Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Little things about Palm’s “new-ness” that you (may) have missed

So these are the Palm’s “new-ness” that we all have been waiting, are they that really worth waiting for?

It had been hectic week for me especially over the past few days, with so many workloads to finish, I only had little time for my own addiction of mobile news. So I came late to inked down my thoughts about Palm Prē™ and the webOS™, some of you must have read the news and hands-on of them on the net, if you’re already bored and sick of reading another one, then you better hit the next post because mine here is a long post.

But if you still can’t get enough of Palm’s “new-ness” and maybe you’ve missed few important info, then let’s dig in for more and find out what have make the buzz all over the net since its announcement at CES 2009. I’ve gathered around some of the news I found most interesting, and which can give us clearer pictures of the Palm Prē™ and webOS™.

Allow me to break them down each into the software (webOS™) and the hardware (Prē™), this way you’ll be more focus on the details. Let’s start, shall we?

The webOS™: User Interface (UI)

Pres_main_uiJoshua Topolsky from Engadget mention the Palm’s new OS as “quite a bit more revolutionary than the iPhone,” the UI outclasses most of its competitors. And another cheering remarks when he tried the webOS™, all of the menus and switching are done with a grace and simplicity that we rarely see on any device, animations are smoothly going in and out.

While Ginny Mies & Melissa J. P. from PC World believe the new webOS™ is one of the silkiest and best-designed smart phone platforms they've seen in a while. Palm’s new OS will clearly give iPhone and Google Android some competition when it comes to phone usability and overall appeal.

And Adrian Covert from Gizmodo found a neat feature when he handled Palm Prē; a black surface under the screen which he calls it as the Gesture Bar, streamlines some of the navigation so you can use the phone with one hand, especially when trying to reach the upper part of the screen. If you're working in a specific app, you can drag your finger up from the Gesture Bar to the screen, hold it for a second, and the wave dock will appear, making it easy to quick launch another app.

From some of the quick hands-on reviews I’ve read on the net, all of them are saying the webOS™ is splendid in handling finger scroll and swipe, including glide gesture which is very favorable by users after iPhone perfected the feature. These finger features can be seen as trivial things, but essential for creating a user friendly device with large touch screen like the new Palm Prē™.

Palm must be planning to make the most of Prē’s™ 3.1-inch 480x320 display, silently encourage Treo/Centro users, who are accustomed to use their device with one hand, to ditch the need of a stylus to take advantage both of Prē’s™ touch screen and webOS™ finger-gesture friendly UI. This is exactly the challenge found in nowadays touch screen based smartphones, including the iPhone and G1 Android. So for you stylus addicts, you should consider this thought through, because Palm Prē™ is probably the first indication that Palm is leaving behind stylus for the next smartphones to come.

The webOS™: multitasking & the deck of cards

Pre_deck_of_cardsOne of the most noticeable items, which is basically the first and only item shown at the main UI, is a deck of cards placed at the bottom to keep you inform of what are working on the background and alerts for incoming calls, text messages and emails without interrupting whatever app you’re currently open.

Apps remains live, even when minimized into the card view, so changes can continue to happen in real-time, even if you've moved on to another activity; says PC World. Joshua from Engadget also noticed that when you're zoomed out to cards, the data is still active in the previews.

You can view each of your open applications at once, shuffle them any way you choose, and then discard the ones you want to close. Adrian from Gizmodo says in his quick hands-on review that when user launch an app, user can drag it onto your phone desktop to create a new card, and when finished with a card for a specific app, closing it is as simple as flicking the card upwards.

All of those show how the webOS™ stylishly handles multitasking, something that Apple is still stubbornly restrict in the iPhone even until today.

The webOS™: copy & paste (ZOMG! ;-p)

I could just mention this insignificant feature in any above categories, but I simply wish to emphasize the other feature that’s still dumbfounded-ly restricted in iPhone: copy & paste. ~LOL~

Joshua from Engadget says the copy and paste feature is implemented by holding a thumb on the gesture area and grabbing the text you want with your other thumb or a finger -- there's also a dropdown menu that lets your move through a number of editing options.

The webOS™: the web browser

Pres_web_browserI believe it’s inevitable for any mobile OSes to not include their own built-in web browser, besides avoiding the share of revenue from 3rd party web browser embedded inside the OS, it’s more stabile and reliable to create your own web browser. And Palm has done a great job for creating the webOS’s™ web browser.

Sascha Segan from PC Mag reports that the browser is based on WebKit, like Apple's Safari. It supports streaming video in RTSP, H.263 and H.264 formats, but not Flash. But knowing how ambitious Adobe when it tried several times to get Flash into iPhone, we can expect Adobe to bring Flash into webOS™ web browser.

