Comparing the Palm Pre Plus to the Palm Pre

The Pre Plus is the upgraded version of the original Pre that shipped on Sprint in June of 2009. Available in the US on Verizon and AT&T, the Pre differs from the Pre in the following ways:

  1. More RAM: The Plus version has 512MB RAM to the original Pre’s 256MB.
  2. More storage space: The Plus doubles the Pre’s 8GB for a total of 16GB storage space.
  3. Slightly modified keyboard: By all accounts, the keyboard has been redesigned for a better tactile feel. The most visible difference is the all-white Option and numeric keys.

In addition, although not an official feature, the Pre Plus also benefits from improved build quality, in particular the slider mechanism. The evidence for this is anecdotal, but nevertheless compelling. I’ve recently had the opportunity to try out a Pre Plus on AT&T, and in my experience, I found the Pre Plus to be more solid than my launch-day Pre (although, my original Pre was a very solid device in its own right).

Given that the Pre Plus runs on AT&T, I can also compare webOS running on a GSM network instead of on CDMA. Perhaps the biggest difference here is that GSM allows simultaneous use of data and voice. Of course, at question is also AT&T’s famously poor reception.

Areas of comparison:

  1. Performance: Simply stated, webOS is a different operating system with the additional RAM in the Pre Plus. In normal use cases where I get numerous “too many cards” errors on my Sprint Pre, I’ve gotten none on the AT&T Pre Plus. In addition, performance with more cards open is better on the Pre Plus than the Pre, likely because webOS simply has less memory management to perform. Finally, while the Pre sometimes requires a reboot before a complex PDK app (e.g., a 3D game) will start, the Pre Plus has yet to require a reboot under any circumstances.
  2. Keyboard: I’ve found the keyboard to be noticeably improved on the Pre Plus, to the point where I can type more quickly and accurately. This bodes well for future devices that will hopefully include slightly larger keyboards and incorporate the lessons learned from the Sprint Pre.
  3. Simultaneous voice and data: This is an obvious advantage of AT&T’s GSM network. An example is that when going off-route using AT&T’s navigation software (essentially the same as the Sprint version) and while on a phone call, the Pre Plus can continue to access the network and retrieve updated directions. The Sprint Pre (and, the Verizon Pre Plus) cannot.
  4. Network: Although this isn’t a knock on the Pre Plus itself, I did find AT&T’s network to be inferior to Sprint’s in my area. I dropped more calls on the Pre Plus and experienced an annoying background hiss that I’ve never experienced with my Sprint Pre.

Conclusion: The Pre Plus is a significant upgrade from the Sprint Pre, and is simply an outstanding smartphone in its own right. It solves all of the problems with the original design, and performs well across every use case I could throw at it. If you use your smartphone for storing media and other files (which I don’t), then you’ll also find the 16GB of storage space to be an attractive feature as well.

Most important, though, the Pre Plus hints at just how great a webOS device can be with more RAM and, presumably, with a faster processor. While I wouldn’t switch from Sprint to upgrade to the Pre Plus, if I were choosing among carriers I’d likely choose the Verizon Pre Plus (which except for simultaneous voice and data should perform identically to the AT&T version).

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