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When Gordon first saw the Palm Pre, it's safe to say he was rather surprised. Here was a company that appeared to be on its last legs suddenly releasing a device that had the potential to be one of the smartphones of the year. It combined the glamour of the iPhone, the social networking integration of the INQ1 and the openness of Android, and, for those that like such things, it even had a proper physical keyboard. Sadly it's taken an age for the device to reach the shores of the UK but now that it has, let's see if it can live up to all the hype.

First impressions, at least on my part, are very positive as this is one seriously cute device. Its small form factor (just 100 x 58 x 16mm) and rounded corners combine to make it feel really comfortable and secure in the hand with the full expanse of the screen falling within easy reach. We also love the way the screen is seamlessly integrated into the front. However the whole device is made of plastic and glossy plastic at that. This not only makes it feel less solid than premium competitors but it will also make it hellish to keep free of scratches.

At least a neat carry pouch is included in the box, though if we're being really picky we would've preferred this to be smooth leather on the outside so it's easier to get in and out of a pocket. The other bundled accessories are good quality though. The USB data cable is thick and strong and has an inbuilt cable tidy while the charger is modular to make transport as easy as possible.

Things take a turn for the worse, though, when we slide open the Pre's keyboard. For a start, there's a distinct wobble to the slide mechanism - not so much that it makes us think it might fall apart but just enough that it further mars the feeling of quality. That said, the slide mechanism does work really well and is easy to use one handed, unlike the Nokia N97 for instance.

However, further bad marks come from the strangely sharp edge that surrounds the keyboard. Personally I don't find it a problem but others in the office find it distinctly uncomfortable while typing.

The actual act of typing is likewise something that will divide opinion greatly. Though I maintain one can type faster on an onscreen keyboard, I found this keyboard perfectly nice to use. The layout is logical (though our review sample has the 'y' and 'z' characters swapped around - presumably to identify it as a review sample) and the keys are made of a soft yet tough clear rubber that provides good purchase. However, many people, including the majority of the office, will find the keyboard cramped and to accurately tap each key requires you to type with your thumbnails. These problems could possibly have been alleviated by predictive text but sadly this feature isn't included; just the basics like adding apostrophes where appropriate and capitalising letters at the beginning of a sentence are accounted for.

Opening the phone up also makes it impossible to use the device one handed as you can't reach all of the touch screen so you must either bring a second hand into play or constantly open and close the keyboard as you flit between navigating and typing.

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October 7, 2009, 7:35 pm

The swapped Y and Z indicate that it is meant for sale in Germany. It's the standard layout there.

October 7, 2009, 7:40 pm

Love the magnetic charge feature. Whats the sim free price on this handset.


October 7, 2009, 7:44 pm

Ah, thank you for that sockaturne. You learn something new everyday.


October 7, 2009, 7:51 pm

Nice review, good to see the phone is finally coming out over here in the UK but why god why on O2? As mentioned, as they already have the iPhone so they have no incentive to try and beat the iPhone (its biggest competitor by Palms own admission) at its own game by having a more competitive tariff. In fact it is slightly worrying now that the iPhone is no longer an O2 exclusive, we may find means that the iPhone may become become cheaper/have a better as it comes under competition leaving the Pre out in the lurch.... Aargh

Such a shame, I have an INQ1 and this phone really seems to be the next step in having all your online details in one place on your phone that I have dreamt of, but currently o2 are killing that dream :(


October 7, 2009, 8:32 pm

Any change it will be available in azerty?


October 7, 2009, 9:03 pm

At the end of the review you lament it for being the same price as the 3GS but it is in fact cheaper and merely the same price as the 3G, which is ideal imo.


October 7, 2009, 9:05 pm

Interesting how we've now done a 180 on keyboards. It used to be that the iPhone did the best job it could but still lacked the ease of use of a physical keyboard. Now physical keyboards are seen as inferior to onscreen ones. Surely what must have happened was everyone decided the iPhone implementation was good enough and then due to its success treated that as the de facto standard, as is the case with so many Apple products.


October 7, 2009, 9:20 pm

Completely agree that O2 have totally boned Palm on this one. I was so keen to get one. Now, well, not so much.


October 7, 2009, 9:25 pm

@<A88>: That was a slip of the tongue when recording the video. The text review has the correct price comparison.

@GoldenGuy: I know where you're coming from but noone here lamented the iPhone for not having 'the ease of use of a physical keyboard'. Indeed everyone in this office agrees that they can type at there fastest on an iPhone. It has its downsides because you can't touch type but, personally, I can't touch type on tiny qwerty keyboards anyway because the keys are too small (keypads, yes, but not keyboards). Ultimately, if the iPhone has the best text input method of any mobile device then it's going to become the defacto standard.

