So overall the hardware’s a bit of a mixed bag and ultimately we feel a similar sized device without a physical keyboard would be preferable, while the addition of a memory slot would also be welcome. That said, a large part of what so excited us about the Palm Pre when it was first shown was the software and that’s still the case now.
Palm’s new WebOS operating system is for the most part utterly sublime. For a start, we really like the rounded corners on the display as it reflects the rounded shape of the device itself. You could argue it’s a waste of space but we didn’t ever feel like we were missing out because of it.
We also really like the way Palm has consciously used up a portion of the screen to house notification areas at the top and bottom. The bottom area gives you quick access to new messages, upcoming appointments, and other application notifications while the top area shows network, time, Wi-Fi, signal strength, and battery level. Tapping the top area then brings up a menu with settings for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and aeroplane mode as well as detailed battery level and date information. When no applications have any notifications, the bottom area then disappears and the desktop expands into the space. If you then open an application that ideally wants as much screen real estate as possible (like the camera, video player, and picture viewer) the top notification area disappears as well so no screen space is wasted.
Five icons run along the bottom of the desktop, giving access to the dialler, contacts, email, calendar, and the app launcher. These can also be accessed at any time by swiping your finger up from the bottom of the screen.
This gesture highlights another key feature of this OS and that’s multi-tasking. To make this as easy as possible Palm has also implemented what it calls Activity Cards for quickly and easily flipping between applications. Applications are arranged in a horizontal row and can be slid left and right or reordered. Tapping an application then brings it to the fore while a swipe upwards closes it. It’s a seriously slick system.