During the Palm Prē™ introduction at CES 2009, we were shown how the web browser is able to handle several web pages at once and then show them all as thumbnails like in IE’s Quick Tabs feature. PC World says users can have as many browser windows open as they want (only limited by the available memory) and users can still save pages for offline viewing (for example to view them while in plane).

Overall, all of the reviewers say the web browser renders fast and beautifully, no glitches and the browser was extremely responsive during the hands-on with the prototype.

The webOS™: those neat little features

The new webOS™ has some features that may look trivial, simple but yet useful and very user-friendly for daily usage. Here are some of them according from PC World:

  • Pres_smsThe calendar has color coordination and multiple calendar support.
  • The Messaging application now combines both SMS and instant messaging into a single umbrella. The conversations are threaded (as they are on current Palm OS-based phones), and can represent ongoing conversations with one contact, across multiple systems (ie, you start the conversation via text, and continue via AOL Instant Messenger).
  • Prē’s™ ambient light sensor. If you're in a movie theater or dark environment, and you receive a message or call, the display will show up darker than normal.
  • The Prē™ will receive updates over-the-air in the background; and all software installation will be done over the air.
  • Prē™ users will have access to Amazon's Mobile Music Store, also seen on Google's Android-based G1. The store makes it easy to download DRM-free tracks directly to the phone.
  • Prē's™ built-in accelerometer seemed quite responsive, but not overly sensitive. For example, the display doesn't flip until the phone is almost completely horizontal. Engadget reports that if you're on a web page you can flip the display around and it will automatically reorient, and Gizmodo says it’s worth noting that the accelerometer works quite well.

The webOS™: life in the net without walls

Palm CEO Ed Colligan said this during his session on stage at Palm CES 2009 event, “Lots of smartphone bring you the Internet -- but Prē™ does this without walls.”

Pres_multiple_emailsAnd so that’s what the webOS™ does, it helps liberate us from the walls (read: restrictions and limitations) which nowadays average smartphones have put around us. In today’s modern life, it’s unlikely for mobile addicts like you and me not to be connected to the net even for one day, it has become like the air we breathe every day. Palm understands this, and the new webOS™ is capable to bring down those walls with nifty little features like these:

Adrian from Gizmodo praises the way webOS pulls data from various web services, and melds it into its own framework is top notch. Users will be able to text, gChat and send IMs messages all from the same window, without switching between apps for messaging.

He also loves the way users can search for something on the Prē™, and then shoot that same query up to Google or Wikipedia without having to launch the web browser. It's another way the internet has subtly worked its way into the phone without being constricted to a specific app or browser.

According to PC World; users can subscribe to public and specific calendars, like those on Google and Facebook. If you use the Pre to add something to your Google calendar, that info will be synced with that on Google's Calendar Web site.

Pres_contact_details_2And the Synergy in webOS™ email interface makes it easy to check and search through multiple e-mail accounts. Select a contact, and webOS will autopopulate an e-mail with that contact's info. While Joshua from Engadget says when viewing an email you can click on the sender and view their contact card, which is populated with traditional info like phone and email, but also includes statuses for different services like GoogleTalk and Facebook -- another tap and you're chatting with them.

Still according to PC World; the webOS™ Messaging application now combines both SMS and instant messaging into a single umbrella. The conversations are threaded (as they are on current Palm OS-based phones), and can represent ongoing conversations with one contact, across multiple systems (ie, you start the conversation via text, and continue via AOL Instant Messenger).

Sascha Segan from PC Mag found out that while the Prē™ won't come with desktop software, there will be solutions for people to get their Palm Desktop or Outlook info, and info from earlier Treo and Centro models, into the Prē™. And users can drag and drop songs over from PC using USB mass storage to put their music collections into the Prē™.

But alas, not all webOS™ features are there. One of the essentially needed in the first place to be there; video recording is nowhere to be found in webOS™. Although we can expect video recording apps to pop out as soon as the phone launched, it’s still a big question why Palm didn’t embed such feature.

The webOS™: apps & development

Pres_default_launcherEver since Apple has introduced App Store, the whole idea of centralized distribution for apps has become widely accepted and a must have gate for users to get the needed (or hardly useful but fun) apps. Having plenty of apps to support the mobile platform can really help to boost the popularity of the phone itself, Palm knows this more than Apple or Google. With abundant apps available since the first version of Palm OS more than 10 years ago, Palm has been enjoying all the benefits from 3rd party software developers support, so are the Palm users from TX to Treo/Centro generations.

So it is Palm who now follows Apple & Android steps, and named its own app store as: App Catalog.

