The camera is a 5 megapixel unit with an LED flash, however it lacks autofocus and video is only standard definition, not HD. In use the camera is easy enough, but it has no settings whatsoever, bar turning the flash on or off. Combined with the lack of autofocus it makes for a very limiting photography tool. Results are okay in terms of detail and colour but, despite the small lens meaning the lack of autofocus has a less dramatic effect than on a 'proper' camera, overall they're a step below the competition. Switching to video and things don't improve a great deal. You get smooth enough motion and decent colours but the lack of HD really is a let down in this day and age.
The keyboard is quite narrow and has small rubber keys that some people will find are too tiny. However, with what we’d consider average man hands we had no problems. Indeed, thanks to a great layout, it’s quite a nice typing experience and in WebOS 2.0 Palm has finally added predictive text which works well. Nevertheless, we would still like to see an all touchscreen version of the Pre with a decent onscreen keyboard. As it stands, WebOS, even in its second iteration, and despite many people’s protestations, remains without even an option for an onscreen keyboard.
Using the Palm Pre 2, its 1GHz processor (up from the miserly 500MHz one on the Pre and Pre Plus) and the software's support for GPU acceleration makes for a super snappy and slick interface, indeed it's second to none in this regard. You also get both Wi-Fi, for fast local browsing, and 3G for data on the move, and there's 16GB of internal memory, though no microSD slot for adding more.
Making a few calls on the Palm Pre 2, it threw up no causes for concern, though the deceptively large looking speaker doesn't actually return as good quality sound as you'd hope. Battery life is okay, with up to two days average use obtainable, but it seems to be particularly poor at retaining charge when in standby with us regularly returning to a dead phone when left over the weekend. This was presumably because of background activity like syncing emails so potentially life could be extended by turning a few of these options off, but we couldn't work out how to.
So the hardware is competent but not exactly market leading. What makes the Palm Pre 2 so appealing though is that currently it's the only phone that runs the stupendous WebOS 2.0. That software is simply a joy to use and puts almost all alternatives to shame. From messaging through email, web browsing, listening to music, running apps, social networking, and of course making calls, there are few areas where it slips up and is beaten by the competition. Certainly if you're after a smaller than average phone mainly for productivity and purposes, its superb multi-tasking makes this well worth considering.
Unfortunately, you'll have to have deep pockets up front as currently the phone is only available direct from Palm for £399. Just as when the original Pre launched with exclusivity to O2, this could actually be the biggest problem for this phone. Were you able to pick it up for free on a £20pm contract it would at least be good value, however at £399 it's just a tad too pricey to recommend.
While the software of the Palm Pre 2 is on a par with anything else out there, the hardware still doesn't do it justice. It certainly has some great features – like wireless charging – and is generally easy to use but its small screen, lack of onscreen keyboard, small physical keyboard and poor camera means it trails the competition by some way.