Mini J

October 7, 2009, 9:29 pm

@GoldenGuy I think the benefits of having an onscreen keyboard are that they can be used in either portrait or landscape configuration and, as was a problem here, one can still access the screen to navigate.

Of course it all comes down to the quality of the individual keyboard, the iPhone has among the best onscreen keyboards, I think the one on the HTC Hero has gotten equal if not better reviews. Physical keyboards are still just as good if not better than many onscreen ones. Take the HTC Touch Pro 2 for example,

"The excellent first impression extends to the keyboard - arguably one of the biggest highlights of the device...Now there are many (including myself) who will tell you a touchscreen keyboard done well negates the need for a physical fall back. This can be a difficult argument to convince some and it won't get any easier considering the brilliance of the keyboard attached to the Pro2...The result is as close to mobile typing perfection as I have encountered...The result is as close to mobile typing perfection as I have encountered.'


October 7, 2009, 9:40 pm


Well at least you've shown the TR office can meet a consensus on something! I was however referring to a wider opinion from the critical community than just from within Trusted Reviews. But I think when it comes to consumers, the proof is in the pudding. If they now also agreed about the superiority of touchscreen keyboards, I don't think you'd have companies like Pre still accommodating significant design and cost decisions by implementing a physical one. It's clearly still a dealbreaker for enough people (not me incidentally - I suck at typing irrespective of the input method).

Chris Beach

October 7, 2009, 9:47 pm

My biggest reason for wanting a physical keyboard is that I don't want to loose half (or more) of the screen when typing. WinMo had this problem for ages (and probly still does), if the text box is at the bottom of the screen then what your typing on the virtual keyboard is obscured!

I think I'll probly still go for it though, the motorola dect was another choice but its only on Orange who still haven't realised phones need data connections!


October 7, 2009, 11:09 pm

Could you please test call quality, reception, freezes, etc.? It is a phone first place, and there is no mention about any call features.


October 8, 2009, 12:58 am

On page four of the review, you say that the Pre "gives you easy access to thousands of useful apps and games", which I think is patently not the case according to other sources, which state that the Pre has somewhere in the range of tens of apps, or maybe even a couple of hundred, but nowhere in the region of the thousands that you quote.


October 8, 2009, 2:07 am

Sadly I fear the window for the Pre has come and gone in the UK. It should have been launched day and date with the US model to compete against the iPhone 3GS and it should be significantly cheaper as well. Instead it's priced identically to the iPhone, on exactly the same (stupidly expensive) monthly tarrif at a point where both Orange and Vodafone have announced they'll be picking up the iPhone in the very near future.

Who's going to buy this handset? We know there's a cheaper WebOS device on the way, we know the Pre has some issues, not least its rather small selection of apps and its limited development environment. The initial wow factor has diminished significantly since it was announced almost a year ago. It's only got 8Gb of memory which, frankly, isn't a lot these days with no way to expand it and no reliable media syncing application anyway. There's a whole raft of Android (and Windows Mobile 6.5 if you're into S&M) devices that blow it away from a hardware perspective and the iPhone just seems to be going from strength to strength.

I'm really sad to say this as I've always liked Palm hardware and was genuinely excited about the Pre but I think they've blown it with the Pre. Maybe the Pixi will have better luck but right now this just feels like a product that's woefully misplaced in the market that's going to get swallowed up by the crowd. Hope I'm wrong, I really do...


October 8, 2009, 3:29 am

Can't speak for other OSs but I know that's not an issue for Android. They've thought things out so that when the keyboard is up the view isn't obscured badly. I'd bet the iPhone and Pre are the same. With WM I used to have the same problem frequently.

I think the success of Blackberry shows that there's still a huge demand for proper keyboards.


October 8, 2009, 1:41 pm

@GoldenGuy: It depends which way you look at it. Do the public actually demand it based on a genuine preference or are they just stuck in their ways? I'd be fascinated to see a study of people's typing speed based on the type of input.

@cjb110: On the iPhone and Android devices this isn't a problem. Admitedly the Pre has quite a small screen so the design might need to be tweaked to accomodate an onscreen keyboard but it should at least be in there as an option.

@oloe: As a general rule, if the basics of a device aren't mentioned then it's fair to assume they are accetapble. Just as you don't expect a car review to mention that the windscreenwipers worked and the doors didn't fall off. So yes, the Pre made and received calls without a hitch, reception (which is highly carrier biased) seemed fine, and it didn't crash once.