But unlike Apple who puts iron grips over App Store policy, Palm is taking Android’s open policy for allowing developers to access most of the phone's capabilities, including calendaring, contacts, music and video playback. It would appear that Palm is very open to allowing developers nearly full access to the device's capabilities; says Clint Ecker from ArsTechnica.

Sascha Segan from PC Mag is also reporting the same: Palm will certify all developers and approve all apps, but only to make sure they work properly. They won't kill apps for content-related reasons like Apple does. Think Android, not iPhone.

Adrian from Gizmodo further more reveals that what Palm is mostly concerned with are the security and stability of the apps. Making sure there aren't apps that crash or provide holes for their phones to be hacked. Palm also say they will work close with select partners on app and give them access to deeper areas of the OS that are not available in the SDK, but developers won't get access to the Linux core.

Pres_calendar_2Wait, do you hear me say Linux? Yessire, webOS™ is Linux based OS; though that is invisible for most developers as the tools to write applications are JavaScript, HTML, and CSS says Ina Fried from CNet. Ina from CNet then later found that Prē™ does have the technical capability to be used as a tethered modem for a laptop (The original story suggested it couldn't based on comments from Sprint that the feature wouldn't be made available).

Back to the Linux topic again, the webOS is indeed based on Linux, and is in some way an extension of what they've been crafting for a while now, but on top of that Linux core is a display layer that is basically WebKit (quoted from Engadget). Thus, literally the naming of Palm’s new webOS™ can be interpreted as all of the apps will be written for the platform are web-based.

Developers will use Mojo, WebOS™ application framework, to develop WebOS™ applications using standard technologies such as HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. And according to Tom Krazit from CNet’s Wireless blog; Palm also says there will be a way to migrate older Palm OS applications to WebOS™, but doesn't say how that will work or how it might affect performance.

Ohkay, I’ve talked a lot about Palm webOS™, so let’s take a quick look at Prē™ hardware.

The Palm Prē™: cute, round and a bit chubby

Pres_angle_3I don’t need to say much of Prē’s™ look, because every phone’s shapes are different from each individual’s point of view. Below are the first impressions from each reviewers:

Engadget: The phone is very light and surprisingly thin, though it doesn't feel like a "toy." There are buttons and ports around the edges, but everything's fairly flush with the device ... The screen is encased in the rounded shell of the device, but comes through incredibly bright and sharp, with zero trouble with viewing angle. Glare might be an issue outdoors, but it's not too bad otherwise.

Gizmodo: A good size comparison would be an iPod classic with a big hard drive. In terms of thickness, it's definitely not as thin as the iPhone, or even the bold, but it's an acceptable size considering it's a slider. ... While the hardware is definitely high quality, I'm not entirely blown away by the design. It looks really nice, and original, but it's a little too cutesy in shape and kind of reminds me of an oversized pebble.

PC World: The glossy-black Pre has a unique curved slider body: When you slide the 3.1-inch screen up, it curves slightly towards you, a design point intended to resist glare and make the phone feel comfortable in-hand and against face.

And as for me, my first impression from seeing the Prē™ is: me like it! ~LOL~ It has everything I like from the chubbiness of my Treo, to the modern curvy line that combine into one smartphone which will rest comfortably in my hand. If a mobile device is designed too thin, then it’ll easily slips from clumsy hands where it’ll then plunge down to meet and greet with the hard pavement. Plus IMHO, with an extra thickness, the Prē™ will feel more sturdy in hand.

The Palm Prē™: simplified buttons by Palm

Pres_angle_6Apart from the apparent larger touch screen, Palm has changed its smartphone design to become more sleek and simple with only a rounded center button, that looks and feels like a ball bearing. It acts as navigation button, replacing the antique D-pad in previous smartphone line-ups.

And for Palm loyal fans and addicts, these are for you guys: the top of the unit retains Palm's slider switch for turning off the phone's volume and it has a shortcut to jump to airplane mode (something travelers will appreciate) as reported by PC World. Horraaay!! ;-D


Last but not least, is the volume control button placed like usual on the left of the Prē™.

The Palm Prē™: same o’cramped & squishy keyboard

Oh naw, from all of the Palm “new-ness”, what I don’t understand is why Palm still insist on using Centro’s/Treo Pro’s keyboard for the new Prē™? It’s like getting all pumped up from opening a nicely wrapped present, but then a little bit disappointed to find a same o’toy to play with inside. And it’s not just me who feel this way:

Pres_squishy_keyboardEngadget: The keyboard is reminiscent of the Centro or Treo Pro, but closer to the Pro in that the keys are spread out and somewhat larger. The key presses are about as shallow as the keys on the G1, but the rubberyness makes that forgivable.

