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Palm Pre Plus - Design, Build & Features

By Edward Chester



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That's what has changed, but what remains is the same lovely rounded device that is compact when closed, at just 100.5 x 59.5mm, though thanks to its sliding keyboard it is a tad thick at 16.9mm. Because of its diminutive dimensions, it's really easy to reach the full expanse of the 3.1in screen, something that's often a problem on larger touchscreen devices.

Sadly, the Pre's main bugbear – its sliding form factor and keyboard – still remains. Although in principle the design works quite well, in use it's not the most practical. This isn't because slideout keyboards are bad, per se, but simply because this isn't a great example. For a start, there's the sharp edge that runs round the keyboard, which some people (not all) find uncomfortable, then there's the keyboard itself.

Palm has improved the feel of the keys slightly, giving them a more pronounced click, but the rubber keys are simply too small requiring you to stab at them with fingernails. This isn't conducive to fast typing, despite the layout of keys being just fine. Moreover, there's no predictive text facility, so any mistake is taken at face value and left in. This doesn't completely destroy the phone's appeal, but it is a major flaw. Despite many requests, Palm also hasn't implemented an on-screen keyboard. Consequently you have to open the phone up to write even the quickest and simplest text, though you can at least dial number without the keypad.

Build quality is the other obvious initial complaint. Unlike most premium touchscreen smartphones, the Pre and Pre Plus use plastic screens rather than glass. This makes them much more prone to scratching. Obviously this is a compromise born out of the decision to have a curved front, which would be too difficult to make from glass, but that doesn't really excuse it. Thankfully Palm does provide a neat slip case to keep the phone protected.

Where the Pre Plus does still excel is in its physical features and their layout. The 3.5mm headphone jack is conveniently positioned on the top, as is the power button/screen lock button and a slide switch for muting the device. On the left edge is a volume rocker, and the right is home to a microUSB socket for charging and data transfer that's hidden behind a rather annoying flap.

Slide the phone open and there's a mirrored section on the back, which is useful for self portraits or makeup emergencies. None of this revolutionary stuff, but you do get the impression Palm has actually given some proper thought to how you use your phone and come up with a device that's nice to handle, rather than just throwing features at the problem or copying the competition.

The only weak points in this regard are the speaker and camera. Despite its oversized grille the speaker is nothing special. It certainly gets loud, but doesn't have quite the range of the best out there so it sounds a bit tinny. Likewise, the camera is a little behind the times as it has 'only' 3.2 megapixels and lacks autofocus. It does, however, have an LED flash, which helps out a bit indoors.

Results are as mediocre as you'd expect with reasonably accurate colours and enough detail to suffice for Facebook, but it struggles in scenes with contrasting light and dark, produces noisy images in dark situations, and the flash is very limited in range. In other words, it's like most phone cameras.

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July 6, 2010, 11:45 am

I have only briefly played with a Pre but I have a soft spot for it. Whenever it was first announced it blew me away but the long delays on the uk release, high prices and single carrier sunk it before it even had a chance. By all rights we should be on to a much improved version 2 right now which can hold it's own against the best phones out there. WebOs just needs a vehicle and I hope HP is putting the finishing touches to it as we speak.


July 6, 2010, 12:09 pm

Does it matter how you hold it?

Ed Churchward

July 6, 2010, 1:26 pm

I think the point you are missing, s that you never ever go into the launcher because to open an app you just start typing its name. the phone is best operated entirely by keyboard. I have had my Pre since launch day and lobe it. The best mobile OS by far, such a shame the hardware is not up to today's phones but I hope HP can change that and more Apps come on board.


July 6, 2010, 2:32 pm

i have a soft spot for the pre too, however the ones i had a go with in the O2 store just didnt paint a good picture. 2 of them failed to work at all and the one remaining one that would respond to my inputs was super slow before that too eventually stopped responding. build quality wasnt all that either. it was a poor show.... who's gonna buy a phone like that after the ones on display after only a few days have been brought to their knees?

same business with the new Dell streak... not only is it faffan huge, i turned it on to be greeted by a error message that some serive couldnt run and it promptly shut down. all the while the iphones on the iphone section are working beautifully without a hitch.

either apple really do deserve credit for a great piece of complete engineering or the others need to step up their game...or O2 need to take more care and pride in their non-apple displays.


July 6, 2010, 2:55 pm

1- I haven't read the article properly yet, but the one on Play for £250 is a regular Pre not the Plus. So, er, where /did/ you get this?

