Once upon a time Palm was at the forefront of smartphone technology. And with the Pre 2 it still is – at least, as far as operating system and user interface are concerned. But the new Pre 2 snuck out of the traps rather than being launched with a big fanfare – and with no operators offering it on contract, it’s cutting a decidedly low profile.
Introducing WebOS 2.0
The Pre 2′s relative anonymity is unfortunate not only for Palm’s new owner, Hewlett Packard, but also for WebOS 2.0, the latest incarnation of the Palm operating system. WebOS, which makes its debut here, may is primarily destined for tablets – but the Palm Pre 2 proves it does a superb job on smartphones too.
The Pre 2′s specifications are good, with a 1GHz processor supporting Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and HSDPA as well as the WebOS 2.0 operating system. The handset has 16GB of built-in storage, no option to expand it using a microSD card.
The Pre 2′s Web OS 2.0 user interface is based around the concept of cards’, which represent opened applications. These sit in the centre of the screen, ready to be swept through so that you can find what you need. A new feature introduced by WebOS 2.0 is the ability to group these cards into stacks’ of related apps using the same data. For example, ‘open contacts’, ‘decide to email a contact’, and both the contacts and email apps are stacked automatically. You can create stacks too, just by dragging individual cards towards each other.
The touchscreen metaphor extends beyond the screen itself. The area below the screen is called the Gesture area and it responds to finger sweeps. Sweep upwards to open the apps list, left to go back, and upwards onto the screen to close an application that is in card view, for example. It’s extremely slick and intuitive.
We also really like a feature called Just Type. A universal search box has been tweaked so that it can start apps as well as search. Begin to write the text for an SMS, for example, and when you’re ready simply tap the application icon that appears on screen. It pretty much eliminates the need to call up the apps menu, and is fast and easy to use.
The Palm Pre 2 is compatible with Palm’s wireless Touchstone charger (£39.99). Previously you had to purchase a replacement backplate which could cope with its induction style charging.
It’s also a ‘slider’ handset, with a small Qwerty keyboard hidden away till it’s needed. We found the keyboard well made, though a bit small and fiddly.
One thing that annoyed us slightly was the Palm Pre 2′s slightly curved back. This means it doesn’t sit flat on a table – a fact that irritated us very little when the slider was closed, but a lot when it was open. The increased curve in this orientation made tapping at the screen fiddly as the handset wobbled around on our desk as we tapped the screen.