but if the Pre gets new features at the expense of speed, it's not worth it in my opinion.


Palm Pre at Work Here's an app that allows people to really get creative in organizing themselves. Truth be told, I wasn't that big on tasks at once before the Pre, but working in a bunch of different outpatient clinics, with different things to do in each one meant having to become quite organized very quickly. I ended up creating a separate task list for each clinic, my research interests, and personal/home, and couldn't be happier. Each evening I look at my tasks for the next day, and have been effectively staying on top of dozens and dozens of little things that need to be done.

Using the Palm Pre at Work

So those are the basic apps and how I use them. For anyone on the fence about the Pre’s ability to cut it in the working world, let me assure you, the core functionality is there, and it handles professional duty just fine. In fact, I continue to marvel at how impressive the "bones" of webOS are. Truly, the potential here is mind-boggling. Sure, there's only a limited number of official apps available right now. But the headlines on PreCentral, and the rapidly expanding homebrew catalog are evidence enough for me that things are heading in the right direction. Just the other day I learned that Lexi-Comp would be made available for webOS. This will fill a large gap for those of us working in healthcare, and I couldn't be more excited.

As more and more apps become available, the beauty of webOS becomes apparent. Think of it: multiple apps, relating to your personal, work, and social life, all staying up-to-date in the background, all at once, without tripping over each other. The potential there is just amazing.

Check out RizP’s previous real review: Palm Pre Takes a Holiday.