PC World: We do have some complaints about this early unit. The keys are slightly recessed, and the bezel lip on the sides and bottom can interfere with typing. Furthermore, the top row is a few millimeters too close to the top of the slider screen, so we had to angle our fingers in order to press those letters. Palm says that the form factor may be altered slightly before the release date, so we'll be curious to see if our design nits might be addressed by then.

It’s nice to see Palm has used red color lettering to separate the keypad from letters on the keyboard layout, makes you instantly stare at the red dot when the keyboard slides out. ;-p

And speaking about keyboard, PC World also reports that surprisingly the Palm Prē™ has no touch keyboard, but a third party developer could come out with an app. Aw, double naw!

The Palm Prē™: no memory slot no worry?

Pres_photo_albumThis is another big question, and disappointment too for long Palm users all around the world; there’s no memory slot in Palm Prē™ which means you’ll be stuck to the fixed 8GB of internal memory storage. But thank goodness, Palm makes it better than iPhone, because you can tether the unit to a PC using a USB cable, and transfer files directly from your PC to the phone; it will be recognized as a mass storage device.

Still, if you’re planning to get Palm Prē™ as soon it’s out in the market tomorrow, you better start reducing those huge music albums and video collections. With only 8GB of memory available, it’ll depleted soon enough before you know it.

The Palm Prē™: what’s the processor?

I’m sure you’ve already memorized Prē’s™ specs and can mention them one by one with your eyes closed, so I’ll skip the specs out to shorten this post. But like you, I’m puzzled about Prē’s™ processor. Palm is still hiding it from the press, and probably only a handful of software developers who have received Mojo (webOS™ SDK) know what is the processor used in Palm Prē™.

The only comforting assurance for us, is that Prē™ definetely got one badass kickin processor to power up its meany webOS™ UI and features. So early adopters can rest assure to dream of owning the latest technology which won’t become obsolete in short time span, let’s pray it won’t.

The Palm Prē™: more Prē™ models to come

Either you’re not interested with Sprint’s service or price for the upcoming and unannounced contract for Palm Prē™, you’ll be happy to know what Sascha Segan from PC Mag is reporting:

  • Yes. There will be different models, in different shapes and sizes. According to a tipster, the next Pre may be a lower-cost, candybar-style phone without a QWERTY keyboard. (Hip-hip Hooray!!!)
  • Palm is anticipated to announce a GSM/UMTS model for Europe and Asia in mid-February.
  • Palm expects to address the foreign carriers for Prē™ at a press conference at Mobile World Congress in mid-February.

The Palm Prē™: pioneering the wireless charge

Palm_pre_on_puckerFrom all of Palm’s “new-ness”, I’m very excited to see Palm has finally able to take the initial move that made Palm famous in PDA era back then: a pioneer. And this time Palm has introduced TouchStone, the wireless charger for Palm Prē™.

Don’t be fooled by the first impression on the look of this amazing wireless charger, it may look like a paperweight, or a doorstop, or as even Palm employees are calling it as the “puck”. ~LOL~ Chris Ziegler from Engadget says that the magnets buried in the Pre certainly seemed to do their job of keeping it glued to the base in portrait and landscape orientations.

Two thumbs up for Palm! Me like it, and definitely will get one when arrive here. ;-)

The Palm Prē™: what’s up with the name?

Pre_nameI don’t have a problem with the new webOS™ name, but it’s the opposite when I first heard the new name for Palm’s “new-ness” smartphone: Prē™. I mean, c’mon. Palm usually used the combination of “e” and “o” put in four words altogether like for instance: Trēo™, Centro™, or Folēo™.

But I guess Palm is trying to break the aging pattern, so now it’s only three words: Prē™. It did feel awkward at first, but my tongue finally got used to it.

After that, somehow I’m getting the vibe from the name; perhaps Palm wants to give a preview for the new age of the upcoming 10 years of Palm. So maybe we’ll see more than we can ask for? Bring it on Palm! ;-p

Last thoughts

Is Palm on the right track now? Will webOS™ has a long life like Palm OS? Will Palm Prē™ become as good as the first hands-on reviews when it finally out? Will you jump in and try the new Prē™ right away? These are what I think as a common sense for everyone who is still unsure whether to get the new Prē™, or the old Palm OS based smartphones like Trēo™ 680 & Centro™.

Even for long and loyal Palm fans, the long delay of Palm’s promised “new-ness” has left a quite big hole that is now filled with others: iPhone & Android to name the few. Palm should realize this, and take necessary actions to keep their main bloodline (and revenue) alive.

Pres_angle_5So, my fellow PalmAddicts; are the new Prē™ and webOS™ enough to sway you once again back into the Palm world?

Pheew, this has been a long post to write for me and to read for you. Until we meet again on the next episode of the little things that you (may) have missed. Sources are from:

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