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Palm Pre - the very first update With webOS 2.0 due out before the end of the year, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at how far webOS has come since version 1.0. So we’re going to do that, and we’re going to go back to the beginning to start. Actually, we’re going to go back to the first update, webOS version 1.0.2, which landed on June 5, 2009, otherwise known as the day before the much-anticipated release of the Palm Pre.

It was a different time, both literally and figuratively - one only need look at the modern smartphone landscape to see how drastically things have changed since June 2009. For perspective, the top-tier phones of the day: the iPhone 3GS, the HTC Hero (only in Europe), the BlackBerry Bold/Tour, and the Palm Pre. My, how things have changed. After the break, we chronicle just how webOS has changed over the past 16 months.

webOS 1.0.2 - 5 June 2009

  • The clock app appeared, bringing the begged-and-pleaded-for native alarm solution the day before the Pre officially launched.
  • Several glaring webOS 1.0 bugs were squashed, including making the camera app run faster.

webOS 1.0.3 - 19 June 2009

  • Updates were fast and light in the early days, with many kinks still to be worked out once webOS was being tested by tens of thousands of early adopters.
  • Changes were also made to meet real world usage scenarios, including more frequent calendar and contact syncing.
  • Non-SSL Microsoft Exchange support was baked in, the first in a long series of incremental updates to Exchange support in webOS.

webOS 1.0.4 - 29 June 2009

  • Perhaps the fastest webOS update we ever saw, 1.0.4 came with one goal in mind: patching a fairly major security flaw that gave us our first taste of homebrew. The hole patched was that any application installer file (ipk) downloaded through email or the web installed without warning or prompt. While very cool for early homebrew, it was also a big vulnerability if left unpatched.

webOS 1.1.0 - 23 July 2009

  • The first major update to webOS, version 1.1.0 brought changes to several apps, as well as numerous system tweaks and enhancements.
  • Facebook contacts Synergy support was corrected such that removing a friend also deleted that contact.
  • Email received additional Exchange enhancements (including PIN enforcement and remove wipe) and the ability to sync new Gmail labels (as folders).
  • iTunes sync was restored for the first time after Apple broke Palm’s debatably hacky “I’m an iPod!” sync method.

webOS 1.2.0 - 28 September 2009

  • Amazon MP3 was updated to allow downloads over cellular connections.
  • The first ecommerce groundwork was laid in the App Catalog, allowing you to enter and store a credit card number.
  • Email gained search capabilities, merely start typing to search subjects, senders, and recipients.
  • Email, Web, Contacts, and Messaging all received non-editable text copy-paste (editable text having been available since day zero).

webOS 1.2.1 - 2 October 2009

webOS 1.3.1 - 13 November 2009

  • Yahoo Synergy synchronization was added, bringing Yahoo email, calendar, and chat support.
  • Contact linking support was updated to differentiate between similar-but-different names, as well as suffix-carrying names.
  • PIN-locking (both voluntary and EAS-enforced) was updated to allow PINs of longer than four digits.

webOS 1.3.5 - 28 December 2009

  • Version 1.3.5 fixed a major oversight that up until the paid-app expansion of the App Catalog hadn’t been an issue for many outside the homebrew community: Palm’s file system implementation partitioned webOS such that installed apps were in a separate partition from the USB drive. This allowed for apps to not carry burdensome security measures. But it also meant that that no matter how much space a user had free in the USB-accessible partition, they only had a small space available for app installations. Palm fixed this with 1.3.5, creating a system that stored apps in the spacious USB partition, but inside an auto-encrypting folder that would mask itself when the phone was put into USB mode.
  • The webOS update mechanism was also adjusted so that users could download an update over 2G data connections instead of just 3G and Wi-Fi. This wasn’t a recognized issue until the Pixi was released the month prior. With no Wi-Fi, the Pixi could only download updates over 3G connections, and if that wasn’t available, there was no way to get a webOS update. Palm eventually crafted an App Catalog app to help Pixi users stuck on 1.2.9 (a special Pixi launch-only version of webOS) and 1.3.1 get to the point where they could download 1.3.5.

webOS - 4 January 2010

webOS 1.4.0 - 25 February 2010

  • Custom alert tones came to Calendar, Email, and Messaging.
  • PDK gaming came to webOS, as promised at CES the month prior. The App Catalog selection was still limited to beta partners, but the bright new world of 3D gaming on-par with what was offered on Apple iOS devices was too fantastic to downplay. Except for the low market share app price premium levied on webOS users.
  • The ability to record video was added to webOS, bringing along on-device editing and uploading to YouTube and Facebook, plus sending as MMS and email attachments.

webOS 1.4.1/ - 31 March 2010

  • Paid app purchases were expanded internationally.
  • If you were a US Pre user, you already had app purchases, and instead reaped the benefits of multiple bug fixes.

webOS 1.4.5 - 30 June 2010

  • The most painful of webOS update releases, it took until 11 October 2010 for all devices to have webOS 1.4.5 available. Scratch that, it’s still not available on Telcel in Mexico. The suspected reason for the delay was for Palm to have time to fix a bug that affected how PDK apps saved files (e.g. your progress in a game), but for whatever reason that bug was not fixed even in later parts of the extended roll-out.
  • The groundwork was laid for the PDK apps program to be opened up to all developers, with proper sandboxing for PDK apps enabled. Prior to webOS 1.4.5, PDK apps ran with unlimited access to files all across the device - a major security concern, but not a problem so long as the PDK program was in beta. With the PDK program leaving beta, said PDK apps were in need of walls, hence the sandboxing.

So, there it is, the history of webOS updates. Excluding oddball versions of webOS (like 1.2.9 on the Sprint Pixi launch and 1.4.2 on the AT&T Pre Plus and Pixi Plus launch), we’ve seen some twelve updates to webOS over the span of sixteen months. It’s an impressive pace, one that was especially evident when major bugs - usually Exchange-related - were discovered soon after an update’s release and a fixed version of webOS was released just a few days later.

With webOS 2.0 around the corner, we’re looking forward to some more major changes to the way webOS works. We’re also looking forward to webOS coming from a Palm with the backing of HP. Our hope is that that’ll mean two things: more frequent larger updates (i.e. more new features, API support, etc), and more thoroughly-tested updates (i.e. no more broken Exchange support with every other update).

Now that you’ve read through the short but tumultuous history of webOS updates, what do you think of Palm's pace to date?