Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sprint is holding back Palm Prē full potentials

They say in fairy tales the giants are not affraid of anything, except for small-delicate creatures. And as in modern time like ours today, there is this one little feature in today's smartphones that big wireless carrier companies fear most: data tethering. For you who are not familiar with the term; tethering allows you to use your smartphone as a modem for your laptop / computer.

Because of this 'tethering' ability in smartphone nowadays, many wireless carriers disallow or even disable this feature to control limited data bandwidth. Too much data transfer over the air will easily overwhelm the traffics at their base-station and main servers, resulting drop calls and poor wireless performance in overall. The only possible way to workaround this problem instead of disable tethering feature itself, is to expand the wireless data bandwidth along with adding more servers to tackle the requests. Unfortunately, the latter solution might not be suitable for the ailing Sprint.

When Sprint launched Palm Prē™ on June 6th, the smartphone comes with abundant new features that competitors are lacking, except that particular tethering option. Users who bought it, can't found tethering option at the Prē's Launcher app menu. But that doesn't mean the tethering ability is not there in the first place, one can quickly make a speculation that such a powerful smartphone must have tethering ability inside it. So thus begun the search of ways to look for and activate the perk by hackers: the Prē Dev Wiki team.

But before the Prē Dev Wiki team make a finding, or they have but yet to post it up, surprisingly Palm contacted them and warn not to try to unlock the Prē's tethering ability during the handset's exclusivity period with Sprint. Palm's main concern is not about the finding of Prē's hidden perk, but because Sprint could force Palm to take legal action against the hackers team. Here's the message from Palm:

"We have been politely cautioned by Palm that any discussion of tethering during the Sprint exclusivity period (and perhaps beyond—we don't know yet) will probably cause Sprint to complain to Palm, and if that happened then Palm would be forced to react against the people running the IRC channel and this wiki.

We want to retain a good relationship with Palm, hence we are not allowing discussion of tethering on the IRC channel, or in this wiki.

Note that Sprint does not have a plan available for use with the Pre which allows tethering under the Terms Of Service.

Once there is a version of the Pre available for a carrier that does allow tethering, or an unlocked GSM version, then we may be able to change this policy."

Unlike Apple, who use a different approach to accept the presence of iPhone hackers known also as iPhoneDevTeam, Palm's warning can be considered as a good sign for those who wish to unlock the raw power of the Prē™ with unofficial tools. Albeit at the same time the harmony of both camps is not so good for us, end users. Because of those hackers, like the iPhoneDevTeam, iPhone has become a more exciting smartphone than what Apple meant it to be on its first iteration. Thanks to hackers, iPhone users had a workaround of using 'cut&paste' feature long before it is now available in iPhone OS 3.0 software update, and also thanks to hackers that iPhone has become so widely popular around the world because of the jailbreaking tools.

6-15-09pretether And in Palm Prē™ case, thanks to hackers that the tethering ability can be unlocked even though Palm (on Sprint's request) hid it away from the naked eyes to see. Eric Nguyen from IsYouGeekedUp has posted up the world's first set of instructions on how to tether Palm Prē™, "Basically, you setup an SSH tunnel to the Pre, which supports running as a SOCKS proxy. You then configure your browser to point to this proxy and BAM, you’re tethering away."

It is because of hackers like Eric, we can have our smartphones perform its potential at the fullest. Otherwise we'll have to take everything for granted, and suck up anything thrown at us from those corporate giants. Now, Palm has done the right thing by supporting developers through open parties such as the Prē Dev Wiki and prēDevCamp, but what we really should be worried is when the hackers chose to go along with Palm which then the results are we never see the daylight of webOS™ true potentials and what it can really do without the barriers.

Palm Prē™ tethering ability is not the only hidden gems that got unlocked and shown to the world, Prē Dev Wiki has uncovered hidden functionality to show call duration in the call log. They found out that this feature is fully developed and available in the Prē™, and proves to be very handy to keep track of your call duration time so you can save the talking time fees. Which is precisely why any wireless carriers, including Sprint, don't want their subscribers to be aware of. It is highly possible that Palm has cooked webOS™ with complete features, but then few of them got axed out because of Sprint's request...

Thumb_tall_pre-launcher-menu Another handy but hidden feature to have been discovered is to enable adding / removing pages in the Launcher app, why this feature is not enabled perhaps like what the Prē Dev Wiki assumes: "I'm guessing this was disabled due to usability concerns. Especially with the limited number of apps available right now, there's not a huge need for multiple screens, and deleting a page would result in shifting around icons, which can be a frustrating experience."

So Sprint, how long are you gonna hold back Palm Prē™ full potentials just to satisfy your needs? Don't you think your customers deserve more?

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