Palm Pre 2 4 Stars

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We really liked the first Palm Pre – and in fact awarded it a coveted five-star score, but commercially it didn’t do that well. Firstly, it had to compete with phones from the likes of LG, Apple, Nokia and Samsung. That meant Palm had to come up with a phone that could compete in terms of hardware and software with these big boys – and their multitude of apps. This was where it really let itself down. Eighteen months later, has Palm managed to keep up with the big names in terms of software and hardware so that the Palm Pre 2 can take its place in the market?

First look

In terms of size, the Palm Pre 2 is about the same size as the original. This slide handset has the look of a shiny black pebble – open it up and you’ll see the QWERTY keyboards rests in a valley – it may be a bit cramped but it does offer a decent typing experience. The screen is no different from its predecessor – it measures 3.1 inches (so there are plenty of phones with bigger screens to choose from), but it’s good enough and not so small that you’re constantly scrolling to read one article on a web page.

Beneath the display is a blank black strip that at first glance appears to have no purpose, but in fact it’s a key part of the operating toolkit. Swipe it right to left and you’ll find yourself on the previous position or screen. If you’re browsing the web you’ll be taken to the previous page. Keep swiping and you’ll find yourself back at the home screen. While you’re swiping, you’ll notice a thin white line runs across the bar – rather like the red ‘smile’ of Kit in the TV show Knight Rider. This also happens when you get an email, notification or text. It takes a bit of getting used to but we’re rather fond of this different take on a back button.

It is also possible to swipe upwards – swipe from the touch bar to the screen and you’ll be rewarded with the ‘card view’ facility, which offers a thumbnail view of all the apps that are open. The Palm Pre 2 is really good at multitasking and the card view is a top-notch way to get an overview of all open apps – and to switch quickly between them. To switch off an app, just slide the card up and off the top of the display. For all this to work properly you need a really responsive display, and happily the Palm Pre 2 doesn’t disappoint. It’s such a good touch-screen that we are amazed Palm didn’t decide to include a virtual QWERY keyboard. Sure, it has a hard keyboard but when you want to do a quick search or send a text a virtual one is handy.

Go in search

As we’ve mentioned searching, we must say a word about Palm’s search bar – called ‘Just Type’. It sits at the top of the home screen and is not just an ordinary search bar. Of course you can do a quick Google search, but it will also search Google Maps, Twitter, Wikipedia, and the Palm App Catalog. You can also bring up specific contacts and functions – just enter C and A, for instance, and a list will appear – something like Camera, Calendar, Carl, Caroline, for example. However, our favourite feature has to be the ability to call up specific emails by contact or subject. It’s by no means the only cute feature of the Pre 2 – we also like being able to bring down the notifications bar at the top of the display, along with the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi toggles. And the fact that is shows remaining battery life as a percentage.

You may not get the amount of customisation that you would on an Android phone, but it is still possible to arrange menus as you wish. Default sees three pages – extras, system and applications – but you are also able to change their names and customise which shortcuts widgets, features and apps feature on which pages.

Web browsing

The Palm Pre 2 offers a superb web browsing experience. Its really speedy using the HSDPA or Wi-Fi connection (that 1GHz chip boosts things too) and while other phones may have larger screens, the 31.in display produces sharp images and bold text. You can get rid of page borders by double tapping on the display and so get more content onto the view at any one time. There is multi-touch support, so you can pinch and zoom. The Pre 2 also has some of the fastest accelerometers we’ve ever seen – and you can use the touch panel to scroll in and out of a page when you’re in landscape mode. Another big bonus is that the Palm Pre 2 can play flash video (Apple take note) – although having said that we were unable to maximise the flash video on the BBC news site.

The camera is now a five-megapixel version (the original was 3.15 megapixels) and it makes a small difference – the pictures are reasonable but not exceptional. However, we were impressed with the really accurate A-GPS fix, which located us precisely using Google Maps.

The verdict

Generally, Palm has produced an excellent handset that is a joy to use. However, it has failed to sort out the issues that bugged its predecessor. The Palm App Catalog still suffers from a lack of content – there’s no native Twitter app, for example – and while it’s simple to use, and offers a great range of features and decent hardware, we doubt consumers are going to swap over from iPhones or Adroid handsets without a decent choice of apps.

Pros:
The user interface is unusual but fun to use, the processor is speedy, the touch-screen responsive, really accurate A-GPS and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Cons:
Some major omission (such as a native Twitter client) and a small choice of apps may put off iPhone or Android users.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 4 Stars
  • Ease of use 4 Stars
  • Features 4 Stars
  • Performance 4 Stars
  • Battery life 3 Stars

Final verdict: 4 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice