Palm Pre, Day 3

During my first full day with the Pre, I spent a great deal of time making mental note of the features that are missing (scroll bars in long lists, numerous configuration items, even smilies in SMS and IM) while still remaining intrigued with the WebOS experience. The result was both exhilaration at finally owning a smartphone with some intelligence to its design, and frustration at instances where the Pre seemed to fall flat. Ultimately, this approach was a mistake.

What I should have done was simply use the Pre, a wholly different approach that goes against my gadget freak tendency to delve into the speeds and feeds of a thing. But, had I done so, I would have allowed myself to appreciate the Pre as a whole–and of course, that’s where the Pre really shines. It’s not important that Tasks are so limited (and apparently can’t be synced) or that there’s no way to scroll through lists or text boxes in the Web browser (try it, it’s frustrating as hell). What is important is how WebOS provides an approach to application management and multitasking that is simply unique in the mobile devices market, and which makes using the Pre to get real things done so much more efficient and enjoyable.

Don’t misunderstand me. If in six months, or even three, I still can’t sync my tasks or give them a time due, with an alarm, I’ll be upset. If there’s still no good way to see where I am in a long list, and can’t search email, I’ll be complaining about it here and elsewhere. And by golly, if I can’t change the alert sound for an SMS message, or any of the myriad other missing configuration items, I’ll drive to Sunnyvale myself and have a long, serious talk with some Palm engineers.

The thing is, I’m expecting all of these issues, or at least most of them, and others, to be fixed in a reasonable amount of time. Perhaps it would have taken the old Palm some time to get things right, but they would have eventually. Simplicity and efficiency are in the Palm DNA, a fact that’s reflected in the robust nature of the PalmOS PIM applications. And the new Palm team has proven their ability accomplish great things in a very short time with the Pre and WebOS, and I expect nothing less of them moving forward.

For today, though, I must say that by simply using the Pre in days two and three, I’ve discovered that the device and its operating system make mobile computing fun. And fresh. And empowering (a word that I’m typically reluctant to use). Palm has blown through the limitations that are inherent in devices that isolate applications or–heaven forbid–won’t run more than one at a time. The card metaphor is simply brilliant, allowing me to open multiple applications and, just as important, to move seamlessly between them–all the while seeing, at a glance, precisely what I was doing a few minutes or hours before. It really is possible to open multiple Web pages for research and flip quickly back and forth between them, and to open multiple emails for easy reference. This is a great experience on a PC, and it’s a sublime experience on a mobile device.

Yes, “sublime” may seem a bit of a stretch, and there’s no doubt that it’s a bit hyperbolic.  But, perhaps I’m just expressing my profound relief at finally escaping from Windows Mobile hell, where running more than one application at a time was possible but a bad idea, and where resistive touchscreens met tiny buttons to catastrophic effect.  I can put up with the Pre’s limitations, maybe even forever, because in actual use it’s so damn liberating.

And so that’s my initial recommendation for those who’ve recently started playing with their Pre and haven’t just surrendered themselves to it in their day-to-day lives. Stop making lists of all the things the Pre doesn’t yet do, and start enjoying the things it does.


  1. Last time I checked tap on the I section next to a task and you get to enter a due date.

    • Ah, yes, a due date, but not a time. I’m accustomed, at least in Windows Mobile, to being able to assign an alarm time to a task and then to snooze the alarm by various increments. It’s been awhile since I used my Treo 650, but I’m pretty sure PalmOS allows the same.

  2. Well written. I love the phone so far. Of course there are minor gripes now but I know they will get fixed. I like how you go after the whole new experience palm has created. The iPhone has enslaved so many, may they be freed.

  3. Here here. I like to think of this as the “roughing it” phase of a 1.0 release. I’ve no doubt that Palm will be proactive in addressing bugs and missing functionality, but I still hope they continue to walk the line between what’s worked before and what works now.

    (Submitted via my charmingly eccentric, and awesome, Pre)

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