@PSV: Hundreds is probably more accurate right now but I can see the number rapidly expanding.

@BOFH_UK: That's a pretty good summary of the situation.

Gavin Hamer

October 8, 2009, 2:10 pm

Paying for a whopping screen and then giving half of it up for a virtual keyboard is not clever in my opinion. There are plenty of applications where you want a good, rather than a restricted, view of the screen while also typing. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, probably based on whether you're going to spend more time typing or using the phone for music, photos, games, etc. Ultimately, business users are always going to favour physical keyboards as offered by devices like the Nokia E series, Blackberrys and the Palm Pre.

If TR has reached a concensus that virtual keyboards are superior (even than the Touch Pro 2), then it is not a wholly representative view.


October 8, 2009, 4:41 pm

@BOFH_UK: Pretty much my feelings at the moment.

@Ed: I'm also intrigued by the LG BL40 due to the narrowness of the handset, I'd imagine the keyboard/view-space is a nightmare in landscape*. Is a review in the pipeline?

*Unless the keyboard is taking up half the screen on the left or right of the view-space.


October 8, 2009, 6:48 pm

@BOFH_UK: I'm with you on this. I've lost interest which is a shame because I've had Palm PDAs (not phones) since they were USR and this looked like reversing the downward trend since the T3. I was hoping to replace my Pixon (god, it's awful) and TX (god, it's awful, too) with a Pre. Maybe the time delay and resultant lack of euphoria has allowed rational thought to prevail, but I don't think that this is my Nirvana. Certainly not at the O2 pricing levels. Maybe others will disagree and I hope for Palm's sake that they do. At least they'll have made a reasoned choice and be happy they've got what they wanted.


October 8, 2009, 6:54 pm

@PSV: Actually, there are several thousand; the Pre has the ability to run PalmOS programs in a compatibility mode. There are thousands of these - it's a major draw to the OS, actually, since many of them are free and very good. I have a Centro (and before that a Treo 650) and I'm keen to keep lots of my PalmOS programs.

A shame about the price. Maybe I'll wait and see if the Palm Pixi is released in the UK, although it's not yet available anywhere yet so it will certainly be a while.

Stephen James

October 8, 2009, 7:26 pm


"The best physical keyboards can't compete with good on-screen ones"!?


If i have to bosh out an email and had a choice to use either my iPhone or Blackberry Bold. It's a no contest - physical keyboard everytime.

Does this mean in the future, (when the production cost comes down,) that every desktop computers keyboard will be replaced with large multi touch input pads instead of physical keyboards? Highly doubtful.


October 8, 2009, 9:33 pm

@Stephen James: I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

I thought someone might bring up the touchbased desktop keyboard argument...

It's a completely different usage case. A mobile device keyboard is interacted with by only two digits which are firmly anchored in close proximity to the keyboard and they only have to move within a very small area. You're also forced to look at what you're typing - as touch-typing is ni-on impossible - in which case an onscreen keyboard makes sense. Add in the fact that onscreen keys are actually easier to read than physical ones and you have a very strong case.

In contrast, on a desktop keyboard you're using ten digits, all of which move over a large area that you're not actually looking at. As such you'll always need some form of physical feedback.

Tony Walker

October 9, 2009, 1:15 am


Did you have the back off? A report on a Mexican GSM Pre says that a MicroSD slot is living there. Wondering if the Euro one has this too, hence only the 8Gb.

Stephen James

October 9, 2009, 3:39 am

@Ed - Haha, i guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

However with regards to the mobile keyboard, i'm not sure i got your points for a 'very strong case' for the on-screen option:

1) 'You're forced to look at what you're typing'. Is this not the case for both variants?

2) 'On screen keys are easier to read'. I would argue that a (Blackberry Bold for example) physical keyboard is easier to read - and takes up substantially more space than the on-screen (iphone for example) portrait keyboard.

I would argue for the physical keyboard with:

1) You can use the whole of the screen whilst typing. Maximising screen real estate.

2) There is a tactile response / confirmation. Physical response, not just audio or visual

3) Multiple shortcuts - Very useful for web browsing in particular.

4) Key visibility in direct sunlight. Probably not much of an issue with modern screens i will admit.

Having said all that - i absolutely loved the review. It was just that one throwaway line which got me stoked. Totally understand the argument for the desktop keyboard, 10 digits, larger area, touch typing - makes sense to be physical rather than haptic. It probably wasn't the best point to make my case.

Anyway keep up the great work!

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