2- Was "yPhone" intentional?

3- I've always liked the look of webOS and am still dying to try it out, but for all the reasons @Runadumb mentioned, I haven't yet.

Right, I'd better finish the article. See ya.


July 6, 2010, 3:07 pm

@Greg: Does it matter how you hold it?

No, it will just drop the calls anyway.



July 6, 2010, 4:48 pm

@Greg: ;)

@Ed Churchward: I think there are several points you're also missing. If it's such as good touchscreen OS, why should you need to use the keyboard?

@drdark: The supplier isn't where we got it from, it's the price we reference. Good spot on the Play price though, I'll update. Yes, yPhone and Cyborg were intentional.


July 6, 2010, 6:39 pm

I think you should always look around for the best street price as well as shop prices when writing reviews. Otherwise the value score isn't relevant.

Has this seriously just been released in the UK? Pity on Palm and O2, it's such old news. Let's hope Palm can release new harder (and software) soon to give webOS a chance. It'd be a shme if it just went into printers and didn't get a chance to shine as a phone.

It's telling that you cannot see it properly in store, all O2 seem to care about is the iPhone (I guess it's a great cash cow). I didn't even see a Dell Streak when I was in there last week, let alone a non-working one. Apple do the whole consummer thing so well, other companies even if they had better products would fail until they get their customer focus sorted.

Ed Churchward

July 6, 2010, 7:56 pm

@Ed But it is not a touch screen OS and if that is the standpoint you are reviewing it from I think you are mistaken. All WebOs devices have a keyboard and they are an intrinsic part of how you operate the device, it is not like the iOS or Android in that respect. It would be better to put it up against a Blackberry (storm excluded, and we all know how that turned out)


July 6, 2010, 10:50 pm

@Ed Churchward You are mistaken. Palm OS is very much a screen based OS, probably more so than Android. The OS has a hook for an on-screen keyboard, which Palm has not implemented on the current, keyboard based phones. But there are a couple of hacks that use the hook and provide a full soft keyboard. What WebOS does not have-insofar as I know - is the spellchecker-based typing corrector that comes with iOS.

I would say that the WebOS is to some extent more screen based than even iOS. With iOS4 you need to press a physical button to bring background tasks to the foreground. With WebOS this is based on swipes on the screen - and much more naturally done too...


July 6, 2010, 10:58 pm

@Ed Churchward - Sorry, I should have read your first comment. My comment would have been slightly different otherwise. FYI and for Editors's info I am an ex iPhone 3GS user who moved onto an Ebay sourced Palm Pre - unlocked and now used on 3 with a lot less dropped calls. Despite the horrible keyboard I love the Pre, and having played with my iFanboy cousin's iPhone 4, I think WebOs still has the edge by far. Just a shame some key apps like SatNav are still missing and the battery life is so shameful...Oh and the squashy keys, and... Common HP, introduce some fresh hardware in there, please....


July 7, 2010, 12:01 am

I was actually thinking about trying a Pixi, but...

@AAM how bad is the squashy keyboard?


July 7, 2010, 2:50 am

@drdark: review coming soon.


July 7, 2010, 5:43 am

@drdark I have used BlackBerries too, and the Pre keys are much worse. To be fair the Pre has to accommodate the keys in a much tighter space. I understand the plus has much better keys with much better feedback.


July 7, 2010, 1:52 pm

@Ed: Ta :).

@AAM: Thanks for letting me know. I'd be harshly comparing it to an E71 though rather than a Blackberry. Might see if I can find one in an O2 shop, except I haven't walked into a highstreet mobile shop in years. Worried someone might come over with a salesman smile and I end up punching them in the face for trying to sell me an iPhone :).

P.S. I'm Joking!

Andy C

July 7, 2010, 2:29 pm

@drdark - Ive had a go with the Pixi Plus and my lasting impression of it was of how slow it was.

Even when I was navigating through the menus it struggled which is really worrying.

Ive tried the Pre Plus as well and although people find the keyboard a love or hate affair, I actually find it not bad. As for the rest of the Pre.... Got to say I love it :)


July 8, 2010, 3:52 am

Comparing the quality of the keys is really quite a personal thing. I myself have found the original Pre's keys more responsive.


September 2, 2013, 8:57 am

Touch scree is not working in my mobile. I bought Palm pre plus mobile through e-bay on Nov 2012. Touch option is not working. some options automatically picking up & oscillation are there in the mobile. Any suggestion to resolve this please

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