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Ever since I learned about the impending debut of the Palm Pre, I’ve been awaiting its release. When June 6th finally arrived,few were happier than I. The Pre is the only natural upgrade path for a Sprint user like me who has been using Palm’s OS 5 for years. The old Palm OS was a great operating system. Thousands of apps, flexible and easy to use, easy to hack. But lets face it. It was very looonnngg in the tooth. After the Iphone came out and raised the game and expectations, I was increasingly irritated with the lack of pizzaz in the old Palm OS. No flash. A useful web browser, but the web didn’t look like the web, and many other things.

But with the news of the arrival of the Palm Pre I knew there was hope. The release date came and since I had been dropping hints about it for weeks, my lovely wife pulled the trigger.
So lets talk about the Pre experience. I had gone to the store a time or two after the Pre was released to see the device and I got a chance to play with the keyboard a bit. Having used a Treo 755p for awhile, I’ve gotten used to that keyboard and after seeing the gel cap style of keyboard on the Pre, I was resigned to hating it. Surprisingly enough, I’ve found it to be quite functional and easy to use. I find the keys quite usable though I generally use the nail of my finger to depress the buttons and find myself worrying that I’m going to deform the gel cap buttons. Buttons have been more than up to it.
Build quality on the Pre seemed suspect.

I bought mine at Best Buy in order to get the instant rebate. Given my experience, I would NOT recommend buying a Pre from an online retailer. I exchanged my Pre FOUR times. The first one would not USB sync with any computer. The 2nd went into an infinite reboot loop from which it could not be broken, the 3rd spawned a screen defect in the lower left corner that was getting progressively larger. In addition, you want to carefully inspect a new Pre for things like too large a seam along the slider edge at the sides and the top, which are indicators that with use your Pre might twist or become loosey goosey in the slider. I’m on unit #4. I think Palm has been addressing these issues and while my experience may seem dire, it does not appear that Pre return rates are any higher than would be expected (2%-3%)

The Pre is an awesome device. I don’t believe their return/exchange rates are out of line with whats normal, but there is enough of a chance to have build quality issues that I would only want to get that from a retailer I could go back to and exchange it on the spot as I have done with Best Buy. On my last exchange, they balked a little bit. I basically told them “I’m within my 30 days. This can be an exchange or a return. You decide”. They exchanged it again. I doubt dealing with an online retailer would be as good an experience if there is a problem, and these retailers offering the Pre for $99 are gonna have to scrimp somewhere and thats likely to be the backend customer service if you have a problem.

I love my Pre, love the WebOS, but I tried to protect myself from having aggravations if there were problems. Though I have had to exchange it 4 times, I’m happy with my experience, because when I had problems, I took it back to the store and got a new unit, so my problem was always addressed. I don’t think I would be as happy if I had bought from an online retailer where I could not get near instant problem solving because I could go up close and personal with a human.

Applications I want to see developed/ported to the Palm Pre
Agendus
PDAReach
TryDA
Novell Notify

Improvements I’d like to see
Refine copy and paste function
Ability to customize synergy contact import
More interoperability between apps (PIM app data easily available to other apps)

WebOS is a tremendous foundation to grow on. The old Palm OS was great, but it had become an orphan OS with no company committed to its future. WebOS has a future. Many people and the tech media often pit Palm’s effort with the Pre as their attempt to create an Iphone killer. Its not a fair comparison. Apple has had several years to move forward the Iphone and frankly the presence of the Pre as an alternative has actually made me acutely aware of the stultifying enslavement involved in being an Itunes user. The smartphone market is going to continue to grow and Palm has a place in it. Apple and the Iphone are not the end of the story. An analyst somewhere put it very well. the Pre doesn’t have to kill the Iphone; it just has to put up a good fight.

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