Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pre Review -- Part 2. Cons (A Dozen Downfalls)

Where does the Pre fall short? What are the features that are lacking or less capable than other devices I've used (mostly Treo & iPhone).

1. Tasks are less capable than Treo. A primary reason I carry a smartphone is for the PDA features, especially Tasks (ToDo List) and Calendar. Palm created the PDA market 13 years ago, and the Treo was a highly evolved version of the ToDo List. I have made use of almost all the features. The Pre is missing several of them: categories, alarms, repeating items, sorted lists, priorities (5 vs 3), record completion date, and multiple views. I've tried to work around some of the missing features in the native Pre Tasks, but that is essentially impossible. I can only hope that future versions will introduce some of the more robust features that are a Palm hallmark. In the meantime, I'm using the Classic app and running my transferred ToDo list from my Treo.

2. Calendar lacks some important features. Again, Palm chose not to implement categories in the calendar. I'm used to quickly looking at my month view and seeing color-coding to indicate the type of activities on each day. The Pre overlaid calendars (from Google and Palm Profile and Outlook) can be color-coded and act in this way to some extent. But, they turned off the color coding in the month view!! Everything is just gray. I could set up a different Google calendar for each of my Treo categories, but it wouldn't show up, except in the day or week view. This is just a mistake on Palm's part. I hope they fix it. Also, the Calendar reminder alarms are very limited. I'm used to setting anywhere from 1-99 minutes, The Pre only provides for 5,10,15,30, or 60. This is particularly frustrating as my two most common reminder alarms are 20 and 90 minutes! Interestingly, items that were transferred from my Treo retained their alarm times. It's a shame the Pre took a step backward in this area, and I hope updates will add more back.

3. Memos are completely different. Again, no categories, no private or secure items, and practically a limited number due to the "post-it note" paradigm, rather than a list paradigm. Furthermore, my Treo Memos didn't even transfer to the Pre (something I'll have to remedy with a support call someday). Meanwhile, they transferred from my Treo into the Classic app just fine, and I'm using them there. The Pre memos are ok for a quick note, but not for the kind of lists and memory aids I had in the Treo (and continue to use in the Classic app). I may have to look to another app with native Pre support that handles lists. The secret (secure) items will need to be put into something like SplashID (which I'm using in beta) or just kept locked away in the Classic app.

4. Only 4 direct access launch buttons. On the Treo, there are also 4 buttons, but 3 of them are assigned a second "shifted" function, and the side button below the volume control is assigned a function, too, so in effect there are 8 functions at your finger tips in one "click". True, the Pre can find any app via universal search from the keyboard, so usually within 2 or 3 "clicks" you can call up what you want. And the launcher view has 12 or more per page. But the Treo also has alternate screen views that provide more or different functions, and the iPhone has a whole screen full of buttons all the time. It's just that launching on the Pre seems to take more thought and more time. Palm has again gone backwards from it's manta of Jeff Hawkins to reduce the number of steps to do anything. In their desire to keep the home screen esthetically clear, they've given up some functionality. Not good in my view. I suppose I could just keep the launcher open all the time. Maybe I'll try that.

5. Touchscreen collects fingerprints. This is to be expected and also true of the iPhone, and the Treo to a lesser extent. But the Pre uses the touch interface extensively and so a daily wipe is manditory and often mid-day as well. Of course, I prefer keyboard shortcuts or command line control over mouse, too. I guess I'll get used to touchscreen in time. But I'm glad there is a keyboard on the Pre, or I'd probably not have it.

6. No video recording. Not that I ever did much, but it's ironic that the Pre drops the feature, just as the iPhone adds it. It's handy once in a while when a snapshot just doesn't quite capture the action. The Pre camera is nicely improved over the Treo, but why no video?

7. No voice: memo or dialing or command. Again, not something I used much on the Treo (memo that is, it didn't have dialing or command). But while testing the iPhone 3GS, it was kind of neat to make a call or request a tune. And even my wife's old Nokia dumb phone could voice dial.

8. No removable storage (SD card). Again, this may not be a big deal, as the 6GB+ of available built-in storage will likely be more than enough for me, since I don't carry around my whole music library. Right now I only have 2 John Coltrane songs on my Pre. If I want music, I'll probably just stream Pandora. On my Treo, I mainly used an SD card for photos, and again, only a few MB worth. The only reason I'm uncomfortable is that there is no way to back up or load data in a hard sense. So I guess the Pre is more of a netbook than a notebook.

9. Short battery life. This is somewhat of a concern. So far, I've never made it through a whole day without a recharge. Since I work at home and my touchstone is right on my desk, it's not too big a deal, but I am concerned. Only rarely would my Treo run down after 16 hours of use. The Pre typically goes from fuil charge to 20% remaining in about 5 or 6 hours. And I make very few phone calls. It may be, though, that the phone signal is weak and the battery is being drained trying to reach the cell tower? Or maybe the fact that my most used app is the Classic, for Tasks all day long? Whatever the reason, a battery should last all day unless heavy use of phone calls or browsing.

10. No landscape in e-mail. Yeah, I know about the secret code "RocknRollHax". But why isn't it just enabled by default? Easter eggs are for kids. Missing an important feature is just annoying.

11. Not enough native apps. The Treo has thousands of apps; the iPhone has thousands of apps; the Pre has 30 apps. Fortunately, via the Classic app, I can (and do) access some important PalmOS apps from my Treo. And I like Pandora and AccuWeather. Some things, though, would be much better in WebOS. And some things that the iPhone 3GS had, like the Public Radio Tuner, would be nice to have. Many of the apps I looked at on the iPhone, though, were useless to me. I'm mostly not interested in games or music, so that leaves out a very large part of the app store catalog. And a couple of things I tried, like Groceries, were awful on the iPhone. I use SplashShopper every week for my grocery list, and while the PalmOS version runs ok under Classic, it would be nice to see what they can do using WebOS. I do miss PocketQuicken and PeanutReader and DietDiary a bit, even though I didn't use them much. It's nice to have them on board. They are all PalmOS, so I could load them, but, again, native apps might be better.

12. Browser shortcomings. Of course, every mobile browser needs Flash support, and none has it -- yet. Bring it on and soon! And there is no way (that I've found) to right-click on a link and download what it's pointing to (like a podcast). Again, I'm being picky, since I don't think any existing mobile browser can do that either. But, hey, this is supposed to be revolutionary WebOS, isn't it?

So, overall, I guess I'm most disappointed that Palm took somewhat of a step back in it's PDA functions and intuitive user interface (minimize the clicks!). Most of the other shortcomings may well be fixed as software updates (and apps) come along in the next few months. I'll have to live with the limitations, but that's always been true.


  1. Thanks for this great review! Unfortunately, I read it too late... I finally switched back to my Treo 700p.

  2. It is amazing how Palm has screwed up with the Pre. I am also stuck with a Treo 650 and have no idea what to upgrade to.

    It should have been obvious that their loyal Treo customer base will only switch to the Pre if the trusted-and-working PIM apps are rewritten flawlessly and perform feature-to-feature with the old Treo PIM apps. Instead, they create half-working, featureless PIM applications which cannot be used for serious work.

    The other HUGE missing thing is Hotsync. I just don't understand how they could break compatibility with EVERYTHING possible (Palm Desktop, Linux Desktop-Evolution-KMail...etc).

    Extremely dumb.