Today we welcome back Unclutterer programmer Gary DuVall to the front side of the site.
Smartphones are all the rage these days. From Palm’s earlier creations, through the Blackberry and the iPhone, I’ve managed to resist the urge to upgrade from my old Motorola RAZR. As my thinking went (and had for nearly a decade), all I needed was a phone that worked — not one that included the kitchen sink. All of that went away this past weekend when I finally upgraded to Palm’s newest creation: the Palm Pre.
The Palm Pre sports a veritable plethora of features found on many competing smartphones: a camera, integrated mail and contact management, an easily-accessible online store (called the App Catalog), media playback, and more. What set the Pre apart from the others in my mind were some distinctive features that promised to make life just that much easier: Synergy, multitasking, iTunes sync, turn-by-turn GPS, and a very sharp 3-megapixel camera with integrated LED flash.
Synergy, Palm’s contact management system, integrates and merges your contact lists from Gmail, Facebook, Instant Messaging, and Microsoft Exchange into one easy-to-manage profile for each contact. Merging my Facebook contacts with my AIM list was easy; out of approximately 175 contacts, only three wouldn’t automatically merge. Linking the remaining three unmerged AIM contacts with the profiles they belonged under took maybe two extra minutes.
One of the more quirky and unexpected features of the Pre is its ability to masquerade as an iPod and synchronize with your existing media library using iTunes. While it won’t allow you to listen to files containing Apple’s DRM, it will synchronize your non-DRM MP3 and MP4 video collection to its 8GB storage without a problem. One caveat: Apple may not look upon this feature so favorably in the future, so you may not want to exclusively depend on it.
With the Pre’s on-board 3-megapixel camera, I no longer find it necessary to bring my everyday point-and-shoot along with me. The pictures are more than acceptable in both well-lit and low-lit situations. The LED flash works well enough, providing just enough light to get the right shot in dim light. That said, if you’re a dedicated amateur photographer, you may want to stick with your higher-end camera because the configuration options are currently slim.
The on-board turn-by-turn GPS system, called “Sprint Navigation” by Telenav, could easily replace most in-car GPS systems — provided you’re in a coverage area. Looking for the nearest bank? Three button presses and your directions are already queued up. While Google Maps on the Pre also offers much the same functionality, the spoken directions of Telenav’s system make it a much safer proposition. Sprint Navigation is provided free on the Pre.
And now we come to multi-tasking, perhaps Palm’s biggest achievement with the Pre. WebOS, Palm’s new operating system, allows multiple applications to be opened and used at once in the form of “cards.” While the iPhone has unofficially supported minor multitasking in certain applications, Palm takes it to a whole new level, allowing a user to view a PDF (through either the included PDF Reader or the newly-available Shortcovers e-reader application), listen to Pandora, map out a route using Google Maps, write an email, and browse the web all at once without having to close out from any of them to access the other.
While the App catalog may be sparse until more developers get on-board, there’s already evidence the organization-minded will have even more to enjoy on the platform: Evernote and SplashID Secure Password Manager were both released last week, offering even more tools to keep everything in its place.
With the Pre, I’ve come to realize just how much the smartphone has to offer: an innovative OS just ripe for organizing multitaskers, and (most of all) I no longer have to keep a notepad, GPS, point-and-shoot camera, or iPod with me. While I’m not going to step into the inevitable “Is it better than the iPhone?” fray, I can at least tell you that Palm has most certainly made me a believer in keeping life organized using the Pre.
(The Palm Pre is currently available for $199 (after $100 mail-in rebate) with a 2 year contract through Sprint, but other Palm phones using the WebOS platform are expected to find their way to other carriers including AT&T as well as Verizon in the next 6-12 months.)