Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pre Review -- Part 0. Preface

This is a kind of background to a full Review of the Pre -- laying out my prejudices and preferences, so that any reader can have a frame of reference to my coming comments.

So many reviews that I've read come with baggage from the reviewer. Many reviewers have not been around that long, or used many other devices than an iPhone, so all comparisons are to the iPhone. Apple's marketing is so good that you'd think they invented everything, even though they've only had a phone for 2 years. Palm, on the other hand, DID invent a lot of the smartphone features that everyone else has copied.

So, here's my backfround. My life has been about organizing and being organized. Long ago, I used to carry a small paper datebook for my appointments and a small notebook to keep track of my expenses (to the penny -- every month!). Phones had dials and were black and sat on a stand. Watches had hands and dials, too, and were worn on the wrist.

But, then along about 30 years ago, watches got screens and buttons, and multiple alarms, and eventually could store and retrieve your appointments. I had a whole series of Casio data watches in the '80s. Then a clunky, but pocketable cell phone, And a series of Digital Diaries to keep track of appointments and a phone directory completely replaced my paper calendar in the '90s. Eventually, I got a Palm Vx and there was great joy in being organized. The money notebook went away, too, replaced by Pocket Quicken.

Finally, the advent of the smartphone: the Treo. I waited until it seemed perfected and jumped aboard with the miraculous Treo 600. Only one device in my pocket! Phone, PDA, e-mail, all the great Palm OS apps like Pocket Quicken for money tracking, Splash Shopper to make paper grocery lists obsolete, even Score Pad to keep score at the baseball game, with instantly updated stats every innning! The new century was here and it was fantastic.

The Treo 700p came along and added faster speeds, practical Web browsing, video recording, a better keyboard, and even some audio and video (TV on your phone!). Since then, though, Palm has stood still, and the iPhone came along and changed everything with touchsceens, a terrific browser, and YouTube video!

So now we expect our phones to be as good as our computers, and act as music players, cameras, e-mail clients, Web browser, media center, as well as send amd receive calls, text messages, and IMs. But I still expect to be organized, with the same brilliance of PDA that Palm introduced 13 years ago. I expect my pocket device to be easy to use and functional, ahead of being a fashion accessory or a music player. The Treo always got a bad rap as being clunky, but it fits my hand and pocket perfectly well. Blackberries don't get called clunky, but most are not as svelte as a Razor was (remember those -- everyone had one).

Keep this background in mind as you read my review of the Pre (and the 3GS). These are my biases. This is my perspective. Function over Form. Organization ahead of Style.

Battery drain on the Pre, but quick recharge

I've had my Palm Pre for over a month now and used it every day. And not once have I made it through an entire day without running the battery down to the 20% warning level. For a while, I didn't realize that the GPS is quite draining to have on all the time. Lately, I've had that turned off. I spend quite a bit of time in front of my computer and that is an area of weak cell service, so maybe that accounts for some of the drain -- the constant straining of the radio to reach a cell tower. Another factor may be that I constantly run the Classic emulator to manage my Tasks list, transferred from my Treo. It does background checking to sound alarms, which might be hard on the battery, too.

The good news part is that the battery recharges pretty quickly. Tonight, it chimed for juice at 5:40, so I put it on the Touchstone charger during supper, and when I checked back 35 minutes later, at 6:15. it was already up to 90%.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One hand operation is a snap

One thing I appreciate about the Pre, especially after years of using a Treo, it the ability to use it with one hand (one thumb, basically). I can pull it from my shirt pocket and slide open the keyboard, which turns it on, in one smooth motion. I can then answer a call, respond to an alarm or alert of email, or initiate a task with a touch or swipe on the screen, or start a search or make a call (speed dial) by touching a key on the keyboard.

While some one-handed operatiion is possible on the iPhone, for the most part, it takes two hands to tango. And typing on the glass keyboard turns in to hunt-and-peck torture, compared to two-thumb speedery on the Pre.